pork

cherry and wild rice stuffed pork loin roast

The holiday season is well under way and it really shows here in North Brooklyn.

cherry and wild rice stuffed pork loin roast | Brooklyn Homemaker

Christmas tree stands every few blocks, a giant electric menorah on the corner of Bedford and North 7th, blinking lights lining apartment windows and fire escapes, subway passengers with arms loaded up with shopping bags, inescapable holiday music everywhere you go…
You know, the ushe.

cherry and wild rice stuffed pork loin roast | Brooklyn Homemaker

Yesterday we stopped at one of those aforementioned Christmas tree stands and I carried our little 3 foot cutie home with one hand. After dinner we drank Dark and Stormys and listened to disco music (instead of the usual holiday tunes) while we gussied her up.

cherry and wild rice stuffed pork loin roast | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve usually got cookies and cakes and candies (and sugar plums et al) dancing in my head this time of year, but instead I’ve been very concerned about what to make for Christmas dinner lately.

(fret not dear friends, I promise the cookies and cakes are still in the works too!)

cherry and wild rice stuffed pork loin roast | Brooklyn Homemaker

See, we’ve got big plans on Christmas day this year so I’m getting really excited about making a big fancy dinner.

Working in retail for the past several years has always meant that it’s just me and Russell and the pups for Christmas. These past few years have been totally fun, and really refreshingly casual and stress free, but they haven’t really been occasions to go all out when it comes to the holiday meal.

This year though, my mom and little sister found themselves with no plans for Christmas so they’re piling in the car and coming down to pay us a visit! Let the festivities begin!

cherry and wild rice stuffed pork loin roast | Brooklyn Homemaker

Mom’s always bummed that she never gets to eat any of the treats I post here on the blog, so I’ve got big plans to make a few of my recent recipes for her while she’s here. I’m going to load her up with enough sugar and sweets and goodies that she won’t even want to look at another blog post for at least a year. Or, at least until the new year that is!

We can’t just live on Christmas cookies for three days though. I mean, we might still try anyway, but I thought I should at least attempt to think of an actual meal to serve on Christmas day.

cherry and wild rice stuffed pork loin roast | Brooklyn Homemaker

Growing up my family usually served either ham or prime rib on Christmas, but Russell doesn’t really like either of those. Ham tends to be too salty for him, and we always have way too much leftover after dinner anyway. The last time I made a ham for Christmas we were eating ham sandwiches and split pea soup for a week! As for prime rib, I’d be in heaven but Russell doesn’t like meat that isn’t cooked completely through so that’s out too.
Womp womp.

cherry and wild rice stuffed pork loin roast | Brooklyn Homemaker

My initial thought was to make the pot roast I made a few months back, which would probably make everyone happy (very happy) but I’ve already made that so I couldn’t share it here and where’s the fun in that?
Oh what an exciting life I lead!

Instead I decided to make a pork loin roast. Not just any pork loin roast though, this puppy is butterflied, pounded flat, stuffed with magic, and rolled up jelly roll style before it’s roasted and sliced.

Rolling this back up and tying it with butcher’s twine can be a bit challenging but when you take your first bite you’ll know it was all worth it. The thinner you can pound out the meat the easier the rolling will be, but the pounding can be a time consuming (and noisy) job. The good news is that it’s also a great way to work out any pent-up frustrations after you do your holiday shopping!

cherry and wild rice stuffed pork loin roast | Brooklyn Homemaker

This roast is truly amazing and I can’t wait to serve it for mom on Christmas. The meat is rich and tender and moist, and the stuffing is flavorful and sweet and earthy all at once. You really can’t ask for a better stuffing for pork than bright jammy dried cherries, tons of fresh herbs, and chewy earthy wild rice. As if the roast wasn’t amazing enough on it’s own, you finish it all off with a pan gravy made from white wine and the liquid leftover from soaking the dried cherries. The result is a rich, bright, and slightly sweet and fruity gravy that is literally the cherry on the sundae!

