The idea of cooking meat in milk crops up several times in Italian cooking, notably in that of the Bologna region. The ubiquitous Bolognese sauce, for example, has classic interpretations which uses milk rather than stock, supposedly to induce a creamier and smoother texture. In Arrosto di maiale al latte, loin of pork is first marinated overnight in dry white wine and vinegar, then browned before being poached in milk. The milk evaporates during the cooking while the fat melts, leaving the meat wonderfully succulent.
At least it does if you still have a butcher who can produce decent pork with some fat on it The trend towards leaner pigs is to be discouraged, for the end results are inevitably dry, tough and tasteless. They don’t produce lean pigs in France or Italy, where heart disease remains at a lower level than in Britain or America. We await the medical revelation that a spoonful of lard a day keeps the doctor away. Another point to make is that in a balanced menu you will not be eating large portions of meat - perhaps
While loin of pork is the traditional cut for this dish, you may also use boned leg. In both cases get your butcher to trim and tie the meat neatly and securely. It is important that the shape of the tied joint is of uniform thickness (i.e. cylindrical) to ensure even cooking. If the joint is rolled so that it tapers at one end you will always have problems of dryness at the thin end. Something to choke a brown dog, as the Australians say.
You cook the pork on the hob and need to use a heavy casserole dish which has a lid and in which the joint fits without too much space around the sides, as you want the milk to come as far up the meat as possible during the early stages.
You would not find it done in Bologna, but if you are passionate about crackling there is no reason why it should not be served as an accompaniment Of course, you must cook it separately in the oven. Have your butcher remove the skin in a neat piece, but do not allow him to score it This you must always do yourself. If you like lots of crackling you can buy a piece of belly pork, remove the skin with a little fat attached and then follow the procedure below (pickle the pork belly to make petit salé). I use a Stanley knife, though, if you happen to be passing a medical suppliers, a scalpel is even better.
Score the skin in diamond shapes, each side about
The day before: put the pork to marinate overnight in the non-metallic bowl with the wine and vinegar, ensuring it is completely covered. A cool larder is preferable to the fridge, but if the weather is hot, it is safer to use the latter.
Remove the meat from the marinade, pat dry with paper towels and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Put the olive oil into the casserole dish and place over a medium heat until hot but not burning. Brown the meat in this, using wooden spoons or tongs to turn the joint, until uniformly brown.
Pour the milk around the meat (do this slowly so it doesn’t boil over). Add the sprig of rosemary. Put the lid on, but slightly offset to leave a small gap from which the liquid will evaporate during the cooking. Adjust the heat to achieve a gentle simmer and cook for 1½ hours, turning the meat from time to time.
While the pork is cooking, if serving crackling, preheat the oven to • 180°C/350°F/gas4 and score the skin as described above. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 150°C/300°F/gas2 for another 45 minutes. Check every 15’minutesto make sure it is crisping and browning satisfactorily. If towards the target time it does not look crisped enough, increase the temperature.
With a skewer or the tines of a sharp carving fork, test the pork in the milk for doneness: the meat should give easily under gentle pressure. It may need another 30 minutes - you decide. The milk may or may not have reduced to a brown residue by this time. Be careful if this occurs before the cooking is finished, because you don’t want it to burn. If this happens add a little more milk.
Conversely, if the meat is done but there is still liquid in the pot (and experience suggests there will be), remove the meat and skim, carefully removing the fat which will be sitting on the surface with a large spoon. Now turn up the heat and boil to reduce, scraping any bits away from the bottom and sides. When you have just the dark brown residue, add
Remove the string from the joint and carve into thickish slices, just under
Serve on hot plates, spooning a little of the sauce over and scatter any crackling over the meat. Plain boiled potatoes and spinach go well with the dish.
© 1993 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.