Cider Roasted Pork

The barrage of holiday recipes is ready to begin at any moment.  The interwebs will invariably fill up with posts about turkey this and stuffing that…all guaranteed to turn your holiday table into a Norman Rockwell/Martha Stewart mash up.  You know who gets left out in the cold by all those posts?  People who don’t like turkey.

I’ve gone of the record as being anti turkey.  Here’s a few reasons why I do not serve turkey for Thanksgiving:

Reason #63 – It takes too freaking long to cook.  The day we set aside to reflect upon the bounty in our lives should not start at the crack of dawn with me muttering and cursing under my breath about the “damn turkey”.  I prefer to spend Thanksgiving in the presence of my family and friends, not babysitting a bird in my oven.

Reason #14 – A turkey, even a small one, is too big for the two of us.  I know what you’re going to say…but you can freeze the leftovers.  I barely have room for frost in my freezer.  I’m not taking up precious cubic footage, to store a half eaten bird, that could otherwise be devoted to important things like ice cream and vodka.

Reason #40 – Cider Roasted Pork.  This recipe makes me buy apple cider year round.  The pork is moist and flavorful and doesn’t require me to hold its hand for five or six hours in the oven.  Two pounds of pork is enough for a satisfying dinner and a serving or two of leftovers so it doesn’t wear out its welcome.

Cider Roasted Pork Loin

Adapted from Cooking Light

BAH Note: The cider reduction can be made ahead of time and gently warmed on the stove over a very low flame until you are ready to use it to baste the pork.

  • 3 cups apple cider plus 2 cups apple cider
  • 3 cups ice
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 pounds pork loin, trimmed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped

Bring 3 cups of cider, salt, pepper, and coriander to a boil in a saucepan.  Remove from the heat, add the ice, and cool completely.  Transfer the brine to a large zip top bag, add the pork loin, and refrigerate for 8 hour.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.  Insert a cooling rack or broiler pan coated with nonstick cooking spray.  Remove pork from brine and place on the prepared rack.  Spray the pork lightly with cooking spray  and sprinkle the rosemary and sage onto the pork.  Bake for 1 hour or until the temperature registers 155 degrees.

While the pork cooks, bring the remaining 2 cups of cider to a boil in a small saucepan.  Cook until it reduces to about 1/2 cup.

Use the reduced cider syrup to carefully baste the pork twice during the last 20 minutes of cooking time.

{printable recipe}

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Flashback Friday – Crush

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 2/11/09 at Exit 51.

Crush

Who was the first person you had a crush on?  It’s ok, I won’t tell anyone.  Me?  My first crush was probably Shawn Cassidy.  Yes, I grew up surrounded by Tiger Beat and Teen Beat magazine hotties.  Oddly enough, I was not allowed to buy those magazines. In hindsight, I think that may have shielded me from some less worthy crushes like Scott Baio, Kirk Cameron, and Duran Duran.

I still get crushes.  But let’s be honest, what are the odds of your crush ever turning into a real relationship?  Unless of course, you happen to be Katie Holmes and your crush is Tom Cruise.

tb10a

I find that more and more, I develop crushes on recipes.  They woo me with their online photos and descriptions until I can think of nothing else.  I am beholden to their charms.  And then, finally, I give them a chance.  Much like the fickle adolescent that I used to be, I tend to get over these crushes pretty quick.   The idea of them is better than the reality of them.  But some do turn into lasting relationships.  They are the TomKat of my cooking world.

Here’s my latest crush.  I can’t decide whether it’s a keeper or not.  I think I need to give it one more chance to win me over.

Crushed Sweet Potatoes with Roasted Garlic and Ginger
The Washington Post, From executive chef Ethan McKee of Rock Creek at Mazza.

The dish can be fully assembled, then cooled, covered and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance. To reheat, cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • 4 large (3 pounds) sweet potatoes, scrubbed well, then cut lengthwise into quarters
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 10 to 12 cloves garlic (from 1 head)
  • 1 cup nonfat vegetable broth
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar substitute or light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a large, lidded baking dish.

Combine the potatoes, herb sprigs and garlic in the baking dish. Pour the vegetable broth over and season lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Cover (or use aluminum foil, wrapped tightly) and bake for 1 hour or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork and the garlic is tender.

Transfer to the stovetop; discard the herb sprigs and use a potato masher to crush the vegetables. Add the grated ginger and the brown sugar substitute or brown sugar, stirring to mix well. Drizzle the oil over the top, mixing just to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Serve warm.

Peppers and Zucchini

This was one of those rare dishes that got a split decision in our house.  The Mistah, he says he is not much for zucchini.  Although he “claims” to like my curried zucchini soup.  And he devoured the zucchini and pepper quesedilla that I made last night.  So I don’t know what to think.

Actually, I know what I think.  I think this makes a lovely, light dish. It’s a refreshing change from the usual suspects that show up on our plates in the role of vegetables. And it’s versatile.  Serve it as a side dish; use it as a condiment to top a burger; transform it into an entree with some couscous or quinoa.

So pay no mind to The Mistah and his zucchini fickleness.  Peppers and zucchini will give you a taste of summer any time of the year.

Peppers and Zucchini

Adapted from Bon Appetit – Fast, Easy, Fresh

BAH Note:  I started out to make a poblano rajas with zucchini.  Bon Appetit – Fast, Easy, Fresh describes rajas as roasted chile strips cooked with onion and spices.  But they wanted me to add a half cup of cream to the vegetables.  And I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.  I also neglected to add any seasoning other than kosher salt.  Maybe when I go to heat up the leftovers, I will add a pinch of ancho chili powder.

While I think this recipe is pretty SB friendly, if I wanted to make it completely South Beachy, I would use olive oil, or a combination of butter and olive oil to sautee the vegetables.

  • 2 poblano chiles
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Place a rack directly under your broiler and line it with a sheet of foil.  Place the poblano chiles and red peppers on the foil.  Broil until the exterior is completely charred, carefully turning them as needed.  Transfer them to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.  Carefully remove the charred skin (and seeds if you like) and roughly chop the peppers.

Heat the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the chopped peppers, zucchini, and onions.  Saute until the onions are translucent and the zucchini is tender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

{printable recipe}

Braised Onion Tart

Do not be fooled by my crappy photo.  There’s a lovely picture of Braised Onion Tart in February’s Bon Appetit.  If you want the glamour shot, look there.

Note to self: Check the ingredient label the next time you think of buying store brand puff pastry.  It wasn’t until I took my box of Giant brand puff pastry out of the freezer that I noticed it was made with margarine.  Who the hell uses margarine in puff pastry?  I have to be honest and say that I wasn’t happy with the flavor or the texture of the pastry.  It also didn’t brown well.

But I am confident that those shortcomings were the result of my poor, generic puff pastry choice and not of the onion tart itself.  The 59 cents, or whatever it was, that I “saved” by choosing the store brand was no savings whatsoever.

So what’s the take away here?

  1. Fancy cameras do not ensure you won’t have a crappy photo.
  2. Bargain puff pastry is no bargain.
  3. Splurge on the good stuff and then make a braised onion tart.

Braised Onion Tart

Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2011

BAH Note: There’s a whole component in the BA recipe for roasting onions to use for the tart.  While that’s great, it also adds nearly 90 minutes to the process.  I elected to use some of the Braised Onions that I had stashed away in my freezer.  I thawed them in the fridge, then while my puff pastry was thawing on the counter I heated the thawed onions in a skillet until most of the liquid had evaporated.

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 cup Braised Onions
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the puff pastry on a sheet of parchment to a rectangle approximately 14×10. Fold a 1/2 inch edge in towards the center on all sides to form a 13×9-inch rectangle. Transfer the pastry (on the parchment) to large rimmed baking sheet. Press firmly on the  pastry edges with fork to form a rim.

In a small bowl, mix the crème fraîche, salt, and pepper. Using the back of a spoon, or an offset spatula, spread the crème fraîche mixture over the crust to the folded edges. Arrange the apple slices on top of the crème fraîche and then top with the onions.

Bake until the crust is light golden brown and the crème fraîche topping is bubbling, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with thyme and serve.

{printable recipe}

Flashback Friday – Notes On A Recipe Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Stew

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 2/9/08 at Exit 51.

Notes On A Recipe – Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Stew

As I’ve  said, I’m enjoying the fact that the current season of Barefoot Contessa is based on her new cookbook.  Watching the show with the book on my lap reminds me of those storybooks that came with records.  You listened to the record as it read you the book.  My favorite was Peter and the Wolf.  I’m telling you, somebody is missing a golden opportunity to do this with cookbooks.

peterandthewolffrontcover

Having spent the weekend with Ina…ok, she was on my tv for thirty minutes…I made one recipe and put two others into the test pile.  There is a reason that I never serve a recipe to guests until I’ve tested it.  Sometimes the dish misses the mark and needs to be tweaked.  I think the Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Stew falls into this category that I like to call Not Living Up To Its Potential.

I managed to remember that the recipe calls for the cubed beef to marinate overnight.  But Ina, why would you tell me to marinate the beef in an entire bottle of red wine if I’m only going to use 2 1/2 cups of it in the stew?  Seriously, I’m glad I read the recipe all the way through before I started because I was able to save at least one cup of wine to enjoy later.

Later, as in when it came time to wash all the dishes that you call for in preparing the ingredients.  Why wouldn’t you just use the Dutch oven you plan to cook the stew in to do your browning and sauteing and move the cooked/browned ingredients to a separate plate?  It’s easier for me to fit a large plate or bowl into the dishwasher than to hand wash my biggest frying pan.  Less is more Ina; less is more.

And speaking of less, I think next time I will try searing the beef without the flour dredge, or maybe only on half of the beef cubes.  It made the final stew too gummy and it certainly eliminated the need to add any flour to thicken things up at the end.  I had to add at least two more cups of beef broth before serving.

I love a good beef stew and I think this one certainly has potential.  But it’s just not there yet.    So if you come over to our place hoping for the Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Stew, I hope you won’t be disappointed if it’s not on the menu.

Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Stew

This is the recipe as it appears in her new cookbook.  Use your taste and sensibilities to adjust it as you see fit.  Consider scaling the recipe in half to make a smaller test batch.

