Fruit, port add royal touch

Austin American-Statesman - - FOOD MATTERS - Byad­die Broyles abroyles@states­man.com You can stuff a but­ter­flied pork loin with just about any­thing, but for a hol­i­day meal, con­sider a sweet, fruit-based fill­ing like this apri­cot, prune, ap­ple and onion stuff­ing. ad­die broyles / amer­i­can-states­man Por

This is an adapted recipe from Epi­cu­ri­ous. com’s first cook­book, “The Epi­cu­ri­ous Cook­book,” which came out this year and con­tains more than 250 of the best recipes from the pop­u­lar cook­ing web­site. The Epi­cu­ri­ous recipe used a bone-in pork loin, also called a crown roast. They stuffed the meat with a mix­ture of apri­cots, prunes and ap­ples and roasted it with a layer of ba­con on top.

To cut down on the cost, num­ber of serv­ings and cook­ing time, I adapted the recipe for a smaller bone­less pork loin, which I asked the butcher at my gro­cery store to but­ter­fly. With both cuts of meat, you sim­mer the fruit and port for the stuff­ing, and if you have any ex­tra or if you can’t make a stove­top pan sauce with your roast­ing pan (as out­lined in the recipe), you can add a lit­tle more port and con­tinue to cook un­til you have a nice chut­ney-es­que sauce to serve along­side the meat.

Feel free to use pears or plums in­stead of ap­ples and dried cher­ries; figs, cran­ber­ries, dates or raisins in­stead of dried apri­cots and prunes; and if you don’t have port handy, a sweet red wine with a hint of ex­tra sugar thrown in is a fine sub­sti­tute.

The Epi­cu­ri­ous method for stuff­ing meat is this: Make a pocket in the cen­ter of the roast by mak­ing a hor­i­zon­tal 1 1/2inch-wide cut into one end of roast with a long thin knife, re­peat­ing from op­po­site end so pocket runs all the way through. Then make a ver­ti­cal cut through cen­ter (form­ing a cross) to widen pocket. Push about 1 cup stuff­ing into pocket us­ing a long­han­dled wooden spoon (you may need to stuff from both sides if roast is long).

If you stuff a but­ter­flied piece of meat, you can tie it up with kitchen twine, which you (or your guests) have to re­move be­fore eat­ing. (You also end up with more stuff­ing in­side the meat us­ing this tech­nique.) Feel free to use which­ever method seems a best fit for your skills, tools and de­sired out­come.

A small roast will take as lit­tle as 25 min­utes to cook, so have your meat ther­mome­ter handy. (The De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture low­ered the safe cook­ing tem­per­a­ture for pork to 145 de­grees from 160 last year. Take into con­sid­er­a­tion that the tem­per­a­ture will con­tinue to rise af­ter you’ve re­moved the meat from the oven.)

You can stuff the roast and wrap in ba­con a day ahead of time, which will al­low the meat to ab­sorb more of the fla­vors.

An hour be­fore you plan to cook the meat, re­move the loin from the fridge and rest, cov­ered, on the counter.

In a small saucepan with the lid on, sim­mer apri­cots, prunes (or other dried fruit) and port for about 5 min­utes. Re­move from heat and let stand, still cov­ered, for 10 min­utes.

Cook onion and shal­lot in but­ter in a 12-inch heavy skil­let over medium heat, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til soft­ened, 4 to 5 min­utes. Add ap­ple, salt and pep­per and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til ap­ple is just ten­der, about 5 min­utes. Stir in apri­cot mix­ture and cool.

Pre­heat oven to 450 de­grees. Rub salt and pep­per on the out­side of the but­ter­flied pork loin and then open the meat on a cut­ting board. Spread the cooled mix­ture in the mid­dle. Close the loin and, us­ing kitchen twine, tie the roast in sev­eral places to keep the fill­ing in place. (I found that turn­ing the stuffed loin on its side, with the crease on a cut­ting board and the open end on the top, al­lowed me to se­curely tie the meat with­out the stuff­ing fall­ing out. Place strips of ba­con on top of the loin.

Put the stuffed and ba­con-wrapped meat on a rack in a heavy roast­ing pan and roast for 15 min­utes. Then re­duce tem­per­a­ture to 325 de­grees and con­tinue roast­ing for an­other 30 to 45 min­utes, de­pend­ing on the size of the loin, un­til a ther­mome­ter reg­is­ters 140 de­grees. Trans­fer roast to a cut­ting board, re­serv­ing pan juices, and let stand, loosely cov­ered with foil, 15 to 20 min­utes.

Skim fat from pan drip­pings and re­serve 1 1/2 ta­ble­spoons fat. Strad­dle roast­ing pan across 2 burn­ers and add port to drip­pings, then deglaze pan by boil­ing over high heat, stir­ring and scrap­ing up brown bits, 1 minute. (If your roast­ing pan is not suited for use on the stove-top, you’ll have to skip this sauce-mak­ing method.) Strain pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, dis­card­ing solids.

Cook shal­lot in re­served fat in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til soft­ened, about 3 min­utes. Stir in pan juices, 1 1/4 cups water and any re­served fruit stuff­ing and bring to a sim­mer. Whisk to­gether flour and 1/4 cup water un­til smooth, then whisk into sauce with any juices from cut­ting board.

Sim­mer sauce, whisk­ing oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til slightly thick­ened, about 5 min­utes. Sea­son with salt and pep­per.

Carve roast, re­mov­ing kitchen twine, if us­ing, then serve with sauce. Serves 4 to 6.

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