When I want to make a special dinner for Jim and myself, it usually is a toss up between his favourite chicken dish,
our ‘anniversary chicken’ Pepper Crusted Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Chevre and Herbs, or a good pork roast. Pork roasts are just so easy to prepare, with lots of bang for your buck. The ROI is through the roof. Now, I’m not referring to pork tenderloin. I actually don’t really like that cut of meat. Like plain deboned chicken breasts, the tenderloin has a tendency to dry out, and doesn’t really have a lot of flavour. That’s not to say that if you stuff it and coat it and do all sorts of fun things to it, that it won’t turn out magnificently, I just don’t usually want to do all that (except for that chicken recipe up there). Now, give me bone-in, skin on chicken thighs, or bone-in pork chops, and we can talk.
So when it comes to pork roasts, I always look for a bone-in cut. The pork loin with the bone attached is my favourite pork cut. It roasts amazingly, and can be elevated to company worthy status without a lot of sweat. And if you can’t find a bone-in roast, at least get a pork loin roast vs a tenderloin. It will take longer to cook up, but the flavour makes up for it. So much better than a tenderloin any day! Just check out my Roast Citrus, Fennel and Thyme Pork recipe. I often turn to this recipe for company. It is so easy, and the flavour is memorable! Now now now, I will concede that there a probably some epic tenderloin recipes. Just not a huge fan over here.
My other favourite pork roast is this one I’m sharing today. What makes it amazing is the sauce at the end. Not that the pork roast itself isn’t already fantastic. It is thickly coated in a medley of freshly chopped herbs, and after a good rest, it roasts for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, creating a yummy crust but juicy interior. While it is roasting away (and filling the kitchen with the best aroma) the sauce is getting started already. And what a sauce it is. It starts with dried Mission Figs. Yes, figs and pork go swimmingly together. They start off soaking in a bowl with warmed through sweet vermouth. You could also use sherry or marsala if you wanted. And if you wanted to go the non-alcoholic route, apple juice or grape juice would work great as well. But sweet vermouth is such a lovely addition to your liquor shelf, that I would wholeheartedly recommend picking up a bottle. Or surely you already have one, just for the Negronis and Manhattans you make on the weekends. A classic red Cinzano and soda with a lemon twist is one of my favourite summer drinks, which I got introduced to on my first visit to England back in the late 80’s. They call it a Cinzano and lemon (I guess like a Sprite or 7-UP to us here in North America) Anyway, I digress.
The dried figs are soaked for about an hour. You will save the liquid for the final sauce. Once the roast is out of the oven and is resting, you can start on the stove-top sauce. It will be a combination of the soaking liquid, some chicken stock, a little veal demi-glace, and balsamic vinegar. So here is where you can play a bit. You will only need about 1/2 cup of chicken stock, so why not pull out that trusty jar of Faux Chicken Bouillon Powder you have in the fridge. I told you this was going to come in handy pretty regularly! Don’t have a small container veal demi-glace sitting in the bottom shelf of your fridge (or in the freezer) Then try this instead: Use 1 tsp of ‘Better Than Bouillon’ Beef Concentrate (or other beef concentrate paste) mixed into 1 tbsp of red wine. It’s a pretty decent substitute for what you will need here, because the recipe only requires 1 tbsp of demi-glace. I wouldn’t suggest doing this for larger amounts as an acceptable substitute. At that point you would need to purchase the real thing from your grocer or butcher. all the sauce ingredients will simmer and then cooked on a higher temp to reduce and thicken the sauce to a velvety goodness. The dried figs are added and they also plump up with these flavours. This all becomes the crowning glory for the roast.
That’s it. Two main components. Roast and sauce. But they are both of the utmost flavours that they can be. This dish is amazing for date night. Therefore this dish is also completely smashing for a dinner party. Because there is so little hands-on time needed, you will have the luxury of giving attention to other areas to make the evening a success. You will totally impress your guests when you bring this platter to the table. Scatter fresh rosemary and thyme all over the sliced pork and sauce, and you will make them think you were slaving away all day. Speaking of company, I suggest purchasing a 4 rib pork roast for this recipe. However, this can be easily doubled. You can purchase a 6 rib, two 4 ribs etc. All you would need to do is double the fresh herbs and then the sauce recipe. One rib per person allows for a very generous cut. I purchase a 4 rib roast, so that we can have leftovers later in the week.
