As people on the East Coast continue to recover from the devastating storm that was Sandy, I wanted to offer up a family meal that’s perfect for fall but is now simplified as well as skinny-fied: Roasted Herb Pork Loin with Brussels Sprouts, Fennel, Apples and Mustard Sauce.
Instead of marinating the meat for a day and cooking veggies in separate pans, this version requires almost no forethought, only 30 minutes of actual effort and, since it’s all made in one pan that goes from stove-top to oven, almost no clean-up.
And rather than roasting the pork uncovered with butter and oil to keep it from drying out, this healthier cooking technique allows the pork to fully brown but keeps it moist and tender inside. (Cooked this way, 4 ounces of trimmed pork loin has only about 150 calories but provides 23 grams of protein–about half of what an average woman needs in a day.)
And by roasting almost calorie free vegetables like Brussels sprouts, fennel and onions in that same pan, you can have a big supper that is full of flavor, rich and satisfying but has only 300 calories a plate.
Best of all, once you have this simple technique down, you’ll find lots of ways to improvise and make it your own according to the seasonings and vegetables your family loves best. (While trying to nail this one down, I made it 5 times in 3 weeks…sometimes adding sliced sweet potatoes or winter squash, more carrots or onions, celery or peppers, different spices or mustard and, each time, it was delicious!)
I promise, this family supper is SO easy to prepare that even the biggest kitchen chickens will praise this little pig!
ROASTED HERB PORK LOIN WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS, FENNEL, APPLES AND MUSTARD SAUCE
(Note: This recipe is for a pork loin, not tenderloin, Tenderloins are great, but they’re much smaller and thinner than pork loin roast cuts and require less cooking time. If you use a tiny tenderloin, the meat will be leather by the time the vegetables are done.)
1 pork loin roast, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed of most but not all excess fat (If you can, buy organic and local pork. It may cost a little more a pound but really does taste better than factory farmed pork.)
A liberal amount of kosher salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes (Don’t be scared of the spice. The vegetables and sauce will end up being coated with it as well and the sweetness of the apples will balance it all out.)
2 t dried thyme
1/2-3/4 cup white wine or vermouth (chicken or vegetable broth can be substituted)
3 T grainy brown mustard
1 large onion (yellow or red) cut into thick wedges
2 fennel bulbs, cored, cut into thick slices
3 long but slender carrots, peeled and cut into 3 inch pieces (If your carrots are really thick, cut them lengthwise as well so that they’ll cook thoroughly.)
1 medium apple, cut into thick slices (Use a tart/sweet variety like Braeburn or McIntosh)
1-2 T garlic, chopped
6 fresh sprigs of rosemary
1 T of corn starch mixed with 2 T cold water (You’ll add that to remaining pan juices just before serving to thicken drippings into a simple finishing sauce.)
Preheat oven to 500.
(If you have dogs, fry up the fat. They’ll love you for it.)
Chop your garlic, apple and vegetables, trimming the Brussels sprouts of their tough ends and cutting any large ones in half to speed cooking. Once everything is chopped, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and toss with your hands to coat.
Heat a non stick roasting pan over medium-high heat, quickly spray just the center with cooking oil and sear the pork until it is brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Use your tongs and don’t forget the ends. (To help the browning, spray the meat with oil just before you flip it each time.)
Remove the pork to a plate, toss the garlic into the pan, quickly stir and then pour in the 1/2-3/4 cup wine (or broth) to de-glaze the pan…using a wooden spoon to scrape up any tasty bits of meat and herbs.
Before all of the liquid evaporates, remove pan from heat and stir in the 2 Tablespoons of grainy mustard.
Place some of the veggies and most of the rosemary under the pork and pile the rest of the veggies all around. (The veggies beneath the pork will keep it from sticking and the rosemary will flavor the meat drippings at the bottom of the pan.)
Cover the pan tightly with foil, return it to the oven and reduce heat to 350. (Covering the pan and decreasing the temperature will keep the meat from getting tough and dry while steaming the veggies to perfect tenderness.)
After 18-20 minutes, start taking the pork’s temperature. You want to pull the pan when the meat reaches 140 degrees. (Don’t leave it in longer…it will continue to cook while it rests.)
Gently toss the veggies for a minute so they’ll get coated with delicious drippings. Remove them to the serving platter, too, using a slotted spoon so that the juices remain in the pan.
Place the pan over medium heat, drizzle in the slurry of corn starch and water and quickly stir. There should be just enough thick sauce to coat the roast. (If you’d like more sauce, just add chicken or vegetable broth to the pan juices and increase the amount of corn starch.)
PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD
Though I kept the seasonings really simple in this version, you should improvise with any spices and herbs you like. I sometimes add oregano along with the thyme. Or use fennel seed, coriander seed or dill seed. (Add those seeds when you toss in the garlic and deglaze the pan. They tend to burn if on the roast during the searing process.) You can also add lemon to the sauce as you finish it or just squeeze lemon over the entire dish.
And, of course, play with those vegetables. Sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, peppers and winter squash will all work. Just make sure you slice the sweet potatoes or squash no thicker than 1/2 inch so they’ll become tender with the rest…
RE-USE, RE-PURPOSE, RE-CYCLE
With a few fresh vegetables, some beef broth, soy sauce and 20 calorie a cup soy noodles, you make a delicious and super skinny Asian soup in minutes.
Adding a little chopped pork to a salad or into a high fiber wrap makes a quick and easy lunch to take to work or to school…
Or, if you’re in a Mexican mood, you could easily make a quick and skinny cabbage slaw and serve soft tacos..
No matter how you re-purpose that pork, if you’re trying to lose weight or keep it off, simply make sure that 80 percent of your new dish is made of up of vegetables…If you do that, you’ll be saving time and calories!