If you know anything about me, or anyone who is writing on the web these days, it's that we don't like to call attention to ourselves. Like Paris Hilton going to jail, like Lindsay Lohan careening back to rehab, we always keep things on the DL. Oh, sure, even I have moments where I might share a little about my life here, but these daily dispatches aren't about ME, they're about YOU, and the enhancement of YOUR lives. To be otherwise would be self-serving, self-indulgent, and any other definition of the word "blogger" that comes up in the dictionary.
That's why at dinner parties, sometimes it's good to cut loose, to throw something down on the dinner table that is kind of a "wow" moment. Just such a moment for self-aggrandizement came last Sunday when w had her friend Kathleen's birthday dinner at the house, along with a posse of her other pals. I asked what she wanted me to cook, and she said almost immediately "pork roast with grapes". I'd done this once before, early on in the courtin' days of bb & the lovely miss w, at a dinner party at the old pad, and it rocked and got raves around the table! So even though this is supposed to our month of only cooking new recipes, how could I turn her down. Saying no and sleeping alone seemed a foolish choice, so Pork & Grapes it was! Plus this dish gives me yet another chance to pull the Cadillac out of the garage, aka bringing the Le Creuset 9-1/2 quart oval French oven off the shelf. Can you say "heft"?!
The fabulous mustard-herb marinade
Browning my loin...ouch!
This was a recipe that came from the New York Times in a story by Jill Santopietro back in October of 2006. As she stated perfectly in this article "Grapes rarely get their moment in the culinary limelight, and it’s too bad, because they are perfectly designed for cooking: small and juicy with hints of both acid and sweetness." If any dish proves that statement, it's this one. Before I first made it, I was sure the grapes would turn to mush in the oven. Instead, they held their form, with the heat intensifying their sweetness while retaining the acidity, which was just what this deceptively rich pork dish needed. It comes together surprisingly easily, and offers up huge deliciousness reward and guaranteed "oohs" and "ahhs". Not that we care about that second part, of course!
*** *** ***
Roast Pork Loin With Grapes
adapted from the New York Times
1 3 to 3-1/2 pound boneless center-cut pork loin
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme, plus 6 whole sprigs
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary, plus 3 whole sprigs
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped sage, plus 3 whole sprigs
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
6 shallots, peeled and halved through the root
1 pound red seedless grapes, snipped into 6 small bunches
1/2 cup port
1/2 cup chicken stock.
1. Tie the pork loin with kitchen twine at 1-inch intervals. In a shallow dish large enough to hold the pork, whisk together the chopped herbs, mustard, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, teaspoon salt and teaspoon pepper. Add the pork and coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
2. One hour before cooking, bring the pork to room temperature. Scrape off and reserve the marinade, then season the meat with salt and pepper.
3. Place a roasting pan in the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Place a large sauté pan over high heat. Add 2 more tablespoons of the oil and heat until smoking. Add the pork and sear about 4 minutes on each side, until well browned. Transfer fat side down to the roasting pan. Set the sauté pan aside. Rub the reserved marinade over the pork and top with half the butter and the herb sprigs. Place the pan in the oven and cook the meat for 75 minutes, or until the center reaches 125 degrees.
4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the potatoes, shallots and grapes with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. After the pork has cooked for 15 minutes, place the potatoes cut side down around the pork. Lay the grapes and shallots over the potatoes.
5. Drain the saute pan of fat and return to medium-high heat. When hot, add the port and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan. When nearly evaporated, add the chicken stock and return to a boil. Whisk in the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve set over a serving bowl. Cover and keep warm.
6. When the pork is done, transfer to a cutting board. Cover lightly with foil and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. Serve on a platter over the grapes, potatoes and shallots, accompanied by the sauce.
Cooks note: If potatoes aren't done when the roast registers 125*, pull the pork out and tent with foil, crank the heat up to 400*, and let everything roast for another 15 minutes. The potatoes should be done right when the roast is ready for carving.