Spinach Stuffed Pork Roast with Fruit Sauce

Pork Roast with Fruit SauceGood gawd, we were so busy last week that I never got around to posting a recipe.  And it’s not going to get better any time soon; after more than a week with Jolly and Little Guy, Beloved left yesterday afternoon to drive to Kalamazoo, Michigan for a week to see a client.  He comes home Friday night, then on Saturday Oldest Son and Darling Daughter fly in for the Thanksgiving holiday.

YAAAAAAYYYYY!!

Sorry – I don’t see my older kids nearly often enough.

Oldest Son has to leave first thing Friday morning following Turkey Day – he has work commitments – but Darling Daughter is staying until Sunday.  There’s gonna be a whole lotta cookin’ goin’ on, since Darling Daughter is also of the culinary persuasion, and she wants some basic cake decorating lessons, which will be fun too.  I SO cannot wait for their visit!

Whenever any of the kids come to visit, I always ask them what they’d like for dinner.  This dish is always requested by Oldest Son, who likes it accompanied by Hoppin’ John.  It may sound odd, pairing this rather sophisticated dish with such a humble side, but they go together amazingly well.  The fruit sauce is simplicity itself and lends itself well to just about any pork dish; I’m going to try it with my Honey Rosemary Grilled Pork Loin, which I recently roasted in the oven (it turned out really, really well).  I think it would be what my kids call “teh yummeh.”

I have no idea where this recipe came from, but it’s been in my repertoire for years and while it sounds like it should be complicated, it really isn’t, although it’s certainly fancy enough for company.  If you don’t eat pork, you could easily stuff a boned turkey breast with the spinach mixture and serve it with the fruit sauce – in fact, I bet it would be fabulous.

Spinach Stuffed Pork Roast with Fruit Sauce

serves 6 – 8

2 ¼ boneless pork loin roast, trimmed of visible fat

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 slice fresh bread, minced (or pulsed in a food processor until reduced to coarse crumbs)

6 oz. frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of any excess moisture

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Fruit Sauce

1 cup mixed dried fruit, chopped

1 cup unsweetened apple juice or cider

3/4 cup water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat;  saute the onion until tender and golden.  Stir in bread and spinach and season to taste with salt and pepper; remove from heat and set aside.

Starting on a long side, cut a deep pocket in the pork loin roast for the entire length; stuff with the spinach mixture and tie closed with kitchen string at 1-inch intervals.

Place the pork roast on a rack in a small roasting pan; sprinkle with the salt and pepper.  Roast pork for 45 minutes; spread with mustard and sprinkle with parsley and return to oven for another 15 minutes or until an instant thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork (not the spinach stuffing) reads 160° F.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 – 15 minutes.

While the pork loin roast is resting make the fruit sauce:

In a 2-quart sauce pan, bring the apple juice and dried fruit to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 3 minutes to soften the fruit.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together the water and cornstarch; stir into simmering fruit mixture.  Add the brown sugar and bouillon; raise the heat slightly and cook until thickened, stirring constantly.

Cut and remove the kitchen string; slice the pork and serve with the fruit sauce.

Boneless City Chicken

City Chicken...sort ofAs you may or may not know, Jen at Sprite’s Keeper is the proprietress (for want of a better word) of a wonderful weekly forum (because it’s NOT, she will tell you, a meme) called the Spin Cycle.  Every Friday, Jen hands out a subject and those of us who participate write a blog post giving our own, unique “spin” on it.  You can’t imagine my delight when I woke up this morning and checked out her blog for my next assignment.

Recipes.  Fall recipes, to be exact.  I am so completely tickled that I am going to do an entire week of Spins, starting today (mostly because I had this post already planned).  Some of the recipes I’ll post will be reruns of some I’ve already published (i.e. my Texas-style chili, which in my opinion is the fall food), and some will be new (I’m going to try out a new German Chocolate Cake recipe this weekend at Beloved’s request; if it’s good, I’ll post it next week).

So here we go.

I come from a part of the country with solid food traditions – chili, chicken fried steak, barbecue, cornbread, fried okra, grits, fried chicken, cream gravy…Fletcher’s corny dogs.  Hey, I said nothing about those food traditions being haute cuisine, but let’s be honest – all of those things makes you think “the South” and some of them make you think “Texas.”  When I moved to northeast Ohio four years ago, my first impression was that every one who lived here MUST be Italian, because Italian restaurants are as ubiquitous here as Mexican restaurants are in Dallas, and good gawd, there’s a pizza joint on practically every corner.

I was beginning to wonder if there was any regional food unique to the area at all when I ran across something in the meat department of the grocery store that I’d never seen before.  It was cubes of lean pork loin threaded on a bamboo skewer and labeled “City Chicken.”  There were no instructions on the packaging for cooking it, but the very name intrigued me so I put it in my cart, paid for it and brought it home.

