Valentine’s Dinner: Ancho-Pomegranate Roasted Pork Loin

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This is part of a sponsored collaboration with National Pork Board and DiMe Media. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

“Love is a many splendored thing. It’s the April rose that only grows in the early spring. Love is nature’s way of giving a reason to be living. The golden crown that makes a man a king.”

Every day I am grateful for finding someone to share life’s special moments with, like waking up in the morning to their smile, a gentle kiss goodbye when leaving for work or a warm embrace when you come home from a long, stressful day, simply makes life more meaningful. These are the moments I cherish and Valentine’s Day gives me another opportunity to express my love by preparing a delicious meal that is quite honestly easy to make.

When I look for inspiration, I often turn to pork as my choice of protein as it is flavorful, versatile, and accessible. From a traditional cochinita pibil to carnitas, my family loves when I cook with pork.

For Valentine’s Day, and other special holidays like Easter and Christmas, I love the idea of cooking with a pork loin roast. For larger groups, a full pork loin does the trick, but for dinner with my honey, a smaller 1-2 pound pork loin roast will ensure we have leftovers.

In this recipe, I have butterflied the pork loin to stuff with a salty-sweet pomegranate and walnut mixture. (You can sweetly ask your butcher to butterfly the roast for you.) The sauce is a combination of pomegranate juice and pureed ancho chiles that have been toasted in a dry skillet just long enough to release oils, imparting a scintillating smokiness to the dish. The sauce is sweetened with pomegranate, brown sugar and scented with fresh orange zest.

Pork loin cooks pretty quick. I suggest making the sauce and the rub the day before. Then stuff, truss and chill the pork loin until you’re ready to cook. It takes roughly 20 minutes per pound, but use an instant read thermometer and once it hits 145-160, take it out and let it rest on your counter for a few minutes while you pour your special Valentine another glass of wine. To serve, remove the twine and slice the pork loin roasts. The Ancho-Pomegranate Pork Loin alone will dazzle any table. Serve alongside steamed green beans and mashed potatoes.

If you’re still scrambling for a special Valentine’s treat, there has never been a better day to try pork than today! Go ahead and make ‘em swoon with this Ancho-Pomegranate Roasted Pork Loin.

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Ancho-Pomegranate Pork Loin

For Walnut Filling:

  • ½ cup walnuts (dry toasted)
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

For Rub:

  • ½ teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine ground coffee
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

For Sauce:

  • 4 dried ancho chiles (stemmed and seeded)
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large shallot
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Zest of 1 orange

For Pork Loin

  • 2 pound pork loin roast (butterflied)
  • 2 large purple onions (sliced in half-moons)
  • Pomegranate arils to garnish

For Walnut Filling:

  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until completely chopped and paste-like. Reserve until needed.

For Rub:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Reserve until needed.

For Sauce:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place ancho chiles into hot skillet and dry toast just until they become fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  2. Place toasted chiles into a heat proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow the chiles to soften, about 10 minutes
  3. Place the softened ancho chiles and the rest of the ingredients into a blender and pulse until fully combined. Strain sauce. Discard solids and reserve sauce. (Note: if sauce is too thick, adjust consistency with the water that was used to reconstitute the chiles.) Reserve until needed.

Putting it all together

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Spread walnut filling inside pork loin. Roll up the loin and truss using kitchen twine. Spread the rub all over the outside of rolled pork loin.
  3. Place sliced onion in small roasting pan and place pork loin on top. Roast 25 minutes and then baste with ancho-pomegranate sauce at least twice before the internal temperature hits 140-16 (Total roasting time is approximately 40-45 minutes. Allow pork loin rest before slicing. Serve with more sauce and fresh pomegranate arils.

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