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Pork Loin With Thai Sauce & Papaya Salad
By Wolfgang Puck
One of my favorite surprises as a chef, and also as someone who loves delicious, beautifully cooked food, has been the growing popularity of Asian cuisines over the past three-plus decades that I have lived in America. When I first arrived here, Asian cooking almost always meant Chinese food, though a few adventurous souls tried Japanese sushi -- imagine how daring it felt back then to eat raw fish -- and many more enjoyed that nation's popular cooked preparations like teriyaki and sukiyaki.
Then, around the late 1970s or early '80s, Thai food started gaining in popularity, with restaurants springing up everywhere serving complex, incredibly flavorful food at very reasonable prices. I quickly fell in love with the cuisine and its combinations of seasonings, balancing spicy, sweet, sour, pungent, and salty flavors. Soon I began to introduce Thai seasonings into my own cooking, offering dishes like Pork Loin with Thai Sauce and Papaya Salad on the menu at Spago.
Mild-tasting yet full of flavor, pork is an ideal candidate for such a Thai treatment. The dish was certainly a change of pace for me from the way my mother cooked pork back in Austria, rubbing the meat with caraway, garlic, marjoram, salt, and pepper before roasting it for Sunday lunch.
The secret to achieving authentic Thai flavors in this recipe comes from preparing a Thai seasoning paste before doing anything else. It includes cashews, which thicken the sauce as well as adding, along with a little toasted sesame oil, a rich, nutty taste; honey and some plum wine, available in the Asian food section of well-stocked markets, for sweetness; fresh ginger and chili pepper, for heat and their own aromatic flavors; garlic and green onions for their distinctive pungency; and aromatic cumin and turmeric. I also include a little balsamic vinegar, definitely not a traditional Thai ingredient, which I find perfectly adjusts the balance of the paste with its combination of tangy and sweet flavors. You'll have more than enough of the paste for the four servings the recipe yields; the remainder will keep well for several days covered in the refrigerator, ready to add flavor to another dish.
One of the things that really make this recipe, though, is the sweet and spicy papaya salad that accompanies it. You often find such salads, which complement the main dish like a relish or a salsa would, in Southeast Asian cuisines. If you can't find good, ripe papaya, mango or pineapple would make excellent substitutes.
Speaking of substitutions, this recipe would also be delicious made with lamb tenderloins or with skinless, boneless chicken breasts. So it's easy for you to go on and on being surprised by wonderful Thai flavors.
Pork Loin with Thai Sauce and Papaya Salad
Thai Paste Ingredients
1/4 pound unsalted raw cashews
1/2 cup plum wine
1 ounce peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves
1 jalapeno chili, stemmed, seeded, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 cup peanut oil
1-1/2 tablespoons turmeric
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon toasted Asian-style sesame oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Papaya Salad Ingredients
12 ounces ripe organic papaya or mango, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 jalapeno chili, stemmed, seeded, deveined, and finely chopped
2 limes, juiced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
4 radicchio leaves
Pork Loin Ingredients
1-1/2 pounds pork loin, cut crosswise into 4 equal medallions
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 cup Port
1 cup organic store-bought chicken broth
Fresh lime juice
First, make the Thai Paste:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the cashews on a baking sheet and roast until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
Put the plum wine and ginger in a small saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat until the liquid has evaporated. Put the ginger and all the remaining Thai Paste ingredients in a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade or in a blender. Puree them. Transfer the paste to a bowl and set aside.
Next, make the Papaya Salad:
In a medium bowl, combine the papaya, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, and honey. Cover the two bowls with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time.
Season the pork medallions all over with salt and pepper and, with the side of a cleaver or the bottom of a heavy plate, flatten them slightly. Heat an ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add the peanut oil and, as soon as it is hot enough to swirl easily, add the medallions and saute until nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until the medallions are medium-rare, about 15 minutes. Transfer the medallions to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
Pour off all the fat from the skillet. Over high heat, add the Port and stir and scrape to deglaze the pan deposits. Pour in the broth and continue cooking until the sauce thickens slightly. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the Thai paste and season to taste with salt, pepper, and lime juice. Keep warm.
Toss the salad ingredients with the dressing and season to taste with salt and pepper. On one side of each warmed serving plate, place a radicchio leaf to form a cup and mound some of the salad inside it. Spoon some of the sauce on the other side of each plate and place a pork medallion on top. Spoon more sauce over the pork and garnish with a few cilantro leaves.
Article: Copyright © Tribune Media Services, Inc.
Recipes: "Pork Loin With Thai Sauce & Papaya Salad "
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