Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pancetta Wrapped Stuffed Pork Loin

Happy 100th Birthday Maillard reaction!!

Thanks to French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, we understand the science behind why some foods taste so damn good.  The smell of freshly baked bread, the taste of a yummy steak off the grill, the joy in a fine cup of coffee or crafty beer.  Who would have thought amino acids+sugars+heat=so much fun!  The Maillard reaction could be the most widely occurring chemical reaction in the world, as millions of people at any given time around the globe are cooking something.  The reaction forms thousands of tasty (and some undesirable like 5-hydroxymethylfurfural and acrylamide) compounds in even the simplest of cooking.  I won't bore you with the details, so here's a quick explanation for you- the carbonyl group of a sugar reacts with amino groups on a protein or amino acid to produce water and an unstable glycosylamine, which undergoes Amadori rearrangements to produce a series of aminoketose compounds, which are further rearranged through a multitude of chemical reactions, conversions, and polymerizations, creating compounds responsible for aroma, color, and last but never least, flavor. 

Now that you are thoroughly educated on the subject, let's denature some protein with heat! That's cooking, if you weren't sure.

You having a couple peeps over for dinner and want to do something lovely?  This will impress.  Trying to round second with yo date?  This might do the trick.  Pancetta wrapped stuffed pork loin.  It's like a pig in a blanket, if the blanket was more pig.  It's an oinky double down.  Wait, that sounded like something Guy Fieri would know, the king of douchebaggery.  Time to get to the reicpe. 

Since it's fall, the stuffing ingredients were themed according to the season- walnuts, cranberry, and blue cheese get along real well this time of year.  The options are limitless to stuff the pork with other ingredients.

You might think a pancetta wrapped stuffed pork loin would be quite laborious, yet it's really quite simple.  Cut it, pound it, stuff it, wrap it, roast it, rest it, slice it, and eat it. 

Some quick notes-
If you want to feed a crowd, get a bigger loin, adjust the amount of other ingredients and the cooking time.
Definitely use the rack to roast this on, so the pancetta on the bottom gets all nice and crispy.
When rolling this puppy, do so firmly to ensure a tight roll but don't squeeze so hard you expel the stuffing.
When you cut to butterfly and flatten, pick the tallest, skinniest side (or now the top) of the loin.

Pancetta Wrapped Stuffed Pork Loin
4-6 servings

2.25 lb pork loin
8 oz. pancetta
freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 C mayonnaise
1/2 C walnuts, roughly chopped and toasted
1/3 C good quality blue cheese
1/2 C craisins
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 medium shallot, minced (about 2 TB)

On a sturdy surface, lay down a few layers of plastic wrap.  With a very sharp knife, slice the loin carefully through the tallest side, leaving about 1", so it opens like a book.  Cover with a couple more sheets of wrap, then use a heavy rolling pin or skillet to pound to about 3/4" thickness. 

Cut 4 to 6 pieces of butcher's twine to about 20" length, and lay out evenly on a cutting board (the one for raw meat, not your nice wooden board).  On top of the twine, space out the pancetta evenly the same size as your flattened loin.  You can easily adjust the twine at any time if needed by moving while taught. 

Place the loin on top of the pancetta, and season liberally with freshly cracked black pepper.  Cover all  but 1" from the edges with the mayo.  

Add the stuffing ingredients- the shallot, garlic, toasted walnuts, craisins, and blue cheese, spread evenly on the loin up to 1" from the edge.  Starting on one side, start rolling by getting under the pancetta but leaving the twine behind.  Hold tight once rolled and then tie tight and trim off the excess twine.

With your oven preheated to 450F, blast this pork roll at high heat for 20 minutes to crisp the outer layer of pancetta.  Then turn the heat down to 350F and roast for about another 40-50 minutes, depending on the size of your loin.  If your oven doesn't heat evenly, rotate the pan halfway through.  Cook until the internal temp reaches 145F, start checking after about an hour of total cook time and go from there.

Once out of the oven, tent lightly with foil and let rest for 15 minutes.  Slice into about 1" pieces and serve.  Even Guy would agree, that is off the hook. 

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