I will try one more time to post here. Thank you for all your responses - I've read each one and they are all interesting and helpful and I appeciate them. I tried to post here this morning but got a message that I was new and my post would have to be reviewed....the post has never shown up.
I'm posting the mushroom ragout recipe with a few changes that I have made after making it several times. As far as brining pork - in looking at rated recipes on epicurious and food network and a few cooking blogs, most of the highly rated recipes suggested brining.
I made a boneless pork loin (center cut) roast a few weeks ago and it was very moist and delicious. I let it sit in a marinade for two days (in a paste of olive oil, fresh sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper - no acid). I cooked it at 350 degrees in an open roasting pan (with sides) and I took the roast out at 138 degrees. It was perfect - lightly pink throughout and incredibly tender and flavorful.
I think that reports of tough pork or dried out pork are directly related to cooking method (open roasting pan with no sides dries out pork faster) and overcooking. I've certainly overcooked pork in the past, but I've learned now to not overcook it.
I will let you know how things turn at the dinner party tomorrow. I'm making a gratin (potato, fennel) to go with the pork.
Mushroom Ragout (Double this recipe – it is delicious):
1 pound mixed mushrooms, such as shiitake, cremini, or white button
2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot or 1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped
1/2 cup Madeira, vermouth, or white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
Clean the mushrooms by brushing with a kitchen towel or a brush to remove any loose dirt. Remove the shiitake stems and discard. Trim the dry ends off the cremini and white mushroom stems. Quarter all the mushrooms and put in a bowl.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and spread them out evenly in the pan, increase the heat to high. Let the mushrooms cook undisturbed until they brown, then shake the pan to turn them over. Add the additional butter along the sides of the pan as the mushrooms cook if the pan seems very dry. Continue to cook until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Season the mushrooms with the salt and pepper and add the thyme. Pull the pan off the heat and add the Madeira or the wine. Return pan to the heat and scrape up any of the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the heavy cream and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and serve.
Yield: 2 cups
Alternative: Cook ¼ lb. chopped pancetta and set aside. Use the grease from the pancetta and the pan to cook mushrooms in – adding appropriate amounts of butter.