For the legions of Americans who feel compelled to torture a sweet little pork loin until it tastes like someone waived a meat wand over a sawdust heap, I give you the Italian solution: porketta.
Porketta is a pork loin that has been brined a bit, then smothered in fresh herbs, garlic, and my own special touch: dried pears poached in cognac, then wrapped in pork belly (uncured bacon my friends). Then it’s roasted until the belly is cracking and brown on the outside, and the pork loin is insouciant and juicy on the inside, completely untroubled by that oven roasting.
And that’s our main course next Saturday, April 9 when I cook again at the Balch Hotel in Dufur.
The rest of the meal is inspired by Italy, too. We start with an antipasti plate: savory goat cheese panna cotta with preserved lemon, Italian artichokes, slow-roasted tomatoes, basil oil, with crostini. Then it’s that porketta with fennel potato gratin, lacinato kale and pork pan sauce. And for dessert? Honey lemon ricotta cake, lemoncello creme anglaise, fresh strawberries. All that, and the Balch will just separate $45 from your wallet (plus gratuity, which is up to you.) We’ll have some nice wines, and a wine flight, to choose too.
The Balch is a short hop (I say that because we are three days away from opening season for major league baseball, and I’m remembering all my favorite shortstops who can pick up a grounder and swing around to first with the fine liquid movement of chocolate sauce over vanilla ice cream) from Hood River, and elsewhere in the Gorge. If you’ve never stayed there, you’ll love what they’ve done with their beds, baths and beyond. Course, you can just drive home afterward, watching the last shreds of April sun slide down the Gorge.
Visit balchhotel.com for the details. Hope to cook for you again soon.