STYLE

For a different, delicious Easter dinner, skip ham and go for brined pork loin roast

03/21/2012 03:56 EDT | Updated 05/21/2012 05:12 EDT
Instead of cooking ham or lamb this Easter, why not go for something a little bit different?

Pork loin roast has an amazing flavour — and is outrageously tender — when brined. That's because the brining process adds a bit of salt, the flavour of the brine and a whole lot of moisture to the meat. The procedure is relatively simple, though it does require a bit of planning. You'll want to brine the pork for about 24 hours.

Pork not your thing? This same procedure can be used on whole chickens. The main difference is that you'll want to brine a chicken for just 4 hours, not 24. Of course, the cooking time will depend on how large your chicken is; just cook until the internal temperature of the meat is 70 C (160 F).

We've also included some side-dish suggestions to help you plan your Easter dinner.

Rosemary-Cider Brined Easter Pork

Start to finish: 26 hours (1 hour active)

50 ml (1/4 cup) kosher salt

50 ml (1/4 cup) packed brown sugar

500 ml (2 cups) apple cider

1 bunch fresh rosemary

1 bunch fresh thyme

5 ml (1 tsp) chili powder

1 pork loin roast (1.8 kg/4 lb)

15 ml (1 tbsp) canola or vegetable oil

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine salt, brown sugar, cider, rosemary, thyme and chili powder. Stir just until sugar and salt dissolve. Let cool completely.

In a large zip-close plastic bag, combine pork loin and brine solution. Squeeze out any air and seal bag shut. Place in a bowl in case of any leaks, then refrigerate for 24 hours.

Thirty minutes before you are ready to cook, heat oven to 180 C (350 F). Fit a roasting pan with a rack.

Drain pork and discard brine solution. Rinse pork with cool water, then pat it dry with paper towels. Rub surface of pork with oil and place on the rack. Roast for 45 minutes or until a thermometer reads 63 C (145 F) at the centre of the pork. Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 380 calories; 180 calories from fat (50 per cent of total calories); 21 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 145 mg cholesterol; 2 g carbohydrate; 44 g protein; 0 g fibre; 570 mg sodium.

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Side suggestions:

— LEMONY PEAS

Saute 500 ml (2 cups) of English peas and 1 diced red bell pepper with a little butter until just tender. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the zest of 1 lemon.

— QUINOA PILAF

Cook 500 ml (2 cups) of quinoa according to package directions. Saute 2 chopped cloves of garlic, 2 sliced shallots and 1 diced red onion in 45 ml (3 tbsp) of olive oil until soft. Stir in quinoa along with 75 ml (1/3 cup) diced dried apricot and 15 ml (1 tbsp) chopped fresh thyme.

— WARM RADICCHIO SLAW

Cook 4 strips of bacon until crisp. Thinly slice 2 heads of radicchio and saute in bacon fat with 1 thinly sliced red onion. Season with salt and black pepper, 15 ml (1 tbsp) brown sugar and 15 ml (1 tbsp) cider vinegar. Serve topped with crumbled blue cheese and the crumbled bacon.

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