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Confession:  When the S.O. is out of town, I eat pork and listen to Christmas music while preparing aforementioned pork.

Today was one such day.

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I’ve been itching to make a stuffed pork loin, but I haven’t had a good reason to — it’s too much food for just me, and I haven’t had guests recently.  But today was our annual neighborhood progressive Christmas party, which was the perfect opportunity to make my stuffed pork loin.  When dreaming up the recipe to the tune of All I Want for Christmas is You, I decided I wanted the dish to fit the season, yet also have a personal connection to who I am.

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One of my favorite childhood dishes was Okinawan-style shoyu pork.  It’s simultaneously salty and sweet and has that distinctive daikon-mirin flavor that’s ambrosia to anyone who grew up Japanese in Hawaii.  While shoyu pork is amazing on piping hot white rice, it’s also fantastic with timidly sweet root vegetables.  Sautéed parsnips are a perfect match — creamy and hearty, with enough sugar to complement the pork.  I use tart apples like Granny Smiths and lemon juice to add some acidity — without acid, I often find pork dishes to feel dense, heavy, and lardy.

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This stuffed pork loin was all I hoped it would be — warm and cozy like a wintertime pork loin ought to be, on a tangible canvas of Okinawan flavors.  I did <1/2″ thick slices for our appetizer course; the 1.5 pound loin produced about 20 slices.  But for a non-potluck setting, I’d recommend thicker slices of about 1″.  As a main course, a 1.5 pound loin would serve 3-4 people.

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Okinawan Shoyu Pork Loin Stuffed with Apples and Parsnips

Makes 4 servings | Cook Time 2 hr 15 min (1 hr 30 min inactive)

Ingredients

  • 1 large parsnip
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1 large cooking apple (e.g. Granny Smith)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 T + 1 T grated daikon
  • 1 T + 1/4 C soy sauce
  • salt
  • 1.5-2 lb pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 2 T mirin
  • 3/4″ ginger, grated

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Peel and finely dice parsnip, and mince the garlic.  Sauté parsnips and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until parsnips begin to release their sweetness and are no longer crunchy, about 8 minutes.
  3. While parsnips are cooking, core, peel, and quarter the apple, then grate on largest setting of a box grater.  Once parsnips are cooked, remove from heat, then add grated apple, lemon juice, scallions, 1/2 T grated daikon, 1 T soy sauce, and pinch of salt.  Stir to incorporate, and set aside.  Let the mixture come to room temperature while prepping the pork loin.
  4. Butterfly the pork loin, slicing along the length of the loin on the surface opposite the fattier surface (you want the fattier side to remain in tact and be on the top during cooking, to keep the pork moist).  Use the smooth side of a meat mallet to flatten the loin to ~3/4″ thickness.
  5. Place the room temperature apple-parsnip stuffing in a line down the center of the pork loin, lengthwise.  Lightly sprinkle stuffing and pork with salt.  Roll the pork to enclose the stuffing, using toothpicks to temporarily hold the seam.
  6. Flip the loin to seam side facing down.  Tie the loin (this is a great how-to video for tying roasts).  Remove toothpicks once the string is secured.  Place loin into foil-lined roasting pan.
  7. In a separate bowl, combine 1 T grated daikon, 1/4 C soy sauce, brown sugar, mirin, and grated ginger.  Mix until well incorporated.  Baste over pork loin.
  8. Roast pork loin for 90 minutes, basting every 10-15 minutes with soy sauce-brown sugar mixture.  Pork is done when thermometer inserted reads 155-160°F.  Let sit 5 minutes before slicing.

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