Dinner at Home
Brine, glaze, baste ...
... then sit back and bask in the compliments
Gochujang, the rusty red and sticky, thick Korean chili paste, when mixed with brown sugar, vinegar, garlic and sesame oil, perfectly balances sweet, salty, spicy and tangy. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
My brother-in-law declared this pork so "bad" he just had to clean his plate. My husband proclaimed it the best pork roast of his life. High praise indeed.
There's not much to it really, save for the purchase of red chili paste. My favorite with pork is gochujang, Korean chili paste made from red chilies, rice and soy. Add a few other simple ingredients and a big dose of patience. Then relish the compliments — even the spice-averse in my crowd were wowed.
Gochujang, the rusty red and sticky, thick Korean chili paste, when mixed with brown sugar, vinegar, garlic and sesame oil, perfectly balances sweet, salty, spicy and tangy. Soy sauce adds that fifth taste sensation — umami. Something akin to eating caramel corn and cheddar popcorn in the same handful, the sweet, salty combination keeps you coming back for more.
Alternatives to the Korean chili paste abound in most large grocery stores. I have made the glaze recipe below with Thai sriracha sauce, Chinese chili paste with garlic and Indonesian sambal oelek. When the markets overflow with fresh chilies, I like to make my own red chili paste. Cookbook author Eileen Yin-Fei Lo has a straightforward recipe for it that I find extremely versatile; I use it in the Korean sauce that follows as well as for stir-frying Sichuan green beans. Add cilantro, fresh roasted tomatoes and garlic to steer it toward Mexican dishes.
To help less-tender or super-lean cuts of pork retain moisture on the grill, I like to brine them first in water flavored with sugar, salt, vinegar, garlic and fresh orange. Pork shoulder, country-style ribs and pork loin especially benefit from brining. The shoulder should be brined overnight or up to two days in the refrigerator. Country-style pork ribs and pork loin need only a few hours of brining.
The exception: Pork tenderloin needs no brining; simply butterfly it open so it is uniformly about 1-inch thick, then marinate it in some of the red glaze for about an hour. Prepared this way, tenderloin will cook over direct heat in about 15 minutes. Make extra and serve it super-thinly sliced over salads.
Sweet and spicy crispy pork packed with smoky flavor from the grill. What more could we want? I'm thinking about a refreshing slaw and warm, grill-toasted flat breads, such as fresh pita or naan from the freezer case. Coconut sorbet with chunks of fresh mango will cool things off just fine.
Sweet and spicy red chili grilling glaze
Prep: 10 minutes
Makes: 2 generous cups
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup medium-heat Korean chili paste (gochujang)
½ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
1 piece (2 inches long) ginger root, peeled (or 2 tablespoons refrigerated ginger puree)
2 tablespoons dark Asian sesame oil
6 large cloves garlic