Pork Loin Stuffed with Fresh Figs and Thyme
This easy to make dish and its sauce display a surprising complexity of flavors. During cooking, the figs blend into the savory seasonings leaving only a hint of their sweet origins. The deglazed pan drippings, with a dash of Balsamic vinegar and a handful of finely-chopped figs added at the end, create a rich, dark sauce to ladle over the pork.
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1/3 pound thick bacon, cut into cubes
¾ pound fresh ripe figs, black for a dark sauce or substitute a handful or so of dried figs
6 dried figs, chopped
1 cup stale bread, crust removed
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 center cut pork loin, about 4 pounds
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup water
1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F. Cook the bacon and onions together in a frying pan over medium heat until the bacon is semi-crisp and the onions just faintly gold. Remove to a bowl. Cut 3 figs in large dice and set aside. These are for the sauce. Coarsely chop the rest and put them in the bowl with the bacon and the chopped dried figs.
Mix together in a bowl the salt, black pepper, thyme, garlic, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Sprinkle one tablespoon over the chopped figs and toss and turn them, squishing them a little. Add the bread and mix well.
Using a long, sharp knife, cut a slit through the middle of the pork loin. Slit it again to make a cross. Put the handle of a wooden spoon inside, and turn it, making an opening about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Insert the stuffing into the space, packing it tightly. Tie the roast evenly with kitchen string.
Increase the heat to 450 degrees F. With the remaining spice mixture, rub the pork loins all over. Place the loin in a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven to 325 degrees F. and roast another 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 145 degrees F or 150 degrees F, depending upon whether you want a hint of pink or not. When the roast is done, remove it to a platter or cutting board with a well, cover lightly with foil and let it rest.
To make the sauce, put the pan back on the stovetop – and remember to use a potholder for the still-hot handle- over high heat, and add a half cup of water, scraping up loose bits and deglazing the pan. Stir in the vinegar and the rest of the water. Reduce the heat to medium, and let simmer and thicken until it is reduced to about ¾ cup, about 3 to 4 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, slice the roast into 1-inch thick slices, reserving the juice. The roast holds together better while being sliced if you remove just one string at a time, slice up to the edge of the next string, and then remove that one. Arrange the slices, overlapping them, on a platter and pour the collected juices into the pan with the sauce.
Add the reserved diced figs to the sauce, and simmer just to warm the figs through. Drizzle a little of the sauce down the center of the slices and serve the remainder on the side.