By: Lisa Henning
In the quest for meals suitable for entertaining, the versatile pork loin is a wonderful fall-back choice. Easily available, and relatively inexpensive compared to it’s beefy cousin, pork has become a favorite on many home-cook’s tables. American pork is being bred leaner, which also helps to satisfy our health-conscious diners. Organic, locally raised pork is preferred, of course, and thanks to farmer’s markets and CSAs this option is becoming more attainable for the general public. In this recipe, the loin is the perfect foil for savory fillings, which can be easily altered according to what is in season and local. The best part of butterflying, stuffing and rolling your own pork loin is how impressive it looks (and tastes) with very little effort. Most of this can be done ahead of time, and the pork can roast while you enjoy time with your guests.
Butterflying a pork loin may seem daunting, but it’s not. (You can always ask your butcher to do it!) A very sharp, thin boning knife is the best tool, along with a heavy cutting board. Place the loin in front of you, with the cut end facing you. Now, in a smooth, long stroke, slice about 2 inches into the loin, from top cut edge to bottom, about 1 inch from the cutting board. With your non-cutting hand, lift the meat up, and slide your knife in 2 inches more with the next pass. As you do this, you will “unroll” the loin, and it will end up as a large rectangle.
Next step is the filling- it’s important to think about flavors that go together well, and pork can take a nice hit of sweetness, so dried fruit or an apricot glaze are always in my pantry just in case a pork loin comes wandering along. This recipe uses golden raisins, toasted pumpkin seeds, spinach, garlic and a dry cheese called queso fresco.
Sauté the garlic in a little olive oil, add in the spinach just until wilted. Add a splash of white wine if you like. Salt and pepper to taste, then remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
When the spinach is cool, lay out your butterflied loin, and season it with salt and pepper. Spread the spinach over it, then scatter on a handful of golden raisins, handful of toasted pumpkin seeds, and then about a half cup of queso fresco. (Substitute farmer’s cheese if needed.) Now comes the fun part- the rolling. Roll the loin up from left to right, so it is essentially put back together again, but with stuff inside. Take some kitchen twine, and tie it up snugly, but not too tight.
Glaze the roast with some apricot jam thinned out with a little water. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 140. Pull it out of the oven, tent loosely with foil until the temperature comes up to 145.
Slice and serve as an impressive main course with your choice of sides.
Lisa Henning is the Chef/Owner of Queen of Cuisine Personal Chef Service. She spends most of her time cooking, feeding her friends and clients and then blogging about it. Lisa also blogs at the Queen of Cuisine blog.