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COOKING LOCAL Apple and Sage Stuffed Pork Loin

September 23, 2011

    Welcome back to the kitchen. Friends, while I am an absolute fan of

summer, I realized recently that I have also been eagerly awaiting the change of seasons. These crisp nights begin

to bring the smell of wood smoke, heavier blankets come out of storage, and palates begin to change as well.

/>    It is finally cool enough in the house to consider using the oven again. And autumn always

brings out the most delicious, earthy comfort food cravings. But we are still at the tail end of the harvest,

which means we’ve got plenty of great local ingredients to incorporate.
    This week

I’ve been toying with the idea of a succulent pork roast balanced with the sweet, seasonal flavors of great

local apples. I like finding recipes that sound complicated, look amazing, taste incredible, but are secretly

fairly simple. Today’s recipe takes a little bit of knife skills and preparation, but once you pull it out

of the oven I think you will agree that this is a real winner.
    I’m thinking of an

apple stuffed pork loin with sage and a bacon maple glaze. Mmmm! At least for you meat eaters out there, I think

just the mention of some smoky bacon and maple glaze is enough to get your mouths watering. Now imagine that as

just the icing on a beautifully rolled pork loin filled with sweet apple and sage stuffing. Oh yeah, this one is a

winner!
    Now, as I mentioned, this recipe does require a little bit of knife skill, because

we are going to roll-cut our pork roast. Some recipes call for you to just butterfly it, which means just to cut

it in half the long way and leave a hinge, folding it open like a book. But roll-cutting is even more elegant, and

it allows us to get more stuffing in for a pro-style stuffed loin, and we can get a nice thin cut.

/>    For this recipe we want to use a nice large pork loin roast, around 3 pounds. The idea with

roll cutting a roast is to have a really nice sharp knife. Place the roast on a cutting board so that one end is

facing you. Begin cutting along the length of the roast, trying to get the meat about 1 inch thick or less,

parallel to the cutting board. With each slice, unroll the roast like a roll of paper towels. You should end up

with a relatively flat piece of pork, and we will spread our apple sage stuffing evenly all over that flat surface

before rolling the meat back up like a roll cake and tying it with butchers twine.
    Now, I

recognize that the roll cut is a bit of an advanced technique, and make take a little patience or practice, but I

promise it is really not all that hard. And in truth, this recipe is fairly forgiving, so if you don’t end

up with a perfectly level unrolled loin, don’t worry. Just stuff it and tie it off and toss it in the oven.

It will still be delicious. Oh, but don’t forget to sanitize your cutting board with some apple cider

vinegar after cutting raw meat on it.
    Of course you could stuff this roast with anything

that tickles your tongue’s fancy. Apricot cornbread stuffing is awesome, you could be really naughty and do

a spicy sausage stuffing inside your pork, or even a tropical pineapple stuffing. But as I said, I love the way

sweet apples and savory meats interact, and there are some great local varieties coming into season. I recommend

asking your farmer what variety they recommend, because some are more suited to cooking than others.

/>    I like sweet-tart apples that will hold up fairly well to the cooking process and not just

turn to mush. Of course, any local apple will probably do pretty well, but I recommend Cortland, granny smith, or

maybe Winesap for this recipe. Avoid very mild apple varieties, because we want that appleiness to come through

along with the pork.
    So for this apple stuffed pork loin with sage and bacon, we’ll

need:

•    3 tablespoons olive oil
•    1 large onion,

chopped
•    1 celery stalk, chopped fine
•    2 local sweet-

tart baking apples, peeled, cored and chopped fairly small
•    2 cloves garlic, peeled

and chopped fine
•    8-12 fresh sage leaves. Roughly chop half of them, and reserve the

others aside.
•    1 sprig fresh rosemary
•    A pinch of fresh

or dried thyme leaves
•    2 cups thick-cut white bread cubes, crusts removed (stale

bread is perfect for this recipe)
•    1 egg, beaten
•    2

tablespoons butter
•    Salt and fresh ground black pepper

/>•    1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth, plus more if needed (veggie broth is fine too, and apple

cider would be a very tasty substitute)
•    About 8 slices of bacon, cut in half

/>•    1 (3-5 pound) boneless center cut pork loin roast, roll cut to about 1/2  to 1

inch thick
•    2 tablespoons maple syrup (brown sugar would be fine too)

/>    Let’s start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.
    In a large

skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, celery, apples, garlic, thyme leaves,

and the chopped sage. Sauté until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and

gently stir in the bread chunks, beaten egg, butter and salt and pepper. Add the chicken broth gradually until

everything is moistened. It doesn’t need top be soaking wet, but you do want the bread chunks to start to

break down a bit. Then remove the stuffing from the heat.
    Let the stuffing mixture cool

almost to room temperature before putting it in the pork loin. Spoon the stuffing across the whole surface of the

cut side of the pork, spreading evenly. Don’t quite spread it all the way to the edges, or it will squeeze

out when you roll it. You may end up with a bit more stuffing than you need, so don’t try to fit more on

there than is possible.
    Roll the pork over the stuffing, jelly roll style, ending with the

seam side down. You want to roll firmly, but again not so hard that the stuffing squeezes out. Rub the top of the

loin roll with a bit more pepper, some fresh rosemary, and lay on the rest of the fresh sage leaves. Drizzle on

just a little bit of the maple syrup in a line down the top of the roast. Next, drape the half-strips of bacon

sideways along the entire length of the roast; tucking the bacon underneath if it reaches all the way (mine only

goes about halfway down, which is fine. Drizzle on the rest of the maple syrup or brown sugar over the bacon.

/>    The final step is also a little tricky until you get the hang of it, but it is a pro-step.

Tightly tie the pork roast up with butcher's twine, making loops about every inch or so and sliding them under

the roast until it is all bound up nicely. Place the loin in a roasting pan. I like to surround it with veggies

like lightly oiled and seasoned chopped carrots, onions, and red potatoes. This way we can have a side dish

cooking right along with the main course. Roast the pork in a preheated oven for about 90 minutes or until an

instant-read thermometer registers 155 degrees in the thickest part of the meat. Remove from the oven and let it

rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing, which will help it all hold together.
    When you are

ready to serve it, slice the apple stuffed pork roast into 1-inch thick slices. You will see how beautifully the

apple stuffing looks spiraled into the roast. Oh, and cut the butchers twine off before slicing, duh! You may find

it easiest to make your slices in between the bacon strips, but I actually like thinner pieces than that. Garnish

the platter of stuffed pork roll with more fresh apples and herbs, and serve with roasted veggies and potatoes and

a green salad.
    Yum! Apple, roast pork, sage and other fresh herbs, bacon, and maple syrup.

This is pretty heavenly in my book, and a great way to welcome in the fall. I’d love to hear your favorite

autumnal recipes, and some creative uses for the apple harvest. Send me any questions or comments to

Isaac@kohoradio.com. Cooking local in the KOHO Kitchen, I’m Isaac Kaplan-Woolner.

/> 

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