I will be the first to admit that I am not great at eating well. When I want to lose weight or live a healthier life, it’s difficult because I hate to limit my eating. Case in point: I’m not a huge fan of salad. I think salads can be pretty light and bland, which is great for certain times. But those times do not come up often–not for me. And yet, here we are with my garlic-crusted pork salad with a red wine vinegar vinaigrette.
Truly, my jumping off point for this recipe–other than wanting to make a salad–was to create a crusted pork. I’m not sure why, but I got it in my head that I needed to try to create something with a crust. Commonly crusts can be made of breading, spices, herbs, or aromatics like garlic and ginger. I settled on garlic-crusted pork because I knew the flavors would play off of each other. Creating a crust is pretty easy, at least the way I do it. I just dip one side of the pork in an egg wash and then in a mix of whatever I’m creating the crust from and then fry!
I knew that I wanted to use garlic for my garlic-crusted pork. But it wouldn’t make sense to just fry some pork in garlic. I wanted to create more flavors, while keeping the garlic as the star. So, I thought to myself, what goes well with pork and garlic? And the Filipino in me instinctively thought of adobo. Adobo is one of the most basic Filipino recipes ever. It’s also one of the most well-known. Extra bonus? It’s one of the easiest recipes to cook ever. That’s probably why I spent so much time cooking it in college, for myself and my friends, whenever I missed a taste of home cooking. It’s also our family’s go-to recipe when no one wants to go to the grocery store. We always have the ingredients in stock so it’s pretty easy to pull together.
Adobo is just a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and garlic. Let it marinate for a few minutes and then boil until cooked through. Once it’s done boiling, strain out the sauce and fry the edges. That’s it! So, for this salad, that’s what I did. I took the pork and boiled it through in the marinade until cooked. But instead of frying the edges, I fried one edge to create the garlic crust. I suggest using real garlic rather than garlic powder for better texture when you fry. But be careful! Garlic burns quick, so don’t leave it on the stove for too long. In addition to finely minced garlic, I added some panko bread for added texture and binding.
Once the garlic-crusted pork is finished, I set it aside to rest. In the meantime I put together my salad components. I’ve posted a couple of my favorite salads here before–one from Anna and one from my mom. And this one takes components from both of these salads. I prefer salads with arugula and spinach rather than lettuce. The texture is lighter and more refined. On top of the spinach and arugula, I added red onion slices and dried cranberries. The onion brings out the natural pepper flavor in the greens. The cranberries counteract the bitterness in the onion and enhance the sweetness of the vinaigrette.
But what’s in the vinaigrette? Great question! Well, a basic vinaigrette consists of one part vinegar (or acid) and three parts oil. In this case, I chose red wine vinegar and olive oil. In addition to that, I added pepper and a couple of teaspoons of sweet Thai chili sauce for a boost of spice and sweetness. Then comes my favorite part of the cooking process: place the ingredients in a mason jar–which we have as cups–and seal it up. Shake vigorously until fully mixed. It should come out a bold orangey-yellow color and taste sour with a hint of sweetness.
All that’s left is putting it all together. Take your salad greens and components and place them on a bowl. Top with slices of the garlic-crusted pork. Then drizzle on a fair amount of the red wine vinegar vinaigrette. The salad comes together magically! It is definitely not bland and is just hearty enough to satisfy as a whole meal rather than a side dish. Not into salad? Then just serve it with rice or in a taco, or even in a sandwich! But take it from someone who doesn’t love salad. You won’t regret trying this one!
Are you a salad eater? What’s your favorite?
Garlic-Crusted Pork Salad with a Red Wine Vinaigrette
- 2 lbs pork shoulder butt cut into long/large chunks
- salt + pepper to taste
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup vinegar
- 2 large eggs whisked
- 6-8 cloves garlic finely minced
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 4 cups arugula washed and spun
- 4 cups spinach washed and spun
- 1/2 large red onion thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sweet Thai Chili sauce (Mae Ploy brand)
Season the pork on all sides with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Place the pork in a large bowl. Pour in the soy sauce and vinegar. Mix to coat the pork. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.
In a deep plate or bowl, whisk two eggs until light and fluffy. Add a little water and mix again. In another deep plate or bowl, add the panko and garlic. Mix together. Set aside.
When the pork is marinating add the pork and marinade to a deep pan. Add about 1 cup of water and bring to a boil on high heat. DO NOT MIX THE PORK UNTIL IT BOILS -- it will come out sour if you do. Once it boils, lower the heat to medium high and simmer until cooked through, about 20-30 minutes.
Remove the pork to a plate. Remove any excess sauce. One at a time, dip one side of the pork into the egg wash. Let the excess egg drip off before dipping it egg-side down in the garlic-panko mixture. Press to ensure it sticks all over.
Heat a cast iron skillet (or other frying pan) on medium high heat with oil. Fry the pork garlic-crust side down for 3-4 minutes, or until browned. DO NOT burn the garlic! Flip it over and sear the other side for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove to plate. Repeat until all the pork has been crusted and fried. Set aside.
In a large salad bowl add the arugula and spinach. Top with the red onions and dried cranberries. Toss to mix the components. Top with the pork slices. Set aside.
In a small jar with a sealed lid add red wine vinegar, olive oil, sweet Thai chili sauce, and a little pepper (about 1-2 tsp). Seal tightly with a lid. Shake vigorously until fully mixed. It should be light orange or darker yellow. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad components--to taste. Toss once more and serve!