Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with Figs

Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with FigsA Good Melon

There are a lot of great lines in the movie When Harry Met Sally, and I use them often. But, there is this one favorite scene where they are interviewing a couple about how they met and fell in love.

One of the actress’s lines is, At that moment I knew. I knew the way you know about a good melon…

Ninteen years ago, I met this great guy at work, and I just knew. I can’t really explain it but I did. We were not an obvious couple to say the least. Our backgrounds were just so different, but there was something about him… And again, I just knew. He, on the other hand, required a little stalking convincing.

We became great friends, and spent a lot of time together outside of work. But we didn’t actually start dating officially until about a year and half later. I think I just wore him down…

Three years after that we were married.

This week marks our 15th Anniversary, and to celebrate the fact that we haven’t smothered each other with a pillow, Mr. Wonderful and I decided to get away to the wine country for a day, with just the two of us. We sipped. We spa-ed (is that a word?). We ate. It was fantastic, and it was great to be just the two of us again, if only for a few hours.

Dinner at Ad Hoc was one of the highlights. The food was good, the wine was good, and it was so nice to enjoy a romantic dinner with my husband—and be able to have an actual conversation.

The after dinner activities were a little different, though. Fifteen years ago we probably would have met up with some friends and/or have gone dancing. Now?  We ate so much that went back to the hotel and fell asleep watching the Giants…at 9 o’clock. I know. Total party animals…

I have made a number of recipes from the Ad Hoc At Home book but, let’s face it, I’m good but I’m no Thomas Keller. The food we had that night was simple but so, so tasty.

The Smoked Pork Loin that we ate is not one of the recipes featured in the book, but this Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with Figs is, and as the weather gets cooler (eventually) it makes for a perfect fall dinner.

Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with Figs
Recipe adapted from Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller
Serves 6

The original recipe calls for Fig and Balsamic Jam and Keller has a recipe for it in his book. However, we carry an Italian Carmelized Fig Jam from Italian Harvest at the store that is a great substitute ’cause I just don’t have time to make the jam…

Also, since you don’t use all of the fennel in the stuffing, I like to get more than what the recipe calls for and roast it in the oven as a side dish…so good.

For the Pork Brine
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
3 large rosemary sprigs
1/2 bunch (1/2 ounce) thyme
1/2 bunch (about 2 ounces) flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup garlic cloves, crushed, skin left on
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 cup (5 ounces) kosher salt
8 cups water

For the Stuffed Pork Loin
One 2 1/2-pound pork loin roast
1 large fennel bulb
Canola oil
1/2 cup 1/2-inch cubes ciabatta or other artisan bread
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 cup Caramelized Fig Preserves
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Gray salt or coarse sea salt

Make the Pork Brine
Makes 2 quarts
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil for l minute, stirring to dissolve the salt.

Remove from the heat and cool completely. Then chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Brine the Pork
Pour the brine into a container large enough to hold the pork loin. Add the pork.

Refrigerate for 10 hours (no longer, or the pork may become too salty) .

Prepare the Pork Loin
Remove the pork loin from the brine (discarding the brine), and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels, or let air-dry.

To prepare the pork loin for stuffing, you will be making a hole that runs the length the loin, and then pipe the filling through. This way, when when you slice the loin, each section has filling in its center.

Start by using a long thin knife to make a horizontal, lengthwise cut all the way through the center of the loin. Do not cut through to the edges, stay towards the center. You may find it easier to cut halfway into the meat, working from either end.

Next, turn the knife and make a vertical cut through the meat, so that the two cuts intersect like a plus sign, when you look at the loin from the ends. Let the meat rest at room temperature while you prepare the stuffing.

Prepare the Filling
Cut the stalks from the fennel and trim the root end. Remove the thicker outer layers. Separate the bulb into individual layers and cut into batons, about 1 1/4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. (These are otherwise known as long strips. This is Keller being a bit of a cooking snob. He’s earned it I guess :P) You need 1/2 cup fennel. Reserve the remaining fennel for another use.

Set a cooling rack over a small baking sheet and line it with paper towels.

Heat some canola oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and cook, tossing to brown on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the bread cubes to the lined rack.

Pour off any excess oil, leaving just a light film in the pan, return the pan to the heat, and add the fennel. Cook until tender with just a little bite left (about 2 t o 3 minutes). Add the garlic and shallot and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in the jam and warm through, then add the bread cubes, chicken stock, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste, stirring until thoroughly combined. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.

In the mean time, preheat the oven to 350°F. Put a roasting rack in a small roasting pan and put it in the oven.

Stuff the Pork Loin
Meanwhile, use your fingers to widen the cavity in the meat enough to hold the stuffing. working from either end of the loin. Place the filling into a pastry hag fitted with a large, plain tip and pipe it into the
opening on one side of the pork. Push the filling into the center of the roast. Turn the loin around and finish stuffing it from the other end.

Tie the roast with kitchen twine, being careful not to pull the string so tight that it pushes out the filling.

Brown and Roast the Pork Loin
Season the loin on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat some canola oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the loin to the pan and brown on all sides, moving it to a different area of the pan with each turn (about 2 to 3 minutes per side).

Transfer the pork to the roasting pan, and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 135° to 140°F (if you prefer your pork less pink). Remove the roast from the oven, and let rest in a warm spot for 30 minutes (for medium-rare to medium).

Remove the string and cut the loin into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Arrange on a platter and sprinkle with gray salt.

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