Every time I visit my brother and his girlfriend in Delaware, I make a stop at the most amazing Farmer’s Market/International Market that exists on this planet. Unfortunately, I forget to take my camera when I visit, so I don’t have the pictures to prove it, but take my word for it, folks.
The produce section alone is twice as big as that you’ll find at the average grocery story and it’s packed with fresh veggies and fruits. There are jack fruits, whole sugar cane, cactus leaves, dragon fruit, you name it. There’s an entire refrigerator section devoted exclusively to varieties of kimchi. The seafood section is stocked full of clams, urchins, oysters, and tons of fish. Next to the deli, they have a freshly fried, always heated, break-off-what-you-want, chicharrón (pork rind) that’s about 3 feet long.
That’s just the “market” section. To the side of the market are branches, or large rooms stocked with various ethnic foods and spices. There are rows upon rows of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Indian, Mexican, and Kosher foods. If you can’t find what you’re looking for at this place, I don’t know that it exists.
The spices alone (priced just under $1.50 for a 6 oz.-8 oz. bag) are worth the trip. In the Indian section of the store, I just stood in awe, staring at the varieties of spices, studying packages, and taking in deep breaths of the aromatic amazingness that is fresh spices. Another customer joined in my wonderment. She summed it up when she said, “This aisle is like Disney World for a grown ups. I get so excited just standing here!” She lives in the area and goes in once every couple of weeks, grabs a spice she’s never used before, and tests it in her kitchen. Lucky duck.
Of the one dozen bags of spices I brought home, one was whole-spice garam masala, one of the most used (and my favorite) of Indian curry powders. Garam masala spice mixtures vary, depending on whose “recipe” you’re looking at, but this particular one had cloves, whole pepper, cardamom, mace, star anise, bay leaves, and cinnamon. I thought it would make an interesting brine addition or marinade for pork, and I’m the lucky duck today because it worked really well. If you have a mortar and pestle, the spices could use a rough grind before adding it to the brine mixture to bring out the flavors of each pod and seed. I, being the improvisor I am, I put the coriander, pepper, mace, anise, and coriander in my coffee grinder and gave it a quick grind. I didn’t worry about grinding it to a powder because I was more interested in trying something a little more rustic. Look how beautiful these spices are:
To complement the pork, I made a side of roasted potatoes and this time, I used the garam masala powder variety. They rocked. That is all.
- 2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 mace shells (or 1 tsp. nutmeg)
- 2 anice stars
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 large bay leaf
- ½ cup honey
- ¼ cup salt
- 8 cups of water
- 1 pork loin, 3 pounds
- 2 Tbsp. ghee or clarified butter (If you don't have clarified butter, use an oil with a high smoke point like Safflower or Light Olive Oil)
- 1 pound of white and waxy potatoes, skin on, cut into bite sized pieces
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- 1 tsp. garam masala powder
- pinch of salt
- For the brine: Crush (or roughly grind) peppercorns, cloves, anise stars, and mace in a mortal and pestle. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine water, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, mace, cardamom, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Add the honey and salt. Once salt has dissolved, turn off the heat and cool mixture to room temperature. To speed up the cooling process, you can place the pan in the fridge, or if you live somewhere cold, you can put it outside.
- Once brine has cooled, put the whole pork loin and brine in a gallon sized ziplock bag, making sure the pork is submerged in the mixture. Seal bag tightly and place in a shallow pan, just in case it leaks. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
- When ready to cook, preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Remove pork from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Don't sweat it if there are still some peppercorns or cloves stuck to the pork.
- In a large oven proof skillet, heat ghee over medium-high heat until it's almost smoking. Add pork loin to the pan and brown all sides (about 4 minutes a side).
- Once browned, throw in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 145 degrees at the loin's center. Remove from oven once it reaches 140-145 degrees and transfer to a platter. Let the meat rest, as it will continue to cook while it rests.
- Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.
- Using the same skillet you used to cook the pork (watch out! It's going to be hot!), place on large burner and heat pan drippings over medium-high heat. Remove any whole spices that you see from the pan but don't toss the drippings. The potatoes will be better for it.
- Once skillet is hot, add potatoes, stirring to coat with pan drippings. Add garam masala powder and let potatoes and spices sit for a couple minutes so the bottoms of the potatoes brown and the spices begin to smell floral but be careful not burn. Stir potatoes once again. Deglaze the pan with stock, give the potatoes a good toss, and put the pan in the oven. Cook potatoes for about 15 minutes or until they are cooked all the way through.
- Serve potatoes with pork and green peas or any other green of your choosing.