Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Autumn Carvings: Juicy, Savory and Roasted

Spectacular autumn foliage, colorful mums, pumpkins and apples are all symbols of fall to which we look forward each year.  Also reminiscent of fall are the aromas of cinnamon, baking pies, simmering pots of chili and seasoned roasts, all beckoning us in from the dropping temperatures and the darkness that creeps in earlier with each passing day.  Pumpkins are not the only objects getting carved this season.  Hearty roasts are the staple of fall and winter’s dinners.

Herb Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
A large specimen of roasted goodness can star chicken, pork, beef, lamb, duck, turkey and other meat or fowl.  For a timesaving bonus, many roasts can be surrounded with vegetables and potatoes in the same pan, drinking in the tasty juices from the meat as they roast.  My herb roasted chicken roasts along with fennel bulbs, baby carrots, baby red potatoes and onions.  The interior of the chicken get seasoned with a full head of garlic cloves, which also roast, lemon wedges and sprigs of the earthy herb that says autumn every time, sage.  The exterior of the bird is seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper and minced rosemary, and the entire roasting pan’s contents get basted with white wine and chicken stock.  When it’s time to pop the roasting pan into the oven, it is heavy!  Packed with flavor, that roasting pan serves up almost the entire meal.  All one needs with that is a salad.

Herb and Orange Roasted Duck
Most people opt out of the roast turkey, knowing full well that it will be enjoyed later in the season on the Thanksgiving holiday and for several days that follow.  Chicken and duck are the preferred feathery victims destined for the oven.  Duck is often brushed with fruity glazes, such as orange or cherry.  The fatty drippings from the duck perform blissful magic when potatoes are roasted in the pan with the duck.  For those who need dinner on the table quicker, try opting for my roast duck breasts with fennel.  Seasoned with rosemary and served over mashed potatoes, this dish makes an elegant presentation when plated.  For the freshest duck and chicken, Long Islanders can find them at Miloski’s Poultry Farm in Calverton and at Iacono Farm on the south fork in East Hampton.

Pork Loin Stuffed with Fennel
Pork is perhaps the most popular choice of meats for roasting, followed by leg of lamb.  Two pork tenderloin recipes that I have previously posted include pork tenderloin with apples and fennel and pork tenderloin with ancho espresso rub and guacamole.  When visiting my parents, I was treated to a succulent, golden-brown roast pork loin that my mother stuffed with olives, parsley, garlic and anchovies.  The kitchen smelled wonderful.  The dish was so amazing that I simply had to have the recipe.  Luckily, Mom shares.  I proceeded to make the dish back at home in my kitchen.  The flavor wasn’t what I remembered, however.  It was too salty!  When my mother queried whether I had prepared the roast, I shamefully admitted that I had and that it was not as good as hers.  When I voiced my specific complaint, she shared with me the reason for the saltiness.  I would hedge my bets that my readers are by now issuing shouting admonishments at the screen that go something like, ‘It was the anchovies, you idiot!’ Wrong.  I had rinsed the anchovies, as her recipe directed.  What her recipe had not specified was the type of olive used.  I recalled the stuffing in her pork displaying a blackish-brown tint.  I deduced that they were probably kalamatas.   On that point, yes, I was wrong.

As it turns out, my mother had used canned black olives.  What?! I exclaimed, canned?  I buy canned beans, canned tomatoes, canned chipotle and green chilies, but never canned olives.  It made sense, however, that those water-packed canned olives which lack the saltiness that comes with that brining or curing that most olive bar examples display are not going to infuse that saltiness into the roast.

So, I cooked the roast once again, using the canned variation of olives this time.  It was a vast improvement.  This time, the roast tasted just like Mom’s.  What I also love about this roast is the fact that it retains its moisture.  The roast does not cook in a pan filled with potatoes or vegetables, but I put together a side dish in ten minutes that paired exceptionally well with the pork.  In addition, I prepared a typical fall salad of greens, apple, dried cranberries, walnuts and goat cheese, uncorked a pinot noir and dinner was sublime.

I will now share two recipes.  First up is the one for my mother’s roast pork, and then I have included the one for my side dish that I accompanied the roast with.

Roast Pork Stuffed with Olives
3-4 pound boned pork loin
1 cup fresh parsley
8 garlic cloves
1 15-ounce can black olives
8 anchovy filets, rinsed
½ cup (plus more) white wine
Sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 450-degrees.

Cover work surface with aluminum foil.  Place four 2-foot lengths of kitchen string horizontally on the foil, each string 1-2 inches apart.  Lay the pork loin down vertically on top of the strings.  Butterfly the loin by taking a sharp knife and cutting across from the right side of the loin to the left, one third of the way down.  Cut almost all the way across to the left, but do not cut all the way through.  Gently fold that cut piece over toward the left.  Next, halfway down from the remaining thickness, cut from left to right in the same manner and fold that section over toward the right.  When you have completed this process, the piece of meat should resemble an unfolded letter.  Sprinkle the entire surface of the loin with salt and pepper.

Process the parsley and garlic together in a food processor until it is chopped and combined.  Spread this mixture over the surface of the pork loin.  Process the olives in the processor until chopped, and then spread the chopped olives over the parsley mixture.  Lay the anchovy filets, evenly spaced over the olive mixture.  Roll the loin (like refolding the letter).  Grasp the first string from each side and firmly tie it around the loin to secure the roll.  Repeat with the remaining strings and then snip off the excess ends of the string.  Lightly sprinkle the roast with salt and transfer to a roasting pan.  At this point, the finished package should resemble the picture at the right.

Pour ½ cup wine over the roast and place the pan into the oven for ten minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 325-degrees and roast for another 60-75 minutes, basting frequently with the wine and drippings, adding more wine to the pan if necessary.

Transfer the roast to a carving board and allow the meat to rest for ten minutes.  Snip the string and slice the roast into 1/3-inch thick slices.  Drizzle the pan drippings over the slices and serve.

Cannellini Beans with Garlic, Sage and Grape Tomatoes
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 large cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage or 1 ½ tablespoons finely minced fresh sage
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and saut√© for two minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the salt and sage.  Add the beans and toss to the coat with the garlic mixture.  Stir in the tomatoes until incorporated with the beans.  Transfer to a serving dish.  Serves four.

This bean dish would also be ideal with a Provencal roasted leg of lamb.

Polenta would be another perfect alternative to serve with the pork roast.

Enjoy those cool weather roasts whose aromas spark appetites and let the oven warm up your kitchen.  If you happen to be a vegetarian, well, I’m sure you won’t have too much difficulty achieving the same heartwarming and mouthwatering affects from an autumn pie or crisp in the oven.

Thanksgiving is just weeks away, when we all look forward with anticipation to a Normal Rockwell-worthy presentation of the roasted turkey with all the trimmings.

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