Pork loin stuffed with prunes, lemon, and honey. The pork is intensely flavored with succulent stuffing that is the perfect complement to a garlicky thyme rub and a bed of tender potatoes. Homemade pan gravy keeps the meat even moister and adds another layer of flavor. This holiday season, gather friends and family for an epic Mediterranean Christmas dinner. The star of the menu is this amazingly rich and fruity pork recipe which pairs amazingly well with the Cabbage Pear Salad I was talking about in my previous post. Before that this Onion Soup is the guaranteed highlight appetizer.
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF A FOODIE MIND
In our home, pork loin is associated with the Christmas festive dinner. You may call it a tradition, I guess. We don’t usually eat pork. We prefer lamb and goat instead. But Christmas is special, so we make a special, eye-catching meal. This year, I wanted my pork stuffed. Period. In addition, I wanted my stuffing to be fruity, sweet and sour at the same time. That is how some of my recipes are developed. I crave a dish or a specific ingredient or a flavor and that though is stuck in my head until I find the right combo. More or less, when I am in mind-wandering mode, it goes like this: [Stuffed pork loin. The perfect basic ingredient. Right. Prunes for the fruity flavor, honey for sweetness and lemon for balance. “I really like it but I am afraid it is going to be too sweet”. “What if I rub it with a garlic and thyme paste?”. That’s it! Excellent!” ]. Eternal sunshine of a foodie mind!
THE PERFECT CUT
When it comes to stuffed meat, there is nothing better than pork loin: fairly lean, mildly flavored meat with a thick cap of fat on top, it is the best pork cut for roasting because of its tenderness. If you know 2-3 tricks, this meat will melt in your mouth, for sure. Pork loin is a large piece of meat that’s why it is easy to stuff it and roll it even if you are a novice meat cooker. For a dinner of 8-10, you are going to need 4 pounds (2 kg) of pork. Go to your butcher shop and order it soon enough just to be sure it will be available on time. Explain that you want to make stuffed pork loin and get it cut to order. At home, you have nothing else to do than to stuff it and roast it.
I already hear you mumbling “Stuffed pork loin. Oh, no. Too hard for me”. Not at all. Follow all the steps and I assure you this dish is going to be an effortless huge hit.
PREPARE THE MEAT
Either you like fat or not, I recommend leaving a ¼-inch layer on top. Using a sharp knife to remove any excess fat but you should keep some. It keeps the joint moist while cooking and the risk of dried-out pork is significantly reduced. Who likes dry meat? Right! After stuffing the meat (look below), we are going to spread a garlic-thyme paste all over it and keep it in the refrigerator overnight. Prunes-honey-lemon inside, garlic-thyme outside. These flavors together are dynamite!
TIME FOR STUFFING
First, two days in advance, we are going to soak dried prunes in honey and lemon and make them juicier and softer. Super! Then the night before dinner, prepare the meat (like above).
Open up the pork loin and flatten in on the work surface, fat-side down. Season with salt and pepper and place prunes in double-layer down the center of the pork. Easy, right? The prunes are soft enough for rolling. Spread on the remaining honey, lemon mix (if any) with a pastry brush. Roll the loin up (nice and easy) and secure both ends lightly with skewers. Don’t worry if you fail the first time. Take a deep breath and treat these amazing ingredients with love. Tie off every couple of inches with butcher’s string (cooking twine) and remove the skewers. That’s it! You made it! Way to go!
THE NO-MISTAKE ROASTING
Oven-roasted in parchment paper. That’s it. All you need is a baking tray, parchment paper, and aluminum foil to wrap the meat. Put it in the oven and forget it for 2 hours. Then, unwrap and roast for one more hour. At this stage, you may add potatoes or veggies along with the meat. There is no way to fail. This is a traditional Greek baking technique from a well-known recipe called “exohiko”. I find it so convenient that I use it very often. I’ve never been disappointed!
READY! NOW, WHAT?
As soon as the roast is done, we remove it to a cutting board to rest. For seriously juicy pork, allow the meat to stand for at least 10 minutes before slicing. While the roast is resting, we place all of the drippings it contains in a saucepan and we start making the gravy.
To serve, cut away the strings from the pork loin. Arrange the pork on a warmed serving dish with or without the potatoes. You may find the photos with my serving propositions.
The gravy from this stuffed pork loin is luscious and lip-smacking. It will take this dish to the next level. I didn’t add salt but it is up to you to decide if you need more. However, keep in mind that the saltiness and flavors will concentrate some when it reduces down. The flavor is so balanced that all you may need is only freshly ground pepper.
So, that’s it, guys. Come on! It is not that hard to make! I am waiting for your opinion and reviews.
Enjoy your Christmas dinner with your amazing stuffed pork loin!
Pork loin stuffed with prunes lemon and honey
- 4½ pounds (2kg) pork loin
- 10 dried prunes, pitted
- 2 lemons, the juice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 cups (750ml) hot water
- Cooking twine
- Parchment paper & aluminum foil
THE GARLIC-THYME PASTE
- 1 small head of garlic
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme (or 1 tablespoon dried)
- ⅛ cup (30ml) dry white wine
- 6 tablespoons spiced mustard
- 1 teaspoon flour
- ⅛ cup (30ml) water
SERVING PROPOSAL (optional)
- Vegetables (carrots, peppers, Brussel sprouts etc )
- Two days in advance, place prunes in a bowl. Add honey, lemon, and hot water. Cover and refrigerate.
MEAT PREPARATION & STUFFING
- One day in advance, remove any excess fat from the loin with a sharp knife, leaving a 1/4-inch layer of fat on top.
- Open it up and flatten it on the work surface, fat-side down. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drain prunes well and place them in double layer down the center of the pork. Use a pastry brush to spread the remaining honey-lemon mix.
- Roll the loin up and secure both ends lightly with skewers. Tie off every couple of inches with cooking twine and remove the skewers.
- Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Spread it on stuffed pork loin.
- Wrap the pork loin in parchment paper, tucking ends under to seal completely. Wrap it with aluminum foil too and place it to the refrigerator overnight.
- Preheat oven to 338 °F (170°C).
- Place the parcel in a baking tray, and transfer to the oven. Bake for 2 hours. Carefully tear open the packet. Season potatoes or veggies of your choice and add them to the pork (optional). Adjust heat to 392°F (200°C) and roast for 50 minutes to an hour.
- Keep an eye on potatoes or veggies. Stir well, turning all the potatoes or veggies at least once.
- Remove the pork loin from parchment paper, and transfer to a serving platter. Let rest for 10 minutes before removing the twine and slicing it.
- Add carefully pork drippings to a mixing bowl. Skim off any crust chunks in the drippings and whisk to combine. In a saucepan, simmer the liquid on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Dissolve flour in water and pour it in the saucepan. Stir to remove lumps and simmer until thickened for about 5 minutes, depending on your preferred thickness. Don’t thicken it too much because it concentrates a lot when it cools down.
- Check for seasoning and salt again if needed. Strain the soup through a large-holed sieve (optional).
- To serve, cut away carefully the twine and carve into 8-10 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange the pork on a warmed serving dish or wooden board with or without potatoes/veggies. Pour over the gravy or serve it separately.