  • 2 1/2 pounds chuck beef, cut into 1 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle red wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 ounces bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 pound small potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can beef stock
  • 1 large branch fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen peas (not petit pois)

Place the beef in a bowl with the red wine, garlic cloves, and bay leaves.  Cover the bowl and marinate the beef in the refrigerator overnight.

Brown the bacon in a large (12 inch) saute pan for 5 to 7 minutes, over medium heat.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a Dutch oven.  Combine 2 cups of the flour, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper in a bowl.  Lift the beef out of the marinade and discard the bay leaves and garlic, saving the marinade.

In batches, dredge the beef cubes in the flour mixture and then shake off the excess.

In the same saute pan, brown half the beef over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.  Place the browned beef in the Dutch oven with the bacon and brown the remaining beef.  Add the second batch to the Dutch oven.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Lower the heat under the saute pan to medium low, add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes, adding olive oil if necessary.  Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 more minute.  Add the carrotts and potatoes and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Place all the vegetables in the Dutch oven with the beef.

Add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved marinade (discard the rest) to the saute pan and cook over high heat to deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the brown bits with a wooden spoon.  Add the beef stock, rosemary, sundried tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper.  Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables in the Dutch oven and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.  Cover the pot and place it in the oven for 2 hours, until the meat and vegetables are all tender, stirring once during cooking.  If the stew is boiling rather than simmering, lower the oven to 275 degrees.

When the stew is done and the meat is tender, discard the rosemary branch.  Ladle 1 cup of the pan juices into a bowl and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.  Pour it back into the stew, stir gently, and simmer for 3 minutes, until thickened.  Stir in the frozen peas, season to taste, and serve.

Chicken and Lentils

Here is how I derail my South Beach experience.  I take a perfectly fine, SB friendly recipe, and I monkey with it.  The chicken and lentils recipe that you’ll find on page 284 of Supercharged has no mention of chicken thighs.  And it certainly does not include 2/3 of a cup of Israeli couscous.  That was all my doing.

I take full responsibility…for every delicious bite of it.

Chicken and Lentils

Adapted from South Beach Supercharged

BAH Note: Regardless of whether you make the SB friendly version of this or my super special version, do yourself a favor and double the recipe from the get go.  This is one of those dishes that you enjoy more as leftovers.  So make enough to stash some in the freezer for later.

BAH Tip: If you’ve made some of those butter braised onions, substitute them for the chopped onion in the recipe.  Omit the olive oil and just begin by heating the onions and herbs in the pot.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon each dried basil and dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 pound chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
  • 1 (15 ounce) can lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 (14.4 ounce) can chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup Israeli couscous

Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion, basil, oregano, and a pinch of kosher salt and cook until the onion softens, stirring occasionally.  Add the tomato paste and cook for another 3 minutes.  Stir in the chicken broth and scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the chicken, lentils, and diced tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in the couscous and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Quick Coq au Vin

I don’t know what you think of this picture.  But I’ve tasted that meal.  And despite how unphotogenic it may be, it scores a perfect 10 on taste.  Braised chicken, BACON, rich wine sauce, and pearl onions.  How could it be anything but good?

Despite the fact that this recipe is the brainchild of Cook’s Illustrated, this is not a sign that I have called a truce with his Bowtiedness.  I remain resolute in my stance that I will never again contribute to CK’s golden parachute through yearly subscription fees to the magazine.

I haven’t yet named a replacement for CI.  But I’m holding follow up interviews with Fine Cooking, Bon Appetit, and Saveur.  It would really sway my opinion if one of those titles had something magically delicious like this in an upcoming issue.

Quick Coq au Vin

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

BAH Note:  CI calls for boneless, skinless thighs to be cut in half.  I used a combination of boneless and bone in thighs.  If you use bone in thighs, you wont’ be able to cut them in half but you will still want to remove the skin and as much fat as possible.  If using boneless thighs, your cooking time will be less than mine.

  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 6 – 8 ounces thick cut bacon, cut into lardons
  • 2 – 3 pounds chicken thighs, skin removed and trimmed of fat
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons flour

Combine wine, chicken broth, bay leaf, and thyme in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat and reduce by half.  Once reduced, remove from heat and discard the thyme and bay leaf.

While the liquid is reducing, cook the bacon in a dutch oven over medium heat until well browned and the fat has rendered.  Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and drain off the bacon fat.

Return 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat to dutch oven and heat over medium high flame.  When just smoking, add half of the chicken and cook for 2 minutes on each side until lightly browned.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and brown the remaining chicken in another 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.  Transfer the rest of the chicken to a plate.

Melt the butter in the empty pot over medium high heat.  Add the pearl onions and mushrooms and cook for approximately 10 to 15 minutes until the mushrooms release their liquid and the onions and mushrooms begin to brown.  Add the tomato paste to the pot and cook for 30 seconds before adding the flour.  Cook for another minute and then add the reduced wine mixture and deglaze the pot.

Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pot along with half of the bacon.  Bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes until the chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally.

Serve the chicken and sauce garnished with the rest of the bacon.

{printable recipe}