When you're trying to eat healthier, having dinner at friends' homes can be a bit of a minefield. Do you ask them to prepare something special? (Too fussy.) Do you bring your own food? (Too impolite.) Do you throw caution to the wind and dig in to that macaroni and cheese? (Too ... no, there's actually nothing wrong with this.)
That's why it helps to know people who'll indulge you. I recently attended a small dinner party at a friend's new apartment. He's an experienced cook, and worships Christopher Kimball. A brief glance at his bookshelf reveals dozens of America's Test Kitchen guides, quite a few Cook's Illustrated cookbooks, and a plethora of other Kimball-associated paraphernalia.
Knowing my preferences, he sunk a few hours into Pork Roast en Cocotte with Apples and Shallots from ATK's 2010 Light and Healthy book. Happily, it was well worth the effort. The pork was incredibly moist, and the apples lent a light sweetness that never became cloying. Served with garlic mashed potatoes and green beans, the meal felt like an indulgence.
Looking forward, I can only hope to be as accommodating to my friends. And if they want the mac and cheese, I'm all over it.
- 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence (or 1 teaspoon each dried thyme, dried rosemary, and dried marjoram)
- 1 (2 1/4 lb) boneless center cut pork loin roast, trimmed and tied at 1 1/2-inch intervals
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 8 shallots, peeled and quartered
- 1 pound Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
Place the oven rack in its lowest position and preheat to 250°F.
In a small bowl, mix together Herbes de Provence, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Rub all over roast.
In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add roast and brown on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove roast and place on plate.
Lower heat to medium and add shallots to Dutch oven. Sauté 3 minutes. Add apples and sugar. Sauté 5 to 7 minutes.
Kill burner heat and add roast back into pan, along with any shed juices. Cover the pot with a layer of foil, and place the cover on top of that. Cook 30 to 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the inner temperature reaches 140°F to 145°F.
Remove roast from Dutch oven. Place on a cutting board, tent with foil, and let it sit for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, add some salt and pepper to the apple mixture, stir, and cover to keep warm.
Slice up pork and serve with shallots and apples spooned over it.