Autumn's coolness whets appetite for hearty foods

Entertaining

Herbs envelop pork loin, which is marinated, grilled

Entertaining

September 22, 2002|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Special to the Sun

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year to cook outdoors and entertain. With the air crisp and clear and the temperatures cooler, sometimes even chilly, I find robust foods cooked over an open fire irresistible.

This year, I've added a new recipe to my repertoire. A good friend and talented cook from Columbus, Ohio, mentioned that she loved to cook boneless pork loins wrapped in fresh herbs on the grill. The roasts, she explained, were best when marinated for several hours, then cooked slowly on a grill with a lid.

Using these directions, I experimented with quite a few roasts and decided that the best was one in which a pork loin was cut open and filled with a mixture of chopped rosemary and thyme, orange peel and garlic. After closing the roast, I brushed it with Dijon mustard and placed fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme over the outside surface. The mustard helped the herbs to adhere so that I could tie the roast easily with twine. I marinated the pork in fresh orange juice, then grilled it for over an hour. The "herb" jacket slowly becomes charred during the cooking process, producing a pleasant fragrance and keeping the meat beneath from drying out.

At serving time, the herbs are removed and the meat cut into serving pieces. The pork slices, pale white after cooking, with distinctive lines of delicious filling running through their centers, are exceptionally moist and tender.

I served the roast warm with grilled red-skin potatoes and some blanched green beans, but then I discovered while munching on the leftovers that the meat was equally good cold. In the latter version, you could take the sliced roast to a fall picnic or tailgate party and offer coleslaw or potato salad and a platter of sliced fall tomatoes as side dishes.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.

Pork Loin in a Rosemary Jacket

Makes 4 to 5 servings

One 2-pound boneless center-cut pork loin, about 8 inches long and 4 inches in diameter (see note)

3 large navel oranges, rinsed and dried

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped rosemary, plus 10 to 12 long rosemary sprigs

1 teaspoon chopped thyme, plus 10 to 12 long thyme sprigs

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

kosher salt, coarsely ground black pepper

1/4 cup Dijon mustard with seeds

oil

Place roast on work surface, and with sharp knife held parallel to work surface make a slit 3/4 of the way through center of roast. Do not cut all the way through. Open meat like a book and set aside.

Grate enough zest from oranges to yield 1 tablespoon and place in small mixing bowl. Juice oranges and set aside.

To bowl with orange peel, add chopped rosemary, chopped thyme, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper. Mix well. Spread mixture on one side of opened meat and then close. Brush entire outside surface (top, bottom, sides and ends) of meat with mustard. Encase roast alternately with rosemary and thyme sprigs, leaving short, rounded ends uncovered. (The mustard will help the herbs adhere to the meat.)

Tie roast with cotton kitchen twine at 1-inch intervals. Place roast in ziplock bag and add reserved orange juice. Refrigerate, turning several times while marinating, 6 hours or overnight.

One hour before grilling, remove meat from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Pour marinade into small saucepan and boil over high heat 5 minutes. Set aside for basting roast.

Oil grill rack and arrange 4 to 5 inches from heat source. Prepare grill. When ready, grill roast over a hot fire, covered with lid of grill. Turn and baste roast often with reserved marinade as this will keep herbs and string from burning. Grill until instant-read thermometer registers 155 to 160 degrees when placed into thickest part of roast. Grilling time should be between 55 and 70 minutes or longer. Time will vary depending on type of grill used and intensity of heat.

When done, remove pork loin and cool 10 minutes. Cut string and remove herbs. Slice into 1/4 - to 1/2 -inch-thick slices. Arrange overlapping slices on platter and salt lightly.

Note: Pork loins of similar weights can vary in shape. For this recipe, a single loin, which is long and slender, is the best choice.

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