The Secret Ingredient (Honey): Honey-Thyme Roasted Pork Loin
I hated honey growing up. My mom used to make me eat it off a teaspoon as a kind of cloying cough syrup when I was sick. But I'll admit that I've acquired the taste, very strongly, for honey. Whether I lick it off a spoon, or cook with it as an ingredient, I think it is incomparable in terms of that gorgeous sticky texture. And it has the fantastic ability to take on whatever sweetness you need it to have. When you taste it on its own, it's natural to think, "This is too sweet to put on meat," or on anything savory for that matter. But it just mellows out and works. It balances the acids in vinaigrettes, it cuts the gaminess in meats, it enhances and brightens vegetables. It does what lemon does, only on the sweet side of the spectrum.
This recipe is one of my favorites. It's seamless, easy, and it just works. I sear a salted and peppered pork tenderloin in olive oil until it's nicely dark and golden brown. Then I deglaze the pan with some stock. Meanwhile, I mash together tons of fresh thyme, lavender or thyme honey, and a bit of softened sweet butter. I rub the meat with the honey-thyme glaze, and roast it along with the pan sauce. The pork cooks to a blushing pink, while the glaze bubbles up and caramelizes to the outside of the meat. The honey cooks into the pan juices, and creates a naturally thick and flavorful jus. You would think the pork would be very sweet, but it's not. The salt and thyme and stock and the meat itself completely balance the sweetness of the honey. Instead, the honey helps to add to that glorious brown crust on the outside of the meat, adhering all the earthy thyme straight onto the pork like Krazy Glue. I can't wait to make this one again. Such pedestrian ingredients, such a great dish.
Next week, more honey!
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About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the French in a Flash series for Serious Eats.