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Balsamic-Baked Onions and Potatoes with Roast Pork

Members of the under-rated allium family gets explored in this episode.  Jamie pulls up some of his first onions of the year and makes a crisp and fresh cheese and onion salad. The red onions he uses in an onion and potato al forno with tender roast pork.  Brian, Jamie’s gardener and possibly the healthiest man on the planet, munches on raw garlic as they chat about the health benefits.  Jamie makes a sensational English onion and leek soup with cheddar cheese.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 pounds medium-sized waxy potatoes (all purpose), peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • Olive oil
  • 7 ounces butter, cubed
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
  • 1 whole bulb garlic, quartered or smashed
  • 5 medium red onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 1/2 cups cheap balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the pork:
    • 1 small bunch fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
    • Salt and pepper
    • 2 tablespoons freshly ground fennel seeds
    • 1 (3 1/2-pound) boneless rolled pork loin, preferably free-range or organic, skin off, fat scored in a crisscross pattern
    • Olive oil
    • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered
    • 2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
    • 4 bay leaves
    • 2 wine glasses white wine

Directions

  1. This dish has attitude – it uses a lot of balsamic vinegar but, trust me, it works really well! The onions and potatoes are baked in the vinegar, making them crispy, dark, sticky and sweet. I’ve chosen to serve them with roasted pork, but beef or lamb works just as well. I prefer red onions for their color and sweetness.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the potatoes into a pan of boiling, salted water and cook for around 8 minutes, then drain and return to the pan. Chuff them up a bit by shaking the pan.
  3. To prepare the meat, scatter a handful of finely chopped rosemary leaves over a large chopping board. Sprinkle over some salt and pepper and the ground fennel seeds. Roll the pork across the board, pressing down hard so all the flavourings stick to it.
  4. Get a large roasting pan that your pork will fit snugly into, and place it on a burner over a medium-high heat. Pour in a little olive oil and place the pork in, fat side down, sprinkled with any flavourings remaining on the board. After a few minutes, when the pork fat is lightly golden, turn it over and add the garlic cloves, onion, celery and bay leaves to the pan. Place on the bottom shelf of your preheated oven for 1 hour, basting it halfway through. (For the last 20 minutes of cooking, you may need to cover the pork with a bit of damp waxed paper to stop it colouring too much.)
  5. Get another roasting pan, into which you can fit the potatoes in 1 layer, and heat it on the stove. When hot, pour a glug of olive oil into it and add the butter, rosemary and garlic. Add the potatoes and toss them in all the flavours. Add the onions and all the balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes on the burner to reduce the balsamic vinegar a little. Place the pan on the top shelf and cook for around 50 minutes, until the potatoes and onions are dark, sticky and crispy – removing the pan to toss the onions and potatoes halfway through.
  6. After 1 hour, the meat should be cooked. Prick it with a sharp knife – if the juices run clear, it’s done; if not, pop it back in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes, keeping the potatoes warm. Remove it from the oven and let it rest on a plate for 10 minutes. Pour away most of the fat from the pan and mash up the garlic and onion. Place the pan over the burner and add the white wine. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, scraping all the meaty, marmitey goodness off the bottom to make a tasty little sauce, and season if necessary. Pass through a sieve into a serving pitcher. Then slice the pork and serve it with your incredible baked onions and potatoes, drizzled with the pan juices. This meal goes great with some nice greens or an arugula salad.