One of the oldest tricks in the healthful-cooking book is to use spices liberally--a ruse our Test Kitchen updates with its intensely flavorful braised pork loin. After a fragrant five-spice and garlic-powder rub, the lean meat is splashed with orange juice, rice vinegar and a smidgen of dried prunes to sweeten the deal. Followed by a stovetop braise, slices of the pork taste precisely as an autumn main course should: savory, warm and aromatic. Abracadabra.
Five-Spice Pork Loin Braised with Oranges and Dried Plums
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 4 servings
Cook Time: 45 minutes
One 1¼-pound center-cut pork loin, fat completely removed
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, divided
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 2 oranges)
3 prunes (dried plums), thinly sliced lengthwise
1. On a cutting board, place the pork loin. In a small bowl, mix together the five-spice powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, then rub the spice mixture all over the pork.
2. In a heavy-bottomed skillet set over medium-high heat, add the canola oil. Once the oil is shimmering, after 1½ to 2 minutes, add the pork loin and cook until its bottom is browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Use tongs to turn the pork loin over, then surround the pork with the onion. Continue to brown the pork loin on all sides until golden and the onions start to brown, 6 to 8 minutes longer.
3. Add 2 tablespoons rice vinegar and stir, scraping up any browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Add the orange juice and prunes, bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, turning the pork over midway through cooking, until the pork loin is cooked through and reads 145° on an instant-read thermometer, 20 to 25 minutes.
4. Use tongs to transfer the pork loin to a cutting board and set aside. Continue to simmer the sauce until the bubbles are thick and the sauce is reduced, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar. Taste and season with more salt or pepper if you like. Carve the pork crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices. Divide the pork between 4 plates and serve with sauce. Calories per Serving: 236; Sodium: 497mg; Total Carbohydrate: 12g; Fiber: 1g; Fat: 7g