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 My first two years at college, I lived mostly out of the dining halls. We all kept snacks and the occasional Easy Mac in our dorm rooms, but chances were, if you lived on grounds, you lived off of your meal plan. So I didn’t have a kitchen until my third year in college, but even then, I was the outsider among my roommates so I didn’t use the kitchen as much as I might otherwise have. I ate a lot of egg and cheese sandwiches.

My culinary adventures really got going my fourth year when I lived with good friends and we all spent more time together in the kitchen. This was the era of the mini muffin war, as previously documented. I already loved to cook. I had been stealing time in my friends’ kitchens every now and then to make cookies or other goodness, but this was really the first time I had the means to really try things out in my own space. (Or space that I shared with three other people.)

It just so happened that my brother was in culinary school at this point in time and was eager to encourage my new cooking habit, so he gave me a bunch of cookbooks (and alcohol) around this time. These books included the classic The Joy of Cooking, some Barefoot Contessa books and a great little book called “Help, My Apartment has a Kitchen!” This last book has been one of my perrennial favorites; the chocolate chip cookie recipe is fabulous. However, it was the pork loin with plum sauce that I always remember. It was the first thing I cooked that was kind of a fancy deal and it was so delicious. Since then, I’ve gown a lot as a cook and am no longer tied to recipes the way I was back then, but whenever I made a roast pork loin I think back that that first one I made back in college, when I lived with my friends and was just discovering my love of cooking.

So this dish is a bit of an homage to that first pork loin, what, with the plums and everything. It’s fun looking at this dish, which emerged from my imagination and think about how I started: carefully reading that recipe, line by line. I even have a roommate to share it with, just like I did back in the day. And while we stood in the kitchen, stuffing our faces with freshly roasted pork loin, Roomie reached over the island and gave me a high five. “Well done, Morgo.” Just like back in the day.

 

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2.5 – 3 lb Pork Loin
6 Black Plums, peeled, pitted and chopped
3/4 Pint Figs, sliced
1 C Yellow Onion, diced
1 Tbsp Tarragon, chopped
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Allspice Berries
1/4 C Red Wine
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp Flour

Instructions:

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Preheat the oven to 500º F.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a small sauce pan and then add the onion. Cook the onion over low heat for approximately 30 minutes. In a separate pan, combine the plums, figs, allspice berries, tarragon and 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add a dash of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook the fruit over medium heat until they soften and release their juices. NOTE: the allspice berries are coming out of the compote later on. If you happen to have a small spice bag lying around, go ahead and put the berries in it. Otherwise you’re going to end up picking the spice berries out of the compote one by one later on, like a certain someone…

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Take 1 C of the fig and plum mixture and 2 Tbsp of the onion and mix them together in a separate bowl. Set the bowl aside to cool while you prep the pork.

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Let the rest of the fruit and the onions keep cooking while you attend to the pork. You want to cut into the pork loin, so you end up with a long, thinner cut of pork. I place the loin, one short side facing me, and then cut into the loin about 1/3 of the way down. Open up that top flap like a book and then cut into the remaining 2/3 section in the opposite direction so you end up opening the pork up like a trifold letter.

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Spread the cooled fig and plum mixture over the pork and then roll the pork up. Cut slashes into the fat on the top of the loin and then tie it off every inch or so. Season the pork with salt and pepper and rub a layer of olive oil over it. Cook at 500º F for 15 to 20 minutes – until the fat on top has started to brown and get crispy. Once the meat has hit that point, turn the temperature down to 350º F and continue to cook.

How long should the pork cook at this temp? In theory, I’ve heard that one should cook the meat about 25 minutes/pound. However, that would probably result in super overcooked pork. You want to cook the meat until the center hits about 140º F. (Once the meat has rested, it should hit 145º F, which is the the magic “safe pork” temperature.) I had a 2.8 lb loin and it required cooking at 350º F for about 40 minutes.

