It’s almost summer and that means a day at the grill. Italians love to cook over an open flame. Wood-fired pizza, the infamous Tuscan T-bone (bistecca alla fiorentina) and one of Italy’s all-time favorite dishes arrosto di porchetta allo spiedo (spit roasted sucking pig).
This recipe is right up my grill, a regional preparation from the town of Arezzo, located in the middle of four valleys in southeastern Tuscany. The locality and customs of cooking make it an evocative setting for sapori della Toscana, the flavors of Tuscany. The recipe is a grill friendly version of the traditional spit roasted whole suckling pig and uses the holy trinity of medieval spices (cloves, nutmeg, coriander and black pepper). Basting the pork with a bundle of rosemary and red wine as it grills prevents the meat from drying out and if a few needles fall into the fire or onto the coals, it adds a fabulously herbaceous smoke.
(Garlic Studded Pork Loin with Medieval Spices adapted from The Italian Grill cookbook by Micol Negrin)
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 ½ t coarsely ground sea salt
¾ t coarsely ground red and black peppercorns
1/8 t ground cloves
1/8 t ground coriander
1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg
2 fresh rosemary sprigs (leaves only) + a bundle of fresh rosemary sprigs for basting
3 pound boneless pork loin (with a layer of fat on top)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup red wine typical of Tuscany
Using a mini food processor or a mortar and pestle crush garlic with ½ t salt, ¼ t peppercorns, nutmeg, cloves, coriander and rosemary leaves until a paste forms. Using a sharp paring knife, strategically make a series of tiny slits into the top portion of the pork loin (6-8 in total). Using your fingers, press a small amount of the spice mixture into the slits. Rub the outside of the loin with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and the remaining spice mixture.
Heat the grill to a medium flame. Grill pork loin until that outside is browned and cooked all the way through to an internal meat temperature of 175 degrees. While grilling baste the meat with the bundle of fresh rosemary dipped in the red wine, anointing the pork every 10-15 minutes. Remove the pork to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil to rest for 10 minutes. Slice on the diagonal.