The holidays are in full swing — which means a concerted effort to attain new heights of dietary excess, occasioned by an endless stream of convivial gatherings of family and friends. Einstein postulated that gravity has waves; such waves seem self-evident, making the bathroom scale increasingly inaccurate at certain times of the solar year.
This year, for a dinner for our church small group, I decided to have a wonderful chutney-glazed stuffed pork which I discovered last year at Easter, courtesy of a good friend who is an excellent cook. It was, by the estimation of an esteemed group of culinary critics (my family), the best pork they had ever tasted. I think I have to agree.
The dish begins with a full pork tenderloin. Our local Costco has these at surprisingly good prices – $17 for a full tenderloin (the entire psoas muscle, for those of you anatomically inclined). I cut this in half to make the length manageable in a roasting pan.
The tenderloin is a very lean cut, but has a tough fascial layer (tendon) running along one side. There is a plane between a thinner layer of sinew on the meat and the main tendon, so the thicker tendon can be separated fairly easily, leaving a thin layer of collagen on the meat.
Always use good surgical technique, of coarse: traction-countertraction, scissor tips in closed, then spread to separate and condense the loose connective tissue, which is then cut. Good kitchen shears or a very sharp knife are a must. The thin layer of attached collagen remaining will prove useful for the next maneuver — preparing the loin for stuffing.
With the tendon-side down, the loin is first bivalved along its center, nearly full thickness. The thin tendon helps hold the roast together with this deep cut. Now, in order to increase the size of the stuffing area — and give the finished meat an internal star pattern of stuffing — several cuts are made laterally at an angle from the center cut.
The first cut starts just below the center of each half, angled toward the cutting board. The next is angled parallel to the cutting board. The idea is to create angled wedges of meat, which will allow the loin to expand and form the sides of the star.
The roast should now lie flat, with triangular ridges running it’s length.
Now, on to the stuffing: I prefer to use fresh-baked baguettes from our local supermarket, sliced thinly and allowed to dry overnight (or in a warm oven for 20-30 minutes), then coarsely chopped in a food processor. Packaged stuffing is OK, but should not be seasoned.
Next comes the fruit — pears and apricots. Pour off the syrup from a large can of pears and save it, then chop the pears and apricots, sprinkle with allspice, then add to the stuffing. I sometimes add some fruit for color as well — blueberries, dried cranberries, or currants.
Now add some slivered almonds to the mix for crunch and texture, and blend.
To moisten the stuffing we introduce our next secret ingredient: chutney. Our favorite is Silver Palate Mango Chutney, which has a hefty dose of ginger, resulting in a bit of a “bite” — a wonderful blend of sweet and tangy. The chutney is thinned with some of the pear juice, and added to the stuffing mixture to bind it.
The moistened stuffing is then worked into the opened roast in generous amounts, which is then rolled in and tied with kitchen twine. Use a surgeon’s knot (double loop on the first throw) to prevent the twine from slipping.
The pork loin halves are then glazed with the chutney and placed on a rack in a large roasting pan. The oven is heated to 325 degrees, and basting is not necessary. Roasting time is a bit hard to predict — this roast took about 2 hours — but cook to an internal temperature of 160 to 165 degrees, using a good meat thermometer. Do not overcook! Domestically-raised pork has an extremely low risk of trichinosis (unlike wild game), and the parasite is killed at about 135-140 degrees, if not less. Overcooked pork is a dry abomination, suited only for snacks after waterboarding at Gitmo.
Preparing this roast may look like a production, but is actually quite fast, taking only about 30-45 minutes of prep time before it reaches the oven. It is excellent served with a garnish of crushed raspberries with sugar and lemon juice, or cranberry horseradish sauce.
So give it a whirl for your next holiday meal or guest dinner. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
And have a most blessed and Merry Christmas, remembering in the gifts and feasting the abundant grace and Gift of God which we celebrate this day.
God bless, back next week with more.