It's Christmas Eve folks, and for the first time in my 24 (almost 25) years of life I won't be spending it with my family. The restaurant schedule (and more importantly plane ticket prices) didn't really allow for a trip home to Chicago this year. Thankfully I was able to make it back for Thanksgiving—albeit I was there for only 23 hours—and was able to see most of my family and friends back home. This year I've been adopted by a college friend and her family nearby. It'll be interesting to see how others celebrate the day outside of the Hutcherson household. Our Christmas table is fairly similar to our Thanksgiving one (turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, dressing, etc.). I've been told that there's always a mix of Jamaican and traditional American food at my friend's family gatherings, and I'm definitely looking forward to try the curried goat she speaks of. No matter what you're used to eating at your Christmas gatherings, I encourage you to bring this bad boy to the table should you want to break tradition (or really anytime you want to impress someone with your culinary skills). The pork, when cooked to the right temperature and then allowed to rest, is juicily divine on its own; however, the addition of the fig-port sauce definitely takes it over the top. PLUS you get to play with fire AND cook with booze. #Winning.
- 1/2 rack pork loin (~2-3 lbs)
- vegetable oil
- 2 cloves, garlic minced
- 1 Tbsp. dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- red potatoes
- 1 cup dried mission figs, quartered
- 1 Tbsp. flour
- 1 cup tawny Port
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbsps. butter
- We're going to create a marinade by combining roughly 2 Tbsps. salt, 1 Tbsps. pepper, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and 1/4 cup oil. Put the pork in a plastic bag and coat with the marinade. Refrigerate for about 2 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 375˚F degrees.
- Remove the marinated pork loin from the refrigerator and discard the bay leaves. (If you want to be fancy, you can also tie the rack with butcher's twine to form it into a nice cylinder.) As the meat is coming up to room temperature, dice any combination to your choosing of carrots, parsnips, and potatoes—make sure they are all roughly the same size. Toss in oil and season with salt and pepper.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat with a little bit of oil, sear the pork loin on all sides until nicely browned. Place the meat on top of the veggies in a roasting pan. Place the entire thing in the oven until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 145˚F—this should take around 40-45 minutes for a 2 lb. piece of meat if you don't have a meat thermometer.
- Let the meat rest for a good 20-30 minutes before slicing. You may need to place the vegetables back into the oven for a little while longer depending on how large you cut them.
- As the meat rests you can start preparing the sauce. In the same pan that you used to sear the loin, sauté the figs briefly in the leftover fat (add more to the pan if necessary). Dust with the flour, stirring and cooking for about 2 minutes.
- Away from the flame, carefully add the port and—now for my favorite part—flambé! Yes, I am telling to start a (controlled) fire in your kitchen. (Be sure not to stand over the pan for the safety of your eyebrows.)
- Add in the chicken stock and balsamic vinegar. Reduce until you reach the right consistency, which is when the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Season with salt and pepper, and swirl in the butter. The butter will give the sauce a nice sheen and a great richness.