Fall is here and that can mean but one thing: break out the roasting pans! That’s right. No more excuses like, “It’s too hot!” or “The meal’s too heavy!” No sir-ee, Bob! It’s time to choose your weapon (beef, fowl, pork, or veal), set the oven temperature (low, medium, high, or roar), and prepare yourself for a feast. Lest anyone think that this party is reserved for carnivores alone, however, let me assure every vegetarian, vegan, and pescatarian that roasting does wonders for the foods in your diets, as well. In due time, we’ll get to a few of those recipes, too.
Some of you may recall a discussion in the comments section of the post detailing the making of strawberry jam with balsamic vinegar and black pepper. The consensus was that the jam would “work” with pork or veal roasts. A few weeks later, I made some fig preserves, also with balsamic and black pepper, and the idea of using it with pork was never far from my thoughts. In fact, the very next weekend, I purchased a pork loin and I was off and running.
That first roast was an end piece of the loin and, because of that, it was a little tapered. Once it was brined and coated with fig preserves, it had to be re-folded just as it had been butterflied. I used sliced pancetta on the top of the roast and placed it in a roasting pan with some potatoes. This did not work out so well. Once heated, the preserves leaked out of the roast and any potatoes that were near the preserves burned. The roast was very tasty but the potatoes a disappointment, to say the least. Enter roast no. 2
A couple of weeks later, as luck would have it, there was a sale on whole pork loins. Count me in! This time, I asked the my friend, the butcher, to do the butterflying for me, using the loin’s center cut. Once home, it was brined and slathered with fig preserves but this time, the roast was thick enough so that it could be rolled, as one would a jelly roll. After that, I covered it completely with sliced pancetta. The overall effect was to limit the amount of preserves that leaked into the roasting tray. Still, I didn’t want to take any chances. The potatoes were roasted separately and I added liquid to the roasting pan, eventually making a sauce out of the drippings and any “escaped” preserves. This is the method used in today’s post.
Before sharing the recipe, a few things need mentioning. The amount of salt and sugar used in this brine is exactly half what I would normally use, the reason being that the roast was already butterflied. Since it was going to be in the solution overnight, I didn’t want to risk it being over-brined. It is better to be under-brined, trust me. (See Notes.) When roasting, remember that brined meats cook more quickly. Other than that, roasting times will depend upon the size and cut of meat. I used the loin’s center cut. It weighed about 4 lbs. (1.8 kg) and was finished roasting in under an hour. (An instant read thermometer is your friend.) The FDA’s guidelines no longer require pork to be cooked to 165˚ as it once did. Today, pork roasts are considered safe if cooked to a temperature of 145˚. No matter the temperature you prefer your roast, remember it will raise a few degrees while the roast rests after being pulled from the oven.
I’ve not listed the amounts of the spices required for they, too, will depend upon the roast’s size, as well as the amount of potatoes you’ll be preparing. Just make sure to make enough of the olive oil & herb marinade to cover the roast and the potatoes. You’ll note that I only added garlic to the reserved marinade that was used on the potatoes. I just didn’t feel that garlic would go well with the fig preserves in the roast or the sauce. And lastly, some pancetta is more salty than others. Take this into account when seasoning the pork roast.
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Roast Loin of Pork with Fig Preserves Recipe
for the brine
- ½ tbsp table salt per cup of liquid used. If using kosher salt, ¾ tbsp per cup of liquid.
- ¼ tbsp (brown) sugar per cup of liquid used.
- 1 pint (16 0z, 473 ml) apple cider
for the roast
- 1 pork loin, butterflied in thirds (see images below)
- ½ to 1 cup fig preserves with balsamic vinegar
- ¼ lb (112 g) pancetta, thinly sliced
- rosemary, chopped
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
- Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and cut into equally sized chunks
- 2 garlic cloves, diced or grated
- water, white wine, and stock (vegetable or chicken)
The Night Before
- Carefully butterfly the pork loin 3 ways. Your butcher will do this for you. Otherwise:
- Divide the roast’s thickness into thirds. The first cut will be ⅓ of the way down from the top. Be careful not to cut through the meat. The object is to create a flap not a separate piece
- Use your knife to cut the thicker portion in half, again creating a flap and not separate pieces. (Click image on left to see how it is done.)
