The main components of this Italian
classic might seem like an unlikely pairing – pork cooked in milk – but
once you taste it, you’ll realize it’s a marriage made in heaven. The
recipe below calls for a boneless loin, but other pork cuts work
equally well. It’s one of the ways that Michael Higgins prepared those
shanks; I like to use a boneless pork shoulder (also called butt)
roast. Rosemary or thyme sprigs can be substituted for the sage. If
using rosemary, be sure to use sprigs with leaves still attached, and
remove them before serving; otherwise their flavor will be too strong.
Some folks don’t like the appearance of the “broken” sauce with its soft golden curds and liquid; others feel that that texture is part of what makes the dish so exceptional. If you belong in the first group, remove the herbs and lemon peel; then purée the sauce in a blender. Either way, there’s simply no more delicious pork preparation anywhere.
- One 4-5 lb. boned pork loin, preferably sustainably-raised, with most of the visible fat removed.
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 T. olive oil
- 4 T. butter
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half, or more or less to taste
- 1 small handful fresh sage leaves (optional)
- Approximately 1 ˝ quarts whole milk, hot
- Peels of 2 lemons, cut into wide strips with all white pith (the white layer between the yellow peel and the fruit) removed.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or stovetop-proof casserole with a lid. The pan should be just large enough to hold the meat without crowding. Brown the pork on all sides; then remove to a plate. Discard any excess fat.
Return the pan to the stove over medium heat and add the butter. When the butter is melted, add the garlic halves and sage, if using. Sauté a few minutes until the garlic softens, but before it begins to turn color.
Return the pork to the pan, and add enough hot milk to come about three quarters of the way up to the top of the pork. Bring to a boil, add the lemon peels, and reduce the heat to low. Place the lid on the pan, slightly askew, and very gently simmer the pork for about 1 ˝-2 hours. Resist the temptation to disturb the meat.
When the pork is cooked, the milk will have curdled into soft, succulent brown nuggets. Carefully remove the meat from the pan and slice it. Remove the lemon peels and sage leaves if desired, then spoon the sauce over the meat and serve immediately. Serves 6.