I’m always on the lookout for particular ingredients that can enhance my cooking. This recipe falls under that category. I’ve always been curious about fennel, an aromatic and flavorful herb, very similar to anise, from which comes that popular cordial, anisette. Fennel is used in the cooking of many cultures such as Indian, Afghanistani, Middle Eastern, and is one of the ingredients in Chinese five-spice powder. But, in western cuisine, how would it hold up on its own? Let’s say, if we pair it with meat? I pondered this and decided to combine it with some pork loin which I had on hand. The results were marvelous. And that is the genesis of Roast Pork with Fennel. You will not be disappointed in the results.
I’m sure this recipe can also be paired with steak or lamb. It would be too overpowering with fish. I would say the same for chicken. But, who knows, it you want to try it with these other staples, go at it and let me know.
I served this dish with mashed potatoes, since the pork loin rendered a great gravy to go with it. A side dish such as rice, couscous or quinoa would complement it as well. Add a good red wine, such as a Cabernet, Zinfandel, or a lighter Valpolicella or Beaujolais, and you have a feast.
ROAST PORK WITH FENNEL
1 3½ to 4 pound boneless pork loin roast
3 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon crushed fennel
½ cup chicken broth
1. Wash the roast under running water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Make gashes at various points in the roast, top, back, sides. Stud the holes with the garlic slivers. Sprinkle the roast with salt and pepper. Rub the roast with the fennel seeds.
3. Place in large zip-lock bag, bowl or pan with a cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or, better yet, overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degree F. Remove roast from refrigerator and arrange fat side down on a shallow baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn over on meat side and continue roasting another 30 minutes.
5. When the roast has baked a total of one hour, add the chicken broth. cover lightly with foil, and bake 30 to 45 minutes longer depending on size of tenderloin. Note that roast should register 140 to 145 degrees on a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meant when done.
6. Remove from oven, and pour fat and drippings into a medium pan. Place roast on a cooking board and let it rest while you prepare the gravy: Sprinkle 4 tablespoons flour onto the roast drippings over medium heat, and quickly stir with a whisk. Slowly add a cup of water or chicken stock, whisking vigorously. Allow the gravy to simmer and thicken, adding more liquid as needed until you have 2 cups of gravy. Now, some people insist that the gravy should be strained and then served. I do not do this. I like the gravy as is. Your choice.
7. Serve roast with the gravy.
Yield: 4-5 servings.