I've never had the best luck cooking pork. I've tried roasts, chops, tenderloins, the works. The results are usually a bit dry, a bit bland, and not really what I want for dinner.
That's why a technique like barding can be so useful in the kitchen. Essentially, you wrap a piece of lean meat with a piece of fattier meat before cooking to add flavor and moisture. Meats like bacon and pancetta work really well and can enliven any lean cut.
I tried this with a pork loin, inspired by a Martha recipe from her latest cookbook, "Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook" as inspiration.
First, allow a two-pound boneless pork loin to come to room temperature for about an hour. Pat dry with paper towels, season lightly with kosher salt and more liberally with freshly ground black pepper. Heat a large, heavy ovenproof skillet over medium high and add enough olive oil to lightly coat the pan. Sear the roast on all sides, turning with tongs, about 6-8 minutes. Remove and let cool for about 15 minutes.
Take six pieces of butcher's twine, laying three or four pieces vertically and two horizontally on a large, clean cutting board, Take 12 ounces of thinly sliced pancetta and place about half of them on the twine in a rectangle shape, overlapping a bit, so the end result is about an inch larger than the roast on all sides. Then, rub the pork loin all over with minced fresh rosemary, place it on top of the pancetta and use the remaining slices to cover the top of the roast completely, overlapping again. Next, place a whole sprig of rosemary on top of the roast, tuck edges together and tie the twine around the whole package, first from end to end and then around.
Put the roast back into the skillet and place in 450 degree preheated oven. Roast for 40-50 minutes, or until the thickest part registers 138 degrees with an instant thermometer. Remove from oven, let the meat rest for about 10 minutes and cut into thickish slices to serve.
I subbed prosciutto in this recipe (my pancetta was frozen solid) and drizzled some extra virgin olive oil on top of the pork loin before and after wrapping to add some moisture. I served it with roasted parsnips and cipollini onions and a crisp green salad. This makes a great weekend meal for a family or small dinner party. Give it a try.