I often hum in the kitchen, especially when the meal prep is for a special family gathering. During the holidays, it’s usually some sprightly jingle. But for this delicious pork loin dish, with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme all fragrantly present, the tune had to be Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.”
I first encountered a version of this recipe 17 years ago, in acclaimed chef Suzanne Goin’s James Beard Award-winning cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Goin’s Los Angeles restaurant Lucques lasted for nearly 21 years, closing in 2020, but the beautiful recipes in her cookbook live on. The New York Times did a version of the loin 16 years ago, replacing spring onions and haricot verts with shallots, grapes, and fingerling potatoes, which I liked very much. To give the dish a holiday slant, our version has a tart/sweet sauce made with fresh-pressed pomegranate juice and white wine.
Honoring Goin’s practice of using the best possible ingredients, I make this with farm-sourced produce and use French Dijon for the mustard marinade (Maille is good— Bornier, even better!) I use champagne grapes, but seedless red grapes (choose small, firm ones) work as well.
- 1, 2.5 to 3 pounds boneless center-cut pork loin
- 12 thyme sprigs: leaves from 4 sprigs (stems discarded) finely chopped to make 1 tablespoon; 5 whole sprigs to top roast; and 3 small sprigs to garnish finished dish
- 3 sprigs parsley, stems discarded, leaves finely chopped to make 1 tablespoon
- 5 sprigs rosemary: leaves from one sprig (stems discarded) finely chopped to make 2 teaspoons; 3 whole sprigs to top roast; and 1 small sprig to garnish finished dish
- 5 sprigs sage: leaves from one small sprig finely chopped to make 2 teaspoons; 3 whole sprigs to top roast; and 1 small sprig to garnish finished dish
- 1/2 cup good quality French Dijon mustard
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 1/2 teaspoons Maldon Sea Salt Flakes or kosher salt
- 3 teaspoons freshly ground black peppercorn
- 6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
- 1 pound fingerling potatoes, skin-on, washed well, and halved lengthwise
- 6 shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
- 1 pound champagne grapes, snipped into small bunches or 1 pound small red seedless grapes
- 1/2 cup fresh-pressed pomegranate juice (method follows)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 large pomegranate
Blot pork loin with paper toweling and use lengths of kitchen twine to tie the loin at 2-inch intervals. Rub loin with 1 teaspoon salt flakes and 1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper and place in large shallow dish. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon each of the thyme leaves and finely chopped parsley, plus 2 teaspoons each of the finely chopped rosemary and sage leaves. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and ½ cup mustard. Coat the loin with this mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (overnight is even better).
Remove loin from refrigerator. Using a spatula, scoop marinade off of the loin and into a small bowl. Set aside. Grind another teaspoon of pepper all over loin, turning as you go. Repeat with remaining 1 teaspoon of salt flakes. Place a roasting pan in oven on rack at center position; preheat oven to 325 degrees. Add 2 tablespoons of remaining olive oil to large, nonreactive sauté pan over high heat. Heat oil until smoking. Sear pork loin in oil for four minutes. Roll loin and repeat searing until all sides of the loin are well browned. Remove sauté pan from heat. Take out preheated roasting pan from oven, add loin, top with reserved mustard marinade, ½ of the butter pieces, and sprigs of sage, rosemary, and thyme. Replace pan in oven; roast for 15 minutes.
While loin roasts, gently toss the halved fingerlings, quartered shallots, and the small bunches of grapes in remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with a bit more of the salt flakes and fresh ground pepper. Set aside.
Place a large bowl of water in the sink. Cut pomegranate into quarters and place quarters in the water. Using your hands separate the pomegranate “seeds” (arils) from the peel and membrane. The arils will sink to the bottom of the dish and the membrane will float to the top. Discard membrane and peel. Scoop arils into a measuring cup with a slotted spoon—you should have 1 cup of arils. Place pomegranate arils in the bowl of a food processor and pulse five or six times to release juice from seeds. Do not over-process—you are not trying to grind the seeds, just release the juice. Pour mixture into a fine-meshed strainer over a measuring cup. Gently press to release all of the juice. You should have ½ cup fresh juice.
Remove loin from oven after 15 minutes. Place halved fingerlings around the roast; top with shallots and grapes. Place pan back in oven and roast for 50 to 60 minutes until internal temperature of the meat reads 125 degrees. Remove loin from oven to a cutting board. Toss the potatoes, grapes, and shallots gently in the pan juices. Allow loin to rest for 10 minutes.
While loin rests, make sauce. Discard oil from sauté pan. Scrape fond (crusty bits left from searing the pork) on the bottom of the pan to loosen it. Set cooktop heat to medium- high and add pomegranate juice to pan. Heat to boiling, whisking continuously until juice has reduced and almost no liquid remains. Add white wine and repeat. Add chicken stock and repeat. Add butter, still whisking until you have a smooth sauce. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a spouted cup.
Slice pork loin into medallions and arrange on serving platter surrounded by potatoes, shallots, and grapes. Add remaining fresh sprigs of herbs to garnish. Pour pomegranate sauce over medallions. Serve immediately.