I’ve been on a bit of a side dish kick with Thanksgiving approaching, but it’s time to get back to meat *and* potatoes (almost literally!). Today’s recipe – Garlic-Crusted Pork Loin with Mashed Acorn Squash from the November 2007 issue of Everyday Food – was originally a pre-dinner-party experiment. The dish has terrific fall flavors, though, and it would actually make a great entree for an intimate Thankgiving gathering. (The original recipe serves four, but a large roasting pan could probably accommodate a double recipe.)
First, I prepped 2 acorn squash. I sliced them down the middle with a *sharp* knife, scooped out the seeds, and set them aside. Next, I made a garlic paste to rub on the pork. (This paste went better than my first attempt with the Rosemary Beef Skewers with Horseradish Dipping Sauce, I think.) I finely chopped 4 garlic cloves and sprinkled them with kosher salt. Holding a chef’s knife almost parallel to my cutting board, I repeatedly smeared the garlic with the knife blade until a paste formed.
I placed 1 center-cut pork loin roast (about 1 3/4 pounds) in the middle of a lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet. I rubbed it all over with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the garlic paste and then seasoned the pork with salt and pepper. Finally, I arranged the acorn squash halves (cut side down) around the pork.
I roasted the pork and squash at 450F until my digital thermometer fork read 145F when inserted into the thickest part of the meat (about 40 minutes). (Go with 150F or 155F if you like your pork a bit more done, though the temperature will continue to rise as the meat rests.) I transferred the pork to a cutting board, covered it loosely with foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes.
While the pork rested, I scooped the acorn squash flesh into a medium bowl. (Hold the squash with a clean kitchen towel to keep from burning your hands.) I added 1/4 cup of reduced-fat sour cream, 1 tablespoon of light brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. I mashed the mixture with a fork to combine, tasting and seasoning until I was happy with the flavor. I thinly sliced the pork and served it over the mashed squash.
If you like garlic, you’ll love this pork. It was so fabulously flavorful. The meat came out really tender and juicy, too. I’m used to preparing pork tenderloin instead of center-cut pork loin roast… Pork tenderloin is delicious and great for everyday meals (though it *can* be dressed up for company, for sure), but this really felt like special-occasion meat.
I wish I could say that Dr. O and I loved the acorn squash mash as well, but I think I just need to accept that acorn squash isn’t our favorite. I loved that it cooked right alongside the pork, though, and it was so easy to put together, so definitely give it a try if acorn squash is on your “love” (or even “like”) list. I would definitely make the pork again on its own, and I might even try the mash with butternut squash instead next time.
TIPS: I have really great knives now, but I have struggled to cut acorn squash in the past with less-than-stellar knives. A reader once suggested lightly tapping the knife with a mallet to help cut through the acorn squash, which certainly sounds like a better idea than see-sawing dangerously with a large (but dull) knife.
Recipe link: Garlic-Crusted Pork Loin with Mashed Acorn Squash