archives: food

tenderloin sandwiches

I don’t quite know how it happened—I’m a good mid-Atlantic girl!—but I find myself these days literally surrounded by Midwesterners. They have a particular brand of earnestness, niceness, and . . . odd childhood food favorites. When we are all together they’re always reminiscing about some Cool Whip–laden dessert or cheesy baked dish. I personally don’t recall ever eating these things growing up. Crab cake, anyone?

One thing they’re forever talking about that you just can not find outside that expansive section of our country is the tenderloin sandwich. They clamor to tell me how it should be eaten: on crappy hamburger buns / with little to no condiments / where the meat is so big it exceeds the bun by inches all around / with something like waffle fries from a bag. Sounds . . . delicious? Waffle fries would be a guarantee, at the very least.

They found recipes, settled on one, and decided we would have a whole Midwestern night. Somehow, however, I ended up in the kitchen doing all the cooking. I pointed out that I was the only non-Midwesterner. Holly said “We know how to eat them, not how to cook them.” It fell to me to butterfly pork tenderloin while Holly, Jason, and Chris pounded them flat and then breaded them up. I fried them all to what looked to me to be crispy perfection. (And let’s be honest. The idea that I might relinquish control of my kitchen was a folly.)

We piled the giant tenderloins on Wonder Bread hamburger buns (I added lettuce and mayo) and dug in, with waffle fries and supermarket cole slaw on the side. And you know what? It was truly delicious, in the way only an all-white meal can be.

A few lessons learned, should you want to make this yourself:

  • Do not be afraid to pound this out to absurdly large diameter. It shrinks up a LOT once it’s in the oil (think bacon’s shrinkage). Go even bigger than you think, if you want it to hang over the bread like it did in your childhood.
  • Keep the oil very hot. Even in my cast iron pan, it cooled if there were two pieces in the pan, leading to longer frying times.
  • Lettuce adds a much needed brightness and crunch. I conveniently had iceberg in the fridge; I don’t think any other kind would be appropriate.
  • Wonder Bread hamburger buns are really perfectly soft.

Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
Cut a whole boneless pork loin into 1-inch pieces. Butterfly these pieces and then pound between two pieces of plastic wrap (as you can see, I bought my Saran Wrap around Christmas, so it’s red!) til 1/8 inch thick. We use old empty heavy salsa jars to pound, but a meat tenderizer would probably work best!

Dip the pounded meat into water, then dredge in a mixture made up of 2 parts flour to 1 part cornmeal, seasoned generously with salt and plenty of pepper.

Heat a half-inch of vegetable oil (I used canola) to super hot in a cast-iron pan. (I didn’t put a thermometer in to test the temp, just tested the oil by tossing loose flour into the oil. When it sizzled like crazy, it was ready.) Set the breaded tenderloin in and fry til golden brown, about 3 minutes a side.

Serve on crappy buns with desired condiments (DO NOT BE AFRAID OF CONDIMENTS, MIDWESTERNERS).

orange- and soy-glazed baby back ribs

I have a backlog of Bon Appetits and Food & Wines stacking up in the foyer where we drop our mail. We’re talking months and months of unread magazines. I’ve also been between knitting projects and books, so the last few commutes I’ve grabbed a magazine or two and read them on the way in. Jason ends up peeking, too, and in whispered tones we start excitedly meal planning. The Orange- and Soy-Glazed Baby Back Ribs from the January 2012 issue of BA were the first to catch our eye, and I made them this past Sunday.

There’s not too much to report other than that they are AMAZING. Make them now. I followed the recipe exactly, and I think cumin seeds are crucial; you can’t substitute ground cumin and get the same effect. (They don’t taste strongly of cumin, and in the eating they pop in your mouth and add a burst of flavor.) What else, what else . . . Not much. Follow the recipe and you’ll be happy! I’m proud of us because, I must confess, it’s the first time I’ve used the broiler part of my oven. It’s tricky to get the pan in and out of the lower tray, so I’d always been pretty much terrified of it, but Jason was brave for both of us. It made all the difference, too. Brace yourself for so much more broiled goodness from me in the future: frittatas! bruschetta! creme brulee!

