Roasted pork loin is always a great holiday centerpiece. It is delicious plain, or with herbs and rosemary, but I love the element of prunes paired with pork, especially if they are doused with grappa or bourbon. I use the prunes as a stuffing, and throw a few in the sauce as well. Much to my surprise, this has become an old favorite of my readers ever since they discovered it in Lidia’s Italian Table— I believe it is the prunes that give the dish that something extra special that is so tasty and appealing, and demonstrate that the dinner is a special event.
- ½ pound pitted prunes
- ½ cup bourbon
- One boneless center pork-loin roast, about 3 pounds (ask your butcher to bone the rib roast, or you can do it yourself, and trim the fat)
- 10 fresh sage leaves
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup ¼-inch dice-carrot
- ½ cup ¼-inch dice-celery
- ½ cup roughly chopped onion
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
- 2½ cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
In a small container, soak the prunes in bourbon 1 hour. Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Drain the prunes, and set four of them aside along with the soaking liquid.
To stuff the roast: use a sharp knife to cut a 1-inch pocket along the entire length of the eye, around the top half part of the roast. Cut from both sides of the roast until you cut through.
Line the remaining soaked prunes along the slit in the roast. Fold the flap over the opening, and tie the roast securely with kitchen twine at 2-inch intervals. Thread the sage leaves in two rows through the ties on either side of the roast. Season the roast generously with salt and pepper, and rub it with the olive oil. Place the roast in a large roasting pan. Roast 15 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Tilt the roasting pan, and spoon off excess fat. Scatter the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic around the roast. Roast 15 minutes.
Add the reserved prunes and soaking liquid, and roast 10 minutes. Pour the stock into the pan, and continue cooking, basting the roast occasionally with the pan juices, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast registers 155 degrees F, 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove the roast to a platter. Pass the contents of the pan through a food mill fitted with the fine disc into a small bowl. (Alternatively, strain the liquid through a sieve, pressing on the vegetables to extract as much liquid as possible and to force some of the vegetables through the sieve.) Skim all fat from the surface of the sauce.
The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If not, transfer the sauce to a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, and simmer until it is thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, if needed. Cut the meat into ¼-inch slices, and serve with the sauce.