Lemon-Thyme Pork Roast with Rainbow Chard and Balsamic Glaze

Lemon-Thyme Pork Roast with Rainbow Chard and Balsamic Glaze

This is what happens when a colorful bunch of rainbow chard catches my eye at the grocery store!  It ends up in the cart, then I start to do mental gymnastics in effort to come up with an idea for how to cook it.  I’m sure it looks bizarre to the other shoppers, me standing there, scratching my head, eyes rolled upward while I go over the possibilities.  Don’t most people already have an idea of what they want to cook for dinner?  Whatever I had in mind for dinner that night went out the door because of that beautiful bunch of chard.

I already knew that raisins were good friends with chard, and that pork likes to party with both of them.  Rather than cook the greens as a side dish, I thought I would satisfy my weird obsession for using big knives by opening up a pork loin roast and stuffing it with chard, raisins, wild rice, and pine nuts.   For additional depth of flavor, a tangy lemon-thyme marinade and slightly sweet balsamic glaze would round the whole thing out.

This dish is labor intensive and can be tricky if you aren’t familiar with cutting a pork roast into a flat piece.  To make it easier, a butcher can do that part for you. Good quality wine can be found in small Tetra packs which is ideal for cooking.  They can be sealed off and saved for another recipe.  Keep the big bottles of the really good stuff for drinking!

Marinade

4 to 5 pounds pork loin roast

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 TBSP Dijon mustard

1 TBSP garlic

small bunch fresh thyme

Cut the pork loin roast so that it lays flat.  Pound it between sheets of plastic wrap with a meat mallet to help flatten it, if needed.  Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, wine, Dijon, garlic, and thyme in a shallow, flat container.   Marinade the pork, covered and refrigerated, for up to 8 hours, turning the meat often to coat.

Stuffing

2 ounces wild rice

1  1/2  cup chicken stock, divided

1 ounce pine nuts

1/2 cup jumbo raisins

1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

1/2 onion, diced small

8 cups (2 bunches) rainbow or Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped

1 large egg, beaten

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

Bring  1 1/4 cups chicken stock to a boil, add the wild rice, reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid.  Cook until the rice is just tender, 40 to 45 minutes.  It should still have a slight bite to it, not mushy.  Drain excess stock and set rice aside in a mixing bowl to cool.

Soak raisins in hot water until they begin to plump, about 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside with the rice.

Toast the pine nuts in a small dry pan on the stove top over medium low heat until they turn slightly golden.  Remove from heat as soon as they are toasted and set aside with the rice.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and cook the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the chard and 1/4 cup of chicken stock.  Cover the pan with a lid and cook until the chard becomes tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain the chard of any excess liquid.

Combine the cooled chard, rice, pine nuts, and raisins with the egg and balsamic vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pat the pork roast dry and lay flat on a cutting board.  Season both sides with salt and pepper.  Cover the pork with the stuffing mixture.  Roll up like a jelly roll and tie with butcher’s twine to secure.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sear the rolled roast on all sides in a large saute pan over medium-high heat with some olive oil.  Place the roast on a broiler pan and roast in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the roast reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees.  Cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Balsamic Glaze

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 TBSP honey

2 TBSP unsalted butter

While the roast is in the oven, deglaze the saute pan used to brown the roast over high heat with chicken stock.  Add the white wine, balsamic vinegar, and honey.  Reduce the sauce over high heat until thick.  Remove from the heat and swirl in the butter.  For additional flavor, add the pan drippings from the roast when it comes out of the oven.

Serve the sliced pork with a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

Stranded But Not Starving

One of my favorite books on food is Culinary Artistry written by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page.  This book breaks down what goes in to making a chef, a culinary artist.  Recipes and restaurant menus from masters such as Daniel Boulud, Jimmy Schmidt, Alice Waters, and Charlie Palmer give the reader insight into their personal cooking style.  What I particularly love about this book is the “Composing a Dish” section which contains comprehensive lists of ingredients and their best flavor matches.  Often, when I want to make something new, I refer to this book to get inspiration.  The binding is cracked and many pages are soiled or stuck together with sauce from using it so frequently!

Another interesting section is the “Desert Island Lists”.  The authors posed this scenario to chefs:

“If they were asked to choose only ten ingredients to take with them to a proverbial desert island to cook with for the rest of their lives, which of their favorites would they choose?  Which ingredients and flavors do they feel they couldn’t live without?” [1]

I have pondered my own answer many times over, and here is my personal list:

  1. Tomatoes – without a doubt my most favorite food; fresh, juicy and acidic preferably
  2. Olive oil – because tomatoes are so much better with olive oil, plus it’s good for the skin
  3. Lemons – I adore lemon juice on just about everything
  4. Potatoes – some sort of latent Irish need, I suppose
  5. Chicken – versatile because you get light and dark meat and it can be cooked a variety of ways (live chickens would be great because then I could have eggs, too!)
  6. Prosciutto – this would be the thing I would fantasize about if I didn’t have it; authentic from Parma only, please!
  7. Herbs – thyme, basil, and chives
  8. Cheese – any sort of goat milk cheese because I love the distinctive “barnyard” tang
  9. Dried Michigan cherries – one of the best things about Michigan is the Cherry Festival in Traverse City
  10. Red wine – just trying to keep it as enjoyable as possible!