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Once the pork is in the oven, add the onion to the fig and plum pan and then deglaze the pan with the red wine. Simmer and reduce the wine until it is completely absorbed into the fruit. At this point, add another 1/2 C of water and reduce again. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove the compote from heat and, once it is cool enough, remove the allspice berries from the mix.

midnight-spoon-27When the pork reaches 140º F, remove it from the oven and set aside to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. The meat should reach 145º F while it rests.

midnight-spoon-32If you want to make a gravy for the pork, collect all those good juices from the pork pan and transfer them to a sauce pan. Try to avoid as much as the fat as possible, getting only the juices. Mix 1 tbsp of flour with 2 tbsp of water in a small bowl to make a thick slurry. When the pork juice is simmering, stir in the slurry and cook, stirring frequently, until the gravy thickens.

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Once the meat has rested and the gravy has finished cooking, slice into that nice big piece of pork and take a big bite. You’ve earned it!

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Roasted Pork Loin with Fig and Plum Compote
 
Recipe By:
Ingredients
  • 2.5 - 3 lb Pork Loin
  • 6 Black Plums, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • ¾ Pint Figs, sliced
  • 1 C Yellow Onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp Tarragon, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Allspice Berries
  • ¼ C Red Wine
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Flour
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 500º F.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a small sauce pan and then add the onion. Cook the onion over low heat for approximately 30 minutes. In a separate pan, combine the plums, figs, allspice berries, tarragon and 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add a dash of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook the fruit over medium heat until they soften and release their juices. NOTE: the allspice berries are coming out of the compote later on. If you happen to have a small spice bag lying around, go ahead and put the berries in it. Otherwise you're going to end up picking the spice berries out of the compote one by one later on, like a certain someone...
  3. Take 1 C of the fig and plum mixture and 2 Tbsp of the onion and mix them together in a separate bowl. Set the bowl aside to cool while you prep the pork.
  4. Let the rest of the fruit and the onions keep cooking while you attend to the pork. You want to cut into the pork loin, so you end up with a long, thinner cut of pork. I place the loin, one short side facing me, and then cut into the loin about ⅓ of the way down. Open up that top flap like a book and then cut into the remaining ⅔ section in the opposite direction so you end up opening the pork up like a trifold letter.
  5. Spread the cooled fig and plum mixture over the pork and then roll the pork up. Cut slashes into the fat on the top of the loin and then tie it off every inch or so. Season the pork with salt and pepper and rub a layer of olive oil over it. Cook at 500º F for 15 to 20 minutes - until the fat on top has started to brown and get crispy. Once the meat has hit that point, turn the temperature down to 350º F and continue to cook.
  6. How long should the pork cook at this temp? In theory, I've heard that one should cook the meat about 25 minutes/pound. However, that would probably result in super overcooked pork. You want to cook the meat until the center hits about 140º F. (Once the meat has rested, it should hit 145º F, which is the the magic "safe pork" temperature.) I had a 2.8 lb loin and it required cooking at 350º F for about 40 minutes.
  7. Once the pork is in the oven, add the onion to the fig and plum pan and then deglaze the pan with the red wine. Simmer and reduce the wine until it is completely absorbed into the fruit. At this point, add another ½ C of water and reduce again. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove the compote from heat and, once it is cool enough, remove the allspice berries from the mix.
  8. When the pork reaches 140º F, remove it from the oven and set aside to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. The meat should reach 145º F while it rests.
  9. If you want to make a gravy for the pork, collect all those good juices from the pork pan and transfer them to a sauce pan. Try to avoid as much as the fat as possible, getting only the juices. Mix 1 tbsp of flour with 2 tbsp of water in a small bowl to make a thick slurry. When the pork juice is simmering, stir in the slurry and cook, stirring frequently, until the gravy thickens.
  10. Once the meat has rested and the gravy has finished cooking, slice into that nice big piece of pork and take a big bite. You've earned it!
 

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