Rôti de Porc au Chou Rouge Epicé, Pommes et Pruneaux
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.
- 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 1 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.