Orange and Soy-Glazed Baby Back Ribs

3 lbs baby back pork ribs, cut into individual ribs
1 cup soy sauce, divided
3 garlic cloves, smashed
5 teaspoons cumin seeds, divided
3 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, divided (I used chipotle pepper flakes)
3 tablespoons canola oil
6 garlic cloves, minced (microplaned)
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts finely chopped, dark green sliced (the magazine photo shows it in long skinny strips but I did not have the patience for that)
1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed OJ (I did not juice oranges myself; I bought fresh-squeezed OJ)
orange, lemon, lime zest (I only had orange and lemon)

Combine the ribs, 1/2 cup of the soy, 3 smashed garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes in a large pot. Add water to cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer, with the lid slightly askew, for 2 hours.

About 20 minutes before that two hours is up, heat the oil in a saucepan and add the remaining 3 teaspoons cumin seeds and 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes and let sizzle for about 30 seconds before adding the minced garlic and finely chopped scallions, remaining 1/2 cup soy sauce, and orange juice. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly for 20 minutes or until reduced and thickened.

Drain the ribs from the pot and place on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Let sit 10 minutes. Preheat the broiler, then spoon the glaze over the ribs. Broil for 2-3 minutes, then turn, spoon on more sauce, and broil the second side for 3 minutes. Serve garnished with the green parts of the scallion and the zests.

secret supper club

There’s been this movement in the food world of the past few years, these “underground” supper clubs, in which a chef cooks a dinner party for guests, who pay, and who don’t necessarily know each other. I suppose the idea is to have an intimate but elegant meal that is entirely unique. Some might call it a hipster thing to do; I think it’s pretty bougie. But I’m just bougie enough to have leapt at the opportunity to attend!

Scott calls his dinners “Stagionarsi” from the Italian for “season,” which has a double meaning here: both the seasoning of food and the commitment to creating meals inspired by the seasons. The chef emailed with us ahead of time to find out about food restrictions, allergies, and the like. It was so personal and friendly, and I know my friends (who do have allergies) were well accommodated.

Each of the food courses was paired with wine; the dessert course was wine-less but there was Basil Hayden’s whiskey for us to drink (oh wow tasty). I took notes on my phone, and you will see in many of these uncropped photos of my plates that my phone is still on! This was documentation more than glamorous photography, as you will see, but I’m going to include every course here nonetheless. Click to read more, and enjoy!

Revelry Chardonnay. Chickpea “panisse” seasoned with pear and nutmeg, served with a black garlic aioli. So delicate and delicious! Subtle flavors that weren’t overpowered by the wine. I don’t like Chardonnay but this was very tasty. This was a perfect starter to make you want more. (But I could don my Tom Colicchio hat and deride the curly parsley on the plate. Garnishes without purpose make Tom craaazy on Top Chef.)

Gentil “Hugel” Alsace Riesling. Braised greens salad (collards? kale? wasn’t specified) with barley and what smelled like sherry vinegar. If this was more fully explained I wasn’t listening! I liked this a lot, and the sweetness of the wine was a nice complement to the bitterness of the greens.

Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo. Butternut and cabocha squash soup with a garnish of sauteed hen of the woods and hedgehog mushrooms. Also garnished with a triangle of a truffle cheese (chef couldn’t remember the name and didn’t update us) and a line of truffle salt. This was so THICK, it was more like baby food than soup, but it was delicious through and through. The truffle element surprised me by being so perfect; I am definitely adding that the next time I make my roasted butternut squash soup!

Nikolaihof Wacahu Gruner Veltliner. Smoked salmon cakes with black radish, celeriac, and parsnip in the mix, served with a celeriac remoulade. These were good, nice and salty and crispy. Some claimed they were their favorite course, but I just wanted more of the soup!

Valpolicella Dry Red Wine (not sure the winery). Potato gnocchi, spinach and butternut squash gnudi, with sage butter and a healthy streak of cracked black pepper. The gnocchi/gnudi were fantastic! But browned butter with sage was surprising in its lack of originality; the dish just felt dated/old fashioned (are we still only pairing gnocchi with sage browned butter, really?). The wine was nice and peppery, and that complemented the pepper in the dish nicely.

