I was going through our freezer and came across this big, beautiful boneless pork loin and it triggered a memory.
Many years ago, back in the 70s when we lived in Ohio in Portage Valley, I was given this great cookbook. This is where my memory gets a bit foggy. I think it was either titled “Menus for 365 Days” or “52 Weeks of Recipes.” The best photo was on the cover, a beautiful, boneless, stuffed veal roast, and to the best of my memory, it was also the last recipe in the book. The name of the recipe, I think, was titled ‘New Year’s Eve Dinner.’ It was a complete gourmet menu, very detailed and easy enough for me to try to create. I made it and it was picture perfect, not to mention it tasted divine. It was one recipe I made often for special occasions.
Seeing that pork loin in the freezer triggered my memory and made me want to, once again, make that recipe I loved. However, over the years, I lost that book.
I was like Captain Ahab, obsessed and possessed. For the past 20 years or so, every once in a while, I would start searching for that book again. I checked eBay, yard sales, estate sales, half price book sales and, yes, I Googled images, hoping they would lead me to a link of the recipe that I have been constantly searching. Sure, I wouldn’t let it take over my life but, every so often, a few days before New Year’s Eve, I would start going crazy, searching for that book. I eventually stopped looking and put the quest for that recipe behind me – that is, until last week when I saw that beautiful frozen pork tenderloin in the freezer.
My Sausage, Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Tenderloin
This isn’t exactly like the one from the book, but it turned out really delicious. I do remember the original also had rice in the stuffing, but with this “new” recipe, I instead elected to serve an orzo/rice herbed pilaf on the side instead of in the stuffing.
1 3-pound boneless pork or veal tenderloin
Himalayan or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh parsley, plus chopped fresh parsley leaves, no stems, for garnish
1/2 cup golden raisins or figs or pitted dates
2 tablespoons EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
3-4 cloves garlic
1 pound crumbled sweet or hot Italian sausage, lightly browned and well drained
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup goat or feta cheese crumbles
1 1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped mushrooms (I like to use a mix of mushrooms.)
1/2 cup Greek Metaxa or any good brandy or wine
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon butter
* You will need a roasting pan with a removable rack, you can improvise with a deep pan that will hold a cookie sheet and a meat thermometer .
DIRECTIONS: Cook the sausage till lightly browned. Drain well and remove the sausage; then set it aside. Sauté the mushrooms in the sausage juices in the pan, with maybe a bit of EVOO. Set the mushrooms aside.
Place the tenderloin on a large cutting board. Butterfly the tenderloin but be sure not to slice it all the way through (stop about an inch from the bottom). Open the meat up to lay flat and cover it with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Using a meat mallet or a heavy rolling pin, pound the meat till it is a large even rectangle of meat. Season it generously with the salt and pepper.
In a small chopper or food processor, add the parsley, raisins, olive oil and garlic and pulse until combined into a thick chunky paste.
Place a large piece of parchment paper on the work surface and place the meat on the paper. Spread the paste on the inside of the meat, leaving a 1/4-inch edge with no paste.
Add a layer of crumbled sausage, again leaving the 1/4-inch edge. Add a layer of baby spinach and finish with the crumbled goat /feta cheese. Roll the meat horizontally into a tight log.
I use the parchment paper to help roll it. Once rolled, tie it up with kitchen string making sure the string is secure. Wrap the parchment paper around the tenderloin log and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Carefully place the tenderloin on the baking rack in the roasting pan. Add 1 1/2 cups of water to the bottom of the pan. Roast for 20 minutes to create a nice crust. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 325 degrees and roast about another 20-25 minutes until the meat is at 140 degrees.
Remove the pan from the oven, place the roast on a cutting board and tent it with foil for 15 minutes.
While roast is resting, scrape the fond (the brown crumbs at the bottom of roasting pan) and the juices and place them in a non-stick fry pan. Skim off a tablespoon or two of the fat and throw it away. Heat the pan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk until golden, scraping up any bits accumulated on the bottom of the pan. Add the Metaxa or wine and deglaze for about 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, whisking constantly, and simmer until thick, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Add the butter and stir gently. Slice the roast and plate it with a generous ladle of the mushroom gravy. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley. I like to serve it with Greek orzo/ rice pilaf.
Makes about 4-6 servings.