Magazine article Sunset

A Taste of the West: Roast Pork Loin

Magazine article Sunset

A Taste of the West: Roast Pork Loin

Article excerpt

The spur-of-the-moment spirit in our house usually surfaces about 10 A.M. On Saturday. We pick up the phone to check in with Sally and Gil, Jackie and John, Josie and Bailey, or other friends. Next thing you know, a dinner party is in the works.

Of course we're unprepared, so we shop quickly and with a strategy. This time of year we like dinners from the oven. You put the foods in, you take them out. No constant jumping up and down. And one of our most dependable oven dinners starts with a boned pork loin roast. You can buy it cut to preferred length, and because it's skinny, it cooks fast-regardless of weight (a center-cut roast may be as long as 24 inches). No carving skill is required, and cold leftovers make the best sandwiches.

Flexibility is another asset of this meal. The pork can go into the oven as the doorbell rings-a plus when we know guests have to deal with unpredictable traffic.

In the hour of cooking, there's time to visit, sip a pleasant wine, and begin with appetizers and a salad.

With the meat, we also roast the vegetables. Years ago, in Rome, I was introduced to pork's affinity for fennel--s well as sage--hen both were used to season a memorable suckling pig. So sage goes onto the meat, while thick slices of fresh fennel go into the oven along with onion halves. Both vegetables get sweet, soft, and browned. It's surprising how far beyond potatoes you can go.

Roasted Pork, Fennel, and Onions

Cooking time: About 1 hour

Prep time: 10 to 15 minutes

Notes: Be sure to specify a single pork loin roast; occasionally, butchers roll 2 loins together to make a bigger roast. If you have a large oven, meat and vegetables can cook at the same time. If you don't have enough space, cook the vegetables first, then reheat for 10 minutes before serving. If fresh sage is not available, add 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage to the cumin and pepper mix. Accompany with hot peas.

Makes: 6 to 8 servings

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil (optional)

About 1 cup fresh sage leaves (optional)

1 1/2 tablespoons black peppercorns

2 teaspoons cumin seed

1 boned, fat-trimmed, rolled and tied center-cut pork loin roast (2 3/4 to 3 lb.)

3 or 4 red onions (about 3 in. wide)

2 or 3 fennel heads (3 to 4 in. wide) with feathery tops

About 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups orange juice

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt

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