I was thinking of a main dish to serve with my couscous salad. Pork loin centre roast is an incredibly friendly cut of meat; it needs minimum trimming, and with its mild, yet rich natural flavour, it gets only better when seasoned in any way. The domesticated pig was first introduced to the Americas when Columbus brought them to Cuba; through three hundred years of Spanish rule, many recipes for pork roast, often including fruit, became part of kitchens all around the New Spain (Mexico). Almost every Mexican cookbook includes a recipe; mine is loosely based on a traditional dish from the Mexican state of Puebla. In the original recipe, Lomo mechado, the roast gets studded with prunes and chipotle peppers, and flavoured with orange juice before searing and roasting with onions. I decided to skip the hot peppers, because my husband is not a big fan of chipotles; I kept the prunes, but used them as stuffing, and the orange juice as part of a tasty reduction.
I started by patting the roast dry with a paper towel, then using a long knife to make an incision along the centre of the meat. With the help of a wooden chopstick, the roast got stuffed with the pitted prunes. This kept them in place and prevented them from burning or falling apart during cooking.
In a large frying pan, I heated up some vegetable oil over medium-high heat, and then added a few large pieces of onion, a couple of garlic cloves – whole or lightly pressed with the back of the knife – and the roast, fatty side down. I sprinkled some freshly ground black pepper and salt on the roast. The garlic was browning too fast, so I placed the cloves on top of the roast, and this also added more flavour to the meat. I checked the bottom of the roast until it was golden brown; at this point the onions and garlic had imparted enough flavour to the meat and juices in the pan, so I removed them (I will use them to flavour another dish.)
I turned on the oven to pre-heat to 350°F. I flipped the roast, and let it brown on the other side. The specific times per side will depend both on the size and the shape of the roast, and the intensity of the heat; for this piece of about 2 lb and 3 inches in diameter, it was approximately 10 minutes per side. Once it was all nicely seared, I removed the pan from the heat, and placed the roast in an oven-proof deep dish. I happened to have some green beans, so I arranged them around the roast, covered with parchment paper, and put the dish in the oven for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, I poured orange juice in the pan back on medium-high heat, and started scrapping the bottom with a wooden spatula, to deglaze and incorporate the brown bits to the liquid. When the juice was hot, I reduced the heat and continued simmering, stirring occasionally, until the liquid had been reduced to about half, and the bottom of the pan was shinny (no bits stuck or burnt).
When the 30 minutes for the roast had passed, I removed the baking dish from the oven, uncovered the roast and poured the sauce from the pan over it. The dish went back to the oven, uncovered, until the internal temperature of the roast reached 170°F, about 20 minutes for this piece.