Author Notes: I love food inspiration, as it often leads to something delicious. Inspired by EmilyC’s winning Crispy Cream-Braised Potatoes and Fennel, last Tuesday night I made a one-pot dinner of braised pork chops, fennel and new potatoes. Seasoned with cinnamon, whole allspice, ginger, garlic and cooked in sparkling apple cider, I added a little cream at the end for a satisfying meal, redolent with flavors of the season (well, at least where most of you are, since it is still hot and summery here in Hawaii). The next day, when this contest was announced, I knew I had to translate my one pot meal into a stuffed pork roast. I knew I wanted to brine the pork in a cider mixture, and adapted Judy Rodger’s basic pork brine from her Zuni Café cookbook to start. My first stuffing attempt involved quinoa, fennel, calvados and dried apricots; while tasty, I wanted something that would stay put in the loin when sliced and did not want to add egg to the stuffing mix. Back to the drawing board. Then, thanks to a brilliant suggestion from hardlikearmour, I decided to try adding squash to the fennel and from there the addition of curry and pistachios seemed appropriate, to contrast and mingle with the autumnal flavors of apple and spice in the pork.
While I usually shy away from recipes with an inordinate number of steps, I hope you do not let that deter you from this recipe. As long as you plan, the work takes care of itself, with the brining and drying of the roast. The stuffing comes together quickly, and slicing the pork loin open is easier that you might think (this was my first experience); just make sure you are not rushed as you cut (not that you should ever be rushed with a sharp knife!). The addition of braised or sauteed greens would round out the meal nicely.
Food52 Review: This is a showstopper of an entrée. Gingerroot has you brine pork loin in sparkling cider, sugar, cinnamon, and ginger. After the meat is butterflied, it’s stuffed with a savory squash and fennel mixture, roasted, and then finished with a creamy pan sauce. What really makes this dish exceptional are a number of small, but thoughtful touches. The stuffing really sings with the unexpected addition of curry powder and crunchy pistachios. The sugary cider brine lends sweet and fruity notes to the rich pork. The pan sauce builds on the brine ingredients, but is infused with an indulgent splash of cream and Calvados. This dish would be a lovely centerpiece for a Christmas or New Year’s dinner. There are several components to this dish, but most do not require active kitchen time, and some (such as the stuffing) could be made in advance. My family -- even my six-year-old -- all raved about this dish. I can’t wait to make it again. - cookinginvictoria - cookinginvictoria
For cider brine and pork
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
- 10 ounces sparkling apple cider (Martinelli’s)
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
- 3 one-inch coins of fresh ginger, about ¼ inch thick
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and smashed with the back of a knife
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cups water
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons table salt
- 2 1/2 pounds boneless center cut pork loin roast, with fat on the top side– (you want a short, about 6-7 inches long, and wide, about 4-5 inches, piece)
- 16-20 scrubbed new potatoes (1 ½ - 2 inches across), depending on how many people you are serving, I planned four per person
- Olive oil
- FOR PAN SAUCE:
- 2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy)
- Reserved 1 t minced ginger (from stuffing, see below)
- 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Sparkling apple cider, as needed for basting and pan sauce
- Water or stock as needed
- sparkling apple cider as needed, for basting and pan sauce
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Gently crush allspice and fennel until fragrant using a mortar and pestle. Combine crushed spices, sparkling cider, cinnamon sticks, ginger and garlic in a small saucepan. Crush bay leaves between your fingers and add them to the pot. Bring to a simmer, cook for one minute, cover and remove from heat. Allow mixture to steep for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine water, sugar and salt in a gallon sized Ziploc bag. Pinch the bottom of the bag to help the sugar and salt dissolve. Nest bag in a mixing bowl that is only slightly larger, so that the bag will stand up when sealed.
- Add steeped cider to the Ziploc bag, gently pressing on the bag to combine. Mixture should be room temperature. Rinse your pork loin and pat it dry, then add it to the brine mixture, squeeze out the air and seal. Refrigerate for 20-24 hours.
