Sometimes a recipe doesn’t turn out the way you hope. Such was the case this weekend when, inspired by a post by friend and expert food writer, Diane Darrow, about a stuffed pork-shoulder roast, I set out to make one. That our local Whole Foods was having a sale on pork butt motivated me even more to attempt to replicate Diane’s success. Attributing her recipe to one in an old issue of “Saveur,” she provided an illustrated account of her adaptation of the recipe capped with a photo of the finished roast. It looked so good.
Being an intransigent researcher and addicted to Google, I found the original “Saveur” recipe, which was for a 6-pound center cut pork-loin roast. Since Diane had prepared a much smaller and different cut of roast, she reduced the amounts of ingredients and modified the method of stuffing. As my roast was closer in size to the original recipe’s, I chose to adapt the magazine’s version, halving the measurements and going rogue (so to speak) on butchering the roast for stuffing. My first big mistake. It was just one of many that followed.
I’ve listed the steps of the recipe below along with a commentary highlighting all my other mistakes.
Ingredients (I’m providing the list from the “Saveur” recipe.)
1⁄4 lb. bacon, cut into large dice (I used thick-cut bacon)
4 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (I used Honey Crisp apples.)
1 Tbsp. sugar (I used ½ tablespoon.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
4 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced (I used 2.)
1⁄2 lb. white mushrooms, sliced (I used 5 ounces.)
1⁄2 cup cider vinegar (I used ¼ cup,)
3 Tbsp. roughly chopped fresh sage (I used about the same.)
6 lb. center-cut pork loin (9 chops), trimmed and bones cracked (Mine was a 4-pound pork-shoulder roast)
Instructions with Commentary
1. Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes.
The 8 minutes yielded rather dark crisps, even though I used thick-sliced bacon.
2. Toss apples with sugar in a bowl.
No problem; I should point out here that I used Honey Crisps rather Granny Smiths.
3. Increase heat to medium-high, add apples, and sauté, turning once, until apples are golden, another 10 minutes.
Two problems here: as I started to brown the apples, my bacon started to burn. My better half wisely suggested removing and setting aside the bacon. The second problem was that on medium high, my apples were also starting to get a little too golden. So I used my eye rather than my timer to determine when they were done.
4. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer apples and bacon to bowl with a slotted spoon.
A fool-proof step.
5. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat.
Not a problem.
6. Add onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 20 minutes.
20 minutes? Closer to 10 minutes was adequate time.
7. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms begin to brown, about 20 minutes.
What? Another 20 minutes to brown sliced white mushrooms? Once again, a fraction of that time was all it took.
8. Increase heat to high, add 1⁄4 cup of the vinegar, stir with a wooden spoon until vinegar evaporates, about 1 minute.
9. Then add sage and season with salt and pepper.
10. Stir in apples and bacon, then set aside to cool.
Here I thought it better to transfer the stuffing from the pan to a bowl so that it would cool a little faster.
11. Preheat oven to 350°.
Need I add anything?
12. Make a 3″ slit, about 1 1⁄2″ deep, and make a pocket in each chop. Spoon about 1⁄4 cup apple mixture into each pocket.
This is where my big problems started; Diane had untied her roast and cut a pocket along the center of the roast. I untied my roast and cut three deep slits across the roast, I think, however, it would have been wiser to unroll the roast, make some cuts within, and then retie it.
13. (To stuff the whole loin, you will use about half the apple mixture.)
Hmm. I had approximately halved the recipe and used about ¾ of it to stuff my roast. Perhaps I overstuffed it; which in the end didn’t make for a pretty picture.
14 Season stuffed loin with salt and pepper, transfer to a roasting pan, and roast for 1 hour.
15. Pour remaining 1⁄4 cup vinegar and 1⁄4 cup water into pan; scrape bits off bottom of pan. Scatter remaining apple mixture around loin and cook until the internal temperature of pork reaches 170°F, about 1 1⁄4 hours.
I skipped the stuffing part of this step. I simply transferred the remaining stuffing to a small baking dish and cooked it along with roast for the final hour and a half.
16.Transfer pork to a platter, allow to rest for 15 minutes.
Piece of cake. (Humble pie?)
Needless to say, I was disappointed by how my roast turned out; so disgruntled that I refused my husband’s offer to photograph the plated meat. He sneaked this last photo of my carving the roast. In retrospect, however, it really wasn’t all that bad. There was plenty of flavor; the meat was perfectly cooked, but there was a load of fat. Accompanied by some mashed potatoes and buttered peas, it made for a decent meal; just not the show stopper, like Diane’s, that I was hoping for.
Wine Pairing: Chardonnay