roasted pork rack with apple & walnut stuffing

mainpictureI had arrived home with pig in my bag and the family was delighted. It's not often they are able to partake in my adventures out so this was a particular treat. "We will eat it tomorrow" declared the mother. "You won't be home Thursday, and we're all out Friday. Saturday people are coming here and Sunday will be too late." I nodded, not paying much attention. "How will you cook it?" asked the sister. "I'm not sure" said I, and trotted off to bed.

And the next day was a flurry of activity. I jotted down ideas: Whole roasted with a rosemary and parmesan crust perhaps? With egg whites to lighten the mixture and a coarse hazelnut meal instead of bread. Or maybe cut into cutlets, egg-washed and crumbed in a garlicky, walnutty, bready layer before hitting the pan. Served with some just-cooked tomatoes and a creamy aioli. Or roasted on a rack over some tea and spice and orange zest for a smoky finish?

But the world was pointing at crackling. And applesauce. And so I started again. Apples. Sultanas for that flavour-burst. Walnuts for earthiness and seeded mustard for a tongue-kicker. Something creamy and cheesy to make it like coming home after being caught in the rain. Cauliflower. And fennel for a curious hint of aniseed. Done.



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porky goodness

Harried calls to the family. "Do we have kitchen string? For tying up meat? And oh, what are the chances of having some cauliflower & fennel around when I get home. Fennel? Yes. White at the bottom. Like a bulb. Thanks." And then I ran, nay, flew home from work to whip this up for dinner. And yes, we ate at not-quite-nine instead of our usual half-past-seven. But oh, it was worth it. And oh! I was satisfied at the end.

roasted pork rack with apple & walnut stuffing

ingredients:

1.2kg rack of pork
50g butter
3 large apples (or 4 small ones) (I used a combination of red & green)
50g sultanas (or just a handful, depending on your hand-size)
1 tbs seeded mustard
2 tsp nutmeg
50g walnuts
salt
50ml malt vinegar



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method:

1. First, the pig. Take it out of its packaging and pat it dry with paper towels. Now grab a sharp knife (truly, it will need to be sharp) and score lines along the skin about 1 cm apart. Now rotate and score lines along the skin at 90 degree angles to the first set at 1cm apart. Rub salt into the skin (and rub especially into the score lines) and leave the pig to rest while you deal with the stuffing.

2. Grab the person nearest you, hand them your apples and a peeler and tell them to go for gold. While they peel away, chop your walnuts up. We're thinking the size of a child's tooth. About a 5 year old, pre-tooth fairy. This will give you the right balance between "ahh! there's a big bit of... oh it's a nut" and "so, you said you put nuts in this right? cos, err...".


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knives out, it's chopping time!

3. They're done peeling? Great! Now they get to core and chop the apples up into cubes. A bit messy is ok. A bit chunky is ok, but for ease of stuffing and tying, let's aim for about 1cm cubes. Good? Ok, good.


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apples, sultanas & butter in a pot

4. We're going to get the stuffing going now. And I say "stuffing" in its loosest sense. No breadcrumbs or eggs here. Oh no.

5. Stick the butter in a small saucepan and when it is melted toss the apples and sultanas in. Add your nutmeg and stir happily until the apples start to get a little translucent around the edges. Now spoon the mustard in and stire til its all spread around nicely.


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add spice & mustard when the apples soften

6. When you start to smell the mustard (it smells a little vinegary) toss the walnuts in, take it off the heat and stir til it's tepid (ie ok to touch without burning your fingers).


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stuff it good

7. If it's warm but not-finger-burningly so, it's time to stuff your pig. Make an incision along the length of the pork rack, trying to stay about halfway between the skin and the bones. Don't cut all the way through though. You want a join to remain.

8. Now stuff as much stuffing as can fit inside your newly-made piggy pocket and tie it up with string to hold it together. This will be tricky, and stuffing will fall out. But that's ok. Oh, don't you fret! We'll be using it still.

9. Once you've tied the pig up, pat it as dry as you possibly can.

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tied up & perched on a mound of stuffing

10. And this is what we will be doing with the left over stuffing. Pat it into a mound on the bottom of your baking dish and plonk your tied up piggy on top. As it cooks, any escaping juices will coat your apple mix, and your apple mix will release lovely juices and all of it will be divine!

