Recipe of the Week: Tuscan Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Sage and Figs
In the charming small hilltop town of Castellina in Chianti, between Florence and Siena, you can find some of the best restaurants in Tuscany. Simple country trattorias where you can sample authentic cuisine paired, of course, with superb local Chianti wine. I love walking through the town exploring the quaint little shops, especially on a Sunday during lunch time when the aroma coming from the local kitchens reaches your nostrils and makes you stop in your track. Having friends living in town we often come for a visit and a delicious lunch. One of my favorite Tuscan dishes is “Arista di maiale,” the name coming from “Aristos” meaning the best. A delicious roasted pork roast stuffed with fresh herbs, pancetta and figs dating back from the Renaissance time when the Medici power reached all over Tuscany. The succulent flavors burst in your mouth soon after your first bite making it impossible to stop at just one bite. So easy to prepare and a true show stopper, it makes it a perfect dish for any dinner party or family gathering. I like to prepare the pork roast the night before and let the flavors marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Then roast the pork in the oven right before company comes. I served the pork with roasted potatoes flavored with fresh rosemary. Serves eight. (Chef’s tip: To butterfly the pork loin, place it on a cutting board in front of you and with a sharp knife make a vertical cut along the lengthwise portion of the pork loin without cutting all of way through. Open it up as a book and pound it with a mallet before stuffing it.)
2 pounds pork loin, trimmed of excess fat
8 mission figs, finely chopped
1 orange juice and zest
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, leaves only, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh sage, leaves only, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons plain bread crumbs, lightly toasted
3 ounces pancetta Italian bacon, diced
4 ounces grated Fontina cheese
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon Sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or as needed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup defatted chicken stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Butterfly or have the butcher do it for you. Lightly pound the pork loin with a flat mallet; cover with plastic wrap to prevent the meat from tearing. Season with salt and pepper.
In a small saut pan cook pancetta in olive oil until crispy. Add garlic and cook one more minute. Cool in a small bowl. Add bread crumbs, figs, orange juice and zest, eggs, Fontina cheese, sage, parsley, salt and pepper. Keep the mixture moist with a little of the stock.
Place the bread crumb mixture on top of the pork loin. Roll up to enclose the filling and secure with a string.
Heat olive oil in a large saut pan and brown the prepared pork loin on all sides in the saut pan. Remove pork from the pan. Add wine and stock to the pan to deglaze. Bring liquid to a boil and add pork back to the pan. Lower the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until pork reaches an internal temperature of 145F degrees.
Remove from heat and rest the pork for 5-10 minutes on a cutting board cover with foil before slicing it. While pork is resting, reduce sauce, if needed and stir in butter, season to taste, with salt and pepper.
Serve the sliced pork roast with sauce.