Comfort food is universal. Well flavored, simple dishes transcend cultures, regions and time. No matter where you are, you recognize the dishes that reach into your memories and experiences. This dish is like that for me. It had an immediate familiarity, though I’d never had it before. It’s that sense of slow-cooked flavor and rich, creamy sauce and tender pork I recognized. I first tasted a version of it in Italy, and it resonated. Braising pork in milk is a classic Italian preparation that creates moist and tender meat and a creamy, rich sauce. I have made it a number of times with great results, particularly after my month-long culinary sojourn in Italy a few summers ago. I discussed methods and techniques with chef-instructors at cooking classes, waiters in restaurants, and a driver/guide. My obsession with buttermilk naturally led me to try a Southernized version of the classic and I love it even more.
It’s really amazing how this incredibly simple preparation produces such a complex dish. The pork is tender and infused with the garlic and sage flavor, and the sauce is buttery – I mean really buttery. The low and slow cooking really imbues the pork with flavor, and buttermilk is always a wonderful tenderizer. The addition of cream helps hold everything together and prevents too much curdling (though there may be some). I like to give it a little whirl with the immersion blender to smooth it out, then spoon it over the beautifully tender meat.
- 2 pound boneless pork lion
- Salt and pepper
- 2 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 ½ cups whole buttermilk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 3 -4 leafy sprigs of sage
- Season the pork loin well with salt and pepper all over. Heat the oil in the bottom of a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid that fits the loin snugly over medium-high heat. Brown the pork loin on all sides, including the ends, then remove it to a plate. Let the pot cool slightly and wipe out the remaining oil. Return the pork to the pot and pour in the buttermilk and cream. Add the nutmeg to the liquid, then tuck the garlic cloves and sage leaves around the loin. Bring the buttermilk to a low boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for two hours, turning the pork over every 30 minutes. After one hour, leave the pot lid slightly ajar.
- Remove the pork to a plate, cover with foil and bring the liquid left in the pot to a hearty boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thickened and reduces, about 10 minutes. I like to remove the sage stalks and give the sauce a quick whir with an immersion blender to blend in the garlic and smooth it out.
- Slice the pork and serve with the sauce ladled over.