11. Heat your oven up to 220C. Liberally salt your pig again and then pat dry. Tip your vinegar over the skin and rub in with your fingers. Now in the oven for 20 minutes.

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after the first cooking

12. The first 20 mins will dry the skin out. Then you need to reduce the heat to 180C and cook it for another 50 minutes at this temperature. This is for cooking the meat.

13. Pull it out of the oven and add half a cup of water to the dish. Swirl it around a bit with a spoon and all the lovely brown caramelisation will turn into a sauce.

14. Cut the string off the meat and replace the pork on its (now slightly soggy and dessimated) mound. We're going to pop the lot back in the oven for about 15 minutes on the grill at 220C. Crackling time! (and watch it here, because it may start to burn if you do not).

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check out that crunch!

15. Pull it out, rest for just a touch while you set the table, and carve it up. Beautiful pink pork, crackly crackling and a stuffing / gravy to sweeten your days (without being too sweet. The mustard gives it a kick remember?) Serve with fennel & cauliflower gratin.

cheat's fennel & cauliflower gratin

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fennel & cauliflower

ingredients:

2tbs butter (approx 30g) + some for sauteeing
2tbs plain flour
1.5C hot milk
1 head of cauliflower
1 bulb of fennel
1/2C parmesan cheese

method:

1. Wash and cut your cauliflower & fennel. Cauliflower into florets and fennel just roughly. Sautee it in a bit of butter until it is cooked-ish.

2. Put the 2tbs butter in a saucepan to melt. Once melted, tip your flour in and stir crazy til its a yellow goop.

3. Whisk your hot milk into the yellow goop until it is uniformly thick and unlumpy. If it is still a bit lumpy, strain it with a sieve.

4. Add half the parmesan into the thick & unlumpy and stir to combine.

5. Toss your veges into a baking dish, tip most of the thick & unlumpy over the top and swirl to coat. Then tip the rest over the top of that and sprinkle with remaining parmesan.

6. Bake for 20 min at 200C in an oven and oh-my-goodness! Look at the pork!

[ps: onebitemore is heading up the coast for holidaying purposes so won't be posting on monday. she will however be back on tuesday with tasty treats]

7 bites more:

Simon Food Favourites said...

well done on the crackling. much better than mine. i'll be sure to pat it dry next time before putting it in the oven.

Stephcookie said...

Yum it looks great! I like how it's stuffed with all that tasty goodness. And that is some pro-looking string tying. I'm totally gonna try that gratin sometime, I'm oddly attracted to the sound of the yellow goop :)

Arwen from Hoglet K said...

Looks like you made the most of your piggy! I like the sound of a sweet mustard stuffing. I also like the idea of fennel as well as cauli in your cheesy gratin - variety and cheese are both good things.

FFichiban said...

Awwwwww.. I wanted a rosemary and parmesan cruusttttt!!! But this looks tasty too mmmm your crackling looks so much better than mine! XP

Yas said...

Hmmmm the roast looks fantastic!! Where's my crackling!!

Leona @ Pigged-out said...

Shez!
Omg it sbeen ages since i last read and commented in ppls food blogs. Very bad I am! :( THat porky goodness looks mouthwatering!!!

If only i had the motivation to do something as fancy as your meal.. i would. im such a lazy pot hehe

shez said...

Simon: Many thanks. I was initially a touch concerned because the family is big on crackling (and therefore grumpy at crackle-fails) but yes. Salt, pat dry, oil & vinegar have always worked a treat for me!

Stephcookie: Yellow goop is the food equivalent to a warm blanket and a pair of slippers. Truly. Pity it's horribly bad for you :)

Arwen: Oh! The pop between your teeth when biting into a little seed! Bliss. And this was my first fennel experimentation. It's a great vege that.

FFichiban: Maybe next time - though I'm more interested in the smoking idea at the moment. And heeh! Crackle-envy.

Yas: Hoorah for roast, innit?

Leona: It's certainly not something I'd try on a weeknight again. But yes! Do! I'd love to see what you came up with :)

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