VANILLA AND BOURBON MARINATED PORK LOIN:
In a small saucepan, combine vanilla beans, orange zest, black pepper, brown sugar, cider vinegar and bay leaves and cook over medium heat until sugar is melted and flavors have begun to meld, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add bourbon. Cool marinade completely before pouring over pork loin in a glass casserole or bowl. Refrigerate for 48 hours, turning every 12 hours.
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Remove pork from marinade and pat dry. Transfer marinade to a saucepan and reduce volume by one-third. Reserve to use in the pecan gravy.
Place pork on a rack on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 155ºF. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with Pecan Gravy and Sour Cream Mashed Sweet Potatoes.
THE PECAN GRAVY:
In a saucepan cook pecans in butter until you get a pleasant pecan aroma. Add trinity and cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic, cayenne pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add flour, cook for 2 minutes, then add marinating liquid and chicken stock. Continue to cook until sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
In a large saucepan, boil sweet potatoes until fork tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Pour off all of the water and put potatoes through a food mill or ricer. Using a large plastic spatula, fold in sour cream, bourbon, brown sugar, and cane syrup. Taste and add salt and white pepper to taste. Serve immediately or put in a casserole dish and reheat when ready to serve.
Yield: 12 servings