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Fennel-and Garlic-Crusted Pork Roast with Warm Quince and Apple Compote

Many years ago, on a trip to Italy, I found myself in a quintessential outdoor market that brought to colorful life all the images I'd seen in cookbooks over the years: booth after booth where local vendors sold everything from pecorino cheese to whole roasted pigs to their own brands of olive oil and preserves. To a lover of Italian food, it was a spiritual homecoming of sorts.

One purveyor sold roasted pork seasoned with a selection of herbs that was so powerfully aromatic I not only bought several pounds to use in sandwiches, but also convinced him to write down the combination and proportions of herbs for me.

Sometime before returning to New York, I managed to misplace it, but my taste memory was almost like a carbon copy -- I was able to re-create the recipe, along with the blend of fennel, onion, and garlic that are pureed to act as a vehicle for the herbs.

The Quince and Apple Compote is a grown-up version of applesauce, a favorite pork-chop accompaniment. The apples break down when cooked, but the diced quince retain their shape, providing a wonderful texture and a floral taste that marries very well with the apples' sweetness.

Thinking Ahead: The pork must marinate for 1 to 8 hours.

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 small head fennel with 2 inches of fronds attached, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarsely ground white pepper
  • 1 4 1/2-pound pork rib roast, tied
  • Coarse salt to taste
  • Warm Quince and Apple Compote (recipe below)
  • In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the fennel and fennel fronds, onion, and garlic and process to a paste. Add the thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, fennel seeds, and pepper and pulse to combine.

    With a small, sharp knife, make shallow crosshatch cuts in the skin of the pork roast. Season it all over with salt, rubbing it in well. Rub the fennel-garlic paste over the roast to cover it with a layer about 1/4 inch thick. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours.

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

    About 20 minutes before cooking, remove the roast from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature. Transfer the pork to a roasting pan and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature in the thickest section of meat is 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the roast from the oven and cover it loosely with foil. Let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes before removing the butcher twine and slicing it into thick chops. Serve with the compote.

    Warm Quince and Apple Compote

    Makes 6 servings

  • 2 large tart, firm apples, such as McIntosh, Rome or Cortland (about 3/4 pound)
  • 2 large quince (about 3/4 pound)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • Coarse salt to taste
  • Peel, core and dice the apples and quince into 1/2-inch dice.

    In a 10-inch saute pan, heat the butter over low heat. Sprinkle the sugar over the melted butter. Raise the heat to medium and cook, occasionally stirring or swirling the pan, for about 3 minutes, until the sugar melts and caramelizes.

    Add the quince and apples, and cook, tossing occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes or until the fruit is lightly browned and the apples have softened. The quince dice will retain their shape.

    Add the cider and lemon juice and cook for about 2 minutes, until reduced but not evaporated. Season with the ginger and salt. Serve warm.


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