I was very happy when I was contacted by Marx Foods asking if I wanted to participate in their Sweet to Savory Challenge. You know me, any excuse to play around with something new is fun, whether there is a potential prize at the end or not! This time around, we had to use at least two out of four sweet ingredients to come up with a savory dish. The ingredients we received were:
- Coconut Sugar
- Vanilla Beans
- Granulated Honey
- Fennel Flower Crystals
My first thought was to use the ingredients in a barbecue sauce to make ribs. Then I thought about one of my favorite meals, beef short ribs, but I saw that someone else had already posted an entry for short ribs, so I decided to veer away from ribs altogether. I opted instead to use the ingredients to make a dry rub for a pork roast. I decided that I could use three of the ingredients in the rub itself, then use the remaining ingredient in the garnish ...
DRY RUB :
1 T kosher salt
1 T hickory smoked salt
1 T smoked paprika
1 t celery seed
1 T white pepper
1 T dried thyme leaves
2 T onion powder
2 T garlic powder
1 t cayenne pepper
2 T coconut sugar
2 T granulated honey
1 T fennel seeds
1 t dry minced lemon peel
1 t vanilla bean
1 T brown sugar
4 lb Pork Blade Boston Butt Roast
2 lg apples (I used Gala)
2 lg peach-a-rines (cross between a peach and a nectarine)
3 vidalia onions4 medium roasting potatoes
1 T brown sugar
2 oz microgreens
2 T olive oil
2 t white balsamic vinegar
1 t lime juice
fennel flower crystals
fennel flower crystals
Stir together all of the dry ingredients for the rub, then use the tip of a knife to split the vanilla bean open and scrape the seeds into the mix, stirring well to incorporate. Reserve the pod.
Remove about 1/4 cup of the rub from the batch for later, then rub the rest all over the roast. Cover and refrigerate for several hours to overnight to give the flavors time to come together and permeate the roast.
Remove the roast from the refrigerator about 20" before it goes in the oven. You don't want to transfer it directly from the cold refrigerator to a hot oven.
If you used plastic wrap to cover your roast, some of the rub may have come off with the plastic, so uncover your roast, and use the reserved rub to fill in any bare spots. Even if not necessary, you could also sprinkle a little more over the top if you like...it smells so good!
Because I do not have a large enough roasting pan to prevent over-crowding, I opted to roast the onions, apples, and peach-a-rines in a separate casserole dish, along with the reserved vanilla pod so the pod would steep in the juices released for an extra boost of flavor. Peel, core, and chop the apples into large chunks, then do the same for the peach-a-rines, and quarter the onions. As with the potatoes, add a few slivers of butter here and there, and since they are not cooking along with the roast, go ahead and add a pinch of the rub.
Give the fruit/veggies a stir a few times while cooking, to distribute the juices and vanilla. The first time I went to stir them, I was surprised that they were still pretty dry, even with the butter. I had anticipated them giving off more juice by then, so I stirred in 1T of brown sugar to help get the party started. ;)
I have cooked a number of hams over the years, my fair share or pork tenderloins, and a gazillion pork chops, but having never made a pork roast before, I consulted a number of sources as to time and temp. I followed the consensus, which was to roast at 325 for 30-35" per pound, loosely tended with foil, then increase the heat to 350 for the last 20", uncovered, to allow for some nice caramelization. The final internal temp was to be between 155-160 when tested with a thermometer, which would then increase as the roast was tented with foil and rested for 15-20" before carving.
As it turned out, I followed those instructions, and when I inserted a thermometer in a few different spots, the temp was nowhere near 155, so I removed the casserole dish containing the apples, etc. and kicked the temp up to 375 for another 20". Even though the final temp was above 160 when it came out, and was supposed to increase as it rested, we all would have preferred it a little more done.
When the fruit/onions came out of the oven, I poured the juices into a small saucepan, then covered the casserole dish to keep everything warm while waiting on the roast. When the roast came out, I transferred it to a serving platter, deglazed the pan with a bit of beef broth and added those drippings to the vanilla-infused fruit juice. To that, I stirred in a bit of corn starch and another pat of butter and brought it up to a boil to thicken into a gravy.
For the microgreen garnish, toss the greens with some slivered radishes and sliced small mixed tomatoes. For a light dressing, whisk together a bit of olive oil, white balsamic and lime juice, tossing with the greens just before serving, then sprinkle a tiny flourish Fennel Flower Crystals and Sea Salt over the top.
I was very happy that my guinea pigs raved about the spice rub, as evidenced by the fact that I was immediately asked for the recipe. As stated above, we all would have preferred the roast to have been a bit more on the well side from a textural perspective, but they were pleasantly surprised by the accompaniment of the peach-a-rines, etc.
As for the garnish, that turned out to be a big hit as well. Even Mr. Fussy Eater, who I fully expected to turn his nose up at the garnish as being "fru fru," actually asked for more! It seemed funny serving up seconds of a garnish, but I definitely got a smile out of that one. :)
Not that it had any bearing on the time/temp issue, but I was actually planning on using a boneless butt roast rather than the blade but couldn't manage to come up with one in any of the three markets I tried - frustrating!
I still have a bit of the rub left, so I can't wait to try it on something else soon!
|Sorry, didn't think to snap a pic right away - this was after dinner.|
As always, a BIG thanks to the folks at Marx Foods for providing me with the challenge ingredients and the opportunity to participate.