Every year for Thanksgiving we try to make something new (for us, anyway), and this year we decided to try a few recipes from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home cookbook. With this book, Chef Keller wanted to share his recipes for American comfort food that us mere mortals can make any or every day. Based on the outcome of our Thanksgiving dinner, we’ll be revisiting this book often over the winter.
For the past two years, Sharon and I cooked an entire turkey as the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving meal, but this year we decided to go with a half turkey breast and add another meat. Fig-stuffed Roast Pork Loin recipe sounded different, yet familiar so we decided to go with it.
The centerpiece of this recipe is a fig and balsamic vinegar jam. It was super easy to make, and I prepped it on Wednesday evening. On Wednesday evening I placed my pork loin roast in a savory brine for an overnight soak.
On Thursday morning I added browned ciabatta bread, garlic, shallots, and fresh fennel to the jam and set aside to cool.
I cut two lengthwise slits into my pork loin roast and piped the stuffing into the roast. I was a little concerned whether the stuffing would flow enough to fill the roast all the way through, but there was no need to worry. I used a disposable pastry bag and cut the end off to make the opening about 1/2″ in diameter and the stuffing flowed perfectly. I filled from both ends and I could see the roast plump up as it flowed to the center. Then I tied the roast with cooking twine to help it retain its shape and seasoned liberally with sea salt and fresh ground tellicherry peppers.
I browned the stuffed and tied roast on all sides for 2-3 minutes to get a nice crust on the surface.
I placed the browned roast on a rack in a pan to catch the drippings and used our convection oven temp probe to cook the roast to 140F internal temperature. After the roast was done I wrapped the pan with foil and set it in the oven warming drawer to rest.
I was mildly concerned about the roast drying out during its extended rest. Turns out I had nothing to worry about.
Here’s a photo of the sliced pork. The roast sat in the warming drawer for about 90 minutes after cooking.
The second dish we cooked from the Ad Hoc cookbook was Potatoes Pavé. This is a simple potato recipe from an ingredient perspective (potatoes, heavy cream, butter, garlic, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme and chives). The most challenging part of the recipe is the preparation of the “pavé”. Pavé roughly translates as paving stone or cobblestone, and the finished potato pavé looks like a large paving stone you’d find on a cobblestone street. If, of course, you lived in Mr. Potato Land.
Our pavé was made with very thinly sliced (1/16″) russet potatoes dredged in heavy cream seasoned with salt and pepper. I layered the slices in a deep baking dish and seasoned with salt, pepper and butter every few layers.
Here’s the pavé under construction. When finished it was about 2″ tall, 10″ long and 6″ wide.
I baked the pavé in the oven until it was thoroughly cooked and then allowed it to cool completely. I then weighed it down on top with a foil covered piece of cardboard and refrigerated overnight. On Thursday afternoon I removed the solidified pavé from the refrigerator and the pan (thanks to the parchment paper lining in the bottom of the pan). I trimmed the edges of the pavé and cut into twelve pieces. I heated and browned the individual pieces in canola oil seasoned with garlic and thyme.
Just before serving, I garnished the individual pieces with a pat of butter and fresh chives.
Despite this being the first time I’d attempted either of these recipes, both came out great. There was a bit of a learning curve, particularly with the potato slicing on my mandoline and construction of the pavé. But it will go a lot easier next time around on both. And after enjoying both dishes, I believe we will be having both of these again.