Joni Woolf: Birthdays and butterflies … sort of
This week, my daughter Carey surprised me — totally surprised me — with a birthday party at the Windsor, in the elegant Rosemary and Thyme restaurant. She had invited some 30 of the dearest people on earth, and it was a lovely gathering of family and friends enjoying delicious food. For my dinner (after a sweet period of wine and their one-of-a-kind hors d’oeuvres) I ordered the stuffed pork chop. It was perfect — perfectly flavored, perfectly cooked. I recommend it highly. I love all things pork. What can I say? I was raised on a farm in South Georgia where pork hung in the smoke house and got us through the winter. I won’t include details of the process: suffice it to say that bacon, sausage, ham (cured, smoked, fresh), chops, roasts all cause my mouth to water.
Reflecting on the grand meal at the Windsor, and the delectable pork chop, I remembered back to 2004, when I received my copy of Louise Dodd’s cookbook, “Eating From the White House to the Jailhouse.” I came across a recipe called Doubled Butterflied Pork Loin, and I was tempted. By now I was widowed for the second time, living alone, did not cook a great deal, and had no one to share it with. I wasn’t planning a party and was not in the mood to invite a crowd over. But I wanted this pork roast. So I determined I would try it. Here’s how Louise describes the process:
“This is perhaps one of my masterpieces and deserves saving forever. I did this in a cooking demonstration and loved the response. So, it’s complicated. Some things just are. This is worth all the time and trouble. First you have to double butterfly the pork loin and don’t depend on your butcher to know how. You must either take him the directions or do it yourself.” (I did it myself.)
She was right: it is complicated. But I was determined to prepare it, so off I went to grocery store and bought the boneless loin. The fun was just beginning.
DOUBLE BUTTERFLIED PORK LOIN
1. Butterfly (cut lengthwise almost all the way through) a 3 to 4 pound boneless loin.
2. Lay open loin and pat flat.
3. Starting in the center of the open loin, butterfly again on the left side.
4. Butterfly again on the right side; lay open and pat flat.
5. Evenly spread desired stuffing (about 2 cups) over loin (see below).
6. Start with the shorter side and roll.
7. Tie loin securely at 2 to 3 inch intervals with kitchen twine.
8. Place loin in shallow roasting pan and roast at 350 degrees F. for 1 to 1 ½ hours or to 155-160 degrees on meat thermometer.
9. Let loin rest 5 to 10 minutes before slicing to serve.
For the basting sauce:
Melt 1 cup apple jelly and ½ cup Calvados over low heat. Baste several times during baking.
For the Stuffing:
1 large apple, (Gala or Fuji) diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup herb-seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Calvados
Saute’ the onions and apples in the oil over medium heat. When tender, add the crumbs and Calvados and mix well. Remove from heat. Stuff the loin. (Note: I added dried cranberries that had been softened in warm water.)
To present the dish: Remove the string and place the meat on a serving platter and slice it about ½ inch thick, leaving a portion unsliced. Place Yates apples (that have been cooked in water with about ½ cup sugar and a couple of drops red food coloring) around the roast and intersperse them with green apple leaves, parsley, celery leaves, basil or galax leaves from the mountains.
Obviously, I had no ‘presentation.’ I ate pork roast for two or three days before I decided I had had enough. But it was a task that taught me I could do most anything in the kitchen if I set my mind to it. And so can you.
Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at email@example.com