Monday, May 18, 2009

Pork Roll with Sour Cherry Chutney

Karl is the kind of guy who has a hard time passing up a great deal on meat. We live the lives of quasi-vegetarians, not eating meat as often as many omnivores, partly because it's expensive. So, whenever there's a good sale on, say, a whole pork tenderloin, Karl buys one, slices it up, and freezes it in 1-lb packages. It's a pretty good system for insuring a steady supply of cheap, lean meat.

However, pork tenderloin is boring. I'll admit, the tenderloin is not my favorite part of the pig. It's hard to cook it so that it isn't dry or tough. Accordingly, we have been having fun trying different methods. We've tried slicing it 1 1/2 inches thick then stuffing it with fennel, onion, and breadcrumbs (that was pretty tasty); slow cooking it with some marinade and veggies (dry as a bone), and roasting it (also dry). Karl has had some good success pan-frying some of the stuffed slices.

Our latest attempt was born of one of my rare moments of true kitchen spontaneity. We were just planning to stuff the pork again, this time with a fruity mixture, but then I thought I'd try a technique I'd heard described a while back on "The Splendid Table," an American Public Media radio program hosted by Lynne Rosetto Kasper. The technique involves slicing the meet in a spiral fashion so that it rolls out flat. It was pretty easy to do with the pork tenderloin and a good, sharp knife.

I then spread my stuffing mixture (some cooked down sour cherries, ginger, garlic, and onion) on the slab of meat and rolled it back up, just like you would a jelly roll cake.

Into the frying pan it went to sear, then I popped it in a 400˚F oven for about 25 minutes (until it reached about 155˚F internal temperature).

It probably would have been useful to have some butcher's twine to keep the pork roll nice and tight, but I strategically seared the various sides so that there was no tragic loss of visual effect (when the meat is cooked it firms and holds its shape).

It turned out pretty well, we both thought, and though we still experienced some dryness in the meat, the cherry "chutney" we used on the inside seemed to help keep that part moist at least. In addition to the beautiful visual the spiraled pork made, we both really enjoyed the cherries as a complement to the pork.

We'll just have to keep trying to figure out how to avoid drying out that pork tenderloin!

Pork Roll with Sour Cherry Chutney
Serves 4

1 lb pork tenderloin, at room temperature
1 onion, chopped
2 TBSP ginger & garlic paste** (substitute 1 clove ginger, 1 TBSP minced ginger)
1 1/2 cups sour cherries (pitted, frozen or fresh)
1/2 tsp salt, plus more for rubbing pork
1/2 tsp black pepper, plus more for rubbing pork
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

To prepare the pork tenderloin, take a very sharp chef's knife and cut the pork in a spiral fashion to be about 3/4- to 1-inch thick. Rub some salt and pepper into both sides of the meat. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in an oven-proof skillet over medium heat, heat about 2 TBSP of olive oil. Add the onions, and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ginger and garlic paste and cherries, and cook another 5-10 minutes until the onions are soft and the cherries have burst. Remove from the heat and place the cherry chutney in a separate bowl.

Spread a layer of the cherry chutney on the flat slab of pork, then roll it up tightly. Reserve any unused cherry chutney. If you have butcher's string or twine, you can tie the pork roll up so it won't unroll.

Heat the skillet back up to high heat, and put some olive oil in the pan to heat up. Sear the pork roll on all sides, then place it in the oven. Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until internal temperature of the meat reaches 155˚F. Remove the pork roll from the oven, and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing. Slice 1-inch thick, and garnish with the reserved cherry chutney.

**SWAD Garlic and Ginger Paste ($2.49). This stuff is amazing and very cost-effective. We use it in lots and lots of things from eggs to pasta to rice. It's great to have on hand, and you can find it in any Indian grocery store.