Saturday, November 13, 2010

Slow Cooker Pork & Ethos Merlot

( Hungry? )

A few years back Margot and I both used the Weight Watchers program to lose weight and get to a manageable food lifestyle. Writing a food and wine blog makes that hard, but we are much more capable of intertwining healthy eating now so we no longer actively count points. During that time Margot picked up the “In Good Time - 123 Slow Cooker Recipes To Come Home To” Weight Watchers recipe book. We’ve used it so many times it has pages falling out of it! The recipes are really that good and when I work from home on Wednesdays I have plenty of time to have something going in the slow cooker.

This week I picked a recipe we hadn’t yet tried for Braised Pork Loin with Port and Prunes which can be found on page 47 of the book. We pick our weekly menus on Sunday to aid in the grocery shopping, but this also gives me time to think about beverage pairings. As I thought about what to drink with the pork I remembered we had a bottle of Ethos Merlot that we brought back from Chateau Ste. Michelle in May. We tasted it during the wonderful private tasting we had and it knocked both of our socks off! This is the best Merlot I have ever had, and one of the best bottles of red wine I have ever had the privilege to taste. We’ll get back to the wine in a minute.

A few weeks back Margot took advantage of a buy-one-get-one deal on pork loin roasts. It ended up being for the big ones so we have adapted this recipe for a roast 1/3 larger than the recipe called for. We also used two homemade wines instead of port. For the sweet component we used a wine we made in 2007 that we called Dark Magic made from grocery store grapes. Early on it was very funky, but it has mellowed now and the residual sugar makes for a great taste. We added some depth with some 2010 Chilean Malbec. This is from an early bottled 3 gallons that ended up being a bonus from the batch. It is young and not refined yet, but it is very drinkable with distinctive flavors and aromas. The color is very dark and I thought the richness would be fantastic in this dish.

Braised Pork Loin with Port and Prunes

1 (4½ lb) boneless pork loin
2 tsp ground black pepper

1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp ground mustard
1 ½ tsp dried sage
¾ tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 ½ cups sliced onion
2 leeks, sliced thin (white part only)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup sweet red wine
1 dry red wine
2/3 cup vegetable broth
20 pitted prunes
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water

The process is pretty simple. The pepper, salt and spices are used to create a rub for the roast which should be cut in half crosswise. After applying the rub, heat the oil in a large pot. Once the oil is hot, brown the roast pieces on all sides. When browned move the roast to the slow cooker. I usually spray my slow cooker insert with some cooking spray to prevent sticking.

I added some additional oil to the pot used to brown the roast and then added the onion, leek and carrot, sautéing them for about 8 minutes. Add the wine and stock and scrape the bottom of the pot clean. Pour the wine and vegetable mixture over the pork in the slow cooker, add the prunes and bay leaves and cover. I cooked this on high for two hours and then low for another five hours. Make sure to remove the bay leaves before continuing.

( Ready to cook! )

When you are ready to serve it remove the pork to a heat-proof dish and keep warm. Transfer the contents of the slow cooker to a large pot and bring to a boil. Use the water and cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.

( This is what it looked like after I took it out of the cooker and it had sat in a warm oven for a few minutes. )

This dish was a jackpot. The pork was so tender that removing it from the slow cooker was a challenge. The combination of flavors was wonderful with the prunes and red wine providing a clear foundation of fruit and subtle sweetness. We served it alongside baked acorn squash that had been basted with olive oil and maple syrup. Incredible!

The wine didn’t fail us on our second taste. From the moment we smelled it we recalled our mutual agreement from the tasting. This bottle is from the 2005 vintage and my understanding is that it should be tough to find these days unless you are in Woodinville, WA! It has intense aromas of cherry and plum. You’d have to have the worst cold in the world not to be able catch the aromas. It is mouth-coating and silky, something I could sit and savor for far too long. The fruit flavors are what you notice first and there is slight gaminess to it that went really well with the pork. The wine is very balanced with noticeable tannins, but not in an overpowering way. The wine enhanced the perception of the spices and flavors in the food without losing itself. I don’t think I could easily have picked a better wine to pair with, although I am up for the challenge!




Kate said...

WOW - that's our kind of meal. Looks beautiful and oh, so, flavorful. We'll absolutely be making this one!!! Hope you guys are having a great weekend :-) Kate

Chef Dennis Littley said...

WOW is absolutely right!!! That pork looks to die for!! What an incredible meal, and I would never have thought prunes!
thanks so much for sharing this tasty creation with us!

Kristen said...

I love pork with dried fruit. Yours turned out wonderfully!

Pam @ Sticks Forks Fingers said...

This recipe makes me gleek. All those nice aromatics, wine and the prunes (who decided to call the "dried plums" anyhow??) can't possible be wrong. Good old Chateau St. Michelle is a stalwart, always solid. Nice choice.

An aside... I find photographing meat to be a challenge. It often turns grayish or otherwise comes off looking highly unappealing. Your photos make your pork look so rich and browned and beautiful. Lovely job making it look as good as it sounds.

As always, my best. Pam

Cookin' Canuck said...

Now this sounds fantastic. You simply can't go wrong with port and dried plums.

Nancy said...

To answer your first question, YES! Your photos are making my mouth water. What a great recipe. Can't wait to try it, my husband is also going to love it. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

MMMM What a beautiful pork!

Tastemonials said...

When I saw your title, I thought why merlot with pork? I usually drink zinfandel. But on reading the recipe it sounds perfect. I'll have to give it a try.

Karen said...

I am always on the look-out for yummy slow cooker recipes and this looks amazing. I can imagine how tender that pork was!
We recently took a road trip of the Pacific Northwest and fell in love with Woodinville! Cannot wait to go back and try more of those wines.