Happy New Year to everyone! I hope all of you and your families had a safe and festive New Year’s Eve, and hopefully you’re able to relax at home today and do whatever your heart desires. We certainly are, although we’re now deep into the process of putting together postings of all the amazing recipes we made, and were able to assist in making, over the holiday season. One of my favorites is this great recipe for a bacon-wrapped pork loin, because let’s be serious – doesn’t bacon make everything taste better? The bacon in this dish is definitely a fabulous addition, but the pork loin is honestly just as delicious without it thanks to the amazing blend of herbs and spices in the rub itself. This was the first recipe I ever made that called for toasted fennel, and I am now a complete fennel convert. I want to toast fennel seeds and put them on anything and everything because it’s just such a unique, pungent, addicting flavor…not to mention how wonderful it smells when it’s cooking.
We were able to make this dish twice over the holidays, and both times we purchased an 8-pound pork loin instead of the 4-pound loin called for in the recipe just because it was available. If you’re having a dinner party for more than 8 (which we did) or hosting Christmas dinner (which we also did), the 8-pound option is fantastic and oh-so-easy to prepare in advance and leave you free to enjoy the festivities. Just double up on all of the amounts listed for the herbs and spices, make sure you get enough bacon (if you want to cover the entire thing, you’ll probably need two packages of bacon), and slice the pork loin right down the center into two halves so it’s manageable to store and bake. Voila – dinner is ready!
4-5 garlic cloves, crushed
4-5 large sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped (leaves from about 8 sprigs)
2 ½ tablespoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 boneless pork loin (~ 4 pounds total weight) [2240 calories]
8 – 12 low-sodium slices of bacon [280 – 400 calories]
Calories per serving: 315 – 330 calories
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Add the whole fennel seeds and continually shake the pan or stir the seeds with a wooden spoon until they begin to turn brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder, food processor, or mortar and pestle, and then crush the seeds into a coarse powder.
In a small bowl, combine the garlic, rosemary, sage, fennel, 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Place the thawed pork loin on a baking sheet or in a baking dish, then rub both sides of the loin well with the spice mixture. Cover the sheet/dish with plastic wrap, and allow the pork loin to sit in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight. Remove the pork loin from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking, and allow to sit at room temperature.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the oven is heated and the pork has been allowed to sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, wrap the pork loin with the uncooked bacon slices either crisscrossed (for less bacon flavor and fewer calories) or along the length of the loin, slightly overlapping.
Place the bacon-wrapped pork loin in a roasting pan with a rack. Bake the loin for 1 ½ – 2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the loin is at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Transfer the cooked loin to a cutting board, and allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. This pork is delicious as is, but if you feel so inclined, try it with a nice gravy, or even better, a spiced jelly of some sort for a little bit more moisture.
I stumbled upon this recipe in the Thanksgiving 2012 issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine (one of my favorites for easy, yet delicious recipes without too many fancy ingredients). We used a larger cut of pork because of the crowd we were serving, and we also increased the amounts of some herbs/spices to enhance the flavor. If you’d like the original, it can be found here
Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin.