(May 29, 2020) Tempestuous winds dance to a magnificent performance as a cold front taunts the Eastern Shore.
Swirls of blustery weather and chilly temperatures are not fitting for the month of May. Even the birds seem to be ruffled by the unusual weather.
Oh well, extraordinary circumstances seem to be the special of the day.
I cannot help but wonder what dad would have thought of these trying times. It’s hard to believe he is no longer with us.
Reality is a reflection of my father meticulously preparing a stuffed pork loin. The mind is complicated, and I wonder why this particular image tiptoes from the canyons of my mind.
The mélange of “good times” saturate my moment to be with aromatics that are embellished with the fragrance of sweet apples, peppery allspice and spicy nutmeg.
This trinity of goodness is enhanced with savory notes of pungent garlic, piney rosemary and caramel-like molasses. The medley of ingredients gives the dish depth of flavor, which is essential if one wants their menu to stand out and be more memorable.
An apple stuffed pork loin marinated with a molasses and balsamic glaze is fitting for this time of the year.
Jack Frost has moved on, and the radiating warmth from the glorious sun is not in full command. Remember, transitions are just as important as the seasons themselves when planning a menu.
Pork and brining go hand in hand. The salt solution is slowly drawn into the meat which promotes juiciness and tenderness.
The ratio of salt to water is 1/8th cup of kosher salt to 1 quart of water. Aromatics can be added for extra flavor.
When stuffing a pork loin, it is important that the ingredients of the stuffing pairs with the flavors of the glaze.
One should also consider color. The appearance of the dish must be pleasing to the eye.
If one is stuffing their pork loin with fruit or vegetables, only partially cook them before the actual act of stuffing. Remember, they will continue to cook inside the meat as it is finished in the oven.
Stuffing a pork loin does not only add flavor but makes a stunning presentation. That being said, there are a few different ways one can stuff a pork loin.
The easiest option is to cut the cylinder of meat lengthwise so it opens up like a book, add the stuffing and close it up again.
Another way is making a hole in the middle of the loin, creating a sort of tube and fill the tube with stuffing.
Spiral cuts are the most impressive and are the best option to showcase the meat along with the stuffing. It is imperative to have a sharp knife and preferably one that is the actual length of the pork loin.
Place the pork loin, fat side down, on a cutting board perpendicular to you.
If you are right-handed, place your left hand on top of the meat. Apply a little pressure as you cut one-third from the bottom to the other side.
Do not cut all the way, leave about 1 ½ -inches so the meat is still attached. Open that flap, like you are opening a book.
Then, again apply a little pressure with your left hand on the thicker side of the loin. Cut one-third from the bottom to the other side, and again do not cut the entire section, leaving about 1 ½ -inches of the meat still attached.
Using the flat side of a small pan, pound the meat to even out the thickness. A light coating of salt and pepper is applied at this time.
In closing, choose the method for stuffing a pork loin that you feel comfortable with. The following recipe is based on the spiral cut, but can be easily adapted to the other two styles.
Remember, the element of surprise is key to entertaining. A pork loin stuffed with apples and fennel that is topped with a molasses and balsamic glaze is sure to get the attention of your guests. Enjoy!
1-quart cold water
1/8th cup kosher salt
1 boneless pork loin, 3 ½ pounds
1. Combine pork, salt and water in a 2-gallon Ziploc bag. Place filled Ziploc bag in a large bowl and brine for 36 hours.
Molasses and Balsamic Glaze
1 cup balsamic vinegar
½ small yellow onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, quartered
6 thyme sprigs or 2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup molasses
2 tablespoons dried mustard
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the balsamic vinegar, onion, garlic, thyme and chicken stock over medium high heat until reduced to 1 1/3 cups, about 15 minutes.
2. Strain mixture, add molasses and dry mustard, and reduce for another 5 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.
Apple Stuffed Pork Loin
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped apples (no skin)
1 cup chopped fennel (white part)
2/3 cup raisins
¼ cup chopped walnuts
crushed rosemary, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. In a large sauté pan, warm canola oil and butter over medium-low heat. Add onions, garlic, apples, fennel, raisins and walnuts and sauté for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
3. Rinse brined pork thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.
4. Follow the above instructions for the spiral cutting. Trim the edges for presentation purposes.
5. Top the pork with the stuffing. Do not place the stuffing on the edges, allow an inch as a border.
Carefully, roll the pork loin, so the fat side is facing the cutting board. Truss the pork tightly so the filling stays inside.
Flip the meat over, fat side up, and apply the glaze liberally so the entire surface is covered.
6. Cook the pork until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Baste the pork one time with the molasses glaze while it is in the oven and another time while the pork is resting.
Secret Ingredient – Food. “Food is essential to life, therefor make it good.”
– S Truett Cathy