Herb-Roasted Pork Loin

More often than not, I let what’s available or on sale at my market determine what I will be making for dinner that night. When I found pork loins on sale for $4 off a pound at my local Whole Foods, my menu was set. Knowing that I would be cooking only for two, I chose a small two-pound center-cut roast.

Originally, I though I would prepare it braised in milk, a recipe that I have previously posted on this blog. But when I returned home, a bottle of Chianti Classico that we had received as a Christmas gift caught my eye and it brought to mind the many times I enjoyed this wine with a classic roasted pork loin whenever I was in Tuscany, where it is commonly known as arista.

In the past, I’ve always made this roast for a get together and used a larger piece of meat. But mind was now set on having arista even if it would be a diminutive aristina.

The recipe I chose was from the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian cookbook. Although the recipe called for a five-pound roast, I didn’t adjust the amount of herbs or oil for my two pounder. I did, however, reduce the number of garlic cloves to three, and not having any fresh sage at home, I doubled the amount of rosemary. Because it was quite late when the roast was done and we were both starving, I skipped the pan sauce. The roasted onions were enough of a condiment.

I also served Italian roasted potatoes, which I cooked at the same time as the roast. Although the recipe I used called for much hotter oven (425°F), I simply let the potatoes cook at the same temperature as the roast (325°F) and they were perfectly done at the same time as the meat.

As you probably noticed, there are no photos in this post. I can only say that while I was cooking, my photographer was at work, and by the time the food was on the table, neither of us was thinking about the blog. But despite not having any photos, I thought this dish was so good, I had to write it up.

Herb-Roasted Pork Loin from Williams Sonoma Essentials of Italian

Ingredients
4 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons crushed fennel seeds
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 bone-in pork loin roast, about 5 lb
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced
1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

Directions
Preheat an oven to 325°F.

Using a chef’s knife, very finely chop together the garlic, rosemary and sage. Transfer to a small bowl, add the fennel seeds, season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Make slits 1/2 inch deep all over the pork roast and insert some of the mixture into each slit. Rub the roast with the remaining seasoning, then rub with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Place the meat in a roasting pan just large enough to hold it.

Roast the meat for 1 hour. In a bowl, toss the onion slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and scatter them around the meat. Continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast, away from the bone, registers 155°F, or the meat is pale pink when cut into at the center, about 1 1/4 hours more. Transfer to a warmed platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm. Let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Note: I cooked my two pound roast for two hours. Although it was very good, the next time I cook such a small roast, I might reduce the cooking time slightly.

Meanwhile, pour off most of the fat in the roasting pan and place the pan over medium-low heat. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Simmer until the sauce is slightly reduced.

Carve the roast and arrange on a warmed platter. Spoon the pan sauce over the pork and serve at once.

Wine Pairing: Chianti Classico, Rosso di Montalcino

Pork Chops with Potatoes

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While pork chops may not live up to everyone’s idea of a Valentine’s Day dinner, for us they made the perfect late-night supper, especially when prepared as they were last night. We had seen them prepared a few weeks ago on the Cooking Chanel’s “French Food at Home” by Canadian chef Laura Calder and were eager to prepare them at home.

When we found the recipe on line, however, we were surprised by how many discrepancies there were between the television and website versions. For example, the online recipe calls for 4 fatty pork chops rather tan the 4 fat, thick chops used on the show. Similarly, the online version listed 1.5 pounds potatoes thinly sliced, while on television Calder specifically specified waxy potatoes sliced thick.

Consequently, I modified the recipe to follow the dish prepared on the show and was extremely pleased with the result. Although I had some reservations about cooking the chops for close to two hours, they came out perfectly succulent and tasty.

The next time I prepare this dish, I’ll probably use chops a little thicker than an inch and extend the cooking time a tad. But even if you only have inch-thick chops, you’ll enjoy this French country dish.

Pork Chops with Potatoes adapted from Cooking Channel Chef Laura Calder
INGREDIENTS
4 thick bone-in rib pork chops (a least 1-inch thick)
2 cloves garlic, sliced (try to have 3 slices per chop)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 pounds waxy potatoes, peeled and sliced thick, about 1/2 inch
1 large sweet onion, sliced 1/4 inch
2 to 3 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/4 inch lardons
1/2 teaspoon juniper berries
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

The chops and other ingredients
The chops and other ingredients

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
Cut 2 to 3 slivers along the fatty edge of each pork chop and slide in the slices of garlic.