Are you reading this mom? Is your mouth watering yet?
Can’t wait! Happy Holidays y’all!

cherry and wild rice stuffed pork loin roast | Brooklyn Homemaker

Cherry and Wild Rice Stuffed Pork Loin Roast

1 (3 pound) pork loin roast
salt and pepper
3/4 cup dried tart cherries, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 to 3 stalks celery, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup cooked wild rice (from about 1/3 cup dry)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 dry white wine, divided
1 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken stock (low sodium if possible)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Trim large pieces of fat from pork roast. Butterfly the meat by making a lengthwise cut down the center, cutting to within 1/2 inch of the other side so that the meat can be spread open and laid flat. Cover the flattened roast with plastic wrap and, working from center to the edges, pound with flat side of a meat mallet (or small cast iron skillet) until meat is a uniform 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. Remove plastic wrap and generously season meat with salt and pepper on both sides. Set aside to rest while you make the stuffing. Refrigerate if you won’t be making stuffing right away.

Bring one cup of water to a boil in a small lidded saucepan. Add chopped cherries and bring back to a boil. Remove from heat, place lid on pan, and let the cherries soak for 10 minutes.

Heat butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and celery, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Remove cherries from soaking liquid with a slotted spoon and add to onions and celery. Reserve liquid. Add cooked wild rice and herbs and stir to combine. Add 1/4 cup of white wine and reduce until mostly absorbed. Cool stuffing completely before proceeding.

Spread stuffing over pork and roll up as tightly as possible. Seal the seams with toothpicks, leaving enough pick showing that they’ll be easy to remove after cooking. Tightly tie up the roast with cooking twine.

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or oven safe roasting pan over medium high heat. Sear roast on all sides, for about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer, uncovered, to a 375F oven. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the roast reads at least 145F, about 80 to 90 minutes.

Remove roast from the pan and transfer to a cutting board tented with foil. Rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. If any stuffing or meat burned onto the pan, try to scrape it up with a wooden spoon but leave it in the pan. There should be at least a few tablespoons of oil and grease in the pan, if not, add a bit more olive oil. Add flour and stir into oil and grease and heat over medium for 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly stir in remaining 1/4 cup of wine, 1/2 cup of reserved cherry soaking liquid, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and thicken for a 2 to 3 minutes. Strain any burned bits of stuffing or pork out of the gravy with a fine mesh sieve.

Remove toothpicks and twine from roast, and slice into 1 inch thick slices. Serve topped with gravy. If desired, serve over a bed of wilted ruby chard or braising greens.

orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe

So according to the name up at the top of the page, I do most of my cooking, baking, home improvement projects, and general homemaking in a little known town called Brooklyn.

You’ve heard of it maybe?

orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m not sure how familiar most of you are with the different neighborhoods in Brooklyn, but the area where I live is called Bushwick. Bushwick is pretty much as far north as you can get before accidentally crossing over into Queens, and by subway it’s only a few stops away from it’s bigger, wealthier, more popular sister neighborhood Williamsburg.

orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I first moved to Brooklyn in 2007, Williamsburg was still a growing artist community and Bushwick was an industrial no mans land that hadn’t yet been invaded by more than a handful of hipsters. In those days Williamsburg was still (almost) affordable, and was still home to art galleries, dive bars and record stores, but a good friend of mine had a place in Bushwick and let me crash until I got on my feet, so I landed in Bushwick and never left.

orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe | Brooklyn Homemaker

In the years since, Williamsburg has become a playland for the rich and famous and one of New York’s biggest tourist destinations. Thanks to rising rents forcing young people further out, Bushwick was recently named one of the hippest neighborhoods in the world by Vogue Magazine. In 2007 Bushwick was a very different place. It was one of the most affordable neighborhoods in Brooklyn, which I why I stuck around, but it was also dirty and dangerous and filled with just as many junkies as it was rats.
We’ve gone from dead rats and pepper spray to baby strollers and art galleries. Abandoned buildings and needle exchanges to luxury condos and organic food co-ops.

If I hadn’t found a rent stabilized apartment a few years back I probably couldn’t even afford to live here anymore.

orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe | Brooklyn Homemaker

Bushwick has always been a neighborhood in transition, since the very beginning. Originally a farming community, in the 1800s Bushwick grew into a beer brewing hub filled with German immigrants, their breweries, and their huge mansions lining Bushwick Avenue. Prohibition eventually shuddered most of the breweries though, and by the 1950s Bushwick had become one of New York’s largest Italian neighborhoods.
Big changes came again as post war white families flocked to the suburbs and were replaced largely by Puerto Ricans immigrants and African Americans. According to US Census records, in just one decade Bushwick’s caucasian population dropped from over 90% in 1960 to less than 40% in 1970.

