Choosing a Cut That’s High on the Hog- Braised Pork Sirloin

OMG. I have a simple and satisfying meal. It perfectly bridges the season between summer and autumn. Braised Pork Sirloin with Tomatoes, White Beans & Sage. Sounds delicious and seasonal, right? But it also offers me an opportunity to discuss something I have not talked about in almost three years of writing this blog. Which is shocking to me. I mean how can there be any virgin territory in three years of blogging.

And I don’t mean pork. This ex-virgin has been porked. In fact, the word pork appears in 141 posts. That’s is out of almost 700 posts. That’s a pretty strong pork ratio. Oink. Oink! Wink, Wink!

No, the subject I seem to have missed is talking about the myriad of pork cuts. Which is a bit shocking. I mean I have read Fergus Henderson’s The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. I have even eaten nose and tail. My last post was jowl. But truth be told. Snout thru jowl to tail is fun information. But I suspect lots of us could use a bit of briefing on the more common cuts of the pig.

Seems like a good idea, but here I am three paragraphs into this post and I realize there is no freakin’ way. There are just too many cuts of pork. I can’t possibly discuss them all without you wanting to butcher me! Take ribs. Pork back ribs = pork back ribs = pork country back bones = pork loin back ribs = pork ribs for barbecue = Canadian pork back ribs. These are all just different names for pork baby back ribs. All those names and I am not even including spare ribs!!

pork mapSo how about we just take the loin. Today’s recipe comes from the loin. I should help you pick a cut that suits this recipe.

Well, the loin is where we get the leanest and most tender pork cuts (all those baby back ribs I just mentioned also come from the loin, so don’t get confused). But in general loin cuts are lean. They are what we call “high on the hog”. But these cuts tend to dry out if overcooked, so braising is a good way to prevent that (see recipe).

There are three main parts of the loin: the blade end, which is closest to the shoulder and tends to be fattier; the sirloin end, which is closest to the rump and tends to be bonier (though there are boneless cuts from the sirloin too– I know, I know); and then there’s the center portion, which is lean, tender, and the most expensive. Think loin roast or tenderloin.

The loin may have three main parts. But those parts consist of many, many cuts (with many many names). Still, I want to encourage you to choose some of the lesser known cuts. Today’s recipe calls for the sirloin steak. Yes, pigs can be steak too. However, not all stores carry all the diversity of pork that exists. So if you can’t find the “sirloin” you can substitute pork loin roast (slice medallions from it) or pork sirloin chop or… well I think you get the idea.

Braised Pork Sirloin with Tomatoes, White Beans & Sage serves 2 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 2 T olive oil
  • salt & pepper, as needed
  • 2 pork sirloin steaks, about 1.5″ thick
  • 2 clv garlic, peeled & sliced
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced into slivers
  • 1 lb whole cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 can white beans, drained & rinsed
  • 2 T sage leaves, sliced, plus more for garnish
  • 1 c chicken broth, or as needed

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat. Season the pork sirloin steaks well with salt and pepper. Sear them in the skillet on both sides until well browned. Transfer to a platter, and keep warm.

Reduce skillet heat to medium, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the garlic slices; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onion and continue cooking until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until they begin to pop about 6 minutes. Stir in the white beans and sage leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Return the pork chops to the skillet, adding enough broth to come about 1/4 of the way up the side of the skillet. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes. Remove cover, adjust seasoning, and continue cooking 15 minutes, or to the desired doneness.

Remove meat from skillet and let it rest about 4 minutes. Reduce the liquid in the beans, tomatoes, and onions if desired. Pour the bean mixture onto a serving platter, topping it with the pork sirloins. Garnish with additional chopped sage and serve warm.


Greg Henry

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