Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Autumn Stuffed Pork Loin

This is one of my very own recipes.  Oh, I'm guessing there are plenty of recipes out there that are similar, but this one was born out of an especially nostalgic afternoon's shopping.  You see, I was raised in Upstate NY in the Hudson Valley where Autumn was my favorite season.  By mid-October everything turns a thousand shades of red and gold with amazingly crisp mornings that smell like a combination of apple cider and that utterly undefinable but unmistakable aroma of fallen leaves that is more like touch than scent. Being in the foothills of the mountains during that season is one of the most glorious experiences you could imagine.

West Bank of the Hudson River (Image courtesy The Poughkeepsie Journal)

However, when I moved south I discovered that there really isn't a such thing as Autumn.  We go pretty much from summer to winter with a brief two or three weeks where everything turns brown and drops.  And it rains. A lot. Blech.

So here I was one rainy afternoon in October being incredibly homesick for a season while grocery shopping and had the inspiration to make something decidedly "fall-like" so I grabbed cranberries, apples, and cider and went from there.  If I couldn't have golden trees and smoky leaf-scented air then I would taste it.  (Recipe after the break)

Autumn stuffed Pork Loin (serves 6-8)
  • 2.5 - 3 lbs Pork tenderloin or pork roast
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, approximately 1 cup diced
  • 1/2 cup Cranberries (dried or 3/4 cup fresh)
  • 1 cup vidalia or white onion (anything mild), diced
  • 1.5 cups orange juice (I use no pulp, but it doesn't matter)
  • 1 tbl granulated sugar
  • 2 tbl Apple cider or apple wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 slices toasted wheat bread
  • 1 tbl. rubbed sage
  • 1.5 tbl butter
  • Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine cranberries, sugar, and orange juice in a small pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently to incorporate the sugar.  Once the OJ is boiling, turn the heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Since I used dried cranberries this time, I smashed them with the back of a spoon to break them up a bit.  If you use fresh cranberries (usually easy to find around holidays) they should burst on their own.

Here the cranberries are simmering, onions and apples sit ready to be sauteed and tenderloins await slicing...

While the cranberries are simmering, add the butter, apples, and onions to a separate pan and cook over medium-high heat about 5 minutes until the onions soften.  Then, add the sage and two tablespoons of apple cider or wine.  I just so happened to have a nice spiced apple wine handy so used that, but apple cider works just as well.  Continue to saute for about two minutes then stir in the cranberry sauce and 1 cup chicken broth and simmer the entire mixture for five minutes. Remove from the heat and add the toast, broken up into 1-1.5 inch pieces.  Mix well then set aside to cool.

While the stuffing was cooling I then butterflied the tenderloin.  Since I don't have a decent butcher nearby, the best quality of meat is sold at my local club store.  They package two tenderloins per package and as I was cooking for 6 I used both of them.  However, any type of pork roast will work just fine. To butterfly, using a sharp knife, starting about 1/2 an inch from the long side edge of the meat, slice downwards but not all the way through the piece, stopping 1/2 inch from the bottom.  Then lift the flap you've just cut, and roll the meat a quarter turn so what was just the bottom is now facing away from you.  Repeat the length-wise cut through the piece, stopping at the 1/2 inch mark, then roll the meat again and repeat the length-wise cut one to two more times depending on how large your piece is.  This will result in a wide, flat piece of tenderloin.

Then lay a piece of plastic wrap over the sliced meat and pound it gently with the back of a flat spoon to even it out (will cook more consistently).  Here's my nice, flattened tenderloins:

After the meat is flattened, spread the cranberry/apple/stuffing across the meat.  Leave a stuffing-free border all around the meat otherwise when you roll it the stuffing will be squeezed out the sides and length-wise seam.
Starting on the long side with stuffing, roll the meat, with the stuffing on the inside, then place seam-side down into a lightly sprayed baking dish.  I used a 9x13 casserole dish, but anything with at least 1-inch sides that will accommodate the length of your roll with suffice. Repeat with other tenderloin as necessary.
Then pour the remaining 1 cup of chicken broth into the dish and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the center of the roll reaches 150 degrees. When done, remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing into 1.5 inch thick pieces for serving.
If you wish (and I always do) take the leftover pan drippings and over medium-heat simmer them while whisking in a tablespoon of flour.  Cook for a couple minutes until thickened then serve the gravy on the side.  Here the stuffed pork loins are taking a little rest before slicing:

As the stuffed tenderloin took a bit more than usual effort, I went super-simple with my sides--couscous and glazed carrots. Couscous only takes a few minutes to make so I threw that together per package directions while the meat was resting.  The glazed carrots were put in the oven at the same time as the pork and taken out at the same time.

Here's everything baking together in the oven all timed to come out at once (also made rolls...mmmmm)

Ginger Glazed Carrots
  • 3 cups mini carrots
  • 1.5 tbl butter
  • 1 tbl light brown sugar
  • 1 tbl maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • dash cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
Slice the carrots in half and add to a 8-inch round casserole dish. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the butter, sugar, syrup, ginger, cinnamon and salt and stir until the butter and sugar melt/combine, about two minutes.
Mix in the chicken broth then pour the entire mixture over the carrots.  Stir the carrots well to coat, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake at 400 degrees for thirty to forty minutes until tender.  At least once, midway through baking time, remove from oven and stir well.
As these take less than five minutes to put together I tend to make them (or variations) a lot.  This recipe is very forgiving and can be baked at whatever temperature between 250 and 450 degrees for varying lengths of time.  The oven temperature is just dictated by whatever else you are making.  So whether it is a beef roast or baked chicken or whatever else, go ahead and pop them into the oven with it--just check on them every 15 minutes to stir and make sure you don't overcook them.    

Instead of maple syrup and ginger, leaving the rest of the ingredients the same, you can try these variations to complement your meal:
  • 1 tsp grated orange peel and 1 tbl orange juice
  • Sub 1 tbl honey for brown sugar, 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Sub 1 tbl honey for brown sugar, 1/2 tsp lime or lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp rosemary
And voila! Dinner is served!
Do you have a recipe that reminds you of a particular time of year?

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