Thursday, May 1, 2014

How the pork got stuffed

I've always admired stuffed food - literally stuffed, that is, not "ruined" or "gone wrong" or "completely had it". But it can be a bit intimidating to tackle. I'm a dab hand now at stuffed mushrooms, and I can manage to stuff some large veges, but there's a piece in my book about failing to make a stuffed chicken. And until a couple of weeks ago I'd never stuffed a pork fillet.
I had quite a small one on hand for dinner with two women friends, and I wanted to serve it with the lemon risotto in my last post. So I leafed through my Italian cookbooks. The newest one is Easy Tasty Italian, by the very glamorous Laura Santtini, and it had exactly what I was looking for: pork fillet stuffed with artichoke and bay.

Only instead of cutting a pocket in the side, as she suggested, I decided to try making a hole and pushing the stuffing down along the length of the fillet. The cooking method was my own invention, because I didn't want it to dry out. I only experiment like this with very good friends - fortunately it all worked remarkably well.

Pork fillet stuffed with artichoke and bay paste 
(after Laura Santtini. Serves 4 delicate eaters, 3 moderate ones or 2 hungry ones.)

1 small pork fillet (sorry, I forgot to note what mine weighed, but it was about 6 cm in diameter.)
For the paste: 
85g artichoke pieces in olive oil (from a jar), drained
2 bay leaves, as tender as possible
1 garlic clove
1 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 pinches of salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
To cook:
150ml white wine
large oven bag

Set the oven to 170C.
Blend the paste ingredients together, adding a little more oil if it's too thick.
(I did mine in the food processor. I needed to pick out the remaining larger bits of bay leaf, but most of it got successfully ground up.)

Push a long thin knife into the pork fillet, not quite to the end, and wriggle it around.
Using your fingers, stuff a little of the artichoke mixture into the hole.
Using a long thin wooden spoon handle, gently push the mixture as far down the fillet as you can.
Repeat until you've used up all the mixture and the fillet is full of stuffing.

Put the fillet down into the oven bag so it's resting across the bottom of the bag, and add the white wine.
Fold the bag over loosely so the wine can't escape, and place it in a roasting pan.
Cook it for about 25 minutes.
(The pork will turn pale and be fairly firm to the touch. It will swell and become shorter. Some of the stuffing may ooze out, but this doesn't matter.)
Carefully pour off the white wine and meat juice and save it for another use. Remove the pork and rest it on a warm dish under a teatowel for 15 minutes, while you prepare a long warm serving plate and the accompaniments - mashed or boiulanger potatoes, for example, or that lemon risotto.
To serve, slice the pork neatly across to show the stuffing. Some of it escaped in mine, but that did not matter in the slightest. All very satisfying, to make as well as to eat.

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