Thanks to the energy crisis of the 1970s and the closures of most of Bushwick’s industry, the neighborhood was quickly overrun with crime, drugs, abandoned buildings, and urban decay. Bushwick was one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by riots and looting during the New York blackout of 1977, forcing even more businesses out of the area. Things didn’t improve any during the 1980s and 90s, but by the late 2000s things finally started to turn around as Williamsburg artists flocked in to take advantage of the neighborhood’s low rents and large loft spaces. I’ve been here for about 8 years and I’ve seen things change so quickly and completely it makes my head spin. I can’t even begin to imagine what this neighborhood will look like in another 10 years.

orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe | Brooklyn Homemaker

One of the easiest places to visualize all this transition first hand is Graham Avenue. Cultures literally clash as streets signs on Graham Ave declare “Avenue of Puerto Rico” south of Metropolitan Ave, but suddenly change to “Via Vespucci” north on up to the BQE. Avenue of Puerto Rico is populated with cheap clothing stores, Iglesias, and Puerto Rican beauty supply shops; but cross Metropolitan Ave and it feels like a whole different neighborhood dotted with Italian restaurants, pizzerias, and wine shops.

orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe | Brooklyn Homemaker

Russell recently heard about an old Italian butcher shop on the Via Vespucci side of Graham Ave called, appropriately enough, The Pork Store. He paid them a visit on his day off and brought home some of the best Italian sausage I’ve ever tasted, along with a gorgeous bag of imported Orecchiette. I knew I wanted to make something amazing to put his Bushwick bounty to good use, but knew I had to keep it simple enough to let these superior ingredients shine.

orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe | Brooklyn Homemaker

All I needed was a big bunch of broccoli rabe, sometimes called rapini, and a bit of nice dry white wine. Broccoli rabe has a grassy bitterness that stands up really well to the unctuous richness of sausage and cream. White wine adds just a touch of sweetness to counteract the bitterness of the rapini, and al dente Orecchiette is nice and thick and adds great texture and happens to be the perfect bite size. A bit of cream gives the reduced white wine a bit of saucy body, and a handful of salty grated parmesan cheese brings everything together.

If you don’t have access to a local Italian butcher shop, just get the freshest and best Italian sausage you can find. If you can’t find orecchiette, any bite sized thick cut pasta, something like penne or bow ties, will do just fine.

This dish is simple, delicious, and perfectly satisfying. The best part though, is how quickly and easily it comes together if you start cooking at the same time you bring the pasta water to a boil. Everything else should be done just in time to drain the pasta and all you have to do is toss it all together and dig in!

orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe | Brooklyn Homemaker

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb mild italian sausage, casings removed
1 lb broccoli rabe
1 lb orecchiette pasta
1 cup white wine
1 /2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste, if needed

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil on one burner while you prepare the rest of the meal on another.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add sausage and break up with a spatula or spoon as it cooks. Once the sausage is fully cooked, add half of the white wine and reduce until almost completely dry. Once reduced add the remaining wine and reduce until almost dry again.

Remove thick woody stems from broccoli rabe and discard. Roughly chop or tear the leaves and heads into large bite sized pieces.

Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Meanwhile, add heavy cream and broccoli rabe to the sausage and onion mixture and cook until dark green and wilted through, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add about a half cup ladle of pasta water and reduce for about 5 minutes more. Taste and see if seasoning needs to be adjusted. (I didn’t need to add any salt because my sausage was salty enough for the whole dish.) Drain cooked orecchiette and combine with sausage and broccoli rabe mixture. Add grated parmesan and toss toss toss until well combined.

Serve with an additional shaving of parmesan if desired.

seared pork chops with apples, onions, & mustard

I love pork. Just so we’re all on the same page.

seared pork chops with apples, onions, & mustard | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve really always been a big fan of pork. Give me a big thick juicy pork chop over a steak any day of the week. In the words of Homer Simpson, “Porkchops and bacon, my two favorite animals.”

