I love my aunt.
The Aunt, who will turn 75 years old next month, is a force to be reckoned with in so, so many ways. She never married, because women don’t need a man to define them, and my sister, two cousins and I are her surrogate children. Traditional Italian families are matrilineal and ours was no different. During holiday gatherings at my aunt/grandmother’s house, she was the one who brought the largest gifts and had the loudest voice. During my childhood, she was the reason I went to Disney World every other summer.
The Aunt, in her elder years, has adopted a blissful ignorance about her. She refuses to watch the news, disconnects herself from most holidays (it comes as a shock to her that the banks are closed on Monday for President’s Day) and gets her information from friends and family. Fair enough.
She decided to take a friend of hers out for dinner on Friday evening. They went to The Cheesecake Factory at DestinyUSA. Now, it should be noted that Friday was Valentine’s Day, a perfect storm for local restaurants (we watched staff at Koto Steakhouse on Erie Boulevard East turn away walk-ins as we waited to be seated for our reservation). It should also be noted that this was the first week of operation for Syracuse’s Cheesecake outpost. The Aunt was disappointed in the wait and disorganization of the check-in process, never mind that every TCF has a gigantic wait and disorganization issue.
The Aunt leaves for a month in Florida this week and wanted to go out for dinner. Compounding Valentine’s Day weekend was a delayed tipoff time for the Syracuse University men’s basketball team which, due to its opponent’s travel issues, was moved from 3 to 7 p.m. We were able to convince The Aunt to let me cook dinner at our house.
I found a well-wrapped and sealed Bostrom Farms pork loin in my downstairs freezer. Bostrom, which sells its pork frozen at the Central New York Regional Market, is an amazing little operation based out of the Finger Lakes’ town of Penn Yan. Even though it was frozen, the cooked product had the rich pork flavor missing from the factory-processed meats you buy at grocery.
Giada De Laurentiis‘ recipe worked out nicely here because I could scale it a bit and incorporate product from one of my other favorite New York State businesses — F. Oliver’s. Yes, regular balsamic vinegar will work fine in the vinaigrette, but F. Oliver’s ripe fig is so much better than the regular version. The incorporation of fig offers a broader flavor profile that really works here.
WHAT WORKED: Searing. The exterior crust locked the juices in and protected the pork from drying out during its high-heat roast.
WHAT DIDN’T: My knife. Though I sharpened and honed it, my chef’s knife had a hard time slicing through the seared roast. Moral of the story: it’s time to get my knives professionally sharpened.
WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “This is really good. The pork tastes like…pork.”
WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Who knows? The recipe was good, but rather than making the vinaigrette, I might serve it with a garlic confit and a drizzle of the fig vinegar.
Roasted Pork Loin with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ original
- 2 heads garlic
- 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 lb. boneless pork loin
- 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (NOTE: I used F. Oliver’s ripe fig balsamic)
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons water
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees.
Peel the outermost layer of paper from your bulbs of garlic. Cut your garlic bulbs in half the short way so that the top and bottom are separated. Set near the end of a medium-sized piece of foil, drizzle with 2 tbsp. oil and sprinkle with salt. Fold the foil over and cinch the edges to form a pouch. Roast for 60 to 75 minutes, remove from the oven and set aside to cool in the foil.
(Note from Jared: I roasted the garlic ahead of time for convenience sake. You can do this all at once with the pork, if you would like.)
Season the pork roast with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining oil in a Dutch oven or roasting pan over high heat. When the oil shimmers, place the pork roast in the pan and sear all sides to a deep brown (like a brown paper bag). Once seared, transfer the pork roast to the 475-degree oven and roast until its internal temperature reaches 140 degrees, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the roast from the pan, set on a platter and tent with foil to rest for 15 minutes. The pork will continue to cook during this time. Set aside.
Squeeze garlic bulbs to free roasted cloves from the bulb. Add cloves, parsley and vinegar to a blender. Pulse puree until garlic is mashed and combined with other ingredients. Add sugar, salt and water and blend, drizzling the 2/3 cup of oil into the pitcher while it runs, until well blended.
Transfer the roast to a cutting board and cut the pork into 1/2- to 3/4-inch slices. Set on the platter and drizzle with the vinaigrette.