[Pork Roast with Spiced Red Cabbage, Apples, and Prunes]
I don't normally buy meat at the farmers' market: I have a good neighborhood butcher that I like -- his name is Mario, what's not to like? -- and my usual crop of fruits, vegetables, cheese, and flowers is usually so bulky in my rainbow-colored basket (a birthday gift from my neighbors) that it leaves room for little else, especially if I want to make it home with my shoulder still in its socket, which I sort of do.
But Meg, who shops at the Batignolles too, had recommended the farm-raised chicken from a stall that's at the far end of the market (close to the Rome metro station) and I was so pleased with its quality that I decided to explore the rest of the selection.
This stall is operated by a couple not much older than I am, who runs a farm in the Ardennes and sells their products at very reasonable prices. I am all for supporting young farmers (they, at least, don't set buses ablaze) so I stopped by on my Saturday market run and, in addition to four slices of ham (bien fines, s'il vous plaît) and one breaded pork foot (a 1-euro delicacy for which Maxence was quite grateful), I purchased a pork roast.
And on Sunday morning, since I had bought a head of red cabbage and some very fragrant apples from another vendor, this is the dish that naturally came together on my stovetop: the meat was quickly seared so it would remain nice and juicy inside, the cabbage and apples were chopped, combined with prunes and gently seasoned with a few automnal spices, and the whole thing was left to braise in a little red wine until we were ready for lunch.
It is a very satisfying and very easy one-pot dish that should be served with strong mustard to tease the vegetables' slight sweetness, and my one suggestion of improvement is to brine the meat beforehand in a simple water-salt-sugar solution, so the meat will be salted right down to its heart.
Rôti de Porc au Chou Rouge Epicé, Pommes et Pruneaux
1 tablespoon olive oil
One 800-gram (1 3/4 pounds) boneless center cut pork roast (in French, rôti de porc dans le filet)
Fine sea salt
1 small head red cabbage, quartered, cored, and sliced thinly
2 medium baking apples, peeled, cored, and cut in eighths
8 prunes, pitted and halved
4 whole garlic cloves (with their papery skin still on)
Whole coriander seeds
French four-spice mix (ground nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves)
1/2 cup red wine (I used what was left of an excellent Fiefs Vendéens Gamay, "Gammes d'Eté" 2004 by Domaine Saint-Nicolas)
Freshly ground pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the roast and sear for a few minutes, flipping the meat regularly, until browned all over. Season with salt and set aside.
Lower the heat to medium. Add the cabbage, apples, prunes, and garlic to the pot, stir to coat, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the cabbage starts to soften. Season with whole coriander seeds, French four-spice (light-handedly), and salt. Stir to combine.
Form a little nest in the middle of the vegetables and place the roast there. Pour the wine over the meat and vegetables, cover, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for about an hour, stirring from time to time to make sure the vegetables don't burn at the bottom, until the meat is cooked through. (I just cut a slice to check when I think it's done, but if you have a meat thermometer, the official target temperature as given to us by health authorities is 70°C / 160°F -- I should however warn you that some cooks think this is too much.)
Remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium-high and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the juices have reduced by half. Taste the vegetables, adjust the seasoning, sprinkle with pepper, and serve with strong mustard on the side.
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