It was either going to be a huge success or a sloppy disaster. No playing it safe here.
I must have been out of my mind a few weeks ago because I accepted Joanne's (Eats Well With Others) Recipe Impossible Challenge sponsored by Marx Foods. Here is the challenge:
You are going to be sent a top secret mystery package from Marx Foods that is filled with 8 ingredients. You are going to pair two of these ingredients with winter squash to create a dish that I’m going to be so floored by that I’m going to want to eat it in mass amounts until I reach my orange-complexioned goal. It can be sweet, it can be savory. Basically, it can be whatever you want as long as it’s original, includes two of the mystery top secret ingredients, and features winter squash.
Here's the problem. I have never tasted or prepared winter squash.
To scatter my brain even more, Marx Foods sent me this diverse set of ingredients, giving me way too many options. Amazing things like coconut sugar, espresso salt, and fennel pollen.
Alexis and I batted ideas around like we were playing ping pong. This is what we came up with and to my amazement, it worked and I found out I like butternut squash. The plan was to have a spicy dry rub (no sugar) on the outside to counter the sweetness of the filling.
Spiral Sliced Pork Loin Stuffed with Butternut Squash
1 pork loin roast
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp pasilla negro chilies, ground
1/4 tsp aji panca chilies, ground
2 tsp paprika (I used my home made stash)
1/2 butternut squash
1/2 cup marscapone cheese
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
4 tsp maple sugar
First order of business was fire roasting the butternut squash. I fired the grill to 350f-375f with an indirect heat set up. We put the squash open side down and then added 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup apple juice.
We cooked them covered for about 40 minutes. Uncovered them, flipped them over and cooked uncovered another 20-30 minutes, until softened.
While that was going on, I made the rub. Since I knew the stuffing was going to be super sweet, I wanted the rub to be sugar free and have a little heat so I ground up about an 1 1/2 inch piece of the aji and pasilla chilies from Marx Foods.
These are mild, fruity chilies and have a rich smoky, almost chocolate-ish aroma to them when ground. I can't wait to try them with that espresso salt in a steak rub. Post forthcoming on that.
After the butternut squash (you are only using one of the halves, I just cooked both) is cooked and cooled, scoop out the pulp and blend with the filling ingredients. The "pinch" of nutmeg was about 4 passes of a whole nutmeg on a microplane.
Spiral slice the pork loin and then pound it even thinner with a mallet. If you aren't comfortable with that, you could ask your butcher to do it or just butterfly it, but it is worth the effort.
Season the outside with about 1/2 of the dry rub.
Flip and smear the filling on the other side.
Roll up, jelly roll style. This will make a mess but leave it there.
Tie up your little piggy and season it with a few more pinches of the dry rub. See, messy. But don't clean it off. It's part of my madness....err....planned design.
Sear the roast over a 500f grill (direct heat) for about 1 minute per side.
Remove back to your messy cutting board.
I didn't plan this ahead but I saw the "collateral filling" all over the cutting board and the extra seasoning in it, I thought about how I do beef roasts with a horseradish crust sometimes. So now smear the extra filling on the outside of the roast. (It was at this point I knew this was going to either rock or suck.)
I set the grill back to indirect heat at 350f and roasted it until it hit an internal temp of 140f.
Slice it thin and because it is 10 minutes until 10pm, eat it straight off of the cutting board. See how the extra filling crust baked on nicely? No more mess!
I really didn't know what to expect but each of us gave this one two thumbs up. I'm not an expert by any means and we were making a lot of this up as we went along. But the idea of the dry rub to balance the sweet filling resulted in a pork roast that I am proud of.
Joanne, thanks for forcing me to try butternut squash! It was not what I thought (and that's a great thing). Thanks to Marx Foods for the excellent ingredient pack. I will be trying out the beef rub idea on some ribeyes this weekend. (Check out their website, they have an incredible collection of products available in bulk.)