Monday, August 2, 2010

Pork in milk / Maiale al Latte

There are versions of pork cooked in milk in several cuisines I know of, but I tend to think of it as an Italian dish. It is something I have never got around to making before, so when planning to cook a dinner for family in Sydney last night, thought it would be good to try. The objective with the dish is to slowly cook out a piece of pork (often a rolled loin with the rind off, but I used a large piece of pork neck) in a sauce of milk, herbs, garlic, sometimes onion and lemon zest. The length of the cooking both breaks down the meat to a shredding texture and causes curds to form in the reducing milk. The texture of the finished sauce - balancing liquid and creamy-solid textures - is the point of the dish, I think.

Anyway, a quick description:

Take a large piece of pork neck, season and brown in oil in a large pan. You need more than light brown colour, but not too dark. Get the excess oil and dark bits out of the pan after the pork is taken out. Chuck in a half ounce of butter and two chopped onions. When softened a little, add five peeled and halved cloves of garlic plus three fresh bay leaves and cook for one minute. Have 4-6 cups of full cream milk warm while frying and add to the onions and bring to the boil.

Now you have a choice. You can add the pork and juices, plus large pieces of lemon zest (at least 8) to the pan, put a lid on ajar and let it simmer for 3-4 hours. Or, tip the sauce into a good-sized baking dish, add pork and juices, scatter lemon, and cover with foil (leaving a small vent for steam) and cook at 180 degrees C for 2-3 hours (longer OK). If, with either method, the sauce hasn't reduced enough by the end of the cooking time for the pork, transfer to a saucepan and bubble to reduce, stirring as attentively as you would a custard, until you get the volume and thickness you want.

Substituting fresh sage leaves for the bay leaves will give a different riff on the flavours. Don't forget to eat the softened pieces of lemon zest.

And the wines:
- a little Quarry Hill 09 sauvignon blanc to sip while cooking
- then on to a lovely but way-too-young Rockfords 2007 riesling
- and then with dinner, riesling plus a switch to a 2006 Donny Goodmac Pyrenees shiraz.

This would also work well with an honest Chianti Classico, or Australian sangiovese.

The sides were jerusalem artichokes roasted in butter, pork fat and rosemary, a dish of 3step beets, and a green salad. For 3step beets: boil whole beets until just giving through the middle, cool in pan, add sufficient salt and vinegar to form a brine, leave in brine for three days, drain, top, tail, quarter, then roast the wedges in butter and salt (some marjoram is an option too) and serve hot.

Both the riesling and the shiraz matched well with the pork and sauce. The shiraz had an edge with the jerusalem artichokes and the 3step beets.

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