You know, it’s so easy to get in a rut. Invite some friends over, get what you need, hustle to have everything ready, as people arrive when they may either slightly over or undercooking certain things because it’s impossible to perfectly time, bring out a big platter or two of what-not, “ta-da!” it, dig in, eat and drink too much and well, then what? Is that all there is? It’s not the company but the routine threatens makes it less wild the eighth time around.
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
Updated notes, 1/10/14: I hadn’t made this in years, people, but did so tonight and have dozens of new notes to add about it. It’s such a wonderful recipe, but I think a few things deserve revisiting. Read to the end to find them (there are many and I didn’t want to clog the headnotes).
Makes 10 first-course servings, about 4 main.
1 pound solid piece boneless pork butt (shoulder) or pork tenderloin
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce (low-sodium is best here)
1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or sake
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt (see Note below)
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
Prepare 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.
Roast pork: 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. I recommend brushing it as many times as it takes to use the marinade up; you won’t regret it.
Increase oven temperature to 400°F and roast pork until strips are mahogany-colored and caramelized on edges, 10 to 15 minutes more (pork shoulder will need the most time, tenderloin the least; totally cooking time will be 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. (See Note below about an alternate dressing.)
Cook noodles and beans 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.
Many notes (Updated 1/10/14):
- Pork tenderloin: As I mentioned in 2007, we made this with pork tenderloin rather than the pork shoulder called for and still do. As the cooking time is relatively short, and pork shoulder is so fatty, we’ve been concerned that the fat just won’t render off in the amount of time that it’s in the oven. Pork tenderloin is gorgeous here; it already comes in about 2- to 3.5-inch wide strips, but I even enjoy halving it lengthwise into two strips that can be cut into small medallions, perfect for a salad. In the years since I shared this recipe (2011 to be exact), the USDA has (to the delight of cooks and restauranteurs, who’ve always preferred it this way) reduced the recommended internal cooking temperature of pork from 160°F to 145°F and this markedly improved the texture and flavor of the tenderloin.
- Meat vs. vegetable volume: While I’m all for a vegetable-centric meal, and truly prefer meat as a “side dish” rather than a centerpiece, each time I make this, I think that the recipe would either benefit from double the pork or half the vegetables. Maybe it’s just that the pork is that good, so it goes quickly. Even if not doubling the pork, the amount of cucumber and green beans seems especially high for a salad of this size. Tweak the amounts to your anticipated tastes (meat-heavier, less green beans, or the like, etc.).
- The dressing: It’s fine, you know? But in the years since I shared this recipe, I’ve shared another noodle-meat-vegetable dish that has a sauce that I’d prefer as a dressing here. The “Dipping Sauce” from these Cold Noodles with Peanut Lime Chicken (with fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, garlic and chiles) is boldly flavored and perfectly balanced. If those ingredients appeal to you, try it here as the “dressing” instead.
- Salt: Taste the hoisin-soy-sake sauce before adding the additional salt; you may find that you don’t need it. (I found this even when using low-sodium soy sauce, and I’d predicate this by saying that we probably already like salt more than we should.)
- Summer rolls: I remain convinced that leftovers from this salad would make for excellent summer rolls, wrapped in 8-inch rice paper rounds.
- Do ahead: 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.