In the winter, roast pork with roasted root vegetables is one of my go-to easy meals, especially since the USDA lowered the minimum cooking temperature for pork to 145 degrees, ensuring juicier results for today's leaner “other white meat.”
I summer-ize that meal in hot weather. The pork goes on the grill, where it's cooked over indirect heat. The root vegetables are replaced by grilled summer corn and lots of grilled scallions. A judicious dose of maple syrup complements the natural sweetness of both.
The key here is to make sure the temperature of the grill never exceeds 375 degrees, or the meat and/or vegetables will run the risk of being charred.
Before the meat goes on the grill, you'll need to soak 11⁄2 cups of wood chips (of your choice) in water for an hour.
Make ahead: The meat needs to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to 12 hours. It needs to come to room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.
Smoked Pork Loin with Corn Salad
Makes about 8 servings.
For the pork:
One 3-lb boneless pork loin
2 tsp dried fines herbes or a combination of dried minced herbs of your choice
1⁄2 tsp kosher salt
1⁄2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 TBS good-quality maple syrup
1 TBS olive oil
For the corn salad:
6 lg or 8 sm ears corn, shucked
3 bunches scallions (trimmed), tough dark green tops removed
2 TBS olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 TBS good-quality maple syrup
3 TBS apple cider vinegar
For the pork: Place the pork loin on a piece of plastic wrap large enough to wrap the meat. Sprinkle the loin all over with the fines herbes, salt and pepper.
Whisk together the maple syrup and oil in a small bowl, then pour the mixture over the meat, rubbing it in to coat evenly. Seal with the plastic wrap and place in a shallow dish. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 12 hours.
Prepare the grill for direct and indirect heat. If using charcoal, light the charcoal in a chimney starter and let the briquettes burn until the flames subside and a light layer of ash covers the briquettes (20 to 25 minutes). Dump the lighted coals into 2 mounds (or, preferably, into two half-moon-shaped briquette baskets) on opposite sides of the grill. Place a drip pan between the piles of coals and fill it halfway with water. If using gas, with a two-burner grill, set one burner to medium and leave the other unlit; with three or more burners, set the outside or front and rear burners to medium-low and leave the center burners unlit. The direct-heat temperature should be 375 degrees.
Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil; place it on the grill.
Meanwhile, transfer the pork loin to the counter to rest for 30 minutes. Soak the wood chips in a bowl of water.
For the corn salad: Rinse the corn in water, then wrap the still-damp ears individually in aluminum foil. When the grill temperature reaches 375 degrees, arrange the foil-wrapped ears on the direct-heat side of the grill. Close the lid and cook for 20 minutes, turning the corn every 5 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a constant temperature. When the corn is done (unwrap just enough of the foil to check for tenderness), transfer to a baking sheet, still wrapped, to rest for 10 minutes.
Toss the trimmed scallions with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Once the corn comes off the grill, arrange the scallions on the direct-heat side of the grill. Close the grill lid and cook for 3 minutes, then uncover and use tongs to turn the scallions over. Cook uncovered for 2 minutes, being careful to avoid charring the scallions too much. Transfer them to a plate.
Drain the wood chips. If using a gas grill, place the drained wood chips in a smoker box. Place the smoker box on the grill according to the manufacturer's directions. If using a charcoal grill, divide the drained wood chips between the two mounds of charcoal or the charcoal-filled baskets.
Close the grill lid so the temperature returns to 375 degrees. Discard the plastic wrap from the pork loin, then place the meat on the indirect-heat side of the grill. Close the lid and cook for 55 to 75 minutes, turning the meat over halfway through the cooking; the pork is done when an instant-read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the loin registers 145 degrees. The loin should be evenly browned. Transfer the pork loin to a cutting board to rest for 20 minutes (uncovered). Discard what's in the drip pan.
While the pork loin is on the grill, discard the foil from the corn. Cut off the kernels, letting them fall into a mixing bowl. Discard the cobs (or reserve them for another use). Chop the grilled scallions into kernel-size pieces, then add them to the bowl. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of oil, the maple syrup and the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste; toss to thoroughly combine. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Slice the rested pork loin and serve it with the corn salad spooned on top or alongside.