Heat the oil and the butter in skillet large enough to accommodate the 4 chops on high heat. Season the chops with salt and pepper and brown them well, about 3 minutes per side.

Browning the chops
Browning the chops

Transfer the chops to a plate and deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine. Transfer the pan juices to a large enamel-cast iron Dutch oven.

Arrange half the potatoes and onions over the pan juices in the Dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper lay two chops on top of the potatoes and onions.

First layer of potatoes and onions
First layer of potatoes and onions

Then stack the remaining two chops on top of the chops in the pot. Scatter the bacon and juniper berries over the stacked chops.

Stacked chops
Stacked chops

Cover with the remaining potatoes and onions. Season this layer with additional salt and pepper. Pour over the wine.

Cut a piece of parchment to fit over the potatoes and pork chops and lay it in on top.

Bake the dish for about 1 hour and 45 minutes (longer if using thicker chops), pouring in the chicken stock halfway through baking. Sprinkle with parsley to serve.

After cooking
After cooking

Wine Pairing: Brunello di Montalcino

Baked Monkfish Roman Style

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When friends ask me which style of Italian cooking I enjoy the most, I usually say “Roman.” It seems to meld the earthy richness of the north with the sultry spice of the south. My go-to book for Roman cooking is David Downie’s Cooking the Roman Way, and it is here where I found the recipe for today’s post: Martino al Forno, Monkfish Baked on a Bed of Lemony Potatoes. (The book is sadly out of print, but is currently available in Kindle format.)

The fish, coated with olive oil and breadcrumbs, is baked slowly for about 35 minutes on a bed of thinly sliced Yukon gold potatoes dressed with olive oil, lemon, parsley, and fine breadcrumbs. What’s great about this dish is how the creamy, lemony potatoes highlight the rich buttery flavors of the monkfish, sometimes called “the poor man’s lobster.” It’s Roman cooking at its best.

I halved this recipe when I prepared it for two, using half of fish and potatoes called for, but slightly more than half measures of the other ingredients.

Martino Al Forno    Adapted from Cooking the Roman Way (Yields 4 servings)
2 pounds Monkfish fillets (Try to get fillets that are approximately equal in size and that are not too thin to ensure even cooking.)
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes washed, peeled, and sliced 1/8 inch thick. (Use a mandolin for evenly sliced potatoes.)
4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 heaping Tbs of fine breadcrumbs (I only had seasoned Italian breadcrumbs on hand and they worked well.)
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled and mashed
4 heaping Tbs fresh Italian parsley minced (Be careful not to over mince the parsley as doing so leaves a lot of the herb’s flavor on the cutting board.)
1 lemon juiced (The next time I make this dish, I’ll also add some of the zest of the lemon to the potatoes.)

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1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. Rinse fillets, pat dry with paper towels, and place on a platter. A paper towel on top of the fish will keep them dry.

3. Place the peeled, sliced potatoes in an oven-proof baking dish and drizzle with 2 Tbs of the oil. Season with generous pinches of salt and pepper. Toss lightly to evenly coat. (Be careful not to tear the slices as you toss.) Sprinkle in 2Tbs of the bread crumb and toss again. Arrange the potatoes in an even layer.

4. Distribute the smashed garlic cloves evenly over the potatoes and sprinkle with a generous pinch of the parsley.

5. Drizzle the patted-dry fish fillets with 1Tbs of the olive oil and gently rub it into the fish. Sprinkle the fish with the remaining 2 Tbs of the breadcrumbs and turn the fillets to coat them evenly with the crumbs.

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6. Place the fillets in the baking dish over the potatoes and the garlic. (I folded under the thin ends of the fillets to ensure even cooking.) Sprinkle any breadcrumbs that are left behind the platter that held the fish.

7. Sprinkle 1 Tbs of lemon juice over the fish and the potatoes and then sprinkle with small pinches of salt, pepper, and parsley.

8. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, until the potatoes are tender on the inside and crisp on the edges.

9. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining parsley over the fish. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil (1 Tbs) and the remaining lemon juice.

Serve immediately on heated plates.

Wine Pairing: Chilled Frascati, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Riesling