08 November 2012

AUNTIE PASTA: Pork and Beans

SARONNO, Italy - Today’s recipe is a classic pork and bean recipe. Not Mr. Campbell’s pork and beans, but a classic dish from the heart of Tuscany, where beans are particularly popular.  
 Florence, Italy
More than any other Italian region, Tuscany has a special affinity for beans and use them in many recipes.  Some of the Tuscan bean specialties are fagioli all'uccelletto, beans cooked in tomato sauce, pasta e fagioli, pasta and beans,  ribollita, Tuscany’s famous soup that wouldn’t be ribollita without beans, minestra di fagioli e funghi, bean soup with mushrooms, and on and on.   

The most common varieties of beans we see in Italy today originated in central and South America where  legumes have been cultivated for about 7,000 years. They were discovered (so they say) by Christopher Columbus during his second trip to the Americas and brought back to Europe by Spanish and Portuguese sailors in the 16th century. Beans soon became popular in Italy and were often served with pasta. Because pasta and beans is such a  nutritious, yet inexpensive dish, beans soon became an integral part of many other rustic, home-cooked dishes, particularly in Tuscany.

Today beans are among the most important legumes in the human diet. Although legumes were already around in ancient Rome, the varieties of the time came from Asia and Africa. Those ancient varieties were “fagioli dall’occhio”: or black eyed peas, small, white beans with a little black dot where the seed was attached to the pod. Black eyed peas are still popular, as are many other varieties that are now available.

Today’s pork and bean recipe calls for cannellini beans. And in spite of the ‘start from scratch instructions’ you can cheat a little and use canned beans if you want – just don’t tell anyone you heard that from me.

Roast Pork Loin Tuscan-style with Dried Mushrooms and Beans

(Serves 4)

  1 ¾ lb pork loin  
1 ¾ oz dried mushrooms
3  carrots, peeled and diced
1  celery rib, diced
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
5 oz dried beans
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon sage, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
black pepper to taste
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable stock
½ to 1 jar prepared meat gravy
1 cup white wine
1 sprig rosemary
water (as much as needed) to cook the beans
extra virgin olive oil 

30 minutes preparation + 1 hour cooking
Soak the beans in water for at least 12 hours, then cook them. 

Step 1 Tie the pork with kitchen string. Be sure to tie it tightly so that it does not loosen during cooking.
Step 1
Step 2 -  Chop rosemary, garlic, sage and fennel seeds, add salt and freshly ground black pepper. Make several incisions in the meat with a fine-blade knife, (See Auntie Pasta: Tuscan Red for a how to lard meat step by step)  insert the chopped herbs and spices into the incisions. The seasoning will add flavor throughout the meat.

Step 2
Step 3 - Pour the olive oil into a deep frying pan and braise the pork on a low heat, taking care to turn it occasionally. While it is cooking, add some white wine and let it evaporate. Remember to use the vegetable stock to baste the pork as it is cooking. Keep the pan covered when the meat is cooking.

 Step 3
Step 4 - In another large pan, soften the chopped garlic by frying slightly in oil, then add the beans that have been soaked. Season with salt and pepper, cover with water and cook.

 Step 4
Step 5 - In another pan sauté’ the vegetables in oil, add the chopped dried mushrooms, chopped parsley and some white wine.

 Step 5
 Step 6 - Add brown gravy,  season to taste with salt and pepper, cook for 5 minutes.

 Step 6
Step 7 - Slice the pork loin, arrange on a plate and pour the beans and the mushrooms over the meat and serve.

 Step 7

I found this ‘how to’ on the Bon Appetit website http://www.bonappetit.com/tipstools/tips/2008/08/how_to_tie_meat

Big pieces of meat off the bone—a butterflied leg of lamb, a pork loin roast, a beef tenderloin—will hold their shape better during cooking if they are tied up with some kitchen string. Tying meat is also a helpful way to keep stuffing and/or flavorings in place.

1.    With one end of the string, wrap a loop around the roast at the left end and tie a knot. Hold the string tautly above the knot with your left hand. Use your right hand to bring the long end of the string away from you and around and under the roast.  
2.  Slip the string under the part held taut with your fingers; pull gently. You've just made one link in the chain.  
3.  Repeat step 2, spacing the ties about 1 1/2 inches apart, until the roast is completely tied.  
4. Knot the string at the other end of the roast. Adjust the hitches as needed so that they're evenly spaced.

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