- Rinse your brined pork loin and pat dry. Discard brine. Place pork back into the bowl and let it dry out in the refrigerator for one hour. While the pork is drying out, make your stuffing.
- After your pork has dried out, you are ready to stuff it, but first, preheat your oven to 350° F.
- Place pork roast on a large cutting board, fat side up. Insert a sharp knife, parallel to cutting board, about ½ inch from the bottom of the roast. Slice evenly across the loin, stopping about ½ inch from the end. Open the flap and repeat once more until loin is an even ½-inch thickness throughout when laid out. If necessary, you can even out the thickness of the loin by covering with plastic wrap and pounding with a meat mallet.
- Stuff the loin by evenly spreading curried fennel-squash mixture over pork, leaving a ½-inch border open on all sides. Sprinkle reserved pistachios evenly across loin, gently pressing them into the stuffing. Starting at the short end, roll carefully and tightly, tucking in stuffing with your finger as necessary. Tie loin with kitchen twine at one-inch intervals. I found it easiest to start tying in the center and working out. You should end up with your fat side facing up, at the top of the loin.
- Place new potatoes in your roasting pan. Coat potatoes with a glug or two of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt; place rack over potatoes. Position tied loin on rack, cover top with a glug of olive oil and transfer to oven (rack in the middle). At 25 minutes, baste your pork with a mixture of 1-2 tablespoons of sparkling cider plus 1 Tablespoon of water. After 55 minutes, start checking the internal temperature of the roast, by inserting a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the loin. Roast until the internal temperature is 150°. Crank your oven up to broil and brown and crisp up the top, about 3 minutes. Remove pork from oven, place on a cutting board and tent with foil. Allow roast to rest for 10-15 minutes.
- While pork is resting, make a quick pan sauce. Remove potatoes from roasting pan and place on serving platter. Place roasting pan on stovetop over medium-low heat. Deglaze pan with 2 T of calvados, scraping up any caramelized bits from the bottom of your pan with a wooden spoon. Add1/2 T of butter, reserved teaspoon of ginger, and small amounts of sparkling apple cider and/or water and/or stock as needed to make a sauce (will be on the thin side). Taste and adjust as necessary. Finally add a quarter cup of heavy cream, stir to combine. Strain pan sauce through a sieve into a small bowl.
- Slice pork, removing twine as you cut. Transfer to serving platter, serve with potatoes and pan sauce. Enjoy!
For Curried stuffing
- 1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup minced onion
- 1 cup diced (1/4 inch) fennel (trimmed and cored)
- 1 cup diced (1/4 inch) butternut squash – I used a small squash with a long skinny neck and diced peeled slices of the neck
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger, divided (reserve 1 t for pan sauce)
- 1 teaspoon good quality curry powder
- 2 tablespoons calvados
- Up to ¼-cup sparkling apple cider
- 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted pistachios, shelled
- Melt butter over medium heat in a Dutch oven or large sauté pan with a lid. Once butter begins to brown, add onions. Cook for about a minute, until fragrant, stirring to coat and prevent burning. Add squash, fennel, garlic, ginger and curry powder, stirring to mix. Add calvados, cover and turn down heat. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until squash and fennel are tender and soft but not mushy.
- Remove about ½ cup of mixture and set aside in a bowl. Transfer remaining mixture to a blender and pulse, adding sparkling apple cider a tablespoon at a time. You want the mixture to be chunky, not a smooth puree. Add reserved mixture and repeat, pulsing and adding sparkling cider as needed. Place mixture in a bowl, and set aside to cool until pork has finished drying and you are ready to stuff (if you are making stuffing ahead of time, place bowl in refrigerator until ready to stuff).
- Toast pistachios in a dry skillet for 5 minutes. Cool and coarsely chop. Set aside in a small bowl.