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Christmas Day Roast Pork Loin with Apples/Shallots

For years, we've enjoyed a roast pork loin recipe titled "Roast pork loin with roasted apple compote" that was originally published in Barbara Kafka's cookbook "Roasting-A Simple Art".

Much of Kafka's book involves roasting at high heat - typically 500 degrees - and her recipe of coating the pork loin in mustard, salt and pepper at the start and then roasting with apples at that high temperature has always worked out well for us. Sometimes (depending upon how clean your oven is), roasting at that high a temperature can result in some smoking - so it takes some care.

On this Christmas Day, though, we're trying some variations - something a bit different.

Ingredients

Brine: 2/3 cup kosher salt, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp pepper

2-1/2 to 3 lb pork loin roast - tied with string

2 Tbsp olive oil

3 tart apples (Granny Smith, etc.), halved

4 shallots, peeled

1-2 sprigs rosemary

1 bay leaf

1/3 cup cream

1-1/2 Tbsp mustard

First, I decided to try brining the pork loin. Not a full 24-hours worth - because, in this case, I decided to brine it at about noon today - so it'll only have about 5 hours of brining.

Brining is easy - start with a mixture of something like 2/3 cup of salt combined with 2/3 cup of sugar in steaming hot water (we have one of those faucet water heaters - so that's easy!) along with some pepper. Cool it down (adding ice and some cold water seems to do that nicely) before putting the brine and the pork loin into the plastic freezer bag and putting everything into the refrigerator for a few hours.

Next, I decided to brown the pork loin roast before putting it into the oven. I like the bits of extra flavor that browning meat seems to generate. By browning the roast in our Le Creuset 6-3/4 Quart French Oven , we can brown the meat and roast it in the same pot, minimizing cleanup. After browning and removing the roast, the apples, and shallots are placed into the pot with the roast then placed on top. Cover and into the oven it goes.

Directions

  1. Prepare the brine by mixing sugar and salt with 1 cup of piping hot water. Add pepper. Add ice cubes and 2-3 cups additional water to cool down brine. Place pork loin roast in 1 gallon freezer bag, fill with brine mixture, and seal bag. Place bag in bowl and place into refrigerator until time to cook (no more than 24 hours).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove roast from brine and pat dry all around. Season with salt and pepper (or your favorite rub).
  3. Place French Oven on high heat. Add olive oil, heat until shimmering. Sear the pork loin on all sides. Remove from heat and remove roast to plate.
  4. Place the three halved apples cut side down into French Oven along with the shallots, rosemary and bay leaf. Place the roast on top of the apple mixture, cover the pot and place into the pre-heated oven.
  5. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the lid and continue roasting until the roast's internal temperature reaches 140 degrees - perhaps 10-15 minutes more.
  6. Remove French Oven from oven, remove roast to cutting board, cover roast with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes.
  7. Scoop out the apples and shallots into serving bowl. Deglaze the French Oven with a bit of white wine or brandy and add the apples back into the pot. Mix in the cream and the mustard and season to taste.
  8. Carve the pork loin roast and serve with the apples/shallots compote.

We just finished our Christmas dinner - and this dish was a hit! The pork, even with just a few hours of brining, was moist and not dry. The pork was ready earlier - only needing an additional 5 minutes after removing the top from the pot. We let it rest the full 15 minutes before carving - and it was just great. The apple/shallots/mustard/cream compote is the perfect semi-sweet complement to the pork!

Originally posted December 25, 2008.

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