Just before I left for a wonderful birthday celebration with friends in Provincetown on Cape Cod and Boston I learned that Marcella Hazan, the extraordinary Italian cook and teacher had passed on September 29.
Marcella was one of my early teachers. She opened up a world of authentic Italian cooking using a few choice ingredients and simple methods.
I remember well the sunny Sunday morning many years ago when Marcella visited my restaurant in Providence. We were all on pins and needles. The woman who taught America how to cook and eat Italian would soon be here.
Marcella was in town for a food editors conference and we were hosting a reception at the restaurant the next night featuring her dishes.
Marcella stepped out of the car with her husband Victor and son Giuliano, a cigarette with an incredibly long ash dangling from her lips.
After sidewalk introductions, we walked into the restaurant. I asked what she would like. “Jack Daniels on the rocks,” Marcella replied in her unmistakeable raspy voice. As I poured her bourbon we all sighed and relaxed. We spent 2 incredible days in the kitchen with the giving La Cucina Italiana master.
In honor of a remarkable woman, here’s my riff on one of my favorite recipes from her ground-breaking first book, The Classic Italian Cookbook: The art of Italian cooking and the art of Italian eating. I cherish the soiled copy she inscribed for me those many years ago. I hope you enjoy this pork loin braised in milk as much as those at my table do.
The delicate flavor of the tender, moist pork loin is enhanced by the clusters of nutty brown pan sauce. Add your favorite sides and dinner is served. I served mine with baby spinach sauteed with extra virgin olive oil.
Mille grazie Marcella. You live on in my kitchen.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds pork loin
- 2½ cups milk
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper all over the loin. Pat it in with your hand.
- Put the butter and oil in a enameled or heavy-bottemed pot that fits the loin snugly over medium-high heat.
- When the butter foam subsides add the meat fat side down.
- Brown the loin thoroughly on all sides. Lower the heat if the butter turns dark brown.
- Slowly add the milk to the pot.
- When the milk comes to a boil reduce the heat to medium-low or even low to keep the milk at a low simmer, cover the pot with the lid a bit askew.
- Cook the loin slowly until the meat is fork-tender, about 1½ to 2 hours.
- Turn and baste the loin occasionally and if needed add more milk.
- By the time the loin is cooked the milk should have coagulated into small nut-brown clusters on the bottom of the pan. (If it is still pale remove the loin, uncover the pot, raise the heat and cook briskly until the milk bits darken.)
- Remove the loin and let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.
- Skim all the fat from the pot. Add a few tablespoons of water to the pan and scrape up all the residue on the bottom of the pot as the water evaporates. Taste the pan sauce and add more salt and black pepper if desired.
- Cut the loin into half-inch slices and arrange them on a serving platter.
- Spoon the pan sauce over the slices and serve immediately.