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posted: 12/22/2013 8:11 AM

Lean holiday roast doesn't skimp on flavor

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  • Double Pork Roast with Mushroom Marsala Sauce can be prepped a day in advance allowing time for celebrating, not cooking, when guests arrive.

      Double Pork Roast with Mushroom Marsala Sauce can be prepped a day in advance allowing time for celebrating, not cooking, when guests arrive.
    Associated Press

  • Double Pork Roast with Mushroom Marsala Sauce can be prepped a day in advance so cooks don't have to be tied to the kitchen when holiday guests arrive.

      Double Pork Roast with Mushroom Marsala Sauce can be prepped a day in advance so cooks don't have to be tied to the kitchen when holiday guests arrive.
    Associated Press

 
By Sara Moulton
Associated Press

My choice for an elegant holiday dinner? It's hard to beat a roast, and more often than not my pick is a lean and moist pork tenderloin.

But let's face it, as much as we want to be healthy, there is such a thing as roast that is too lean. A lack of fat often means a lack of flavor. So how to make up this deficit? With plenty of high-flavor ingredients, like prosciutto, fresh herbs, mushrooms and wine.

Prosciutto packs a ton of flavor, and the slight amount of fat it adds is well worth it. As for the herbs, I took a tip from the Italians, who often top off a grilled steak with fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil. I tested out several herbs in this recipe, both alone and in combinations. Though I was rooting for fresh sage -- a classic match with prosciutto -- my tasting panel (the family) overruled me in favor of rosemary and thyme.

Given the roast's Italian inflections, I chose a mushroom Marsala sauce to go with it. Any mushroom will work, from the most affordable white button to the quite pricey shiitake. Whichever you choose, if you need to save time you usually can find them sliced and ready to go at the supermarket.

If you don't have Marsala at home, you can swap in Madeira, dry sherry, white vermouth, or even white or red wine. All pair up nicely with mushrooms. And, as ever, if you don't want to use alcohol, leave it out.

In order to stuff these pork roasts, you need to butterfly them. If you've never done this before, don't worry. You simply lay the log-shaped roast on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, cut in from the side of the roast about halfway down. Cut almost -- but not completely -- through; leave about inch of meat on the far side. You should be able to open the roast like a book.

Next, put plastic wrap on top of the roast and -- using either a meat pounder or rolling pin -- pound it to an even thickness. You can help to make sure that the meat won't stick to the plastic and tear if you first sprinkle both sides of it with some water. And even if the meat does shred a bit, don't worry. It will knit back together as it cooks.

One of the great things about this recipe is that you can prepare and roll the roast a day ahead. You also can make the mushroom sauce in advance, then warm it up in the saute pan after you've browned the pork roast, which allows you to take advantage of any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan after the roast has left the premises. This isn't just smart time management, it's good cooking; both the roast and the sauce will taste better if you prepare them a day ahead of time. And it'll free you up to prepare the rest of your holiday meal on the big day itself.

• Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."

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