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Pork Like It Oughta Be

July 14, 1994|MARIE SIMMONS

I like pork lean. I also like it juicy. When overcooked, today's lean pork--30% leaner than it was years ago--can become dry and bland. To compensate for the lack of fat, which adds both moisture and flavor, I stuff the following pork roast with a mixture of sauteed onions, dried apricots and prunes and coat it with a crust of rosemary, garlic and salt. To keep the meat from drying out in the oven, I turn it over halfway through the roasting time.

The boneless pork loin roast I use is a slim, lean cut that cooks in about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Don't confuse this cut with a pork tenderloin, which weighs in at only about 12 ounces and is so thin and small that it will cook in a hot skillet in a matter of minutes.

The loin roast is usually about 2 1/2 inches thick and three to four inches wide. A roast about eight inches long will serve four generously, with leftovers.

To prepare the roast for stuffing, simply cut as if cutting a loaf of Italian bread for a hero sandwich, but be careful not to cut all the way through. Instead, cut just enough so that it can be opened up like a book. I prefer to tie the roast with a few pieces of cotton kitchen string.

Roast small red potatoes along with the meat and add a side dish of fresh green beans, simply boiled until tender. For dessert, serve strawberries that have been dribbled with a little honey.

STUFFED PORK LOIN WITH ROSEMARY AND GARLIC CRUST

1 (1 1/2- to 2-pound) center or loin end boneless pork roast, well trimmed

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup chopped pitted prunes

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, stripped from stems and chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

12 small red potatoes, rinsed, halved or quartered

Cooked green beans

Few sprigs fresh rosemary

Wipe surface of meat with damp paper towels. Cut meat lengthwise with sharp knife and open like book. Cut cotton kitchen string into 4 pieces, each about 12 inches long.

Combine onion and 1/2 tablespoon oil in large non-stick skillet. Cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Finely chop 1 clove garlic and add to onion. Cook 1 minute. Add apricots, prunes and 1/2 teaspoon rosemary leaves. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and dash pepper. Cook and stir about 2 minutes.

Spoon stuffing onto bottom half of meat. Close top over stuffing. Slide strings under meat, spacing evenly, and tie each in tight knot. Tuck any stuffing back into meat. Place meat in roasting pan.

Crush remaining clove garlic. Stir together remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary, crushed garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon salt and dash pepper in small bowl. Rub mixture into surface of meat. Arrange meat, fat-side down, in pan. Place pan in preheated 425-degree oven. Then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and roast 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss potatoes with remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil just to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove pan from oven. Turn roast over with wide spatula. Add potatoes and stir to coat with any pan juices. Roast 40 minutes longer.

Let meat stand 10 minutes. Cut meat into 1/4-inch-thick slices with long, sharp knife. Overlap slices on large platter. Spoon any pan juices over top. Add potatoes and green beans. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary. Makes 4 generous servings.

STRAWBERRIES WITH HONEY

1 pint strawberries

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

Rinse and drain berries. Remove stems and slice berries into bowl. Toss with lemon juice. Drizzle with honey. Serve at room temperature. Makes 4 servings.

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