Thursday, November 1, 2012

Roast Pork with Prune and Bacon Stuffing

I've been cooking/throwing food together at home a lot more recently which has been good for my budget, but seems out of the norm for a food blogger. My drafts folder is in dire need of some restaurant reviews as the only ones sitting there are overseas restaurants that I'll likely never see again.

Luckily, I headed out for lunch today to catch-up with a friend for some pretty delicious pizza (although I unfortunately lost one of my personal possessions on the way so it all evens out). Expect a more standard blog post to be up in the next week.

Going back to my recent cooking endeavours, the roast pork I made a few nights ago wasn't really suited to the summery Melbourne weather we've had over the last week (barring today which was just miserable), but it was juicy and satisfying. Eaten in smaller serves that I would have had in the middle of winter, there was enough left over for pork sandwiches the next day (complete with extra stuffing to add some flavour and texture). I loved the combination of sweet prunes and salty bacon in the stuffing, which was perhaps tastier than the roast pork. I do like my animal fats though (my body seems to thrive on moderate amounts) so there was no room for negotiating the substitution of pork with something that had more intrinsic flavour.

The delicious stuffing is comprised of a fairly long list of ingredients, or at least longer than most dinner recipes I work with. The effort required to collate and process all the ingredients makes for a very, very good stuffing though. An additional benefit? You're left with more that you can stuff into a leg of pork so eat it straight if you're so inclined (and you'll probably want to).

The first step is to soak the prunes in apple cider vinegar for 30 minutes; then strain and reserve the liquid cider. The original recipe called for apple cider, but I had the vinegar and not the alcohol in the pantry so I did a quick substitution. I generally like sourness in dishes so I didn't mind it at all.

While the prunes are soaking, bake bread in a 200°C oven on a baking sheet until golden (about 8 minutes). Dark rye bread gave the stuffing quite a heavy texture, but I don't see any reason why you couldn't substitute this for whatever you have on hand.

Dark Rye Bread
In a skillet, cook bacon over medium-low heat until fat is rendered (3 to 5 minutes). If you have a lot of fat in the pan, drain all but 2 tbsp fat from pan. I didn't have all that much so I didn't bother with this step.

Red Onions - Ready to be Peeled and Diced
Stir in onions, celery, salt and thyme and cook over medium heat until softened (8 to 10 minutes).
Bacon, Onions, Celery, Salt & Thyme
Stir in reserved cider, scraping up brown bits and cook until slightly thickened (5 to 8 minutes) then add to the bowl containing the bread along with the prunes and parsley.

Stuffing
With the stuffing ready, it's time to prepare the meat by cutting a large slit in the middle and a few extra slits to make room for the stuffing. Score a few more slits on the skin, then mix together oil, garlic, salt and pepper until it forms a paste then rub the paste all over the outside of the pork.

Spoon stuffing into the centre of the pork.

Pork with Stuffing
Now, I had too much stuffing to fit in the small pork leg, so I lined the bottom of the roasting pan (on top of foil) with the stuffing before placing the pork in the roasting pan - the stuffing adds flavour to the pork and the dripping pork fat enriches the stuffing. A win-win situation really.
Stuffed Pork Leg Ready for the Oven
Roast in a 220°C degree oven for 20-30 minutes, then turn down the heat to 180°C and roast for another 20 minutes (cooking time should be approximately 20 minutes for each 500g of meat).

Roasting in the Oven
Transfer to serving platter; tent with foil and let stand for 20 minutes before serving

The accompanying lettuce, walnut, cranberry and blue cheese salad was weather appropriate, but hardly needs a recipe of its own - it was honestly just add a simple vinegar/olive oil dressing to the lettuce and top with the remaining ingredients.  

Lettuce, Walnut, Cranberry and Blue Cheese Salad


Roast Pork with Prune and Bacon Stuffing

Ingredients:

For the stuffing:
  • 3/4 cup pitted prunes, halved
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (or apple cider if you have it)
  • 4 cups cubed day-old  bread
  • 3 slices middle bacon, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) strips
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
For the Roast Pork:
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
  • 1 kg pork leg 
Method:

Stuffing:
  1. Soak prunes in apple cider vinegar for 30 minutes; strain and reserve cider. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, on baking sheet, bake bread in a 200°C oven, stirring halfway through, until golden, about 8 minutes. Transfer to large bowl; set aside.
  3. In a skillet, cook bacon over medium-low heat until fat is rendered, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain all but 2 tbsp fat from pan (if required). Stir in onions, celery, salt and thyme; cook over medium heat until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in reserved cider, scraping up brown bits; cook until slightly thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add to bowl.
  4. Add prunes and parsley to bowl; set aside.
Roast Pork:
  1. Mix together oil, garlic, salt and pepper until paste.
  2. Make a large slit through the centre of the pork leg, a few slits to create some more room in the centre, then score a few more slits on the skin to allow flavour to seep through. Rub paste around the outside of the pork leg.  
  3. Spoon stuffing into centre of roast. Line bottom of the roasting pan with extra stuffing (on top of a sheet of foil), then place pork in roasting pan. 
  4. Roast in a 220°C degree oven for 20-30 minutes, then turn down the heat to 180°C and roast for another 20 minutes (cooking time should be approximately 20 minutes for each 500g of meat).
  5. Transfer to serving platter; tent with foil and let stand for 20 minutes before serving.
  6. Serve with a fresh salad!
Roast Pork with Prune and Bacon Stuffing