Yield: 24 servings.
9 lbs. whole boneless pork loin, cut into 3 10"-pieces
2/3 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
6 qts. boiling water
2 medium onions, halved
1 bunch fresh thyme
4 heads garlic, halved across cloves
3 Tbsp. peppercorns
6 bay leaves
as needed, salt and pepper
10 medium yellow onions, halved
as needed, olive oil
3 1/3 cups port or red wine 1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup chicken stock
For pork: Dissolve salt and sugar in 2 qts. boiling water. Cool and place in container large enough to hold pork ingredients. Add pork, onions, thyme, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves and 4 quarts water. Leave overnight, or up to 3 days refrigerated.
Remove pork from brine, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Sear on all sides in a hot pan. Roast in a 450°F oven until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165°F.
For caramelized onions: While pork is roasting, remove onion skins, place a single layer of onions cut-side down in olive oil and sautè over medium heat until golden. (This may require multiple pans or batches.) Deglaze pan with port. Add butter and lower heat to a simmer. If pan gets dry, add 1/2 cup chicken stock, as needed. Cook uncovered until tender and syrupy. Deglaze pork roasting pan with chicken stock. Add caramelized onions and syrup to pan.
For each serving: Place 31/4" slices of pork on plate. Top with onions and sauce. Accompany with sautèed red cabbage if desired.
Chef Caroline Fidanza, Diner, Brooklyn, N.Y. Yield: 24 servings.
Photo: NATIONAL ONION ASSOCIATION