- Following the guidelines, mix enough of a brining solution to ensure that the roast is completely immersed. Select a large enough non-reactive pot, bowl, or sealable bag to make this possible. If need be, place a plate on top of the roast to keep it submerged. Place everything in the refrigerator.
- Do not brine longer than 8 hours.
- Combine enough olive oil, rosemary, salt & pepper to coat both the roast’s exterior and the potatoes. Mix well and set aside.
- Remove the pork from the brine, rinse it under tap water, and pat dry.
- Open the roast and use the fig preserves to fully coat its inside.
- Close/roll the roast, cover with marinade, and set aside.
- On a clean work surface, spread a sheet of plastic wrap large enough to fully encase the rolled roast.
- On top of the plastic wrap, place 4 or 5 pieces of butcher’s twine that are long enough to tie the roast.
- Place the pancetta pieces atop the twine, making one large sheet. Use a pastry brush to coat the pancetta with the marinade.
- Place the roast onto the pancetta and roll it, as you would a jelly roll, to completely cover it in pancetta. Tie the twine to secure the roast.
- Coat the roast with olive oil before wrapping it in the plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator until 30 minutes before the roasting is to begin. Refrigerate at least 1 hour, preferably several.
- Pre-heat oven to 400˚ F (204˚ C)
- 30 minutes before you start to roast the pork loin, remove the meat from the fridge and set aside.
- Place potatoes in a large bowl, add reserved marinade, add garlic, and mix until well-coated. Place in a roasting dish/pan.
- Unwrap the pork loin and place it on a rack in the center of the roasting pan. Add 1 cup of water to the pan. (See Notes.)
- Place pork roast in the center of the oven.
- 15 minutes later place the potatoes on the same rack or above. Check the pork’s pan drippings and augment with stock and/or wine, if necessary. Repeat every 10 to 15 minutes, as needed. Do not allow to dry completely.
- After 20 minutes, use a large spoon to rearrange the potatoes.
- Roasting time will vary depending upon the size and cut of your roast. Begin checking the temperature of a 4 lb. roast after 45 minutes. For medium rare, a temperature of 145˚F (63˚ C) is required. Remember, the roast will continue to cook as it rests.
- When the desired temperature is achieved, remove the roast, tent with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes.
- If potatoes are roasted to you liking, remove and tent to keep warm.
- If desired, strain the pan’s juices, separate the grease, and
- serve as-is
- heat in a pan over med-high heat to reduce
- use a couple tbsp of the grease with an equal amount of flour to make a roux. To that roux, add the separated pan juices and additional wine or stock, as needed to make a gravy.
- Check for seasonings.
- After the roast has rested, remove the strings, slice, and serve immediately with the potatoes and sauce.
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The brining ingredients as listed take into account that the roast was butterflied before it was brined. If you decide to butterfly it after brining you’ll need to double the amounts of sugar and salt used. That’s simply because a whole roast has less surface area than one that’s been butterflied.
No matter how you “wrap” the roast, a little — or a lot — of the fig preserves are going to spill into the roasting pan. Because of their high sugar content, the preserves will burn pretty quickly once they hit the hot pan. With a little care, however, they can help make a great sauce. The key is to make sure the roasting pan never dries completely. Here I started with a cup of water since its purpose was to keep any preserves from burning. As the roasting progressed, I switched to a combination of wine (California Riesling) and stock, ensuring a more flavorful sauce.
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It’s déjà vu all over again …
According to one of our more celebrated Italian chefs, snails, lumache, are served traditionally on All Souls Day in Le Marche. Since Friday is All Souls Day, this is the perfect time to review my family’s recipe for preparing the little devils — and you’ll still have 2 days left to go out and buy/capture some for your dinner. You can see the recipe by clicking HERE. Happy hunting!
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Coming soon to a monitor near you …
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