The Recipe

A Nicaraguan Christmas Dish
Lomo Relleno, Stuffed pork loin

As Jenny Sanchez, from Leon, Nicaragua, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine, December 2011

Serves 12
Active time: 1-2 hours
Total Time: 3-4 hours

1 cup rice
1 boneless pork sirloin (log shaped, about 5 pounds)
1/4 + 1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup + 2 tsp honey mustard
1 whole fresh pineapple
1 cup wine (optional)
2 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp capers
1 cup pitted green olives with pimentos
1 small jar cocktail onions (She said look for the smaller Cambray onions in the Latin market)
1 cup prunes
1 + 3 green onions
2 small handfuls green beans
2 large russet potatoes
1 cabbage
1 red pepper
2 huge carrots
1/2 + 1/2 cup garbanzos
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup salt-free Ketchup
about 1/2 cup vegetable oil

1. Gather all ingredients on the counter now so you have everything on hand. Saute rice in about a Tbsp vegetable oil a small pot until the rice grains start turning opaque but not brown. Add 1 cup of water (not 2 cups!) and 1/2 tsp salt, cover and simmer for twenty minutes without stirring or touching.

2. Trim the pork sirloin of excess fat and silver skin. Cut an incision lengthwise all the way down the middle 1/2 inch deep, and then turn the knife blade slightly outward and start cutting down as if you are trying to cut out a smaller cylinder 1/2 inch inside the larger one. You'll get a flap of the sirloin, 1/2 inch thick starting to form. Open it from the loin like a trench coat. Do this to the other side so you finally have one flat rectangle of meat, 1/2 inch thick.

3. Jenny's honey mustard and honey were in squirt bottles, so I don't have exact measurements for this, but just do what she did: squirt zig zags of honey mustard all over the meat, then zig zags of straight honey. Rub these two in so the meat is evenly covered on both sides, and let the meat marinate while you prep the other stuff.

4. Put an 8 qt soup pot 2/3 full of water on to boil. Cut your cabbage in half and put the two halves in there. Peel your carrots and add to the water. Trim the beans and add half the beans to the water. Remove the beans when they're bright green and a little tender, and the carrots when they're slightly softened. Both the beans and carrots should still have a backbone so to speak when you take them out. Remove the cabbage when it starts smelling like cooked cabbage. All you're trying to do is take that raw crunch away throughout. All these veggies you will stir fry so you don't want any of them to be wimpy or mushy.

4. Preheat oven to 350. Cut the green onions and raw green beans crosswise into mini green hockey pucks. Put these in a small mixing bowl with 1/4 cup of the cooked rice, 1/4 cup cocktail onions, 1/2 cup prunes, 2 Tbsp garbanzos, 1 Tbsp capers. Toss together. It's the stuffing or filling for the pork. Pour onto the center of the meat in a smaller rectangular shape keeping the edges clear. Get your butcher's twine or wooden bbq skewers out. Roll the long side of the pork over the filling and over again so you have a stuffed (or rolled) pork loin! Tie shut with twine or pin closed with wooden skewers.

5. Trim the brown skin off the pineapple and cut the fruit crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick circle shapes. Cut the centers out of the circles with an apple corer or curved tip of a grapefruit knife. You can also cut each piece in half and use a melon baller to clip out the hard interior core from each piece.

6. In a rectangular casserole pan that will fit the length of the loin, place three pineapple circles down the middle like a pineapple snowman. Put the pork loin on top of that, and then put three more pineapple circles on top of the loin - another pineapple snowman. Put three dried plums (aka prunes!) in the centers of the pineapple rings where the cores were. It's cool how the prunes fit right in there! Peel the potatoes and slice into 1/4" rounds. Place the potatoes around the edge of the casserole dish. They'll bake and suck up all the delicious juices. Bake until you can stick a meat thermometer into the center and you get a 160 reading, about an hour and a half depending on the size of your roast.

7. Cut the cabbage into thin wedges by cutting down from the interior center of each half out to the edges. Cut the red pepper into really thin strips (julienne), the green onion and cooked green beans into mini green hockey pucks, and the carrots into 3 inch long thin strips (julienne). Get a large rectangular or oval serving dish ready (the one you'll serve the whole shebang in). Put the rice in the center of the serving platter.

8. In the largest saute pan you have, saute all these ingredients you just cut up in batches, squirting about 1 Tbsp of salt-free ketchup into each large handful of ingredients and mixing together with a wooden spoon. This sounds crazy, but it tastes great, so do it! The sauteed ketchup gives these veggies a golden glow and ups the general sweetness of the dish (kind of like Pad Thai and cole slaw are a little sweet, you know?). Also use a Tbsp or two of vegetable oil in each batch to keep your ingredients loose in the pan. Jenny sauteed her red pepper and green onion first. You want to saute all these ingredients so they are slightly soft and look cooked, but not droopy, mushy or soggy, like a good stir fry. As each batch is done, add it to the rice on the serving platter. Then she did some batches of cabbage and green beans, then the remaining cabbage and the cocktail onions, prunes, olives, and garbanzos.

9. This next step is crazy, but just trust me. Your basically dressing the vegetables in honey and honey mustard. Squirt honey into a large serving spoon over the cabbage-rice melange, and squirt a tsp honey mustard onto the honey and then drizzle both over all the rice mixture. Now do that again. I'm guessing that's a total of 1/2 cup honey and 2 tsp honey mustard. Dust the top with salt. Use your hands to mix the honey and mustard evenly into the melange. And this, folks is the relleno.

10. When the pork is fully cooked, remove the skewers or twine, and place the lomo (the loin) on top of the relleno. Add the pineapple that was on the bottom of the baking dish to the pineapple on top of the pork. Transfer the potatoes from the baking dish to the outside edge of the relleno. Pour the pork juices in the bottom of the casserole into the relleno (rice mixture). After you and your guests are done ooing and ahhing at how beautiful and delicious your Christmas or New Years feast looks, get a meat slicer (or whatever long knife you have) and spatula ready. Slice across the pork roast and catch each slice on a spatula (so the filling doesn't tumble out), and serve on individual plates with a scoop of relleno and a potato slice or two.

Copyright Lindsay Sterling 2011