Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In the Bag: Pecan Crusted Roast Pork Loin with Qunice Glazed Pears

I’m not really a competitive person. I didn’t play team sports as a child, and I generally don’t get involved in competitive situations as an adult. But I’m willing to make an exception for certain “food challenges.” These aren’t so much about competition as they are about seeing who comes up with what interesting ideas. No one “wins” and yet everyone wins, because ideas are proliferated, and we all benefit from the creativity of others.

In this case, the challenge (a link to Julia’s homepage is here if you want to look around further) is to take three seasonal ingredients and create a dish using them. The ingredients for January are pears, nuts, and lemon. I considered the combinations that immediately occurred to me—a pear crumble or crisp with chopped nuts in the topping, or a salad with candied nuts and pears. But I kept thinking, wanting to create something a little more unexpected.

I worked around the idea of coming up with a savory dish, something for a nice weekend dinner. That’s mostly when I have the opportunity to cook these days. We’ve been eating a lot of steak lately, so I was hoping to find something that we could have instead. Since I love pork loin, and pork and pears go nicely together, that was the direction in which I moved. I’m not usually much of one for chutney or fruit relish with meat, so I made the pears more of a side dish, cutting them into slices instead of cubes.

The first time I made this, I used Bocs pears. The second time I used Asian. My husband said he preferred the Bosc, but I felt the Asian added a wonderful undertone of honey to the whole dish that was a sparkling surprise dimension. Either type of pear would be fine, but I highly recommend the Asian if you’re feeling adventurous. I had never had an Asian pear at all before this, but now I’m on my way to the grocery store to buy some more to eat out of hand. And I love the idea of using quince paste. It’s seasonal and quite underappreciated in this country. Generally you see it recommended as an accompaniment for cheese, and that’s about it. It has so many potential uses in a more starring role; it’s a shame to relegate it to a supporting player in every instance.

I mixed my own honey mustard, but prepared honey mustard could be used for those in a hurry. I also used bread crumbs that I made from old bread and stored in the freezer. I wouldn’t recommend the finely powdered store bought variety. They really do need to have some heft to them. I specified either all stock or a wine and stock combination in the pears. It’s really a matter of preference.

Pecan Crusted Roast Pork Loin with Quince Glazed Pears

1 pork loin roast, approx 2 lbs
¾ c pecans
2 c fresh bread crumbs
3 T Dijon mustard
1 T honey

1 T butter
4 Bosc or Asian pears
1 T quince paste
¼ c white wine
½ c chicken stock
(or ¾ c chicken stock)
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

Toast pecans in a skillet over medium heat until just starting to brown. Allow to cool slightly, then combine with bread crumbs in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 10-12 times until pecans are in fairly small pieces and well incorporated into bread crumbs. Turn crumbs out onto parchment on the countertop, or into a large rimmed baking sheet.

Combine mustard and honey in a bowl (commercial honey mustard could also be used). Brush top and sides of the roast with honey mustard and roll in crumb mixture until well coated. Press extra crumbs to the surface of the roast to ensure it’s coated all over.

Place roast on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast at 475 for 20 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 400 and continue cooking for another 40 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Remove roast from oven and allow to rest 10 minutes. Carve into slices and serve with pears.

For pears, peel, core and slice pears into wedges. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sautee pears in butter for 8 to 10 minutes, until just turning golden brown. Add the quince paste and stir to let it coat the pears as it melts. Add wine (if using) and stock, and reduce heat to medium. Continue cooking over medium heat until pears are soft, but not disintegrating, and quince paste is completely melted. Add the juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pork.

I served this first with oven roasted potatoes and sautéed Brussels sprouts, and the second time with mashed potatoes and a very disappointing sauté of spring onions. Next time I’ll have to consult the Fine Cooking in which I originally saw the article on using scallions as more than just an oniony garnish, and find an actual recipe, of which there were several, if I recall correctly. The end result of my efforts in this case was limp and bitter, so I need to see what I may have done wrong.

In both cases, however, the pork and pears went beautifully together and made for a very pleasant Saturday night dinner.


mimi said...

Any suggestions on making brussel sprouts? I want to start experimenting.

TD said...

Hi Mimi--

Absolutely--these http://themodernapron.blogspot.com/2007/12/roasted-brussels-sprouts-with-dijon.html
are great. If you want to use the most basic (and surefire) method, steam whole trimmed sprouts for about 5 minutes, then quarter and saute in a tablespoon of rendered bacon fat (what's not better with bacon? lemon pie, maybe...) then season with a little pepper, deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine vinegar, and serve the sprouts with the crumbled bacon over them. Bacon and sprouts is the classic combination, or you could use pancetta.

I've also had good luck separating them out into individual leaves and giving them a quick saute in butter. This method is excellent with duck breast! :)

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I never would have thought of this combination (pork isn't popular in my house, so it is rare treat I'm not so adept with), but it looks really tasty! Nice work!

TD said...

Mike--Thanks! As long as you don't overcook this, it's sure to be tasty. The boneless roast is an easy cut to work with, and an instant read thermometer will guarantee it's perfectly done. Enjoy!