Years ago, in a market in Italy, Alfred Portale of New York's famed Gotham Bar and Grill, sampled some roasted pork flavored with a delicious, pungent combination of herbs. This recipe, he says, was inspired by the taste of that dish.
FOR THE PORK:
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-lb. pork rib roast, tied
Coarse salt to taste
FOR THE COMPOTE:
2 large, tart, firm apples, such as McIntosh,
Rome, or Cortland (about 1 lb. total)
2 large quince (about 1 lb. total)
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
1. For the pork: 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.
2. 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'' thick. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 350º. 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 the meat is 150º. Remove the roast from the oven, and cover it loosely with foil. Let it rest for 15-20 minutes before removing the butcher twine and slicing it into thick chops. Serve with the compote (see below).
4. For the compote: Peel, core, and dice the apples and quince into 1⁄2'' pieces. In a 10'' sauté 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 apple pieces and cook, tossing occasionally, until the fruit is lightly browned and the apples have softened, 10-12 minutes. The diced quince will retain their shape. Add the cider and lemon juice and cook until reduced but not evaporated, about 2 minutes. Season with the ginger and salt. Serve warm.