After a few weeks of cooking almost all seafood, I decided it was time for a nice chunk of meat. Now, as most of you readers know, my passion really is for seafood, however I do like to change it up a bit, and a great joint (roast to you Americans) of meat is a great way to do that. I had done a roast chicken recently and cooked a job lot of lamb chops (bbq with some rosemary, delicious!). And lets not forget the steaks that I did before that (not on the blog, sorry!) to show off the new infra-red broiler in this great Bluestar range. So, pork I thought. Well, I had considered rabbit actually, but that isn’t that easy to get around here.
I get a little bored of cooking pork chops all the time, so I fancied doing a pork loin roast. OK, I know once cut up it is a pork chop, but the preparation and cooking are completely different.
This certainly wasn’t the fastest dish I have ever made. It also wasn’t the slowest – check out the curry a few pages back for that one (yeah, we didn’t eat till 11pm). But blimey, it was worth waiting every second. It was all I could do to contain myself from constantly opening the oven door and checking the roast out, and just smelling the aromatic goodness that was filling the house.
I was wondering what to do with this cut of meat. It is pretty much the end of winter, so I wanted something that was a homage to one of my favorite seasons. I knew I wanted it rich in flavor, and just a really honest down to earth roast. Nothing poncy, flouncy, and “ohhhh look at me clever”. I know, I thought in a flash of inspiration, I will stuff it. Which of course led on to the next conundrum which was stuffing it with what.
As we all know, apples and pork really go great together. So an apple stuffing sounded like a good idea. I decided to caramelize the apple first off all, just to boost the flavor even more. I typically use chunks of bread in a stuffing, and here I decided to toast them to give a slight smokiness to the dish. This all gets mixed with a wee bit of butter and some nutmeg (a spice that goes great with pork).
And heck I thought, why not a herb rub on the outside as well. What did I pick you ask? Well, some rosemary, thyme and sage. Again, all herbs that go great with pork. This is mixed with a little olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Oh, and some more nutmeg.
The result? A crispy, moist amazing roast that is just bursting with pork flavor. The apple stuffing was just amazing, rich and somewhat decadent, and extremely comforting.
And what is French trimmed? Well, it just means that the bone ends are scraped clean. Makes it look pretty. And we all like pretty food.
Roast Bone in French trimmed pork loin, herb rub and caramelized apple stuffing. Oh, and some roasted winter veg
1 bone in french trimmed pork loin roast – 4 ribs
small handful of fresh rosemary – leaves picked and coarsely chopped
small handful of fresh thyme – leaves picked and coarsely chopped
small handful of fresh sage – leaves picked and coarsely chopped
1 fresh nutmeg
2 slices of good quality white bread – toasted
assortment of winter veg – parsnips, baby carrots, small onions are a good bet
2 cups of apple cider
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
splash of Calvados (optional)
NOTE: Please don’t but pre-grated nutmeg.. It is just as bad as pre-ground pepper – it has no taste whatsoever. Buy a whole clove, and grate as you need it.
Preheat your oven to 350. Start by making the stuffing. Core the apple, peel, and cut into 1/4″ thick slices. In a large oven safe thick pan (big enough to hold the roast), over a medium heat put about 1/2 tablespoon of butter. When it fizzles, add in the apples. Toss these a few times to coat, and let them gently cook and richly colored and caramelized. Remove from the pan. On a chopping board chop up the toasted bread into chunks. Add the apple slices to the bread on the board, and chop some more. Pop this into a bowl and add in 1/2 tablespoon of softened butter, and grate in about 1/3 of your nutmeg. Using your hands squish all this together to form a stuffing.
Cut a criss-cross (diamond) pattern into the fat on both sides of the roast. This is going to help the rub flavor deep down into the meat. Using a sharp knife cut a slit along all the way along the back of the roast, going just around the main loin meat – starting at the open bones. Pack your stuffing into this cavity. Tie the roast up between the bones, to keep everything together when we roast it.
Put your rosemary, thyme and sage into the bowl of a pestle and mortar, sprinkle in a little salt and pepper, and another 1/3 of grated nutmeg. Add a glug of olive oil, and start to grid to help release some of the great herby flavor. Rub this all over the outside of the meat. If you want, you can use butter here, or even some good quality pork lard in place of the olive oil. What will this do? Well, it will make the skin of the pork much more crispy, and will also flavor (and crispen up) the vegetables really nicely.
Peel the parsnips, and cut into quarters lengthwise. Cut the carrots in half lengthwise, and peel if the skin looks tough. Peel and cut the onions into quarters. Bring a large pan of water up to the boil, and boil the veg until almost cooked through – there should still be some resistance to a knife going into them. Strain the veg, and run under cold water until completely cool. We want to stop the cooking process, so they don’t turn to complete mush.
In the pan in which you cooked the apples, add a little olive oil and butter, and get it hot again. Place the pork in the pan, and just lightly brown both sides. Remove the pork from the pan, and throw in the vegetables, and toss to coat in any juices. Put the meat on top of the veg, and pop in your pre-heated oven.
This is going to take between 1 to 2 hours – most likely about 1.5 hours – depending on how big your cut is. To check if it is done, feel free to cut into the roast to make sure it is cooked all the way through. You can also tell how well it is cooked by its firmness, and resistance to a knife of skewer going into it.
When it is done, remove from the oven and take the pork out of the pan. Keep in somewhere warm, covered in foil for about 10 minutes, to let it rest and distribute the juices evenly through the meat. Turn off the oven, but return the vegetables to the oven on a clean plate to keep warm.
Lets go ahead and make the sauce. Put the pan that you roasted the pork and vegetables in back over a high heat (remove any excess fat from the pan first). Add the Calvados, and let this cook down a bit. Now pour in the apple cider, and add the mustard. Cook over a high heat until reduced by about half.
The Calvados is completely optional. It is a great apple brandy, but bloody expensive here in the US. It adds an extra dimension to the sauce, and also helps cut some of the richness of the pork. The sauce is still great without it though.
To plate – cut the roast into chops. Put a pile of veg on a plate, top with two of the chops, and pour the sauce over. Simple. Repeat for a second plate. Make sure you give yourself the biggest chops, you deserve it – you cooked it after all!!