A dif­fer­ent kind of sheet pan sup­per

The Tribune (SLO) (Sunday) - - Living - BY MELISSA CLARK

My old rule of thumb used to be that when I wanted to roast a big hunk of meat, I’d reach for my roast­ing pan to get the job done. With its deep sides and sturdy han­dles, the pan is easy to ma­neu­ver in and out of the oven, and is spa­cious enough to hold a bevy of veggies un­der­neath the meat, which then browns glo­ri­ously on top.

But what’s the point of rules that you can’t oc­ca­sion­ally break? Some­times, a shal­low-sided sheet pan works bet­ter, like when you want the liq­uid in the bot­tom of your pan to con­dense and evap­o­rate, form­ing the ba­sis for a heady sauce. And such is the case in this recipe for pork loin with cider, ap­ples and onions, roasted di­rectly and un­apolo­get­i­cally on a rimmed sheet pan.

As the meat roasts, the sheet pan al­lows the cider to cook off with­out steam­ing the meat. The low sides also en­cour­age the ap­ples and onions to turn golden in spots, which is harder to achieve in a roast­ing pan. And thank­fully, a sheet pan is more con­ve­nient and eas­ier to clean than a roast­ing pan. I throw mine in the dish­washer.

The down­side of a sheet pan is that once you add the cider, the pan can over­flow. The trick is to ar­range the pork and veg­eta­bles on the pan, and trans­fer it to the oven be­fore pour­ing in the liq­uid.

Watch as you pour, ad­ding just enough to coat the ap­ples and onions, but not so much that liq­uid sloshes over the sides when you push the oven rack in. Then keep an eye on it; if the pan starts to burn, tip in a bit more cider.

While this recipe does re­quire your at­ten­tion, the re­sults are worth it: juicy roast pork – in­fused with the fla­vor of rosemary, fen­nel and cin­na­mon­laced cider – served with melt­ingly ten­der browned onions and ap­ples.

Be­cause the com­bi­na­tion of pork and caramelized ap­ples is such a rich one, I pair it with tangy pick­led ap­ples and green chiles that come to­gether in un­der 10 min­utes ( plus a cou­ple hours’ pick­ling time). The pi­quant ap­ples and chile bits can be eaten along­side the meat while the brine gets driz­zled on top for an even sharper jolt.

And if the whole sheet­pan thing seems too pre­car­i­ous, and you’d rather cook the meat in a roast­ing pan, you can. The ap­ples and onions may not get quite as golden, but it will still be a sweet and snappy dish no mat­ter how you roast it.

To make the pick­led ap­ples, in a small pot, com­bine cup wa­ter with vine­gar, su­gar, all­spice, co­rian­der and salt. Bring to a sim­mer and cook, stir­ring, un­til su­gar dis­solves, 2 to 3 min­utes.

Put ap­ples and jalapeños in a medium heat­proof bowl or jar, and pour hot vine­gar mix­ture on top. Let cool to room tem­per­a­ture and let pickle for at least 2 hours. (Mix­ture can be made up to 1 week ahead and stored in the re­frig­er­a­tor.)

Rub pork all over with rosemary, fen­nel seeds, salt and pep­per. Re­frig­er­ate, fat side up and un­cov­ered, for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place pork on a rimmed 11-by-18-inch sheet pan. Scat­ter ap­ples, onion, gar­lic and cin­na­mon stick in an even layer around pork loin. Trans­fer bak­ing sheet to oven rack, and add chicken stock, then care­fully pour in cider (it’s best to po­si­tion pan in oven, then pour in liq­uid). You may not need all of the cider here. You can add more later as it roasts – stop if it threat­ens to over­flow.

Roast un­til pork reaches 135 degrees in­ter­nally, 35 to 50 min­utes. Keep an eye on the pork. If all the cider evap­o­rates and bak­ing dish starts to burn while the pork is cook­ing, add a splash more cider.

Trans­fer pork to a cut­ting board, tent with foil, and let it rest for 10 min­utes.

Mean­while, trans­fer roasted ap­ples, onions and gar­lic to a serv­ing plat­ter (dis­card cin­na­mon sticks). Scrape jus and any golden bits from bak­ing sheet into a small pot, and bring to a sim­mer (add a lit­tle more chicken stock if needed). Whisk in but­ter and a pinch of salt and cook un­til the sauce is re­duced by about a third (you just want to thicken it up a bit), 3 to 7 min­utes. Pour in any juices from the cut­ting board where the pork loin is rest­ing.

Slice pork and place on a serv­ing plat­ter, along with the roasted ap­ples and onions. Driz­zle some of the sauce and also some of the liq­uid from the pick­led ap­ples on top. Gar­nish with the rosemary, and serve with pick­led ap­ples and jalapeños along­side.

AN­DREW SCRIVANI New York Times

Pork loin with ap­ples and onions and a side dish of pick­led ap­ples and chiles is a win­try dish suit­able for en­ter­tain­ing or a cozy Sun­day sup­per.

AN­DREW SCRIVANI New York Times

Pork loin roasted on a bed of cider-moist­ened ap­ples and onions is a win­try dish suit­able for en­ter­tain­ing or a cozy Sun­day sup­per.

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