According to Cook's Illustrated, the difference between cooking en cocotte and braising is the addition of liquid. Braising involves liquids while cooking en cocotte means the meat cooks in its own juices. Of course, this is one of the reasons I like it -- so simple!
There's a little bit of prep time, but then the whole thing goes into the oven while the cook does something else, writes a mystery, for instance.
You do need a Dutch oven with a tight lid for this. The idea is that the herbs and spices infuse the liquids from the items in the pot, which results in a delicious little sauce.
I used rosemary because it always goes so beautifully with pork. If it's not your herb of choice, feel free to experiment with whatever your family likes. I also used dark brown sugar because it always enhances apples. Note, though, that it's not enough brown sugar to make it a sweet dish. It simply enhances the flavors.
My only gripe is cooking time. They vary widely in recipes, and I'm beginning to see why. Each cut of meat will be a slightly different size. I also suspect that it has something to do with the type of dutch oven used. Cast iron cooking times probably differ from plain old stainless cooking times. So be prepared to check the temperature of your meat. Mine took an hour and ten minutes to reach 144 degrees.
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 boneless pork loin
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
salt and pepper
1 large red onion
5 medium apples
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
Wash and peel apples. Quarter, core, and cut each quarter into four slices.
Slice the onion in half and cut each half into 1 inch wedges.
Wash pork and dry. Ideally it will have a thin layer of fat on the top side. Do not remove. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. I like to rub it on with my hand to spread it around. Add rosemary to the top side.
Preheat oven to 250.
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven on the stove top until very hot but not scorching. Brown the pork. When browned, remove to a plate.
Add the apples, onions, and garlic cloves to the hot pan, lowering the temperature if necessary so they don't burn.
Add the brown sugar and stir. Cook, stirring every now and then, until just barely soft -- about 5 minutes.
Remove pot from heat. Nestle the meat into the pot and pour in any juices that accumulated on the plate. Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the Dutch oven, running your finger around it to be sure it's tight. Cover with the lid and place in the oven.
Cook 45 - 60 minutes, checking with an instant read thermometer. Remove from the oven at 144 - 145 degrees. Set on counter and keep covered another 20 minutes or so until it reaches 150 degrees.
Remove meat. Add salt and pepper (even a pat of butter if you like) to the apple mixture and stir. Slice the meat thin and serve with apples and the juices in the bottom of the pan.