Pork Roast and Spices: Comfort Food to Welcome the Fall Season

Like all masterpieces this pork roast takes time; to marinade, patience to roast, preparation of brandied apples and the baking of Lyonnais styled potatoes.

Here’s a recipe that comes from an extended family member on the east coast. Gayle swears by this dish and guarantees your meal will be a sensation. It’s a feast to be enjoyed with friends and family and leaves just enough for leftovers to repeat the experience.

As the seasons change this dish has all of the flavors necessary to welcome in the Fall season, marking our transition from summer to winter. With Fall’s appearance we see the availability of the warmer spices like allspice, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

  • Allspice is combination of spices which is where its name comes from and the combination of its flavor come from junipers, cloves, cinnamon and pepper. This is a spice that is used in several recipes as an overall added flavor and should be a staple in your kitchen.
  • Cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree and its unique characteristics allow this flavor to enhance both sweet and add to savory flavors. We see recipes for pies and puddings but this spice will add a taste sensation to meat as well.
  • Cloves are known for their aromatic scents; because of their aromas they are used in commercial products as well as cooking. In cooking their tastes wavers from hot to pungent. I can remember covering an entire apple with cloves for the holidays; just for the smell of it!
  • Nutmeg is probably the most reclusive spice because it has a flavor that is hidden until it is heated. That’s when the sweetness of this grinded seed brings out a taste of its own, without over powering the other ingredients in the dish. You’ll see this spice used as an additional ingredient to creamed or cheese dishes.
  • Ginger is another flavor that we see in Fall recipes. It’s known for its medicinal qualities and like other spices it has a pungent or bitter taste alone. But it will pick up and enhance flavors as it is cooked with other ingredients.

For years we have paired the tastes of pork and apples; from pork chops to applesauce. It’s the sweetness of the apples that open the natural flavors of the pork. Gayle has used Applejack as a cost measure to more expensive brandies without giving up taste or flavor.

The potatoes are French inspired and like most recipes there are versions according to your own tastes buds. Gayle’s recipe is a version of scalloped and the Lyonnais potatoes. She microwaves this dish and then finishes it off in the oven for a toasty brown top.

It’s a simple combination of onions, potatoes, cream and cheese. How much better does it get? This native dish of Lyonnais potatoes comes from Lyon, France and is typically sliced potatoes sautéed in a pan with thinly sliced onions, butter and parsley.

Pork Roast and Spices

Ingredients:

  • Whole pork loin, usually 3-4 pounds
  • 1 ¼ cup of brown sugar – ½ cup dark brown sugar for marinade and ¾ for the apple garnish
  • 6 whole Allspice berries
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick (3″ size)
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 or 3 whole bay leaves
  • 10 whole black pepper corns
  • 1 ¼ cup of Applejack – ½ cup for the marinade and ¾ for apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of ½ of a lemon
  • 2 whole sweet white onions (Vidalia) sliced very thin 1 for the marinade and 1 for the potatoes
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 2 cups of cold water
  • 5-6 tart and firm apples – Granny Smith or McIntosh, into bite sized chunks.
  • 3 Tbs of butter
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • ½ tsp of ground cinnamon, dash of ground nutmeg and a dash of ground cloves
  • 6-10 potatoes Russet works, so do Golden Yukon
  • 4-5 oz Gruyere, Swiss or Colby – whatever you have in your kitchen
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups of half and half
  • Salt, Pepper and or paprika – to your tastes

Preparation:

Leave a layer of fat on the top of the pork roast and marinate it for three to four hours before cooking. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Step 1 The Marinade

Using a large plastic bag, put all of the dry ingredients into the bag, add the Applejack, olive oil and the cup of hot water. Shake and massage the ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. Put the bag in a large bowl, add the remaining two cups of water, add the pork roast, seal the bag, refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours to marinate.

Step 2 The Roasting

  • Remove the pork roast from the marinade and save the marinade until later. Dry the roast with paper towels. Use a stove top and oven safe pan, drizzle olive oil so the bottom of the pan is covered. Heat the pan on a medium high flame, add the pork roast and brown the roast on all sides.
  • Cover the pan and put it into the hot oven for twenty minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees for forty minutes. Next remove the cover and finish roasting uncovered, about twenty minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees.
  • Remove the pork roast from the oven and let it sit for ten minutes before carving. During the twenty minutes that the roast is in the oven you can start preparing the apples for the sauce, which is the next step.

Step 3 The Apple Sauce

  • Remove the onions from the marinade, discard the remaining marinade. Place the onions in a two quart saucepan with a tablespoon of butter, sauté onions on low heat without browning, until translucent.
  • While the onions are sautéing, peel, core and slice 5-6 tart and firm apples – Granny Smith, or firm McIntosh, into bite sized chunks. Add two tablespoons of butter to the onions and add apples to the pan. Add 3/4 cup of brown sugar and 3/4 cup of Applejack brandy, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon, dash of ground nutmeg and ground cloves.
  • Gently toss all ingredients so that the liquid and sugar blend together. Cover the onions and apples and cook on low heat, checking and stirring every ten minutes until liquid increases. As the apples cook the mixture will become more sauce like, if you have apples that are not high in moisture, add 1/2 to 1cup of water to mixture to increase the liquid. The sauce will form a chunky light caramel sauce.

Step 4 The Lyonnais styled potatoes

  • In a medium casserole, butter the bottom, add the sliced onion, covering bottom of casserole and layering with the separated onion rings and sliced potatoes. Salt and pepper each of the layers to your own tastes. Repeat with your final layer of potatoes until you are about an inch from the top of the casserole dish.
  • Top the final layer of potatoes with your choice of cheese; Gruyere, Swiss or Colby. Pour the half and half, evenly over the whole casserole. The liquid should be visible around the edges of the potatoes but not totally covering the top cheese layer.
  • Finish this dish with a sprinkle of pepper or paprika.
  • Cover the dish with a lid or plastic wrap and microwave for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, remove the dish from the microwave. Remove the plastic wrap or lid and place the dish into the oven at 325 for about 20 -30 minutes. Cooking time depends on your oven and microwave. Your potatoes should be tender when you pierce them, with a golden brown cheese crust.

Serve:

Gayle plates the pork loin sliced with the applesauce drizzled over the pork loin slices and the Lyonnais styled potatoes on the side. Include a crisp salad, crusty bread or rolls along with a clear California Chablis or Riesling wine and you have a wonderful meal.

Enjoy!

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