For the past week I have missed my kitchen. I bid my favorite room a fond farewell last Friday as we packed up the car and headed north towards Chicagoland.
In the beautiful, quiet college town of Wheaton, I was fed well. My mother made her signature turkey. Prior to being cooked, it had marinated in a lot of brandy for three days. She also had a cauliflower gratin that disappeared faster than you can say ‘yum.’
Then there was the ham. Oh my gosh. My brother made that one. It was the best I’ve ever eaten. And he just threw the ingredients together. Whatever he did; he did perfectly.
My sister-in-law’s jambalaya on Christmas Eve; to die for. Massive amounts were consumed.
Of course, there were the salads. Fresh broccoli salad with bits of bacon and lots of sesame seeds. My dad’s French salad that took longer for him to put together than my mom took for her entire Christmas dinner. The sunchoke salad that I ate way too much of and regretted the next day. We ate lots of salads.
I haven’t even mentioned the peanut butter and chocolate pie, lemon pound cake, babka or baklava. But they were all there too.
Even with all those foods, I missed my kitchen badly. I wanted to cook. So, today, my first day home, I went shopping. And then, I laid waste to my kitchen. And loved every minute of it. Even the clean-up isn’t so bad.
I have wanted to make this pork roast since the moment I opened the magazine at the beginning of the month. Unfortunately, I knew that there would be a few glitches with the dish because of where I live. Seckel pears? Not to be found. Cipollini onions? The produce guy had never even heard of them. Packages of mixed dried fruit bits? No such animal on my shelves.
So, substitutions had to be made. Bartletts for Seckels, pearls for Cipollinis and my own combination of mixed dried fruit bits.
That mixed dried fruit is where it all begins. It, along with brown sugar, sage, crushed red pepper and water get simmered for a few minutes, then cooled. That mixture get spread over a butterflied pork loin, then rolled up and tied. That was easy, no?
Brown all sides of the pork in a roasting pan. While that’s going on, mix the butter, lemon juice, honey, rosemary, salt, pepper and onions in a bowl. Add the pears and toss gently. Place the mixture around the seared roast in the pan. Put it in the oven and bake it for an hour (mine took exactly an hour).
When done, let it rest for a few minutes, then brush it with pear preserves. That’s it.
For how little work this dish is, it’s very elegant and beautiful. The flavor is excellent. Hubby, who had said he wasn’t very hungry at the start of the meal, had two servings. Dudette finished off her plate as well. I enjoyed it immensely. I found the pears to be a bit useless, in all honesty. They were pretty, but were wasted since no one wanted them (why eat pears when there’s fruit stuffed in the meat?).
The ‘gravy’ that’s created from the meat, fruit and onions is fantastic. I served it with the Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes from the same magazine.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
Since the pears weren’t eaten, I’d probably just use one and chop it up more than just quartering it. That way it would have the chance to cook more and blend in with the onions, making it easier to eat. I don’t want to say I’d leave it out entirely since it probably added to the flavor of the whole dish, but I would reduce its presence if serving this to just family.
2 (7-oz.) packages mixed dried fruit bits
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 (4-lb.) boneless pork loin
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
ROASTED PEARS AND ONIONS
6 firm, ripe Seckel pears*
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey**
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 (10-oz.) packages cipollini onions, peeled
1/2 cup pear preserves
Fresh sage leaves
Prepare Pork Loin: Bring first 4 ingredients and 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook 2 minutes, stirring once. Remove from heat, and cool completely (about 40 minutes).
Meanwhile, butterfly pork by making a lengthwise cut down center of 1 flat side, cutting to within 1/2 inch of other side. (Do not cut all the way through pork.) Open pork, forming a rectangle, and place between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap. Flatten to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Spoon fruit mixture over pork, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edges. Roll up pork, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side. Tie with string at 1 1/2-inch intervals. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper.
Preheat oven to 375°. Brown pork in hot oil in a large roasting pan over medium-high heat until browned on all sides (about 2 to 3 minutes per side). Place seam side down in pan.
Prepare Roasted Pears and Onions: Cut pears in half lengthwise, and remove core. Stir together butter and next 5 ingredients. Stir in onions; gently stir in pear halves. Spoon mixture around roast in pan.
Bake at 375° for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion of stuffing registers 135°, stirring pear mixture halfway through. Cover with aluminum foil, and let stand 15 minutes.
Prepare Glaze: Microwave preserves in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Pour warm preserves over pork. Slice pork, and serve with Roasted Pears and Onions and pan juices. Garnish, if desired.
*3 firm, ripe Bartlett pears may be substituted. Core each pear, and cut into 4 wedges.
**Sugar may be substituted.