ROAST PORK LOIN WITH JUNIPER AND ROSEMARY

adapted from Marcella’s Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan
Serves 4-6

With weekday schedules on morph speed, I tend to cook simply. That was the original plan for this pork loin roast; just season it with salt and pepper and roast until done. And then life came to a screeching halt when my little one got strep throat. Home for the day with all other plans and commitments canceled, I had time to think. I got to thinking that the dinner plans were rather boring. How about something with a little snap? The Italians do roasts well, so I turned to my Marcella Hazan cookbook and found this.

There are only two steps: first you brown the seasoned meat in a hot oven and then you simmer it in tomato sauce. The browning makes it crusty and caramelized on the outside and then the simmering keeps it moist and juicy on the inside. Except for the fact that you have to be there to turn it every now and then, there is nothing more to it. I like that.

I also like the way the meat absorbs the essence of the Italian tomatoes, juniper and rosemary. The Italians often use juniper and rosemary to flavor pork, lamb, and game. Both herbs are distinct and hearty with woodsy, piny tones which complement meat nicely. Here, the roast simmers in these flavors, and you can taste them in each bite. It is a pleasing meal especially when you serve it with a side of pasta.

Note: In Italy, the meat course is served after the pasta course. Here at home, serve it with pasta or risotto on the side.

Note: This can be prepared 1-2 hours in advance, but it tastes best the moment it is done.

2-2 1/2 pounds boned pork loin
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
14 juniper berries, ground fine
salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp butter
1 cup canned Italian tomatoes, blended to a puree with their juice

1. PREP MEAT AND ROAST TO BROWN: Preheat oven to 475. Bring meat to room temperature, about 30 minutes – 1 hour. Rub meat all over with rosemary, juniper, salt, and pepper. Smear bottom of a baking pan with 1/2 Tbsp of butter then put the meat in the pan. Dot the meat with 1 Tbsp butter and then place the pan in the middle of the oven. Roast until top side is brown and crusty, about 30-35 minutes. Turn meat to brown the other side, about 5-10 minutes more. Remove pan from oven.



2. SIMMER MEAT IN SAUCE: Place meat in a heavy, lidded casserole that will contain it snuggly. Discard the cooking juices from the baking pan. Add remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp butter and the pureed tomato to the casserole. Cover casserole and cook on the stove over LOW heat turning every so often until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees. Begin checking the meat’s temperature after 45 minutes. If the cooking juices in the pan are drying up, add water, 1/4 cup at a time.




Serve with simple sauteed spinach and tomatoes (see recipe, below) and a plain pasta like penne or, if you want to take the time, a risotto.

Note: The original recipe calls for a 3 pound boned pork roast which feeds 6-8 people. I used a 2 1/4 pound roast to feed 4-6. For the larger roast, make the following changes: use 5 Tbsp butter; 1/2 Tbsp in the pan + 2 1/2 dotted on the meat + 2 Tbsp in the pureed tomato. Change the roasting time to 45 minutes, then turn and roast 15 minutes longer. The simmer time is about 1 1/2 hours, but use a meat thermometer to determine when it is done. Begin checking after 1 hour. Everything else remains the same.


Peace and love from my kitchen to yours,
Waverly

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