Roast Loin of Pork with Mustard and Caper Sauce

We keep reading over and over in the news about the rising cost of food owing to the rate of inflation. Indeed, even so-called economy cuts like short ribs and oxtails might today be considered luxury items. In my opinion, one of the best options these days, in terms of value and flavor, is pork; and for entertaining, a boneless pork loin a great choice.

I’ve posted a couple of recipes on this blog for this cut: one for a Bolognese roast braised in milk and another for a Tuscan pork loin roasted with rosemary and garlic. This post, however, features a recipe from a pioneer of California cuisine, Sally Schmitt, who perhaps is best known as the founder of two of Napa Valley’s most famous restaurants: Mustard’s Grill and The French Laundry. Her recently published, beautifully illustrated cookbook, Six California Kitchens, traces her culinary career in Northern California from her childhood kitchen through her five restaurants accompanied by recipes from each of them. The recipe I chose, “Roast Loin of Pork with Mustard Caper Sauce” was from the French Laundry, where she worked from 1978 to 1994.

What appealed to me most about the recipe was its minimalism, so characteristic of California cooking. With relatively few ingredients and nominal effort, the focus is on the pork and on complementing its natural flavors. Indeed, the recipe lived up to my expectations and delivered a moist and tender roast, complemented by a simple cream sauce with spice from the mustard and brininess from the capers. The recipe’s suggestion of broccoli rabe provided a pleasantly bitter counterpoint to the sweet flavors of the pork.

Despite my success with the recipe, I did encounter a couple of problems with it. The primary one was with the sauce. As directed, I deglazed the pan opting for wine over stock and then added the residual juices from the roast. I then made the béchamel with 2 tablespoons of butter and flour and whisked in the called for cup of chicken stock and half and half.  I continued to whisk the sauce over medium heat but it refused to thicken. Perhaps there was too much liquid; so, I made a beurre manié, kneading flour and butter between my fingers, and dropping balls of it into the sauce until it coated the back of a wooden spoon.

My only other difficulty, and a minimal one at best, was getting the capers to crisp up. They expanded and opened up a bit, but not as much as I had expected. Was my heat too low or should I have used larger capers as opposed to nonpareils? I’m not sure. Nonetheless, despite their disappointing texture the capers delivered all the flavor I expected. (Note: I revised the recipe for the capers after reheating leftovers and they turned out crispy and flavorful. Used equal amounts of butter and oil; heated over medium high. When the butter foam subsided, I added the capers and sautéed for close to 3 minutes. I then removed them with a slotted spoon and drained on paper towels.)

I shall definitely add this dish to my culinary repertoire for entertaining.

I pretty much followed the recipe as written, opting for wine over chicken stock to deglaze the roasting pan and, as mentioned above, using the beurre manié to thicken the sauce. In formatting the recipe here, unlike the book, which lists the ingredients concurrently with the directions, I’ve listed the ingredients separately, before them, since it made it easier for me to prep for as well as to follow the recipe.

Roast Loin of Pork with Mustard Caper Sauce (adapted from Six California Kitchens by Sally Schmitt)

Ingredients

Ingredients

For the roast:
One 2- to 3-pound boneless pork loin, tied
2 to 3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt

For the sauce:
1 cup white wine, or chicken stock
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup half-and-half
¼ cup capers, rinsed
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
½ tsp salt

For crisp capers:
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp capers, drained and patted dry

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 325°F.

2. If untied, tie the roast at one-inch intervals.

3. Place the roast in a roasting pan, coat with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mustard, and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Mustard Coated Roast

4. Roast until just done—a little pink in the middle is good—and a meat thermometer reaches 140°F. 1 to 1½ hours depending on its size.

Cooked Roast

5. Let the roast rest for at least 30 minutes. Remove it to a clean tray. Drain off and strain all the juices from the roasting pan and set aside.

6. While the roast is resting, pour the wine into the pan. Deglaze the pan using a pastry brush or a wooden spatula to dissolve the bits and pieces on the bottom of the pan in the liquid. Add to the reserved juices and set aside.

Adding wine
Deglazing Pan

7. In a medium sauce pan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in and cook the flour, stirring until lightly browned. Whisk until smooth and add the chicken stock and half-and-half.

8. Whisk in the juices from the roasting pan, along with the capers, mustard, ground pepper, and salt.

Melting the butter
Whisking and cooking flour
Adding stock
Adding pan and residual juices
Adding capers
Adding the flour
Browned flour and butter
Adding half and half
Adding mustard
Whisking sauce
Finished Sauce

9. To serve, remove the strings from the roast and slice medium thin. The slices need not be perfect or whole.

Slicing the Roast

10. On each plate, overlap a few slices of pork, then spoon the sauce over the slices, but don’t cover them completely. Sprinkle with crisped capers.

Roast Loin of Pork with Mustard and Caper Sauce

Crisped Capers:

To crisp the capers, warm a small sauté pan over medium-high heat with the butter and olive oil. When the butter foam subsides, add the drained and dried capers. Cook for about 3 minutes until they have expanded and opened up. Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and allow to cool and drain on paper towels.

Drained and patted-dry capers
Crisped capers
Adding capers to the heated oil
Capers cooled and drained

Wine Pairing: Chardonnay

3 thoughts on “Roast Loin of Pork with Mustard-Caper Sauce

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