And I confess that I was looking for yet another Spring pasta dish when I ran across this recipe that was anything but what I ever thought I’d make. But like those red shoes (I bought mine in February, mind you) or that soft-spoken guy that is so not your type (I married mine almost two years ago), sometimes what you never predicted is exactly what you need.
Thus last night, I both cooked and ate pork tenderloin for the very first time, but most certainly not the last. (I actually supervised the tenderloin, after outsourcing it to my husband. Close enough, right?) It was so much fun. Picture an actual summer day and not this weather whiplash we’ve been inundated with in the Northeast and imagine how delicious it would be to end with a light, bright bowl of glassy noodle salad decked out with strips of mahogany-charred pork, keeping it on this side of Lite Delite Meal Inspirations. Pork tenderloin slathered with a lime, hoisin, soy, sake, ginger and garlic sauce? I love you.
Guess what else? I bought a mandoline yesterday! Frankly, I’ve wanted one forever but those things are notorious for their fingertip beveling abilities and (ahem) I’m not exactly renowned for reigning in my klutziness. Also, they’ve always seemed pricey, as even the OXO one I set out for yesterday morning ran nearly $70. Alas, I found a lovely little Japanese one for $27.99, and it works like a charm. You should have seen how fast it leveled what would have been an hour’s worth of knife-skills-deprived chopping into piles of colorful matchsticks. Behold the slivered perfection! Behold all my fingers still largely intact! I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Cellophane Noodle Salad With Roast Pork
Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez, Gourmet, June 2006
Makes 10 first-course servings.
1 (1-lb) solid piece boneless pork butt (shoulder), halved along the grain*
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or sake
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup peanut or vegetable oil**
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 large fresh jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
8 oz very thin bean-thread noodles (also known as cellophane, glass, or mung bean noodles)
3/4 lb Chinese long beans (1 bunch) or green beans, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
1 seedless cucumber (usually plastic-wrapped; about 1 lb), halved lengthwise and sliced diagonally 1/8 inch thick
1 bunch scallions, cut into matchsticks
1 firm-ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
2 thin carrots, cut into 1/8-inch-thick matchsticks
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh small basil leaves
Make pork: Cut pork along the grain into long 1 1/2- to 2-inch-wide strips. Remove and discard any sinew but do not trim fat. Transfer pork to a large sealable plastic bag. Stir together remaining pork ingredients in a small bowl until combined well. Add to pork and turn to coat, then squeeze bag to eliminate as much air as possible and seal. Marinate pork, chilled, at least 4 hours but no longer than 24.
Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 375°F. Put 1/2 inch water in a 13- by 9-inch roasting pan and place a metal rack across top of pan (rack should not touch water).
Remove pork from marinade, reserving marinade, and arrange pork strips 1 inch apart on rack. Roast in oven 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring marinade to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan, then boil 1 minute (marinade may look curdled). Remove from heat.
Brush both sides of pork with some marinade and roast 10 minutes more. Generously brush both sides of pork with marinade again and roast, basting 2 or 3 times, 10 minutes more.
Increase oven temperature to 400°F and roast pork until strips are mahogany-colored and caramelized on edges, 10 to 15 minutes more (pork should roast for a total of about 50 minutes). Transfer to a cutting board and let stand, loosely covered with foil, 10 minutes.
Make dressing while pork roasts: Blend together all dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth. Stir before using.
Cook noodles and beans for salad while pork finishes roasting: Soak noodles in cold water to cover until pliable, about 15 minutes, then drain in a colander. Cut noodles in half with kitchen shears.
Cook beans in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer with a skimmer or slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking, reserving cooking liquid in pot. Drain beans and pat dry.
Return bean-cooking liquid to a boil, then cook noodles, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain noodles in colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Drain noodles again, then spread out on paper towels and pat dry.
Assemble salad: Cut as much pork as desired for salad across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices.*** Toss noodles with 1/4 cup dressing in a bowl. Toss long beans with 2 tablespoons dressing in another bowl. Arrange pork, noodles, beans, and remaining salad ingredients on a large platter. Drizzle with some of dressing and serve remaining dressing on the side.
* You can substitute pork tenderloin for the pork butt. In fact, the butcher we asked at Whole Foods adamantly suggested that we not use pork butt, because it is so fatty and the cooking time is less than an hour, thus it really won’t render off. I was very happy with the tenderloin results.
** I know this sounds like total madness, but next time I make this, I’m omitting the oil. Non-emulsified salad dressings are a huge pet peeve of mine. No matter what you do, the oil stays on top, and when you try to pour or ladle any onto your dish, you only get the slick, and no flavor. Totally disappointing. If the oil is hanging out on top, and is a neutral oil to boot, I fail to see what it adds to the overall flavor.
*** The intensity of the flavor fades when the pork is sliced, so cut it as needed. Unsliced pork keeps, wrapped in foil and chilled, up to 3 days, or frozen, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in a sealed plastic bag, up to 1 month.
**** I suspect that the leftovers of this salad would make for excellent summer rolls, wrapped in 8-inch rice paper rounds.