28 December 2007

Roasted Porkloin Stuffed with Dried Plums and Arugula

Roasted Porkloin stuffed with Dried Plums and Arugula (with title)
My DSL exploded (okay, not quite) for a few days so I've been keeping on the DL for a while (oh, that did not fly). But I'm back! Happy Holidays to all!

I do like doing the grocery shopping. Obviously I haven't always; as a kid it pretty much bored me. There are a few instances where it becomes less than enjoyable: one is when I'm asked to buy a twelve-pack of toilet paper, which when I buy with 2 pounds of unsalted butter and a liter of cream makes me look like the world's unhealthiest serial wanker; and the other is when I'm told that, oh yeah, there's a party in two days and someone donated a kilo and a half of meat, could you do something to it? But basically the latter is what happened last Christmas, again with my former culinary Waterloo, the Hunk of Meat That Is Too Big to Taste of Anything in the Middle. Also, my brother was desperate for something to give away to his colleagues as a gift. Thankfully, I'd already experimented with flavoring meat a few weeks earlier.
Rosemary-Roasted Pork Tenderloin
That is a 700-gram Pork Tenderloin, marinated for an hour in Maggi liquid seasoning (hydrolyzed vegetable proteins or liquid aminos) encrusted with cracked black pepper, olive oil, plenty of chopped rosemary leaves, chopped garlic, and salt. I roasted it for 40 minutes in a 205°C (400°F) oven with new potatoes, scrubbed clean and tossed in the coating of the pork. It was lovely and I thought it tasted fine, but my dad and my brother were not fans of subtlety, so they were looking for a sauce, despite the black pepper adding a lot of spice and flavor. Grr. So, I took what I learned when my aunt donated a 1.6kg frenched pork loin roast for Christmas.

Red Velvet Cupcakes 2
Red Velvet Cupcakes for my brother's friends, done according to my previously posted recipe, which makes 18 regular-sized cupcakes baked for 25-30 minutes. Fill the cupcake liners to the very top to get a good dome on the cake.

Anyway. The first step is to make sure you have a thoroughly thawed pork loin. You really can't go wrong if you follow the basics of roasting a large cut of meat:

Step 1: Brining. The purpose of brining is not to make the meat salty, which it will barely accomplish (bringing flavor to the middle of the meat), but certain alterations in the osmotic pressure of the muscle cells brought about by the hyperosmotic salt solution makes it moist and tender even after long periods of roasting. I just tossed these together:

  • half a cup of salt

  • half a gallon of water

  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed, skins on or off, doesn't matter

  • ten peppercorns

  • a medium onion, cut into eight pieces

  • a splash of white wine

Take note I wasn't following a recipe: I just put together what I thought would be good base flavors. But the salt and water always has to be there. Celery or celery seed would also have been a good addition. Use your imagination. Usually this is boiled and cooled before the meat is soaked in, but I didn't bother. Make sure all the meat is submerged and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.

Step 2: Stuffing. If you really want to make sure that the meat has some interesting flavors in the middle, you should stuff it and remove all doubt. Snip the butcher's twine off and unroll your hopefully spiral-cut pork loin. If it isn't, no matter: just make a spiraling cut from the circumference towards the center. I made mine a reverse-S shape. Score the fat on the outside. Sprinkle some salt and pepper throughout the cut surface and stuff with whatever you fancy. What I picked up from the grocery that day:
  • two handfuls of dried plums (that's prunes for you uncool kids), chopped

  • a bunch of arugula, leaves picked and chopped

  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped

I should probably have squeezed all the water I could out of the arugula, so the stuffing doesn't slip and slide around when I cut the meat. Or I could have cooked and cooled it beforehand. But no matter: It still tasted great (herby and fruity). I just squeezed it into a loose mush in my hands and laid it all around the cut surface. Have fun with the stuffing: I would have used dried cranberries or cherries if they weren't so expensive. You could also use dried apricots. Use raisins if you're feeling loopy. Sage, walnuts, tarragon, spinach, and onions could also be used. You really just can't go wrong if you use your head. Roll up the cut meat back to its original state and use strong white twine to hold it in place.

Step 3: Encrusting. My personal favorite is black pepper. It could be all that's outside for all I care. But since we're going for something different, I just ground up the following in a mortar and pestle:
  • a handful of black peppercorns

  • a tablespoon of salt

  • a tablespoon of cumin

Pat the outside of the loin dry with a paper towel, then smear it all over with a thin layer of Dijon mustard. Press the spice mix all over the surface generously.

Step 4: Roasting. Preheat the oven to 205°C (400°F). Set the meat in a roasting pan with 3/4-inch cubes of potatoes or whatever vegetables you like roasted: here we have carrots and a few garlic cloves as well, tossed in a tiny bit of olive oil and salt (hey, if you want to humor your guests, throw in some more black pepper). Onions, parsnips, and sweet potatoes are also good. Try to get them in a single layer at the bottom of your roasting pan, but it's okay if they overlap a lot, as they'll shrink anyway. Roast the entire monster until the thickest part of the meat registers 66°C (150°F) on an instant-read or meat thermometer (it took me 75 minutes in all). The tip of a metal skewer inserted at this point and taken out will be quite warm on your lip.

I made a gravy from the pan drippings: After taking out the roast and vegetables, set the roasting pan on medium heat and throw in two tablespoons of flour, whisking well to incorporate the fat and the flour, then pour in some stock (I used chicken as that's all we had). Bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

The best part is, the meat was bursting with flavor that no one lookd for the sauce. Success!

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