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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Roast Pork with Marsala Chestnut Sauce

This meal was not difficult or labour intensive to make, but it sure was a pain to shop for!
It is based on this recipe from Chatelaine, which looks complicated but really it is as easy as any Sunday roast, and the sauce is incredible, with or without the chestnuts. After dealing with chestnuts, I'd go without next time.

The problem started when I tried to find Marsala, an Italian fortified wine, at the liquor store.  Unfortunately, I asked for Madiera, a Portuguese fortified wine, which they did not carry.  I don't know why or how I conflated them in my mind, but I came home empty handed and looked at the recipe again to find it was Marsala I needed.  Now that I've made the recipe, I probably could have substituted Madiera or even Port which I do have on hand, but how was I to know?

The next ingredient to give me trouble was the chestnuts. We have a nut allergy in the house but it hadn't been tested on chestnuts.  After some research I found that chestnuts are not really related to nuts and rarely cause reactions in nut-allergic people (this is all Google wisdom, so I don't recommend taking this chance if you have any doubts.)  We agreed to taste the chestnuts and see how it went.  That turned out fine in the end.  But first I had to actually find the chestnuts.  

The recipe called for 3 100g packages of peeled, roasted chestnuts.  I looked in every section of the supermarket I could think of - fresh vegetables, canned fruits and vegetables, frozen foods, speciality foods, olives, ethnic foods, jams, and on and on but all I could find was chestnuts in the shell.  It may have helped to know what peeled packaged chestnuts looked like.  Now I've seen them online in jars and vacuum sealed, but at the time I had no idea.  So I bought chestnuts in the shell and Martha helped me roast and peel them.  

What I didn't realize is that, once peeled, the chestnuts need to be kept in an airtight container. So they dried out a bit waiting for the pork to cook, resulting in a less appealing texture than they should have had.  Next time I'd just leave them out unless I could find the peeled version in the store.  

Anyway, aside from those little missteps, this was an amazing-tasting recipe and pretty simple overall.  Here's what you need:

750g to 1kg boneless pork-loin roast
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried sage
1 tsp olive oil
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup dry Marsala
1 tbsp cornstarch
300g peeled, roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped (optional)

If you've bought chestnuts in the shell, you'll need to roast and peel them.  First make an X-shaped slice in the outer shell without cutting through the nut. The shell is an odd texture, like a plastic yogurt cup, not like a hard nut.

Once sliced open, place the chestnuts in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes.  They'll open slightly as above.

Peel the outer shell and the inner skin from the chestnuts.  Get them into an airtight container and then, just before serving, chop them up for the sauce. 

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. 

Now for the pork. This is a pork loin roast that was deeply on sale. This cut is often on sale in my local grocery stores.  This was about 750g, enough for 4-6 servings.

 Mix the garlic powder, sage, salt and pepper in a small dish.

And rub over the pork roast covering all sides.

Heat an oven-safe pan over medium high heat.  Add the oil to the pan and then the pork roast, fat side down.  

Brown all sides for about 1 minute each.

Then place the pan in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 degrees and cook for about 25-30 minutes until it reaches 150 degrees in the centre.

I needed a couple of tries to get to 150. It was about 30 minutes after reducing the heat.

Remove to a plate and cover the roast with foil, or I like to use a large, stainless steel bowl inverted over the meat.

Now the sauce.   Take the mustard, maple syrup and soy sauce...

And add it to the hot pan along with the chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat.  Be careful with this pan, the handle will be hot!  Boil, whisking, for about 5 minutes until the liquid is reduced a bit.  Reduce heat to low.

Mix the Marsala with the cornstarch in a small dish.  Add to the pan and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes until thickened.

Turn off the heat and add the chopped chestnuts to the sauce.

Slice the pork.

And serve over mashed potatoes, smothered on the Marsala chestnut sauce.

I served this with garlic kale.

The pork was juicy and the sauce tasted incredible.  The chestnuts add a nice texture but they're not essential.  I highly recommend trying this with or without them.  

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