Saturday, June 20, 2009

Brined Pork Roast Stuffed with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto with Roasted Lemon and Rosemary Sauce

This is an elegant dish to serve at your next dinner party. Brining the pork produces a really, tender, juicy cut of meat. Stuffing the pork makes it even more flavorful and the drizzle of rich, lemony sauce takes it well over the tippy-top!

For brining the pork:
½ cup all natural granulated sugar
1 cup kosher salt
2 cups water
1 (4-pound) boneless pork loin roast
Fresh rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves

For the pesto stuffing:
1 (2-ounce) package pine nuts, about 1/2 cup
1 pound fresh spinach leaves, about 4 cups
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 1 tablespoon
1 (3.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained, reserve the oil
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about 1 cup
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the roasted lemon sauce:
4 large lemons
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and diced
½ cup white wine
2 cups homemade chicken broth, or low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons organic unsalted butter

Mix together the sugar, salt and water in a large bowl or pan. Place the roast into the bowl. Add a handful of rosemary springs (save some for the sauce) and bay leaves. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 8 hours.

Toast the pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat until golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Watch carefully so the nuts do not burn! Place the spinach leaves, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Pulse to combine. With the machine on, slowly pour in the reserved oil from the sun-dried tomatoes to form a paste. If the mixture is too dry, you can pour in additional olive oil. Set the pesto aside.

Preheat the oven to broil. Cut the lemons in half. Cut a small piece from the bottom of each half so that the lemons sit flesh side up in a pan. Broil until the lemons are charred, about 5 to 10 minutes. Set the roasted lemons aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry. Use a sharp knife to cut a pocket into the center of the pork roast. Stuff the pocket with the spinach pesto mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Place one tablespoon olive oil in the skillet. Brown the pork roast on all sides, taking care to keep the stuffing in place. Place the stuffed pork roast onto a rack in a roasting pan. Cook until the roast reaches and internal temperature of 145 degrees, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the roast to a rack, and tent with aluminum foil.

Place the roasting pan on the stove top over medium high heat. Cook the shallots in the pan until soft. Pour in the wine. Use a wooden spoon to stir the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine by half. Squeeze the juice from 6 of the lemon halves into the pan. Pour in the chicken broth. Add the remaining rosemary sprigs. Simmer and reduce the sauce by half. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a pot. Return the pot to the stove over very low heat. Swirl in the butter. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

Cut the pork into 1-inch slices and lay onto a platter. Drizzle the sauce over top. Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs and the remaining roasted lemons.

Servings: 8
Preparation Time: 30 minutes, plus brining
Cook Time: 45 minutes for the roast

Sources and Substitutions
For a heartier stuffing, and ½ cup fresh bread crumbs to the pesto.

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