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.
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