The beauty of a holiday in the winter is the array of glorious comfort food we have the opportunity to partake in. Ovens are turned on high, taking that little chill out of the air in our kitchens and in our homes, and they become our perfect little helpers in the way of baking our favorite desserts, roasting our special “holiday” cuts of meat, bubbling-up and browning our rich, cheesy casseroles, and caramelizing our colorful, glazed wintery vegetables. In many houses on Christmas Eve, the aromas of the various dishes being prepared to ultimately come together into one, spectacular spread, waft through adjoining dining rooms and living rooms, adding a coziness to the festiveness that hangs in the air during this time of year. Ah, the wonderful food of the Christmas season. What a blessing it is to enjoy such seasonal savoriness, from such simple and soul-warming ingredients.
The slight crackle of a garlic-crusted pork loin as it roasts in the oven is often enough, in and of itself, to pique the appetite; but it’s seeing the juicy slices of that tender, golden-brown roast that makes the mouth water. Pork loin is one of my favorite cuts of meat to prepare for special occasions, as it is wonderfully lean, fairly quick to roast, and perfectly willing to absorb any delectable flavors that are rubbed all over top of it to infuse it with savory goodness. Coarse seasonings such as sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, paired with a crust of fresh garlic mingled liberally with good olive oil, make for a rustically fragrant presentation; and with the savory-sweet addition of glazed, winter root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, turnips and baby potatoes roasted alongside, the result is a seasonally elegant and simple holiday meal that colorfully captures the spirit of Christmas, and the winter season, as a whole.
A simple and rustic Christmas meal with loved ones is something to relish and find pleasure in. And a warm, inviting home, filled to the brim with joyful spirits and loving merriment, coupled with an appreciation for the gift of another year of life, makes for the perfect environment in which to celebrate such a delicious meal. Here’s hoping for a peaceful, inspired, reflective and awe-filled Christmas holiday for you and your loved ones to cherish and find comfort in, and may your special meal contain savory, seasonal simplicity, and all of the care and nurture of your heart as you prepare it.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Garlic-Crusted Roasted Pork Loin with Glazed Wintery Root Vegetables
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(Serves about 6)
• 5 garlic cloves, divided use
• 3 – 3 ½ pound pork loin
• 1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons, Italian seasoning, divided use
• Freshly cracked black pepper
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• ½ teaspoon paprika
• Olive oil
• 6 baby red potatoes, halved
• 3 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
• 2 parsnips, peeled and thickly sliced
• 1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into large dice
• 1 turnip, peeled and cut into large dice
• 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
• 1 tablespoon chopped, flat-leaf parsley
• 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
-Preheat the oven to 400°, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil drizzled with a little olive oil.
-Take 3 of the garlic cloves, and cut them in half, length-wise, to make 6 smaller pieces; place the pork loin in front of you with the fat-side up, and poke 6 slits throughout the loin, about 1” deep, and stuff 1 piece of the garlic clove into each slit.
-Take the remaining 2 garlic cloves, and press them through a garlic press and add them into a small bowl; to the garlic add the 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon of the salt and black pepper, the Dijon mustard, the paprika and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and mix together to form a paste.
-Rub that paste all over the pork loin liberally, and set the loin aside for a moment.
-In a large bowl, toss the potatoes together with the remainder of the ingredients through the apple cider vinegar, plus the 2 remaining teaspoons of Italian seasoning, a couple of pinches of salt and black pepper, and a good drizzle of olive oil; turn the vegetables out onto the prepared parchment/foil-lined baking sheet, in a single layer.
-Place the pork loin, with its fat-side up, on top of the vegetables, and insert a thermometer into the center of the loin; place the baking sheet into the oven, and roast for roughly an hour (depending on weight of roast), or until the thermometer registers 145°.
-Allow the loin to rest on a platter or cutting board for about 15 minutes, and cover the vegetables to keep them warm; then, slice the pork loin into thick slices, and toss the veggies with the chopped parsley and fresh thyme, drizzle everything with a touch of olive oil, and serve together on a platter.