I made this pork loin last week while staying with my fiancee's family in cold, western Colorado. I wanted to cook something that would feel special, so I bought a six-pound pork loin that still had a nice layer of fat attached to the top and decided to brine it. The result was so savory and moist that it barely needed the thyme gravy I made from the pan drippings. It's also a great dish to make during the holidays.
Brine: Unlike a marinade, which simply flavors a dish, a brine essentially forces liquid into the meat through osmosis. You have to be careful not to leave the meat in the brine too long, though, or it will become spongy and overly salty. Start with three cups of cold water in a Ziplock bag and add one cup of kosher salt, half a cup of sugar, a handful of fresh thyme, a tablespoon of whole peppercorns, and six large cloves of garlic, slightly crushed. Stir the mixture around until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add a four- to six-pound pork loin and refrigerate for two hours, turning once after one hour.
Roast: Remove the pork from the brine and preheat your oven to 375. Get a skillet pipping hot and add a few glugs of olive oil along with a tablespoon of unsalted butter. Add the garlic from the brine along with a few sticks of fresh thyme to the pan and sear the pork on all sides until it is browned. Then place the meat in a roasting pan and pop it into the oven for around one hour, or until the pork registers an internal temperature of 145 (for medium rare) or 160 (for medium, my preference with brined pork). Remove and allow the meat to rest for five to ten minutes before slicing.
Pan gravy: While the meat is cooling and the roasting pan is still hot, pour out most of the fat from the pan and add half a cup of white wine to deglaze, making sure to rub all the caramelized bits off of the bottom. Meanwhile, prepare a roux in a saucepot by adding one tablespoon each of unsalted flour and butter and stirring together over medium heat until the mixture turns slightly blond. Strain the liquid from the roasting pan and pour into the roux, stirring constantly. Slowly add about one to one and a half cups of chicken stock while continuing to stir. Add a few more sprigs of thyme and simmer on medium-low heat for five minutes. Pour into a gravy boat and serve with the sliced pork.
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