When I heard that Marcella Hazan had died, I knew that I had to make her recipe of pork loin braised in milk that very day. I first encountered Hazan's magnificent "The Classic Italian Cookbook" in the 1980s when my neighbor Sue introduced me to it one summer afternoon over gin and tonics on her porch. Sue was born in Italy and her mother still made fresh pasta every single day. Hazan's book documented the way that both Sue and her mother cooked.
 
I went out and bought the cookbook the next day and was instantly hooked. Despite trying many different recipes for pasta, gnocchi and pesto over the years, I always go back to Hazan. The cookbook reads like a culinary treasure trove handed down to you by a cranky nonna. Hazan is extremely particular about the way you should cook, and isn't afraid to tell you, but it is one of the reasons that the cookbook is so good. The methods are described so meticulously and illustrated with drawings of such care, that you feel you could tackle even the most difficult recipes. There are thousands and thousands of cookbooks of Italian cooking, but for me, this is the one that really teaches you about the art of Italian cooking.
 
It was Sue who urged me to try the recipe for pork loin braised in milk. The recipe sounds a bit odd, but the pork becomes meltingly tender and moist and the sauce is just fantastic. This became one of my daughter's favorite recipes and she would ask for it for special occasion dinners. I know it isn't the most beautiful dish to look at, but it really is incredibly delicious. I had trouble getting the sauce to brown this time, it is usually a much darker colour, but it was still just as good to eat.
 
This is a great dish to make for a Sunday dinner. It takes a while to cook, but it requires almost no effort at all. I usually serve it with mashed or roasted potatoes and greens like spinach or chard.

Prep time: 10 minutes  

Total time: 2 hours, 15 minutes  

Yields: 6 servings

Pork Loin Braised in Milk

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs pork loin in one piece
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
Cooking directions
  1. Heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat in a casserole large enough to just contain the pork. When the butter foam subsides add the meat, fat side facing down. Brown thoroughly on all sides, lowering the heat if the butter starts to turn dark brown.
  2. Add the salt, pepper and milk. (Add the milk slowly, otherwise it may boil over.) Shortly after the milk comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium, cover, but not tightly, with the lid partly askew, and cook slowly for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat is easily pierced by a fork. Turn and baste the meat from time to time, and, if necessary, add a little milk. By the time the meat is cooked the milk should have coagulated into small nut brown clusters. If it is still pale in colour, uncover the pot, raise the heat to high, and cook briskly until it darkens.
  3. Remove the meat to a cutting board and allow to cool off slightly for a few minutes. Remove the trussing string, carve into slices 3/8 inch thick, and arrange them on a warm platter. Draw off most of the fat from the pot with a spoon and discard, being careful not to discard any of the coagulated milk clusters. Taste and correct for salt. Spoon the sauce over the sliced pork and serve immediately.

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