When I was growing up my grandmother used to make us porkchops a lot. Shake n bake, of course, and of course I helped. Grandma’s pork chops were usually cut thin and baked until well done. The common conventional wisdom in my grandmother’s day was that if you saw even a tiny twinkle of pink in your pork you’d probably keel over dead on the spot. You were supposed to cook ’em through and then keep on going, just for good measure. The only problem with that wisdom is that todays pork is bred to be so lean that cooking to well done produces a bone-dry chop that is, sorry grandma, pretty terrible. I know it’s not your fault grandma! Damned conventional wisdom! Maybe this is why a lot of people think they don’t like pork?

Well, I’m here to challenge that wisdom. It’s totally okay if you cook your pork to medium-well or even medium. You’re not going to die. You’re not even going to get sick. Unless you caught your pig in the wild, the only thing you’re at risk of is eating a seriously tasty pork chop. Thanks to modern farming, Trichinosis (the food borne illness commonly associated with pork), hasn’t been a concern for American eaters since the 1970s. In fact, the USDA even recently lowered their recommended internal cooking temperature for pork from 160 degrees to 145. Yay! We can finally eat tasty pork again!

seared pork chops with apples, onions, & mustard | Brooklyn Homemaker

While we’re on the topic of tasty pork, lets talk about how I like to eat a pork chop. Call me uninspired, but my favorite flavor to pair with pork is apple. I know it’s super traditional and I’m not showing you anything you haven’t seen before, but hey, it’s friggin good! If it ain’t broke, I ain’t trying to fix it.

I’ve been eating apples with pork for as long as I can remember, which probably stemmed from grandma’s well done chops. I used to slather those suckers with mountains of applesauce, for the moisture as much as the flavor.

seared pork chops with apples, onions, & mustard | Brooklyn Homemaker

People have actually been pairing pork with apples for centuries. Before sugar was readily available to most people, fruit sweetened foods were usually served alongside or in combination with savory, and apples were a common way to add a touch of sweetness to pork dishes. This may have started because some farmers would feed old or rotten apples to their pigs, and some people say that a diet high in apples can actually flavor the meat.

On a side note, I might just need to plant some apple trees and buy a few pigs…

seared pork chops with apples, onions, & mustard | Brooklyn Homemaker

I think pork chops on the bone tend to have the best flavor, and the thicker they’re cut the juicier they’re going to be when they’re finished cooking. If you get your pan nice and screaming hot you only need to sear the chops for a few minutes on either side to get them perfectly cooked to medium well. If you’re still scared and want to cook them to well done, remove them from the pan the second the meat reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Even thick cut chops will get dry and tough if overcooked.

To add a little depth to the pork and apple combination, I deglazed the pan with white wine after searing the pork, sautéed the apples with some onions and mustard, and finished the the whole thing with some cream and fresh sage from our back yarden. The onion helps keep things from going too sweet and fruity, and the mustard adds some interesting texture and a nice earthy vinegary bite. The sage reinforces that earthiness, and the cream gives the topping a really nice velvety finish. Despite feeling kind of “grown-up” and “fancy”, this meal is actually pretty simple to make and comes together in less than 30 minutes!

Since things are getting all nice and autumnal outside, I decided to pair my pork chop with some mashed sweet potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts. And, of course, there was also some white wine.

seared pork chops with apples, onions, & mustard | Brooklyn Homemaker

Seared Pork Chops with Apples, Onions, & Mustard

  • Servings: 2 generous portions
  • Print
2 center cut pork chops, bone in, at least 1 inch thick
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup white wine
1 firm sweet apple, such as pink lady
1 small onion
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons finely sliced fresh sage
1/4 cup cream

Generously season pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Preheat a heavy skillet over high heat until your butter sizzles and immediately browns when added. Add 1 tablespoon butter, swirl in pan, and immediately add pork chops. Reduce heat just slightly to medium high, and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes per side. You want them cooked to about medium-well. A little pink won’t hurt you but you want the meat to be mostly white. If you’re scared, use a meat thermometer to be sure the meat reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Do not overcook or the chops will be tough and dry. Meanwhile; peel, core, and finely dice the apple, and finely dice the onion.

Remove pork chops to a plate and tent with foil (remember they’ll keep cooking a little while they rest). Deglaze pan with white wine, add remaining butter, apples, and onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent, apples are tender, and everything is starting to get a healthy caramel brown, about 10 minutes. Add mustard, sage, and cream; and cook about 3 minutes more.