My old rule of thumb used to be that when I wanted to roast a big hunk of meat, I’d reach for my roasting pan to get the job done. With its deep sides and sturdy handles, the pan is easy to maneuver in and out of the oven, and is spacious enough to hold a bevy of veggies underneath the meat, which then browns gloriously on top.
But what’s the point of rules that you can’t occasionally break? Sometimes, a shallow-sided sheet pan works better, like when you want the liquid in the bottom of your pan to condense and evaporate, forming the basis for a heady sauce. And such is the case in this recipe for pork loin with cider, apples and onions, roasted directly and unapologetically on a rimmed sheet pan.
As the meat roasts, the sheet pan allows the cider to cook off without steaming the meat. The low sides also encourage the apples and onions to turn golden in spots, which is harder to achieve in a roasting pan. And thankfully, a sheet pan is more convenient and easier to clean than a roasting pan. I throw mine in the dishwasher.
The downside of a sheet pan is that once you add the cider, the pan can overflow. The trick is to arrange the pork and vegetables on the pan, and transfer it to the oven before pouring in the liquid.
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Watch as you pour, adding just enough to coat the apples and onions, but not so much that liquid sloshes over the sides when you push the oven rack in. Then keep an eye on it; if the pan starts to burn, tip in a bit more cider.
While this recipe does require your attention, the results are worth it: juicy roast pork – infused with the flavor of rosemary, fennel and cinnamon-laced cider – served with meltingly tender browned onions and apples.
Because the combination of pork and caramelized apples is such a rich one, I pair it with tangy pickled apples and green chiles that come together in under 10 minutes (plus a couple hours’ pickling time). The piquant apples and chile bits can be eaten alongside the meat while the brine gets drizzled on top for an even sharper jolt.
And if the whole sheet-pan thing seems too precarious, and you’d rather cook the meat in a roasting pan, you can. The apples and onions may not get quite as golden, but it will still be a sweet and snappy dish no matter how you roast it.
And to drink
Pork loin pairs well with all sorts of wines. The bottle you choose depends primarily on how the pork is flavored. With this apple-dominated recipe, I would go for a good white wine with enough heft and body to stand up to the assertive apple flavors. My first thought is a dry riesling from Alsace, which ought to be brilliant with this dish. You could also try a riesling from the Wachau region of Austria, particularly those designated smaragd, which will be the richest. I would also consider a dry German riesling, particularly those designated grosses gewächs, which indicates top-quality dry wines. Alternatives? A pinot blanc from Alsace would work. So would dry Vouvray, as would a dry sparkling wine from France or the United States.
Cider-Roasted Pork Loin With Pickled Apples and Chiles
Yield: 6 servings
Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus at least 2 hours for pickling and marinating
For the quick-pickled apples and chiles:
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon allspice berries
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
Pinch kosher salt
1 large tart apple, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 small jalapeños, seeded and thinly sliced
For the pork:
1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) boneless pork loin (not tenderloin)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, plus more rosemary sprigs for garnish
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large, tart apple, halved, cored, and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
1 onion, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1/2 cup chicken stock, more as needed
About 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) hard apple cider or chicken stock, more as needed
1 tablespoon butter, cubed
To make the pickled apples, in a small pot, combine 1/4 cup water with vinegar, sugar, allspice, coriander and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes.
Put apples and jalapeños in a medium heatproof bowl or jar, and pour hot vinegar mixture on top. Let cool to room temperature and let pickle for at least 2 hours. (Mixture can be made up to 1 week ahead and stored in the refrigerator.)
Rub pork all over with rosemary, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Refrigerate, fat side up and uncovered, for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place pork on a rimmed 11-by-18-inch sheet pan. Scatter apples, onion, garlic and cinnamon stick in an even layer around pork loin. Transfer baking sheet to oven rack, and add chicken stock, then carefully pour in cider (it’s best to position pan in oven, then pour in liquid). You may not need all of the cider here. You can add more later as it roasts – stop if it threatens to overflow.
Roast until pork reaches 135 degrees internally, 35 to 50 minutes. Keep an eye on the pork. If all the cider evaporates and baking dish starts to burn while the pork is cooking, add a splash more cider.
Transfer pork to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, transfer roasted apples, onions and garlic to a serving platter (discard cinnamon sticks). Scrape jus and any golden bits from baking sheet into a small pot, and bring to a simmer (add a little more chicken stock if needed). Whisk in butter and a pinch of salt and cook until the sauce is reduced by about a third (you just want to thicken it up a bit), 3 to 7 minutes. Pour in any juices from the cutting board where the pork loin is resting.
Slice pork and place on a serving platter, along with the roasted apples and onions. Drizzle some of the sauce and also some of the liquid from the pickled apples on top. Garnish with the rosemary, and serve with pickled apples and jalapeños alongside.