Going to tapas restaurants with friends is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening. The sangria and conversation flow easily as we sample one delicious small plate after another. My good friend Jon and I have spent many a happy evening together at Solea or CuchiCuchi, two local tapas restaurants. When my friend Nahir informed me that she could make a good paella we came up with the idea for a Spanish themed cooking night.
I am blessed with many fabulous foodie friends. Our final menu included:
Spanish meat and cheese tray with marinated olives and caramelized walnuts
Lamb stuffed dates with a picante roasted red pepper sauce
Brussel sprout and fennel salad with brown butter-parmesan dressing
Chorizo stuffed mushrooms
Brie en croute stuffed with bacon and walnuts
Bleu cheese crusted pork loin stuffed with prunes and onions
Orange and red onion salad with olives
Fresh baby spinach dressed with a sherry and orange olive oil vinaigrette
Sweet potato muffins with dried cranberries
Guava and cream cheese bombs
Sangria. Lots and lots of sangria
With all of the ham, chorizo, pork and bacon present we joked about calling the party The Great Pork Dinner of 2011 instead!
|Lamb stuffed dates in picante pepper sauce|
One of my favorite dishes when I go out for tapas is lomito al cabrales, pork loin smothered in a Spanish bleu cheese sauce. Although that idea was the inspiration for this pork loin the finished product really isn't anything similar to lomito al cabrales, except of course for the pork loin and cheese. I wanted to create a sweet-salty pork dish that would be reminiscent of the idea of the original sweet sherry and salty ham tapar, but would be a show-stopper for a dinner party. This definitely fit the bill.
Bleu Cheese Crusted Pork Loin ~ serves 8-10
3lb pork loin, butterflied
2 cups bleu cheese
1 cup prunes
1 large onion
1 cup panko, approximately
1.25 cup sweet Spanish sherry, divided (such as Cesar Florido Moscatel Especial)
1 T prepared demi-glace
2 tsp fresh rosemary
salt & pepper to taste
Notes before you start: This is definitely a dinner party type dish. You can make the stuffing one day ahead and refrigerate it to save time. I used Williams-Sonoma demi-glace de veau as a time saver but you can certainly make your own. In addition to the above ingredients you will need kitchen twine to truss the loin. You can either butterfly the loin yourself if you're comfortable, or you can ask your butcher to butterfly it for you. Unfortunately many meat counter employees aren't trained butchers so if you're nervous about entrusting your final cut to someone else watch a couple of videos online and take the plunge!
Finely chop prunes and soak in 3/4 cup of the sherry. Set aside.
Finely slice onion. Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and saute onion until beginning to caramelize. Add 1/2 a cup of the bleu cheese, allowing it to melt and combine completely until smooth. Add prunes and soaking liquid along with the demi-glace. Remove from heat. Season with salt, pepper and rosemary. Sprinkle with panko, a little at a time, combining until panko absorbs all the liquid and is just moistened, neither soggy nor dry. Mixture should be about the consistency of sticky cookie dough. Let cool (or refrigerate overnight).
Preheat oven to 350º F. Place a roasting pan with a rack in the oven to heat up.
Trim silverskin from pork loin. To do this slide the tip of a flexible boning knife just under the silverskin, almost like pushing a needle through a piece of fabric. Steadily slide the knife, with the blade slightly angled upward, down the loin to remove the silverskin.
If you haven't already, butterfly the loin. Spread out the butterflied loin, cover with plastic wrap, and flatten with a mallet just until the loin is about an even thickness across. Season lightly with salt (the bleu cheese is very salty) and season liberally with fresh ground pepper.
Roll the pork loin back up tightly and take a long piece of kitchen twine to truss the loin. To truss a loin start by tying the twine tightly around one end, like a bracelet.
Let rest 5 minutes. Slice loin into 1/4"+ slices and serve. This dish is so rich, and we were having so many other delicious dishes at the Spanish dinner, that I didn't serve it with a sauce. If you're making this for a dinner party another option would be to make a simple pan gravy with stock and serve the pork with a salad of baby spinach with a simple vinaigrette of 2 parts orange olive oil (or olive oil + orange zest) to one part Spanish sherry with 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard.