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More rolled food

Let's spend another day in the kitchen playing with rolled-up food. As discussed in last week's report on "involtini," the Italian dish featuring slices of cooked eggplant rolled around a cheese filling and baked, there's something appealing about the idea of presenting contrasting but compatible flavors and textures in a neat roll that allows a taste of each element in a single bite.

Following up on last week's vegetarian rolls, today we'll do something carnivorous in a creation inspired by a dish I spotted Iron Chef French Hiroyuki Sakai making on a recent episode of the wacky FoodTV program: A thin sheet of pork wrapped around a row of prawns, cooked and then sliced into pretty rounds of rosy-white pork surrounding a bullseye center of shellfish.

The mixed marriage of tender, earthy pork and toothsome, sweet shrimp was hard to resist; and with just a little thought, a few simple moves to boost the flavor and texture interest - caramelized onion to enhance the filling, and a dab of creamy sauce with a light Asian accent to round out the flavors - yielded a dish so mouth-wateringly delicious that even my wife, who has no fondness for shrimp, wouldn't give over her portion as she usually does when crustaceans are on the table.

The procedure may seem a little finicky with its pounding, rolling and tying, but it gives you a good kitchen workout and really isn't nearly as complicated as it looks - you should be able to knock out this entire dinner in little more than one hour.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

12-16 oz. (roughly 350-500g) boneless pork loin in a single piece
6 oz. (250g) shelled, cooked shrimp (about a dozen extra large or jumbo)
2 tablespoons (30g) chopped sweet yellow or white onion
1/2 tablespoon finely minced garlic
3 tablespoons butter
Black pepper
3 tablespoons crème fraiche or heavy cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Japanese wasabi powder


1. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat in a small skillet, and cook the onions and garlic, stirring frequently, reducing the heat to low if they start to scorch, for 10 or 15 minutes or until they're golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool a little.

2. While the onions are cooking, "butterfly" the pork loin by carefully cutting almost all the way through it horizontally, leaving only enough uncut to hold the two halves together when you open the cut piece of meat like a book and press it down flat. Then place it between sheets of plastic wrap on the countertop or other firm surface and pound it quite thin with a heavy rolling pin (or wine bottle). The resulting piece of pounded meat should be a rough rectangle roughly 10 to 12 inches by 6 to 8 inches. Don't worry about the ragged edges; it won't be perfectly even. Season one side with salt and black pepper.

3. If you bought the shrimp raw, cook them briefly, simmering them in salted water until they just turn opaque. Don't overcook, as they'll get more cooking in the rolls. Rinse and dry the shrimp and remove the tails and any remaining shell.

4. Assemble the roll. Remove the plastic wrap and spread the cooked onion and garlic mix in an even strip down the center along the longer dimension. Neatly line up the shrimp in a row on top of the onions, and roll the pork around them tightly, tucking in the ends to make a neat cylinder with the shrimp safely enclosed inside.

5. Carefully tie the roll in several places with clean, unwaxed cotton string or twine. I eyeballed the points where I would eventually cut the roll into serving portions, placing one tie on each portion.

6. Melt the remaining butter over medium-high heat in a large nonstick saute pan or skillet. When it's melted and stops bubbling, put in the rolled pork and sear for a few moments, turning frequently, until it's browned on all sides. Then reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Let it cook for another 10 minutes, turning occasionally. While it's cooking, mix the crème fraiche, Dijon mustard and wasabi in a small bowl.

7. Remove the pork and shrimp roll to a warm plate. Remove and discard excess fat from the skillet, spoon in the crème fraiche mixture and any juices that have collected on the serving plate, and cook this quick sauce over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until it reduces and thickens a little.

8. Slice the pork roll into short rounds and plate them with a little of the sauce. Serve with a salad and steamed rice or crusty bread, and dinner is done!

MATCHING WINE: Any rich white should work well, from a White Burgundy or big California or Australian Chardonnay to a sturdy, dry Alsatian Riesling. I had a powerfully aromatic Viognier in mind when I made it, though - Mat Garretson's 2001 Vogelzang Vineyard "Table 62" Viognier from the Santa Ynez Valley - and the wine's bold and robust spicy-floral aromatics proved to be a match made in heaven.

Want a copy that's easy to use in the kitchen? You'll find a simple, plain-text version of these recipes, suitable for printing, online at

If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about this recipe or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by our Food Lovers' Discussion Group, where I've posted this article as a new topic, "FoodLetter: More rolled food"

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Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Involtini di Melanzane (Sept. 2)

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Thursday, Sept. 9, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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