The hint of anise in wild fennel, usually reserved for fish preparations, is a perfect foil to the dullness of fresh pork, bringing a vibrant delicacy to its flavor. Wild fennel is much more richly perfumed than the bulb fennel found in the market, but if the former is unavailable, the feathery leaves of bulb fennel may be substituted—the pastis will reinforce their somewhat attenuated accent. The subtlety of mingled flavors is more pronounced when the pork is eaten cold the following day.
Potatoes and large sweet onions, both baked in their skins, the skins of the latter removed before serving, a chunk of butter placed on each, are a good accompaniment . . . Or little new potatoes cooked gently in butter, sautéed, with a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves.
Pierce the meat, with the grain, with a sharply pointed, narrow-bladed knife, the length of the roast, 3 or 4 times through the filet, once through the filet mignon (the muscle corresponding to the filet in beef) and two or three times through the apron, forcing generous pinches of chopped fennel into these slits in sufficient quantity so that, when the roast is carved, the cross-section will present a pattern of green spots. Place the meat in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle over the remaining fennel, add the pastis, and
Lift the meat out, leave it to drain for a few minutes in a sieve placed over the marinade, sponge it dry with absorbent paper, salt and pepper the interior lightly, and roll it up into its original form, the apron wrapped around the outside as far as it will go. Tie it up, sprinkle the outside with salt, and roast it, using a small skillet or heavy gratin dish as a roasting pan, for about 1 hour and 10 minutes in all, beginning it at 450° and turning the oven down to 350° after some 10 or 15 minutes. After ½ hour begin to baste regularly with its fat and about 20 minutes before removing it from the oven, drain the fat from the roasting pan, pour in the marinade, and continue basting regularly. The end of the cooking time should correspond to the moment, more or less, that the liquid of the marinade is completely evaporated, the bottom of the pan containing only caramelized adherences and additional fat drawn from the roast, the roast itself handsomely glazed from repeated basting. Transfer the roast to a heated serving platter, removing the strings, discard the fat from the pan, and, over a high flame, deglaze with the remaining white wine, reducing it by about two thirds. Pour the juice over the roast and, when carving, serve a spoonful of the mingled deglazing liquid and the juices that escape from within the meat over each slice.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.