From Too Many Chefs -

December 7, 2005
Roast Pork with Braised Fennel, Apples and Onions

pork roast.jpgOne week after our Thanksgiving feast, I was starting to get a bit tired of turkey. As luck would have it, my dear spouse had a lot of evening engagements ('tis the season after all) and so I've been struggling to eat up all the leftovers. So Monday I decided to ignore the ever-present Tupperware container of turkey meat at the back of the refrigerator and picked up a lovely pork roast.

We don't have pork very often, mainly because I give in to the Critic's dislike of fatty or gristly meats. Pork chops can be both, and though I always get nice cuts his inherent prejudice always comes out when I tell him we are having it for dinner. It's kind of depressing when you announce in a bright cheerful voice what a delightful dish you've concocted and your dear husband responds with a disappointed, "Oh, really?"

This dinner, however, temporarily broke the mold. First, he could smell it when he came through the front door and it smelled absolutely fabulous. And secondly, it tasted fabulous. Sweet apples and sweet caramelized fennel went beautifully with the juicy pork. To be honest, I also bribed the Critic by roasting potatoes in a separate pan and making copious amounts of gravy; those two elements usually overcome any lingering prejudices over the choice of meat.

braised fennel.jpgRoast Pork with Braised Fennel, Apples and Onions

1 pork roast (ours was about 1.3 kilos or 2 1/2 pounds)
1 Tbs fennel seeds
1 Tbs oregano
1/2 Tbs dried thyme
1 tsp salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
2-3 small onions
2 small heads of fennel
1 apple
a little olive oil
a couple tablespoons of flour, water (for the gravy)

Preheat the oven to 350f/180c. Grind the spices and seasonings in a spice grinder or zap them in the mini-food processor attachment of your immersion blender. Lacking either of these, you could use a mortar and pestle, but it will take a good while. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of your roasting pan and place the roast in it. Rub the outside of the roast with the spice mix, reserving a teaspoon or so. Wash the fennel heads and cut them in halves or quarters, depending on how large and woody they are. Place them, cut side down, in the roasting pan. Slice the onions in half, peel them and top them and add them to the roasting pan, also cut side down.

By now, hopefully, the oven will be hot. Slide the roasting pan in and you can go and do other things for a while. (This is one of the reasons I love a good roast, by the way.) About half an hour before the meat is done wash the apple, quarter it and cut away the core. Add it to the pan.

When the roast is done, remove it to a platter and cover it with tin foil. Put the vegetables in a bowl and place them in the still warm oven to keep warm. Put the pan on a high fire and reduce the pork juices by half. Shake a jar with a couple of tablespoons of flour and water (about a cup) and pour it into the pan. Use a spoon to scrape up any bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan and season with the remaining spice mix. Be generous with the salt as both pork and gravy need it.

Serve a couple of slices of pork with a mix of apples, fennel and onions and dribble gravy over the the whole mess. Savoury, a little sweet and incredibly satisfying on a cold winter night. Although technically the fennel isn't braised, the effect of caramelizing on the bottom of the pan and then soaking in the juices from the roast is the same end product. The vegetables and apple take on a lovely glazed sweetness as they bake and complement one another perfectly.

A note on the timing of the roast: I left mine in for an hour and a half, which is a bit long but was necessary as I seem to have misplaced my meat thermometer and I din't want to risk lockjaw. Santa, are you listening?

Posted by Meg in Sussex at December 7, 2005 1:16 PM | TrackBack

I can't comment. That just sounds too wonderful.

Posted by barrett on December 7, 2005 at 2:58 PM

Oh, honey, that turkey needs to go!! ('Honey' intended most respectfully.) Potatoes and gravy do the same for my guys! :-) I need to buy fennel more often, it is such a nice addition to so many dishes.

Posted by Monica on December 7, 2005 at 3:59 PM

I bet quince would taste good in there, too.

Posted by Barbara on December 7, 2005 at 4:08 PM

Don't feel alone. My wife doesn't care for pork either, says it's gammy or something. Just don't smell right and won't eat chops, roasts or anything (except spare ribs). Or so she says. This is why I will sometimes end up making two different courses of meat. I get the pork and she gets the smoked salmon.
It's funny sometimes though, if I make extra or have plenty left over and leave it on the stove for an hour or so, just to rest so I can graze. Bits, pieces and hunks go missing and she has this funny smile on her face. I'll usually point and start in, she cuts me off and walks back to her computer. Deep down I know she loves it and will eat it, but won't admit it. That's okay, as long as she keeps smiling, I'm doing fine.


Posted by Dr. Biggles on December 7, 2005 at 5:17 PM

She doesn't like pork?

Oh, my, Dr. Biggles. That is--well--I find it odd.

Since my nice Jewish husband will eat anything so long as pig is involved, which he calls, "Sacrilicious."

Not that he is exactly observant, but still.

I bet you are right. She really does love the pig, but doesn't want to admit to it now.

Or, maybe she just likes salmon better?

Posted by Barbara on December 7, 2005 at 11:02 PM

Hey Barbara,

She's a huge fan of the fish, something light. See, when we started going out, she ate very little if NO meat at all. She said it was too rich and wasn't interested. Most of all she really disliked steak, beef steak. Admittedly, I don't eat a lot of steak or beef. But I can grill up an excellent slab if I do say so myself. So, meal after meal I convinced her it wasn't too rich and she agreed. Personally I think whomever was preparing her meat didn't know what they were doing. I got her dialed in and she hasn't looked back.
Although, my trek in to country fried pork ribs didn't go well, even with me.


Posted by Dr. Biggles on December 8, 2005 at 1:52 PM