This Ain’t No Pie! Savory Braised Rhubarb with Herb Crusted Pork Loin

herb crusted roast pork loin rhubarbHerb Crusted Pork Loin for Rhubarb Day 2

On Day 1, I managed to pull off rhubarb tarts. It’s the classic treatment for rhubarb and the obvious introduction to this vegetable. Because it is a vegetable.

But today I want to go a whole other way. I am doing a savory treatment. I am doing an Herb Crusted Pork Loin with Braised Spiced Rhubarb and Celery.

Rhubarb has a very strong sour tang. This makes it a great accompaniment to savory foods. Because, don’t forget. It is a vegetable (have I mentioned that?). A vegetable with a clean, somewhat earthy, tartness. Which makes a wonderful partner to robust cuts of meat like lamb or in this case, pork.

It can certainly hold up to big flavors like red onions, ginger, orange zest and red pepper. Still, even in savory treatments such as this, rhubarb always needs a bit of sugar to round out it’s sour flavor. I’ll sweeten it just a touch with brown sugar and golden raisins.

But not every rhubarb is pie; so be careful. Overly sweet rhubarb can be cloying.  Celery will keep this recipe solidly on the savory side of the plate.

braised rhubarb and celery My first impulse was to chop the vegetables up and stew them down. I thought we’d call it chutney. But I am highlighting rhubarb this week. I want the dish to look and feel like rhubarb. So I am cutting the rhubarb and celery into 6‑inch lengths and braising them in chutney flavors. There is just enough fat in the liquid in the form of chicken broth and butter to thicken it into a glaze as the vegetables cook.

These vegetables should be served at room temperature. So they are easy to make ahead, even the day before if you like.

As I mentioned this will be an accompaniment to a roasted pork loin. A simply prepared, herb-crusted pork loin. I am going to rub the meat with a garlicky paste of mixed herbs. Most any herb will do, I am using thyme, basil, rosemary, sage and parsley.

herb paste for herb crusted pork loinThe meat will be roasted at a high-heat for the first part of the cooking. Then I will lower the heat until the meat is cooked to perfection.

Ahhh, but what is perfection. I like my pork oh so slightly pink. The merest blush of pink. A look closely or you will miss it hue.

Almost every recipe I have read says to cook pork until it has an interior recipe of 155 degrees. I think that is crazy and way too much cooking.

I cook a 4 lb roast that is about 4 inches across to about 140 degrees. Use an instant read thermometer. After 45 minutes of roasting begin taking the interior temperature of the thickest part of the roast every 10 or 12 minutes. It will continue to cook once it leaves the oven, the temp will rise to 150 or 155. REALLY it will.

pork loin prepped for ovenDon’t forget that smaller cuts of meat not only cook faster, they cool faster. Which means they do not continue to cook as dramatically as larger cuts once they have left the oven. Cuts of meat with bone-in really retain heat well and will continue to cook while resting even more so than boneless cuts. So again I stress use an instant read thermometer. Do not rely on timers.

Herb Crusted Pork Loin

Here is a rule of thumb I adapted from Judy Rodgers for pork roasts:
Boneless cuts 4 pounds or larger cook to an interior temperature of 140 degrees F.
Smaller boneless roasts should stay in the oven until a temperature of 145 degrees F is reached (I know that seems counter-intuitive, but trust me!).
Large cuts with bones like a rib roast should be cooked only to 135 degrees F. The bones will radiate so much heat during resting thatClick for more on Sokol Blosser RoséClick for more on Sokol Blosser Rosé you will see the interior temperature rise to 155 or even 160 degrees F.

I am serving my roast poolside, so I am letting it come to room temperature before I slice it. My brother Grant has picked out a great rosé to accompany this recipe. Springtime, good food, and rosé! I have a feeling we are going to have a lovely sun-drenched, rosé quenched meal. Which is a great introduction to rhubarb as a savory little devil!

Herb Crusted Pork Loin with Braised Spiced Rhubarb and Celery

Braised Spiced Rhubarb and Celery

1 red onion, cut into 1/4‑inch-thick rounds
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
zest of 1 orange, in long thin strips
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4‑cup granulated sugar
12 6‑inch lengths of rhubarb
12 6‑inch lengths of celery

Combine onion, raisins, ginger, zest, red pepper, chicken broth, vinegar, butter and sugars in a saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat.

pork loin with braised rhubarb and celeryAdd rhubarb and celery; cover; reduce heat. Simmer gently until rhubarb is tender but not falling apart, about 5 minutes.

Remove rhubarb from liquid, and set aside. Continue to simmer liquid until it has thickened and reduced and celery is tender, about 10 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl, and return cooked rhubarb to mixture. Let cool, and chill until needed. The braised vegetables may be made ahead and will last several days refrigerated in an airtight container.

Herb Crusted Pork Loin

1 (4‑pound) boneless pork loin, with fat left on
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
2 teaspoons minced parsley


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Place the pork loin on a rack in a roasting pan.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a mortar and pestle and process until a chunky paste is achieved. Massage the mixture onto the pork loin, covering all of the meat and fat.

Roast the pork for 30 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 400 degrees F and roast for an about 45 to 50 minutes more minutes. Test for doneness using an instant-read thermometer. When the internal temperature reaches 140 to 145 degrees F, remove the roast from the oven. Allow it to sit, loosely covered in foil for about 20 minutes. The temperature should rise to 150 to 155 degrees F.

Carve the roast and serve with the braised vegetables on the side.

Alternatively, this is also excellent served at room temperature, al fresco!

Herb Crusted Pork Loin


Greg Henry