When it comes to Spanish cuisine, I can’t think of any better authority on the subject than Penelope Casas. While she may not be as famous as the celebrity chefs who dominate the airwaves, she ranks highly among those scholarly chefs, like Paula Wolfert, Fred Plotkin, or Nancy Harmon Jenkins, to name a few, who strive to capture tradition and authenticity in their recipes.
I came across Casas’s work in the late 70s, when I was a graduate student, and have a been a fan ever since. And although her recipes may have sometimes required considerable effort, they always delivered delicious results.
Today’s recipe from The Food and Wines of Spain, which she published in 1979, for a pork roast simmered in milk may indeed be one of her simplest, but it yields one of the most flavorful pork dishes I’ve ever prepared. With minimal effort and just a few ingredients, all of which are kitchen staples, you have a dish that should please even the toughest of critics.
Although I’ve often prepared a similar, and more renowned, version from Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook, and blogged about it here, I find Casas’s better. It’s more flavorful, owing to its use of onion and carrot, and more refined due largely to its puréeing and straining of the sauce. My adaptation, however, is still influenced by Marcella’s recipe, which calls for an occasional basting and turning of the roast and for carving the meat in slices ⅜-inch thick.
Aside from Marcella’s influence, I pretty much followed Casas’s recipe. My only significant changes include drying the roast with paper towels before browning, recommending a precise amount of salt, and directing to start the browning the roast fat-side down and continue cooking it fat side up to allow for self basting it. Casas recommends serving the dish accompanied by roasted potatoes and sautéed asparagus. To have one less pot on the stove, I opted for oven-roasted asparagus.
Circumstances also dictated the size of the roast I used. While making room in our freezer, my husband discovered a six-months-old, 1¼-pound roast that needed to be used. Although smaller than the 2-pound roast called for in the recipe, it was the perfect size for two. Given its having been frozen for so long, I thought that simmering it in milk would yield a better result than roasting it.
The finished dish was tender and succulent, infused with the flavors of the aromatics and accompanied by a velvety sauce. “Decadent,” quipped my better half, as he took his final bite and licked the last bit of sauce from his fork.
Pork Roast Simmered in Milk: Lomo de Cerdo con Leche (adapted from The Food and Wines of Spain by Penelope Casas)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2-pound boned pork loin
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, scraped and coarsely chopped
2 cups warm milk
2 cloves garlic, unpealed
1 ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven just large enough to just contain the roast.
2. Thoroughly dry the roast with paper towels to ensure browning.
3. Over medium-high heat, starting fat-side down, brown the roast on all sides, including the tip ends. End with the fat-side up. About 8 to 9 minutes.
4. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the onion and carrot, and cook until the onion is wilted. About 4 to 5 minutes.
5. Stir in the warm milk, garlic, peppercorns, and salt and bring to a boil.
6. Lower the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for about 2 hours. After the first hour, turn and baste the meat, ending with the fat-side up.
7. Remove the roast to a warm platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil.
8. Using an immersion or stand blender, or a food processor, purée the sauce. Taste for seasoning.
9. Strain the sauce through a sieve, pressing on any solids, and return the sauce to the pot.
10. Return the roast to the pot and heat briefly.
11. Carve the roast into slices ⅜-inch thick.
12. Serve the slices with the sauce, sprinkled with the parsley, on warmed plates.
Wine Pairing: Rioja Vega, Côtes du Rhône