stuffed pinwheel pork loin

Partnering With Fire: Pinwheeled Stuffed Pork

I don’t really know when my fascination started with cooking over live fire. I’ve always been intrigued with the whole process, start to finish. Get the coals lit. Bring the fire up to fully engage the lump charcoal or wood. Then arrange the coals in the way that is best suited to cook, grill, or smoke the day’s offerings. It’s definitely a mutual respect sort of thing. We, meaning me and the fire, have to work together to get the wood-fired results that I’m looking for in my food, so I’m happy to continue to feed the fire as long as the fire provides a satisfactory way to make a meal. Weird, I know, but that’s the kind of stuff that my brain conjures up these days. And if the truth be told, even though I always enjoy the fruits of my labor, I often enjoy the start to finish process of grilling/smoking just as much and sometimes more than the actual consumption of the end result. It’s a good, peaceful sort of meditation and mind-clearing process for me.

Today, with the help of that fire and the trusty old Weber, we’re stuffing and smoking a pork loin that will look artfully pinwheeled when sliced, hopefully…right? There will be a handful of wings thrown in there too, prepped to be crispy on the outside and layered with butter and garlic parmesan flavor.

The pork loin needs to be sliced in a unwinding type of butterflying process. Start with a sharp knife, cutting horizontally along the perimeter of the loin and slowly make your way to the center while rolling the meat out flat. Once you have it laid out, pound out any uneven parts so that the meat is pretty uniform in thickness throughout.

Once we’re there, I like to rub the loin with something. It could be mustard, plain olive oil, or in this case, a favorite Italian dressing. On top of that, raw spinach is tiled out, using the dressing as a glue to help it stick to the meat. On top of the spinach, the stuffing mix of choice can be spread on top. This can be anything you feel like putting in there. My mix is a nod to refrigerator cleanup, in that I used varying amounts of red onion, minced garlic, shaved shallots, feta cheese crumbles, diced mushrooms, a few rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, a healthy splash of olive oil, and a generous amount of Greek Island Herb Rub seasoning from the Steven Raichlen Project Smoke Collection. Don’t be afraid to overseason the stuffing. It can handle a lot, and you want some flavor permeating from the inside out.

Now for the physical part of this challenge, the tuck and roll. Stand up, stretch out those hands and fingers, reach to the sky, shake out a hammy or two, do the hokey-pokey and turn yourself around, because well, thats what it’s all a-bout. Now that you’re sufficently warmed up, grab the loin from one end with both hands. Make a stressed face while you pull and stretch the loaded loin towards you. As you do this, start a tight rolling motion, using your fingertips to tightly roll and wrap the meat back in on itself. Keep up the momentum until you reach the end, and what you’ll have is a meat version of a Swiss Roll, and who doesnt love that? The payoff will be a pinwheel visual that will fully show itself when you slice into it. Hopefully.

With the loin rolled, take a few lengths of kitchen twine and strategically tie the loin together so it holds all the goods inside. You know what I’m talking about.

Rub the surface of the stuffed loin again with whatever you used for the inside and heavily season this beauty. I stayed consistent and also used the same seasoning as I put into the stuffing, that Greek Island Herb Rub. Let’s head out to the grill.

The grill is set up as a two-zone fire with apple and hickory wood chunks. The pork is ceremoniously laid on the indirect side of the grill, away from any glowing coals. This is where the loin will spend the next hour while being rotated every 20 minutes or so to ensure even cooking.

When the pork loin registers 145, pull it off the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before cutting the twine and slicing off a beautiful pinwheel to first feed your eyes. Then let your tastebuds enjoy the delicious crusty pork roll combined with flavorful stuffing in every bite. Full flavor in every bite that is so tender that it can be cut with a fork.

And those wings? Yeah, they were a delicious appetizer. Dry-brined overnight in a mix of baking powder, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. They were grilled alongside the pork on the indirect side of the grill and basted with a garlic parmesan butter concoction, reinforcing the brining flavor profile while adding additional layers of flavor. After about 40 minutes, they were pulled off the grill and put into a bowl. While still hot, it’s time to drizzle on the rest of the butter/garlic sauce and top with freshly grated parmesan. Now give ’em a good shake to get even distribution and enjoy them immediately as a great appetizer. They were better than fried. Better than fried? Yeah, better than fried…

Because Life Is Better Wood-Fired