This fennel crusted pork loin with fig balsamic glaze is very easy to make...
This fennel crusted pork loin is flavorful, juicy, and made in about 30 minutes. Fennel bulb has a bright licorice-like flavor; however, don't let that turn you off. I'm not a fan of licorice, but fennel is light in flavor, especially when cooked. When using fresh fennel as a substitute for onion, it adds more interest and depth.
You'll love this recipe because it's...
made in about 30 minutes
exploding with flavor
good for weeknight meals
great for dinner parties or holidays
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Fennel and pork are a match made in heaven...
Start this pork loin by patting it dry with a clean paper towel; then, cut openings into the loin, about one to two inches apart. Don't cut through the pork; you want to make the pocket(s) large enough to fit your garlic cloves, and deep enough to make them sit directly in the middle of the loin. I was able to make seven slits, make as many as will fit in your pork. Now, cut each garlic clove in half (or fourths), and slide one piece into each hole. After you've stuffed the pork with garlic, set it aside and make the "crust."
Creating that fennel crust...
For the fennel crust, take a tablespoon of whole fennel and crush it. There are a couple of different ways you can do this. I use a mortar and pestle or a manual spice grinder to grind the fennel coarsely. I prefer spice grinder because I can quickly get the texture I want. However, if neither of these ways is accessible to you, you can use a small food processor/blender, or the bottom of a pan to crush the seeds. Once you've cracked your fennel seeds, mix with dried herbs, salt, and pepper. Now, coat the pork in a tablespoon of olive oil and press the spice mixture onto the pork. Carefully transfer the pork into a hot, oiled cast-iron skillet, and sear each side of the pork until golden brown. Browning will help to adhere the herbs to the pork and create the crust. Gently remove from the pan and set aside.
Sauteing the fresh fennel...
After you remove the fennel crusted pork loin, lower the heat and add more oil if needed. Throw in the fresh fennel, dried herbs, salt, and pepper. Cook the fennel until almost soft. If you can't find fresh fennel, use an onion. It's not going to break the dish; I just prefer fennel because it makes the pork feel light and fresh. When the fennel is starting to soften, deglaze the pan by pouring in about a half cup of vegetable (or chicken) stock. There should be enough stock to cover the bottom of the pan. Let the stock come to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer while scraping the pan to pick up any leftover bits of pork.
Roasting the fennel crusted pork loin...
Finally, place the fennel crusted pork loin back into the pan, and remove from the heat. Place the cast iron pan into an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I always use a cast iron pan because of its versatility. You can find my favorite cast iron pan, here. Before placing the fennel crusted pork into the oven, make sure there is enough stock to cover the bottom of the pan. Let the pork roast in the oven for about fifteen minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit. If you struggle with dry pork, buy this meat thermometer. This oven-safe probe goes directly through the side of the pork loin, so it is parallel to the pan. It will alert you when the internal temperature has reached a set temp which means there is no guesswork. Once the pork loin has finished cooking, the inside should be slightly pink; this will ensure that it remains juicy. Before serving, let the pork loin rest for about five minutes; then, remove the garlic cloves, drizzle with fig balsamic glaze (next step) and slice. For side dish ideas, see the recipes linked below.
This fig balsamic glaze is simple and slightly sweet...
While the fennel crusted pork loin is cooking in the oven, place one cup of balsamic vinegar, a half cup of figs (about ten whole dried figs), and two tablespoons of pure maple syrup into a small food processor, and blend until completely pureed. The mixture will be seedy like raspberry preserves. If you don't have pure maple syrup, use brown sugar instead. I prefer brown sugar because of the added molasses flavor. After you have blended the balsamic mixture, push it through a fine-mesh strainer with the backside of a spoon. That way, you can separate the seeds to make the balsamic glaze smooth. Drizzle the fig balsamic glaze over the hot fennel crusted pork loin before serving. You can keep any extra glaze, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Make sure you are following me on social media (linked below) to be notified of more recipes using this balsamic glaze, and make sure to share this recipe with your friends, so they can try it, too!
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*Any nutritional data provided is for personal reference only as these are approximations, and data may vary on a case by case basis. Please refer to my disclaimers page.*
- 1 lbs pork loin
- 1 -2 tbsp olive oil,
- 3 cloves garlic, , cut in halves
- 1 tbsp fennel seed,, crushed
- 1 tsp dried herb blend
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 fennel bulb, , thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil,, if needed
- 1 tsp dried herb blend
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth, , plus 2 tbsp
- 1 c balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 c figs,, about 10 figs loosely packed
- 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Pat the pork loin dry with a paper towel, then cut the openings for the garlic. Cut as many slits into the muscle as you can. The slits should be approximately 1 inch apart, and about halfway into the loin.
- Once you've made the pockets, stuff a half clove of garlic into each hole (see notes). Coat the pork in 1 tbsp of olive oil.
- Next, in a small bowl, mix together crushed fennel seed, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Adhere the herb mixture to the pork with a pressing motion.
- Now, heat a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. When it's hot, coat the pan in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add pork and sear all sides of the meat until golden, turn carefully. When all the sides have browned, remove the pork from the pan.
- Afterward, add more oil if needed, then saute the fresh fennel until almost soft with 1/2 tsp of salt and dried herbs, and 1/4 tsp of black pepper.
- When the fennel is starting to soften, deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of stock. Scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan, and bring the chicken stock to a simmer. Turn off the heat.
- Place the pork back into the cast iron pan. If the stock has disappeared, add more making sure to cover the bottom of the pan in about a 1/8 of an inch.
- Place into the oven for about 15 - 20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the pork loin reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Set aside to rest for 5- 10 minutes before serving.
- While the pork is baking, make the balsamic glaze. Add 1 cup of balsamic vinegar, about 10 figs, and 2 tbsp of pure maple syrup to a blender, and puree. Pour into a pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce reduces by half, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Now, using a fine mesh strainer, push the balsamic glaze through with the back of a spoon to separate the seeds from the sauce. Discard the fig seeds, and drizzle the glaze over the pork loin.
Please REMOVE garlic cloves before serving. They are for flavoring purposes only. The time it takes to cook pork is too short for the cloves to cook down.
Do not cut all the way through the loin when making the openings for the garlic. Just cut down about halfway so the garlic cloves sit in the middle of the muscle.
You can crush the fennel seed using a spice grinder, food processor, mortar and pestle or the bottom of a pan. The consistency should be a medium to coarse grind.
If you don't have a cast iron pan, transfer into a baking dish instead.