Pork Loin with Fennel, Chile and Garlic Roasties
Sunday roast isn’t so much of an American thing, is it? Occasionally my mom would put a pot roast and some chopped carrots and potatoes in a crockpot before going to church so we’d have a meaty early dinner but that was infrequent. While briefly in Wales this summer, Sunday carvery seemed to be a thing; restaurants and pubs would serve lamb, beef and pork roasts with various mushy vegetables, Yorkshire puddings and sauces. This month’s Olive had a Sunday roast feature, which we attempted to adapt to American cuts and ingredients.
My love of Western Beef is no secret, it’s my go-to all-purpose supermarket. They were hyping up pork shoulders for 68 cents per pound over the PA, but they were paired two to bag, which is excessive even for a household with two fridges. But damn, that’s cheap. Think of all the carnitas you could fry up. (I know, I know, low cost meat equals grotesque practices but I’m a grocery store girl. As charming as they sound I’m phobic of $8.50/lb humane organics as well as old school butchers. What you never hear about are those live animal markets scattered throughout the outer boroughs.)
Where else can you find prepped, ready-to-use goat meat, tripe and cow feet plus red currant jam (the makings of future cooking projects) all under one roof? Western Beef’s apt slogan “We know the neighborhood” plays out in Polish shelves stocked with jellies in hard-to-find flavors (currants are totally un-American) and the recent addition of Bosnian canned goods. No fresh tarragon or Yukon gold potatoes, though.
James was convinced that they wouldn’t have fennel. I guessed that they would but that there would be trouble at the checkout. Cashiers not recognizing lesser purchased produce can sometimes work in your favor, they’ll just give it to you cheap. As our cashier was ringing up our goods, I caught her glancing at the frondy bulb and stealthily avoiding it. Eventually she had to pick it up and asked, “What is this?”
Me: Fennel. F-E-N-N-E-L
Cashier: F what?
Me, slower: um, F-E-N-N-E-L
No luck, she finally had to ask another cashier who tried to ignore her question then admitted that she didn’t know what it was called. After a spell a male employee sauntered over and bluntly declared, “Anise, it’s under A” That’s so not right and everyone looked at us like we were delusional and making words up. I guessed maybe anise was a Caribbean misnomer since even in Spanish fennel isn’t anise, it’s hinojo.
Bastardized terminology was the theme of this meal. I can’t bear to type chilli so I’m sticking with chile but I’ll leave their roasties, which appear to be roasted potatoes. And the recipe called for maris piper potatoes, a British spud. I also substituted baking dish or roasting pan for roasting tin. That’s just wrong. Pork loin on the bone that’s been “chined” was too esoteric so we substituted a boneless, skin on pork loin and cooked it for a shorter time. And don’t get me started on Celsius oven temperatures and milliliters (or calling desserts puddings then shortening that to pud).
When all was said and done, we ended up with an unusually seasoned roast, very spice rich but not spicy hot. It might’ve been slightly overcooked, partially due to tweaking the cooking time and not having the bone-in cut. The potatoes were actually the best part of the meal but anything slowly browned in large quantities of butter olive oil is bound to be pleasing.
P.S. A few slices of pork, a couple fennel wedges and a swipe of Dijon mustard between two slices of french bread makes a great lunch sandwich. I'm saving $7 by avoiding Pret a Manger this very minute.
Pork Loin with Fennel, Chile and Garlic Roasties
2 pounds boneless pork loin with skin scored
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon, crushed dried chiles
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 garlic cloves
Zest of one lemon
Maldon sea salt flakes
3 fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 pounds firm white potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon flour
1 ½ cups Marsala or white wine
2 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
Heat oven to 350 F. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and put into roasting pan. Using a mortar and pestle, pound together the fennel seeds, chiles, peppercorns, garlic and lemon zest and work the mixture into the slashes on the pork skin. Sprinkle the salt, rubbing well into the skin.
Boil the potatoes in salted water for 10 minutes and drain well. Give them a really good shake to rough up the edges. Heat the butter and olive oil in a separate baking pan. Add the potatoes, season with salt and toss to coat in the hot fat. Roast the pork and potatoes for 20 minutes then arrange the fennel around the pork and drizzle with olive oil. Cook for a further 20. Add the crushed garlic and parsley to the potatoes and cook for a further 10 minutes until golden brown and crisp.
Remove the fennel from the pork dish and keep warm. Transfer the pork to a clean pan, turn the oven up to high and return the pork to the oven for 10 minutes to crisp up the skin. Meanwhile make the gravy. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pork roasting pan and put over low heat. Add the flour and cook for 30 seconds. Pour the wine into the pan and bring to a boil scraping any carmelized bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce by half and then add the stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Season and serve with the pork, fennel and potatoes.