|Stuffed pork loin with gravy|
Using fillings to stuff or fill a cavity in meats is nothing new. One of the first recorded recipes of such is one for rabbit, fowl, rodent and pig back in the late 4th or early 5th century AD and in the cookbook Apicius (De re coquinaria or"On the Subject of Cooking"). Containing mostly vegetables, herbs and spices, a stuffing back then would entertain the flavors of nuts, cereal, liver or any other organ meat.
Today, our modern versions take on little differences with maybe exception in flavor of spice and this is determined from desired regional or country customs. The recipe used to stuff the pork loin chops is certainly a take on our taste here in the south. The flavors of the bay leaf, Tabasco pepper, vinegar and the trinity transform our beloved bitter collard greens to a unique sweet stuffing medley of delta Cajun, southern soul food and urban metro. Enjoy!
Southern Stuffed Pork Pockets
with a little hint of soulful Cajun
1 boneless pork loin roast, about 2 1/2 pounds
Salt and pepper
1 bunch collard greens
1 slice thick-cut smoked bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 small onion, diced
1 small celery rib, diced
1/4 cup green or red bell pepper, diced
2 garlic toes, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground bay leaves
2 fresh Tabasco peppers, chopped
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup toasted pecans
Pat the pork dry with paper towels and slice into 4 equally thick chops. Using a short-bladed sharp knife (paring does well) slice into the long side of each chop creating a pocket. Cut almost to the edges of the two sides and to the back which when standing will become the bottom. Actually, cutting into the fat side of the chop would cook better, as the fat layer should always be on top. I will do this next time. Season the outside of the meat on all sides with a little salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning. Put aside.
Wash the collards several times in a deep pan of water or your sink and drain well. Remove tough stems and chop the greens finely.
In a small skillet or saucepan, cook the bacon until grease renders and bacon is light brown. Remove much of the grease if desired. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil, onion, celery and bell pepper. Cook until vegetables are soft. Add garlic, ground bay leaves (or use a large bay), Tabasco peppers (or another hot pepper), vinegar and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and add the collards. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning. (Do not use too much Cajun.) Use tongs if needed to constantly move the greens around in the liquid until softened. Reduce heat to medium low and allow to cook until the liquid is evaporated and greens are tender.
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Fold in the pecans and generously fill each pork chop cavity with the collard mixture. Pour a small dribble of olive oil in the bottom of a 2-quart baker or casserole. Place stuffed pockets into the baker (forming an 'X' should work better) and moisten the meat with olive oil.
Place a small piece of foil over the stuffing to prevent drying out. Place in the oven and reduce temperature to 375 degrees. Cook about 45 minutes basting with pan drippings or olive oil a couple of times. If desired, test the meat; internal temperature of the pork should be about 145 when using a stuffing. Placing the thermometer probe on the inside wall of the pork and gently inserting it there will give a fairer reading. Remove foil and allow top to cook another 5 or so minutes.
Serve with a thin pork gravy, a mushroom and wine reduction or any sauce based from the demi-glace method.
Note: Any use of greens would be great - a blend of collard, turnip and mustard greens or spinach can be used.