Because the roast is a pretty rich dish, I like to keep the sides pretty light. Naturally you could serve a mash of some sort: potato, cauliflower, turnip, parsnip etc, or combo of any of these. The mash makes another lovely bed for that unctuous sauce! For a green, why not sauté or roast up some broccoli or broccolini? A lovely braised celery or leek would be amazing. Lately I have been grilling frisée lettuce. Just halve a lettuce, keeping the root intact to hold the leaves together. Bring oil to medium high heat in a sauté pan and grill gently on all sides, till just beginning to char. Remove to a plate. Add two finely minced shallots to the oil and sauté till softened. Sprinkle these over the frisée. Drizzle olive oil, some sherry or champagne vinegar, salt and pepper and maybe some chilli flakes, and you have a lovely warm salad to serve alongside the pork. This is what I made for the meal that these photos were snapped of. On the side are roasted parsnip spears sprinkled with sumac. Just add a good Barolo, and you’re all set!
Make this dish now, while it is still roast season. This dish is amazing from September through till April. At that point you will probably be putting the roasts aside till the weather cools off. But what a lovely dish to be looking forward to come Autumn again!
Herb Crusted Pork Loin Roast with Fig Sauce
A simple roast to prepare, but it is high on impact. The roast is fragrant with a fantastic crust. The sauce is dried figs, sweet vermouth, stock, demi-glace and balsamic vinegar. They come together to create a rich and impressive dish. Perfect for date night or your fanciest dinner parties.
- 1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
- 1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
- 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
- 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 4- rib bone-in pork loin roast tied off between every rib
- 8 dried mission figs halved
- 1/2 cup sweet vermouth or marsala, apple or grape juice
- 1/2 cup chicken stock or 'stock' using my faux chicken bouillon powder
- 1 tbsp veal demi-glace heaping tbsp
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp butter at room temperature
- chopped rosemary and thyme , for garnish
Mix the rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil together in a small bowl.
Place the pork roast into a baking dish that will hold it snuggly.
Coat it evenly with the herb mixture, on all sides.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate all day, or up to overnight. I have done this with only a few hours of resting, and it still worked wonderfully.
Preheat the oven to 475F (245C)
Place the roast onto a baking dish that doesn't have too high of sides. You want to contain the juices, but you also want the outside crust to feel the full heat of the oven. Roast for 20 minutes.
As soon as the roast goes into the oven, you can start on the sauce.
After the first 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 400F (200C) and continue roasting until a thermometer inserted into the centre of the meat reads 140F (60C) This should take about another 45-50 minutes.
Transfer the pork to a cutting board and cover lightly with foil to rest for 15 or so minutes.
Place the figs into a small bowl.
Place the vermouth in a small pot, and warm over medium heat till just warmed through.
Pour the vermouth over the figs, and cover. The bowl should be small enough that the figs are completely covered by the liquids. Let rest for one hour.
Then strain, reserving the liquid and figs separately.
Strain the roasting juices from the roasting pan into a small pot.
Set the pot onto medium-high heat. Add the reserved soaking vermouth liquid and bring it to a boil.
Add the stock, the demi-glace and the balsamic vinegar. Cook till reduced slightly, about 8-10 minutes. You can cook it longer, to create a thicker sauce, if you would like. This is totally up to you.
Add the figs and cook another 3 minutes. Then add the butter, one tbsp at a time, stirring to completely dissolve the butter into the sauce. Season well with salt and pepper, starting with 1/2 tsp of each.
Remove the cooking strings from the roast and carve the pork roast between the bones, and arrange on a platter. Spoon the sauce around or over the meat.
Scatter the fresh herbs over the roast and sauce
Faux Chicken Bouillon Powder recipe here.
Pork recipe inspired by an old Williams Sonoma recipe card