- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In summer and fall, our house sometimes seems like a bed and breakfast because friends and family come so often to visit. However, when the cold, snowy months arrive in New England, our guest room is typically bare.

That hasn’t been the case this year. We’ve already had several friends stop by for overnights, and more are expected. I love welcoming out-of-town company to our home in the winter when I make an effort to keep the entertaining simple and the food robust. We always have a fire going in the living room and something roasting in the oven for dinner.

The orange-scented pork with fennel and potatoes featured today is just the sort of entree I like to serve for such occasions. It’s not complicated to prepare, and it bursts with vibrant flavors.

A boneless pork loin is studded with garlic slivers, quickly browned, then brushed with a glaze made with balsamic vinegar, orange marmalade, orange juice and mustard. The meat is roasted along with lightly sauteed fennel and potato wedges for under an hour. When done, the roast is a beautiful deep mahogany hue, and the vegetables slightly crisp and golden around the edges. A quick sauce is assembled using the pan juices and some additional glaze.

The secret to keeping a pork roast moist and tender is not to overcook it.

I take my pork out of the oven once a thermometer registers about 140 degrees, then I cover it with foil and let it rest and cook a few more minutes. I also like to cut the pork into extra thin slices when serving.

Along with the pork and vegetables, I’ll offer tender green beans sprinkled with sea salt and a crusty baguette. Then pears poached in red wine and spices will end this hearty cold-weather menu.

Orange-scented roast pork with fennel and potatoes

Makes 5 to 6 servings.

A 2 1/2 pound boneless pork loin, trimmed and tied

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut into thin slivers

3 medium fennel bulbs (about 2 pounds total)

1 pound small Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons sweet orange marmalade

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Have ready a large flameproof roasting pan. Make small, deep slits on all sides of the pork and insert garlic slivers. Cut off and discard lacy stems from fennel bulbs. Cut and discard a slice from the bases, then halve bulbs lengthwise and cut out and discard tough triangular cores in each half. Slice each half into 1/2 inch thick wedges. Halve potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Place roasting pan over medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons oil. When hot, add fennel and potatoes and saute, stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove vegetables and set aside.

Heat 2 more tablespoons in the roasting pan until hot. Add pork and brown well on all sides, about 8 minutes. Return vegetables to pan, scattering them evenly around the roast; salt and pepper roast and vegetables very generously.

In a bowl, whisk together vinegar, marmalade, orange juice, and mustard; brush 2 to 3 tablespoons of this mixture on the top and sides of the roast.

Roast until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 140 degrees, about 40 to 45 minutes, and vegetables are browned and tender. Stir vegetables every 10 minutes while roasting. Remove pork and vegetables to a serving platter and brush meat with 1 to 2 teaspoons of the remaining glaze. Tent meat and vegetables with foil; let rest 10 minutes.

For the sauce, add butter and remaining glaze mixture to the pan drippings. Bring to a simmer and cook 2 to 3 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove foil and sprinkle pork and vegetables with parsley.

To serve, cut meat into very thin slices, drizzle each serving with sauce and garnish with vegetables.


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