There you have it.  If anyone wants to send me to that island, I guess I wouldn’t mind!  Just let me get my supplies first.

What would YOU take along to your island?

 

[1] Dornenburg, A. and Page, K.; Culinary Artistry. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996

Cork Wine Pub

Cork Wine Pub – Pleasant Ridge, Michigan

April 2011

Two leisurely hours, five inspired courses, and a couple glasses of unique wines were enough to convince my friend Julie and me that we found something quite special. The staff was warm and knowledgeable, patient in spite of being peppered by questions about the menu or requests for suggestions. The atmosphere was hip and bustling, even for a Tuesday night. Make reservations if you go!

The menu is broken down into five categories…literally “first, second, third, fourth, fifth.”

The first section is “snacks.” Of course, it’s a pub! And yes, the cocktail menu is ridiculous. But, we stuck to wines. We’ll do cocktails another time.

After hemming and hawing over what we wanted to start with, our server suggested the Sylvan Ave Spreads, which was her personal daily choice for dinner. House-made breads and crackers were divine with the herbed goat cheese, white bean spread, and eggplant pate. I’m not normally a fan of eggplant, I’ve tried it many times prepared in a variety of ways, but never could develop an appreciation for it. I’m glad I am the kind of gal to never give up on a food. This stuff was delicious! Tangy and sweet, it was fantastic smeared onto the bread with the goat cheese.

Jules and I shared a Brick Roll for the second course. I wish she would have gotten her own because this was the best thing we ordered all night. Finely chopped wild mushrooms mixed with goat cheese (for the record, I believe goat cheese can save the world) and sweet caramelized onions are wrapped in a crispy shell and served with a mustard sauce. This dish will single-handedly bring me back to Cork.

As for the wines we had with the first courses, Jules had the Delille “Doyenne” rousanne which neither of us had ever tried and was absolutely mouthwatering. With a bit of trepidation I ordered the Stuhlmuller chardonnay from California because our server highly recommended it. I’m not fond the overly oaky aroma and taste of some California chardonnays, but this one was perfectly balanced for me. It was wonderful, especially with the Brick Roll.

Next came the salad course, and since we couldn’t make a choice, we got two to share. Our goal was to venture outside the norm, so we decided to forgo the traditional “green” salads and go with funkier options. I ordered the roasted beets and she the smoked fish.

The beet salad was served with blue cheese crumbles, garlic, and browned butter vinaigrette. The proportion of heavy salad over a token amount of spinach underneath was way off. The salad would have been better if there was more of the green and less of the beets and blue cheese. The vinaigrette was too heavy on fat; it needed a little more acidity. I love the earthy…okay, dirt…and sweet taste of beets, and pungent blue cheese, but this dish was too much of a good thing.

The smoked fish salad, topped with pickled fennel and served with super thin sesame crackers was the better salad. Pickled fennel was lovely and unexpected. We assumed it was the chef’s twist on the staple pickled ginger with sushi garnish. The arugula added a nice freshness necessary against the smoky flavor of the fish.

You would think after three courses, we would be ready to call for the bill. Not us! We soldiered on; confident we could take on the fourth, main, course and have plenty of room for dessert.

Here is where we really parted ways, as diners that is. I knew from the time I got the menu in my hands I was going to get the duck. Jules was torn between two loves…pork and salmon. In the end she went with the pork. She is a phenomenal cook, salmon being one of her specialties, so she would save that for dinner at home.

Duck Devonshire, crispy-skinned and perfectly pink inside, was served with roasted carrots and parsnips over quinoa and date chutney. The vegetables were perfectly tender but still had a fresh bite to them and were nicely glazed. Quinoa is one of my favorite side dishes. But, on its own it is bland. It needs something to jazz it up. The quinoa under my duck was unadorned, unseasoned, and resting on top of the chutney creating a barrier between the meat and the sauce. The taste was fine eaten all together, but it was unappealing to look at. I enjoyed the Chateau d’Angudet margaux from France with the duck.

Across the table, Jules was having what she affectionately referred to as a “pork experience.” Her pork tenderloin was sensational! Nicely pink inside and served with beautiful braised red cabbage and tiny, crispy spatzel on a mustard sauce. Wonderful! Jules went with the Domaine Daulny sancerre and was quite happy with the combination.

Dessert. We had come too far to skip it now.

I read somewhere that said their butterscotch pudding was a signature dish; they actually put Scotch in the recipe, so I definitely had to have that. It was served in a coffee mug with a bitter toffee sauce on top and a small gingerbread cake on the side. Looks simple on the plate, but the flavor is complex and grown-up. I had the café gourmande, organic Sumatra dark roast coffee and was sufficiently awake by the bottom of the cup!

Jules, because she said she was feeling “nutty,” went with the maple cashew tart. The curry anglaise was an interesting addition to the tender little pastry as was the smooth honey-cinnamon ganache. An eclectic mix of flavors that worked remarkably well together.

I look forward to bringing more of my food-crazed friends with me to Cork so they can experience the innovative food, the extensive wine list, and the warm atmosphere of this new little neighborhood gem. And I will start all over, ordering five dishes from the menu I haven’t tried yet.
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