Ancestral Pantry Dinner

New Year's Day dinner is not the big deal it was when I was a kid. Families would get together for another big holiday meal. Maybe I was unaware, but I don't remember people bringing food to our house unless it was for a traditional "potluck". New Year's Day was considered an actual holiday. We dressed appropriately and ate well. It was one last day to enjoy the Christmas tree before heading back to school or work and reality. Unless we're all healthy and still have the energy to host an open house (which we haven't done in a few years), New Year's Day is just low key and leftovers. This year hub's got a cold and we missed going out for New Year's Eve. For whatever reason, I decided to defrost a two pound pork loin for the three of us and proceeded to figure out how create a dinner worthy of my own expectations. And I had to do it with what was in the house. I found a recipe called "Roast Pork Loin with Apples" on the Food Network website. I seemed to have most of what was on the ingredient list in the house. What I didn't have, I used a reasonable substitution.
Here's the recipe and my substitutions:

2 T vegetable oil                                              I used olive oil
2 lb. boneless center cut pork loin                    I had a 2 lb pork loin (from freezer)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper              I used pink salt and ground pepper
1 medium onion, thickly sliced                        Same
2 carrots, thickly sliced                                   I had 3/4 bag of organic baby carrots
2 stalks celery, thickly sliced                          I had a head of organic celery
3 cloves garlic, smashed                                 Same
3 sprigs fresh thyme                                        Surprisingly still alive in my garden
3 sprigs fresh rosemary                                   Barely alive in my garden but passable
4 T cold unsalted butter                                  Same
2 apples, peeled and sliced                             Same
1 cup apple cider                                            Small apple juice  - we have grandkids
2 T apple cider vinegar                                   Bragg's with the Mother, yet
2 T Whole grain mustard                                Yellow mustard

In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Season pork loin generously with salt and pepper. Sear the meat until golden brown, transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, herb sprigs (I also added cut up fennel I found in the vegetable drawer) and 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir until vegetables are softened or about 8 minutes. Sir in the sliced apples, push the mixture to the sides and set the pork in the middle of the pan with any collected juices from the plate. Roast, uncovered at 400 degrees for about 30 to 35 minutes until a meat thermometer registers desired doneness. Standard used to be 160 but 150 is currently acceptable for moist, juicy meat.
When the pork is at the desired temperature, transfer it and the vegetables to a serving dish, and cover loosely with foil, discarding the herbs.

Return the skillet to high heat, add the vinegar, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Reduce by half, then add the cider or apple juice and reduce by about half again. Removed the skillet from the heat, whisk in the mustard and the remaining butter. Adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle some sauce over the meat and serve the rest on the side.
Now the reason I call this meal "Ancestral" is that it would have please both my mother and my grandmother. It's real food. Nothing pre-packed or instant. And everything was in the house. And that makes it "Pantry Cooking". Keeping basics in the fridge, such as onions, carrots, celery and apples, frozen protein of some type can really make an average cook seem like an accomplished one. It's not difficult to keep the basics tucked away, such as vinegar, mustard and apple juice. The only real caveats to keeping a pantry are this - make sure to check expiration dates before you buy and re-check regularly. And be careful with pre-packaged, prepared and cereal/grain based food. If you've ever had meal moths hatch and fly around your house, it's an experience you never want to repeat! Today I'm going to defrost some salmon fillets, make a marinade and try to finish knitting my socks. I finished all 3 pairs of mittens for my grandsons. It's time to knit for grandma for a while. Hope you have a Happy and Healthy 2016!


  1. That roast looks absolutely beautiful!The gloves ornaments looks so pretty! Wishing you a marvelous year in 2016! Lots of love, happiness and all good things!

    1. Thanks so much, Angela. I wish you and yours the same! p.s. The mittens are actual size for the grandsons - I just put them on the tree to get a picture. You just gave me an idea, though, for next year!


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