When my parents go on holiday to Continental Europe by car they always manage to bring me back the perfect gifts – namely food and drink. If they’ve been through Spain and Portugal it will be a selection of cured meats, which never fails to make me happy. If they go to France I usually benefit in the form of cheese and who could ever be upset about that? On their last road trip they went a little off-piste and brought back a bottle 5 Year Old Calvados. It’s really good quality but it’s not our sort of drink, so it tends to live at the back of the drinks cabinet somewhat of a curiosity. That being said I do have one very good use for it – cooking. You can use calvados pretty much wherever you’d use “normal” brandy – especially when you want to show off with a bit of flambé action. It works well in both savoury and sweet dishes, but for me its perfect partner is Pork.
The pairing of apple and pork is one you see coming up time and again in many recipes. It just works. In most cases I try to avoid the pairing of fruit and meat as it just doesn’t sit right with me. I never have apple sauce with roast pork – something my family never understood when I was a child. But on occasion I can be tempted to give it a go, as in this recipe for Pork Loin with Roasted Apple and Calvados Sauce.
You need some serious slabs of pork to do this justice. That means avoiding those thin-cut loin steaks you often see in the supermarket or butchers. The ones I’ve used here are 2-3cm thick and all the better for it. I pan-fry them for a few minutes to add a bit of colour, before roasting them in the oven until just cooked through. The apple slices are placed under the pork in the roasting pan, allowing them to soak up the meat juices as they cook.
Meanwhile, the same frying pan is used to make the sauce. Caramelised onions are flavoured with garlic and thyme to give a rich base to the sauce. A generous splash of calvados is then added to the hot pan and flambéed. Stand back at this stage if you want to keep your eyebrows…
Once the calvados has reduced to a thick, rich syrup I add a little splash of vermouth (but white wine would work just as well) along with some stock, honey, mustard and mushrooms. The roasted pork steaks are then returned to the pan and turned through the sauce to give a nice glaze. This is a truly delicious way to cook pork and it’s best served with creamy mashed potatoes and the sauce spooned on top.
Next time I’d be tempted to cook this for more than just Michael and me. It almost feels a little too special for a weeknight dinner. But then a little treat now and then goes a long way to making you happy, doesn’t it?
Pork Loin with Roasted Apple and Calvados Sauce
- 1 Apple
- 2 tsbp Olive Oil
- 2 Pork Loin Steaks around 200g each
- 1 pinch Sea Salt
- 1 pinch Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- ½ medium Onion peeled and finely chopped
- 1 clove Garlic peeled and crushed
- 1 tsp Fresh Thyme Leaves chopped
- 50 ml Calvados
- 50 ml Vermouth or Dry White Wine
- 200 ml Good Quality Chicken Stock
- 3 tbsp Runny Honey
- 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
- 100 g Chestnut Mushrooms sliced
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Slice the apple, removing the core, and lay two strips across the base of a deep baking tray - you'll be resting the pork loin steaks on this as they roast.
- Brush the Pork steaks with half of the olive oil then season with the salt and pepper. Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and brown the pork for 1-2 minutes on each side. Put the steaks onto a baking sheet and into the oven for 15-18 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in the same frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5-10 minutes until softened and browned on the edges.
- Add in the the garlic and thyme, then fry for a further 1-2 minutes until fragrant - don't let the garlic burn. Turn up the heat to high, then quickly pour in the calvados and ignite the vapours to flambé the contents of the pan.
- Pour in the vermouth and stock, followed by the honey and mustard. Stir well until everything is mixed, then add in the mushrooms. Partially cover, bring to a simmer and allow to bubble gently for 5-10 minutes or so, until reduced by half and thickened.
- The pork may cook a little faster than the sauce, so remove it from the oven as soon as it's cooked through and keep it warm. Once the sauce is ready add the steaks into the pan and turn through the sauce until well coated.
- Serve immediately with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables, garnishing with the apple from the roasting pan.