Festive Alternatives for Holiday Entertaining
With the cooking of an American Thanksgiving dinner well under way in my kitchen and the Christmas season looming ever larger, it’s time to finalize those considered menu ideas and get cracking on some preparations for holiday cooking. But before I get ahead of myself, here is a recipe that will do nicely for a truly festive holiday roast that will dazzle and delight.
Pomegranate season has arrived by the bushels full and it’s the opportune time to seize the moment and put up some pomegranate molasses to use for glazes, sauces, and dressings for the holidays. Relatively easy to prepare, homemade Pomegranate molasses far outshines the bottled variety available at Middle Eastern shops. Sweet, tart, and a beautiful Pomegranate red adds a gorgeous sparkle to holiday dishes or as a splendid gift for the cooks on your Christmas list!
Pomegranate Molasses: yields 2/3 cup (or increase proportionally for larger batches)
- 2 large ripe pomegranates
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
The best way to remove the seeds from the pomegranate is to cut the fruit in half and begin gently tearing the fruit apart along the edge, which will more or less separate seed chambers and expose seeds which can then be easily nudged out using your finger tips. Place the seeds in a bowl, and set aside 1/2 cup of seeds separately for garnishing the Roasted Pomegranate Glazed Pork Loin. See recipe below.
To extract the juice from the seeds, place a square piece of cheese cloth on your work surface and place a handful of seeds in the center. Pull the cheese cloth up around the seeds and twist the top to create a tight sack. Hold the sack over a bowl and wrap your thumb and forefinger around the top, wrapping the palm of your hand around the sack while applying downward pressure to squeeze out the juice. A little bit like milking a cow if any of you have had that experience! Squeeze and push with conviction to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the seeds and continue until all the juice has been collected in the bowl.
Transfer the juice to a stainless sauce pan and add the sugar and lemon juice. Place over medium-low heat and slowly reduce the juice by two thirds, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface as you reduce. Once the reduction begins to bubble up vigorously, lower the heat and continue to reduce for about 2 minutes while swirling the pan. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 15 minutes and then transfer to a sterile jar. When completely cool seal the jar with a lid and store at room temperature for immediate use. The molasses should be refrigerated for long term storage and brought back to room temperature before using. The molasses can be thinned with the addition of a little boiled water if needed.
- 1/4 cup finely diced shallots
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (or water)
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- a few twists of freshly ground white pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a small stainless sauce pan over medium- low heat and when hot add the shallots and saute for 3 minutes. Add the wine (or water) and saute until the wine has been absorbed. Add the stock and pomegranate molasses and stir to combine. Continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by half and begins to bubble vigorously. Swirl the pan for another minute or two and then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool completely.
Pistachio Spinach Pesto:
- 1 cup lightly packed chopped steamed spinach leaves
- 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
- 3 tablespoons toasted pistachios
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon lightly toasted coriander seeds, coarsely ground
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
Soak the spinach leaves in salted water to remove and soil that may be clinging to the leaves and place in a steamer basket to drain.
Bring water to a boil and place the steamer basket of spinach over the boiling water and steam for 1 ½ minutes. Remove immediately and set aside to cool before chopping.
Place the garlic, pistachios, salt, pepper, coriander seeds, and 1 tablespoons olive oil in a food processor (or blender) and pulse to form a course paste. Add the spinach leaves and pulse until the spinach is incorporated. Add the lemon juice and pulse to incorporate. Then with the machine running add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a slow steady stream until the pesto is emulsified. Stop the machine and add the lemon zest and pomegranate molasses and pulse several times to mix. Spoon the pesto into a container and chill until you are ready to assemble the pork loin for roasting.
Pork loin: 3 pounds/1 ½ kilo Preheat the oven to 325F/165C
To brine, or not to brine the pork loin? This is entirely up to you. I do like the slight sweetness and juicier results when roasted. Easy enough to do, although you will have to plan ahead and brine the pork several days before commencing with the roasting.
Butterfly the pork loin and flatten it out slightly, using a rolling pin or meat mallet. Generously slather the pesto over the surface, roll up the loin, and secure with cotton twine so it will retain its shape while roasting. Place in a foil lined roasting pan slightly larger than the loin.
Baste the loin generously with the pomegranate glaze on all sides and place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and baste again with the glaze. Return the loin to the oven and roast another 15 minutes. Again remove the roast from the oven, glaze, and roast for a final 15 minutes. Insert an instant read thermometer into the center of the loin. The internal temperature should be 155F/70C for a moist slightly pink meat in the center. Roast an additional 15 minutes if needed.
Remove from the oven and transfer the loin to a platter and cover with foil.
Scrape the pan juices off the foil into the roasting pan and add any remaining pomegranate glaze and about 1/2 cup of stock (or water) to the pan. Bring to a simmer and stir while reducing to a slightly thickened pan sauce.
Serving: Remove the cooking twine and slice the pork loin into about 1/2 inch thick pieces and place 3 slices on each serving plate. Top with pan sauce and garnish with the reserved fresh pomegranate seeds.
A simple unadorned baked yam drizzled with olive oil is a perfect accompaniment.
Voila, a very zesty and aromatic roast with a festive seasonal touch for a holiday gathering.