Monday, December 4, 2006

"Everyday Italian" by Giada De Laurentiis - Roasted Pork Loin with Fig Sauce

Date I made this recipe: September 2, 2006

Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis
Published by Clarkson Potter Publishers
ISBN: 1-4000-5258-0
© 2005

Recipe: Roasted Pork Loin with Fig Sauce – p. 167

I was out of town last weekend so no cooking for me but I got back in the saddle this past weekend.

The recipe, as you will see below, takes no time at all to prepare and cook but I’m afraid the story of how I came to make the recipe and meet the author is long. Hang in there.

I actually met Giada at a Barnes and Noble book signing at the Mall of America (which we local refer to as the Mega Mall) in Bloomington, MN. My wait in line for her topped Emeril’s (Lagasse) at just over 3 hours. I considered bailing only because my feet hurt, not because I didn’t want to meet her. (But seriously, there are things like CHAIRS Barnes and Noble! – Hint. Hint.)

Giada was just wonderful to listen to as she told stories of her family and then her husband, Todd. My curiosity was piqued however, when she said that Todd was from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Well, given that I am a native of the Upper Peninsula (or U.P.), my interest was piqued. I might actually have a homey on my hands. Was he from Marquette? Ishpeming? Negaunee? Iron Mountain? (All towns located there).

People, it turns out that he is from Traverse City. And while Traverse City is a lovely area, it is by no means in the U.P. I may be terrible at geography, but this I know for sure. Traverse City is in the area people from Detroit call “Northern Michigan” but which we “Uppers” (pronounced “Yoo-per”) refer to as “downstate.” (FYI – To a “Upper,” everything south of the Mackinaw Bridge is “downstate” but to people from Detroit, everything north of Detroit is “northern Michigan” even though “northern Michigan” is really the UP—make sense?) (By the way, if you were born south of the bridge then you’re known to other Michiganders as “trolls.” Trolls live under a bridge, get it?! Well, we could go on and on about local nicknames but we won’t since it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the story).

Any who, when the time came to talk to Giada, I couldn’t help myself and brought all this to her attention (well, not the troll part): “Todd,” I sniffed, “is not from the U.P.” To paraphrase vice presidential candidate Lloyd Benson who one-upped Dan Quayle in a debate: “Listen Missy, I don’t know much in this life, but I know the U.P. and he is most definitely not from the U.P.”

Or words to that effect.

Well, folks, this was news to her. I also sensed that this was going to be news to Todd. But, hey, I wasn’t there to referee that discussion (“Todd, what else have you lied to me about? Can I even trust you???”), I was there for the food. And well sure, to meet her and get my book signed and all but mostly for the food demonstration she did before her signing.

So speaking of which, let’s talk about the reason I selected Giada’s recipe in the first place, shall we?

A few months ago, my husband came back from the grocery store with two pork loins that he said were “on sale.” He being the guy he is threw them, packaging and all, into the freezer and forgot all about them. (Note to my mother: Despite my efforts mom, and previous lectures on the importance of proper freezer wrap, our meat goes into the freezer “as is.” I know, I know, I’ve tried.).

When I bothered to look at them several weeks later, I noticed the biggest problem that I believe adversely affected the recipe: they were “processed” pork loins, i.e. they were hermetically enshrined in plastic wrap with preservatives which basically meant salt. Ew. Lots and lots of salt. I shuddered and slammed the door.

So there I was, minding my own business one day when he announced it was time for pork loin. This meant I needed a recipe and don’t ask me why, but of all the 800 and some cookbooks on my shelf, I reached for Giada’s. And right there on page 167 was a recipe for Pork and Fig sauce. It’s like she knew I was going to make pork.

But the next issue was desalinizing the pork. Sure, other chefs will tout the importance of brine, but in this case, I wanted that salt out of there. I soaked it three times in water hoping that the salt would leach out of the tenderloin but alas, dear reader, ‘twas not the case. I do believe, however, that the water bath made for very tender tenderloin – like butter).

The recipe calls for a scant amount of salt to be used in a rub, along with some reduced-sodium chicken broth in the fig sauce and “gravy” but still neither of those ingredients combined should have culminated in the salt lick that was our pork. I was so disappointed. On the other hand, the fig sauce rocked my world.

So to review: after one geography lesson with Giada, one unfortunate freezer incident with my husband, and one ridiculously salty pre-packed pork tenderloin later (you can bet the hog farm we won’t be having that in our freezer anymore) we achieved a simple, easy-to-prepare and (had it not been for the salt overdose) tasty meal for two.

Roasted Pork Loin with Fig Sauce
For the sauce
2 ½ c. port* (Giada didn’t say which kind of port to use so we used Ruby Red port which my husband pretty much has on hand at all times.)
1 ¼ c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
8 dried black Mission figs, coarsely chopped (Sure, you can buy only 8 figs unless you like figs like I do, in which case, buy a whole package of figs, eat half and use the rest for the sauce)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cinnamon sticks
1 T honey
2 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the pork
2 T olive oil
2 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 T salt, plus more to taste (see above – “Danger, Will Robinson”)
1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 4- to 4 1/2- pound boneless pork loin
1 c. low-sodium chicken broth

To make the fig sauce: In a medium-size, heavy saucepan, combine the port, chicken broth, figs, rosemary, cinnamon and honey. Boil over medium-high heat until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprigs and cinnamon sticks. Transfer the port mixture to a blender (or Cuisinart) and puree until smooth. Blend in the butter, salt, and pepper.

According to Giada, this sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate and then reheat over medium heat before using. I used it the day I made it but then refrigerated it and used it with the leftovers.

To make the pork: Preheat the oven to 425. Make a paste of the olive oil, rosemary, 1 T of salt and 1 ½ teaspoons of pepper. Mix well. Place the loin in a heavy, flame-proof roasting pan. (And just for the record, what constitutes a non-flame-proof roasting pan, hmm? I just want to know these things). Spread the oil mixture over the pork to coat completely. Roast, turning the pork every 15 minutes to ensure even browning, until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 145 degrees F, about 45 minutes total.

Let me just take a moment to say that when cooking any meat, especially pork, instant-read thermometers are a godsend. If you don’t have one, buy one. Right now. I mean it.

When the pork reaches 145 degrees or 45 minutes, whichever comes first, transfer it to a cutting board and tent with foil to keep warm. Let the pork rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, place the roasting pan over medium heat and stir in the chicken broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits. Bring the pan juices to a simmer. Season with more salt (I beg of you, don’t!) and pepper to taste.

Now, I understand that really good cooks and chef (since Giada is a chef) can achieve gravy by putting the roasting pan over medium heat. I am not a chef and am barely a cook and so let me just say that I found the pan over heat business to be cumbersome and recommend putting everything into a smaller saucepan that will actually fit on a stove top as opposed to a roasting pan that doesn’t.

When you’re ready to roll with this dish, cut the pork crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange pork slices on plates, spoon the jus over them, drizzle the warm fig sauce around and serve immediately.

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