About a week and a half ago, my mother asked me to “cook dinner for the fogies.” “The fogies?” you ask. Yes: my parents had invited four of their same-age friends round for dinner. Now I’m not saying that people in their seventies don’t get their food on. Still, I thought I’d eschew my romance with chili peppers and go for rustic, warming comfort food. Hence this dish. It’s seasonal, it’s pretty, it’s easy, and it goes well with wine and fogies.
A 1 and ½ kilo (about 3 and ½ pounds) boneless pork loin
16 ripe figs (figure two figs per person)
2 tablespoons demerara or light brown sugar
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary plus several additional sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
At least one and a half hours before you intend to start cooking, remove your pork loin from your refrigerator, wash, dry, and bring to room temperature.
Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius (425 degrees Fahrenheit). Mix together sugar, salt, pepper, chopped rosemary and thyme in a bowl. Pat spice mixture on all sides of pork loin. In a pan large enough to fit your pork loin, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until very hot (not smoking, though, unless you want to set off your fire alarm). Brown the pork loin on all sides (including the ends) in the pan. This should take very little time — no more than a minute or so on each side — the purpose is to seal in the delicious juices.
Place pork, uncovered, into a roasting dish and drizzle the pan juices over the top. Roast in hot oven for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 200 degrees Celsius (about 390 degrees Fahrenheit). Roast pork for an additional 15 minutes, then remove from oven and carefully pour out most of the fat. Cram figs all around pork, sprinkle with fresh rosemary sprigs, and continue roasting for another 15-25 minutes, or until done. (I do a lot of cooking by touch, feel, and instinct. Some safety experts say pork should reach an internal temperature of 63 degrees Celsius (145 degrees Fahrenheit), others 71 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Fahrenheit), so you can use your meat thermometer to test doneness. I probably err on the lower side as I like my lean pork cuts a little pink – although this time I played it safe for the fogies.)
Remove from oven, remove pork to a platter, cover with foil and allow to rest for at least 20-30 minutes. Serve garnished with figs and pan juices, along with roast potatoes, parsnip purée, or whatever strikes your fancy.