As I put dinner on the table last night, I fielded the most asked question in America.
“Moooooommmmm, what’s for dinner?” (the written word prevents me from re-enacting the high pitched nasal whine of the question)
They were all seated around the table, looking at me expectantly, tired and spackled with a little bit of mud from that evening’s soccer game.
I walked up to the table with my best hostess smile, placed the steaming platter on the table and announced with a flourish, “Pork stuffed with figs and Italian sausage!”
The resulting chorus of groans and complaints didn’t take me by surprise. I’m used to apprehension of novelty by the kids, but my husband’s reaction did surprise me.
“That sounds delicious, but what are the kids having?“
I knew that he was tired, dreading a dinner filled with grumbling and dissent. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to jump on my soap box, and lecture the table about the importance of introducing the kids to different tastes and dishes, and the evils of kids’ meals.
Everyone quickly saw that I meant business, and that chicken nuggets would not be materializing anytime soon. Instead of complaining further, they did the unthinkable. They tasted the pork. And lo and behold, two out of three loved it. Soon everyone was eating the meltingly tender pork happily.
Of course Steve and I loved the marriage of the sweet honey figs and the savory Italian sausage. But the girls were big fans too, Bella loving the tender texture even though she ate it plain, without the delicious fig scented sauce. And Juliette had seconds and then thirds, scooping up the sauce with her spoon. Jack was the only one not won over, but he made himself a ham sandwich for dinner, and was content.
Between homework, soccer, piano, and dance, our weekday nights are a mad dash to the finish, and the temptation to cave in to the demands for chicken fingers (10 minutes in the oven!) or noodles with butter (6 minutes in boiling water!) is strong. I simply don’t have the time to make the kids a different meal than ours. But I’ve been down that road before, and I know that it leads to fast food, and bland colorless dinners that make my kids pale and lethargic. This year, I’m not backing down. Dinner will be dinner, and that will be that. I wonder how long it will take the kids to figure out that resistance if futile? Welcome to our personal food revolution kids!
The September topic for the Yahoo Motherboard is teaching kids healthy eating habits. I wrote about it in jest, but the obesity crisis in America is no joke. Only by teaching kids to develop their palate and eat real foods can we turn this terrifying tide around.
Pork and Sausage Stuffed Pork Loin
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
2 pound boneless pork loin
10 ripe figs
4 links of Italian sausage
1/2 a large white onion, finely diced
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
1 cup of amber ale
- Dice your onion. In a skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make a slit 3/4 of the way lengthwise through the pork loin to create a flap.
- Remove the sausage meat from the casings, and crumble it into the onion. Saute on medium heat until the sausage is cooked and no longer pink. Pour it into a bowl.
- Cut the figs into coarse slices. Toss with the sausage.
- Lift up the top flap of the pork loin. Place the sausage and fig mixture under it. Tie the roast with butcher twine to roughly hold in the stuffing. Some will tumble out, don’t worry too much about it as long as you keep some in there.
- Add a little more vegetable oil to the pan. Sear the bundled up pork on each side til browned nicely. Once browned on all sides, pour 1 cup of ale into the pan, rubbing the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to get all the bits of fig and sausage off and into the sauce.
- Now transfer the pork and pan juices to another receptacle to cook it, either in a slow cooker on high if you need to run out the door to practice, or in a dutch oven on low on the stove if you’re going to sit at home puzzling through weird new ways of teaching math with your child. Cook it for about 2 hours.
- Remove the pork from the pan. if you cooked it in a slow cooker, pour the pan juices into a saucepan and reduce over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. If you cooked it in a dutch oven, remove the pork to slice but turn the heat on high for 2 to 3 minutes. Slice the pork and serve the sauce alongside, in a sauce boat to keep picking eaters happy with plain, tender meat.