This action was the beginning of a journey that not only consisted of figuring out how to cook it – there are several different methods, and everyone seems to have their favorite – but just why it is named what it is.  According to Wikipedia, “The origins of the entrée and its name are not entirely known, but its first references in cookbooks are during the Depression Era in midwestern cities such as Pittsburgh, when people took meat scraps and fashioned a makeshift drumstick out of them. It was a working class food item. During this period, pork was cheaper than chicken in many parts of the country, especially for those far from rural poultry farms. Sometimes the meat was ground, and a drumstick-shaped mold was used to form the ground meat around a skewer. Today, better cuts of meat (usually pork loin, beef, or veal) are used. In spite of the name, the dish almost never contains chicken.”

It then goes on to tell us that “The dish (and hence the term) are regionalized in cities in the northeastern Appalachia region of Pennsylvania and Upstate New York and Eastern\Central Ohio.”  Aha!  Food unique to the region!

City chicken is often breaded, pan fried and then baked – in some areas it is breaded and then deep-fried – but in northeast Ohio it is often dredged in seasoned flour, browned, then baked and served with gravy.  This is the route I took, and eventually it evolved into a one-pan procedure where I dredged it in seasoned flour, browned it, then covered it with  chicken or beef broth and some milk, and left it to simmer until the pork was tender and the flour thickened the liquid into a pan gravy.  It was quite tasty.

Those skewers, though, irritated the bejebus out of me.  They made it hard to dredge the meat in the flour, made it hard to fit the pork into the skillet to brown it, and it was a complete pain in the ass to get the pork off of them to eat because the way it was cooked you simply were NOT going to pick it up and eat it like a drumstick.  So, one day, when faced with a package of pre-skewered city chicken, I just said “$@%# it”, took the cubes of pork off the skewers and invented what Beloved calls “Boneless City Chicken.”  It was easier to cook and easier to eat.  Then I decided I could make it more economical, too, buy buying lean pork loin and cubing it myself, rather than buying it already cubed and skewered.

Recently, though, after having made Julia Child’s version of boeuf bourguignon and learning a brand-new way (for me) to brown and flour meat for a stew that made an absolutely scrumptious gravy, I revised my recipe for City Chicken yet again.  A little more work, yes, but oh. my. gawd.  This stuff is good, folks – warming, comforting and the perfect cold weather food.  If you don’t care for or don’t eat pork, for whatever reason, I’m sure it would be just as good with some good, lean stewing beef or veal.

Note:  if you partially freeze the meat, it will be much easier to cut into cubes.

Boneless City Chicken

serves 6

2 pounds lean pork loin, trimmed of visible fat and cut into 2″ cubes

vegetable oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 can low sodium chicken or beef broth or 2 cups homemade stock

2 cups milk (skim, 2% or whole)

Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 450° F.  Dry all of the cubed pork well with a paper towel – it will brown better.

Using a heavy bottomed Dutch oven or deep casserole dish – I used my Lodge 6-quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven – heat a tablespoon or two of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat on the stove.  When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add about a quarter of the cubed pork to the pan and, stirring occasionally, brown it well on all sides – about 3 minutes.  Remove the pork with a slotted spoon to a plate or platter and repeat 3 more times with the remaining pork, adding a little more oil if and when necessary.

When all of the pork cubes have been browned, lower the heat to medium and add the onion to the pan and quickly sauté until soft and translucent, but not browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds and remove from the heat.

Return all of the pork to the Dutch oven/casserole, along with any of the accumulated juices; add the salt and pepper to the pork and stir well.  Then, a couple of tablespoons at a time, sprinkle the flour over the pork/onion mixture, stirring well after each addition.  Once all of the flour has been incorporated into the pork, place the Dutch oven/casserole in the oven, uncovered, for 4 minutes.  Carefully remove the pan from the oven, stir well, and return to the oven for another 4 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven, and lower the heat to 350° F.

Carefully place the Dutch oven/casserole on the stove and slowly stir in the broth/stock, followed by the milk, combining it well.  Cover with a lid and return to the oven.  Bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender and the gravy is thickened (whisk in a little water or milk if the gravy thickens too much before the meat is done, but this really shouldn’t be a problem).

Serve over hot buttered noodles, steamed rice or mashed potatoes.

Spicy Orange Pork Chops

Spicy Orange Pork ChopsWell, I was going to jump on the Meatless Monday bandwagon today and post about quiche.  However, several extenuating factors have come into play, such as quarterly sales tax returns and menopausal brain fog, which are keeping me from doing the whole subject justice.

Yes, quiche deserves to have justice done…at least, my quiche does.

Another reason there is no quiche post is because of what I made for dinner last night – Spicy Orange Pork Chops, which Beloved nommed with much enthusiasm and caused The Young One to claim I was torturing him when I described them to him online last night.

These were really, really good as well as really, really easy.

Spicy Orange Pork Chops

serves 6

1 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin chops, about 1/2 inch thick

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 large orange, zested and juiced

1 tablespoon orange marmalade

1/2 cup brown sugar, not packed

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

In a large, heavy skillet heat the oil until almost smoking.  Season each side of the pork chops with salt and pepper; brown the chops on both sides.  Remove from skillet and place in a crock pot.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients and pour them over the pork chops.  Cook on high for 4 – 6 hours, or until the pork chops are tender.  These went really well with steamed rice, and would be great with mashed potatoes, too.

Have a lovely Monday, y’all.