Milk-Braised Pork with Lemon and Sage—A genius technique from a favored chef, Molly Stevens, resulting in tender meat from whole milk which also transforms into a uniquely concentrated sauce. This variation is an alternative to her garlic-studded pork.
A perfect foil for a cold, rainy/snowy Sunday afternoon. Turkey Day was over, the house was fully decorated for the upcoming Christmas Holidays, so we hunkered down and spent a lazy afternoon making homemade Turkey and Vegetable Soup, followed by this wonderful meal.
To be honest, most of our sides were leftovers from Thanksgiving and paired just fine with the pork; although we did steam up some broccoli for a veg boost. I thought the original herb bundle that gets tossed in with the milk was a bit paltry so I upped the amount of lemon peel and sage for a more pronounced depth of flavor (which I indicated in the ingredients list below).
As delicious as the sauce is, you may be put off by its curdled appearance and wish for a creamy-smooth version (we did). If that’s the case, put the finished sauce in a blender with a teaspoon of heavy cream, and whir until completely smooth and a lovely fawn color.
‘Tis the holiday season, so why not whip up this COMFORT food AND bring JOY to your guests!
PS—With our leftover pork from this dinner and some fennel-studded rice from another meal, we made Pork-Fried Rice and amazed ourselves at how good it was! In fact, we thought it was better than our regular version…
Milk-Braised Pork with Lemon and Sage
- 3 lbs. boned pork loin roast, tied
- 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. coarse salt
- 2 tsp. fresh-ground pepper
- 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, minced; 1 clove smashed
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage leaves; + 1 sprig
- 3 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
- 2 large strips lemon peel
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. heavy cream (optional)
- At least 8 hours, or overnight, mix together in a small bowl the sage, lemon zest, minced garlic, 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. salt. Rub the mixture over the entire surface of the tied meat; cover loosely and refrigerate.
- When ready to start the braise, preheat oven to 275°.
- Gather the strips of lemon peel, sage sprig, and bay leaf and tie them into a neat bundle with kitchen string.
- Remove the pork from the refrigerator and scrape off as much of the seasoning as you can. Choose a heavy-duty Dutch oven that will hold the pork without too much extra space.
- Add the oil and butter over medium-high heat. When it stops foaming, add the pork and brown it, turning with tongs to brown all four sides, 12-16 minutes total. (Lower the heat if you start noticing black specks.) Transfer meat to a plate.
- If there is more than a tablespoon or 2 of fat in the pot, pour off any extra. Return the pot to medium-high heat and add a smashed garlic clove. Stir and heat until fragrant and just beginning to brown, about 40 seconds.
- Gradually pour in the milk being careful that it doesn’t foam up and spill over. Insert the herb bundle. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and stir once or twice with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits.
- Return the pork to the pot along with any of its juices. Cover with the lid and slide into the oven. 10-15 minutes into the braise, lift the lid to check that the liquid is not boiling too vigorously. If it is, lower the temperature by 10-15 degrees.
- After 45 minutes, turn the pork with the tongs. The milk will have separated and begun to take on an ivory color. Set the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape and the milk to begin reducing down.
- Continue braising at a gentle simmer with the lid ajar, basting the pork occasionally with a soup spoon, until it reaches an internal temperature of 150°, 35 to 45 minutes more.
- Transfer to a carving board with a channel that will catch the juices and cover loosely with foil. Remove and discard herb bundle and garlic if still whole.
- While the meat rests, tilt the pot and spoon off the clear fat that sits on the surface of the curdled milk sauce (this was pretty much impossible). Turn the heat to high and boil the sauce to reduce it and concentrate the flavor, around 10 minutes to a caramel color.
- If, after only a few minutes there’s very little liquid and mostly milk curds, stir in a few tablespoons of cold water and return to a simmer.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, and a few drops of lemon juice.
- Optional: Put the finished sauce in a blender with a teaspoon of heavy cream, and whir until completely smooth and a lovely fawn color.
- Remove strings from pork. Pour any juices into the sauce and stir in. Cut the meat into 1/4″ slices and serve with sauce spooned on top.
Adapted from a recipe by Molly Stevens