Brined Honor Guard Rack of Pork with Cider-Bourbon Sauce

This delicious entrée, fancy enough for a special occasion (in our case Christmas), was derived from a few separate recipes; and the Honor Guard Roast was chosen over a Crown Roast. Both are show-stopping menu centerpieces but, chef-author Molly Stevens claims that the honor guard method is smarter and easier. And since we were not making a stuffing, we didn’t have to worry about arranging the two racks into a crown, which often then becomes too big to fit a normal size roasting pan.

The honor guard line up refers to the image of two rows of ceremonial guards standing facing each other with weapons, lifted and crossed to form a covered pathway. We preordered two 7-rib racks for a party of seven, allowing for a very generous two ribs per person (although most of us only had one rib each). Not to mention we grazed on this large charcuterie platter a couple of hours before dinner…

The Cider-Bourbon Sauce hailed from Allison Ehri Keitler for Fine Cooking, and was originally paired with a fennel-apricot stuffed crown roast of pork. As the sauce reduces down from two quarts of liquid to 1 1/4 cups of very concentrated deliciousness, you swear you might have copped a buzz from the bourbon! This Sauce is Boss, so don’t omit it.

Brined Honor Guard Rack of Pork

  • Servings: 7-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


For the sauce:

  • 1 quart apple cider
  • 2 cups bourbon
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbs. cider vinegar; more to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the brine:

  • 5 cups cool water (about 50 degrees)
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, 4-5 inches each
  • 2 garlic loves, smashed and peeled
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

For the roast:

  • 2 7-rib roast of pork racks, chine bone removed and bones frenched
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Make the sauce reduction

  1. Put the cider, bourbon, and chicken broth in a 3- to 4-quart (preferably 8-inch-wide) saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to maintain a very brisk simmer and cook until the sauce has reduced to 1-1/4 cups, about 1 hour. Set aside until the roast is done.

TIP: Sauce can be made a day ahead of time. Store in sealed container in the refrigerator. Reheat over low in a small saucepan. Continue with “the finish” as noted below.

Brine & cook the roast:

  1. Brine: In a large bowl or 2-quart measuring cup, stir together the water, salt, brown sugar, and honey and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Stir in garlic, rosemary and red pepper flakes.
  2. Place roast racks in a large ziploc plastic bag. Add the brine and zip close the bag. Press out extra air, seal, and set in a deep baking dish to catch any leaks that may occur. Chill for 18-24 hours.
  3. One hour before cooking, remove the pork from the brine and let the roast sit out at room temperature.
  4. Preheat oven to 250°.
  5. On a wire rack set into a rimmed baking sheet, assemble the two racks with bones up, leaning into each other and interlaced.
  6. Transfer to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 140°, about 2 hours. (Ours actually took an additional 45 minutes to reach 140°.)
  7. Remove from oven and tent with foil for at least 15 minutes and up to 45 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, increase oven temperature to 500°, and when ready return the roast to oven cook until crisp and browned on the exterior, about 10 minutes; turning the pan halfway around after 5 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and tent with foil again, allowing to rest for 15 minutes.
  10. Carve by slicing between the rib bones to divide the racks into chops.

Finish the sauce:

This sauce was AMAZING!

  1. Shortly before serving, reheat the sauce in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in the sour cream and vinegar.
  2. Season the sauce to taste with salt, pepper, and additional vinegar. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl.

We paired the pork with sides of Whiskey Glazed Carrots and a Potato Gratin with Gruyere, Bacon and Leeks, also by Molly Stevens.

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