I didn’t see the wine bottle, but this was a Shiraz/Grenache/Mouvedre blend. That same wine was used in the reduction on the plate that accompanied this pork belly cooked with a juniper berry rub of juniper berry salt, thyme, and garlic. The cut and preparation reminded me a bit of the Norwegian Christmas specialty, ribbe. Wish that skin had gotten more crispy, but the flavors were great.

No wine at dessert to go with the “deconstructed cannoli” that I forgot to photograph before diving in! The ricotta ice cream was studded with flecks of chocolate and was fabulous; the plate had a chocolate streak and a sprinkling of espresso salt. That made the dish, in my opinion! The cookie, a play on a cannoli shell, was hazelnut based.

All in all, it was a fabulous meal, and it was so much fun to be there with other food-passionate people, most of whom I’d never met before. It was a great hodgepodge of folks: Sarah-Ann of Eat Drink Repeat, a cheesemaker, a specialty food shop worker, the proprietor of SupermarketHQ.com (actually a design site, not a food one), someone from Seamless, a lawyer, software engineers, and me! Conversation was wide-ranging, as you might expect, but the food was always there to hold us together. And there were several knitting enthusiasts there, too, so I wasn’t completely out of place :)

happy valentimes!

It’s Valentine’s Day, my favorite annual holiday and time for me to make strawberry ice cream again! We’re taking a low-key approach to the day, like we always do, with no gifts and just a dinner at our favorite neighborhood sushi place, but I had to continue my streak—this is the 4th year!—of making him strawberry ice cream.

Year 1, the year of Neapolitan, was the most transcendent strawberry ice cream ever. I decided to make him strawberry in all subsequent years—no need for the chocolate or vanilla.

Year 2, I followed the same recipe, but it just wasn’t as good. I could detect small ice crystals in the finished ice cream, and that ruined the texture. The taste was still stellar, but something about the process wasn’t working.

Year 3, I tried to solve the icy problem by allowing the entire base to chill thoroughly before I put it in the maker. I made the base (tasty!) and let it sit in the fridge overnight. But alas, the ice cream still had an iciness. WHY.

Year 4. This year. Last week I talked with my gastronomical friend Peter (husband of the Hungry Knitter, Lauren) about it and he suggested the sugar content was too high, not that temperature was an issue. Hmmm. So this year, I didn’t just blindly follow the recipe. In fact, I flat-out ignored some of its quantities. And the result? Rich, creamy, silky smooth ice cream. It is perfection on a spoon. We are going to enjoy this tonight!

Ben & Jerry’s Strawberry Ice Cream, modified

1 lb strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk

Get the freezer bowl good ‘n’ frozen—I tend to leave one in the freezer at all times, but give it at least 3 days to fully freeze. No sloshing inside it at all if you shake it! Leave it in the freezer while you prep (get it out only at the very last moment!).

Toss the strawberries with the 1/3 cup sugar and lemon juice and refrigerate for a few hours (at least 2).

Beat the eggs until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. I do this by hand and count it as my workout for the day. Add the 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, a little at a time, until fully incorporated. Beat for 1 minute more. Add the cream and milk.

Get the strawberries out of the fridge and puree to a chunky consistency (I use a stick blender). Add to the cream base. Ladle into the ice cream maker (I have this one by Cuisinart) until the freezer bowl is just 3/4 full. I think pouring all of it in overwhelms the bowl and reduces the temp too much, preventing the base from freezing evenly. I put the extra in a container and it’s in the fridge; I’ll make a separate batch later this week, once the bowl is refrozen.

Let your ice cream maker do its thing—mine’s thing is 20 minutes of churning—and then transfer to a container and put in the freezer to freeze fully. Enjoy!

roasted butternut squash soup

This year, my new year’s resolution is what I’m calling “Sunday Soups.” The idea is to make a soup on Sunday (or thereabouts) and have it for lunch during the week. The goal is manyfold: Get back to soups, which I’ve neglected (my boyfriend categorically does not like soups. Yeah, I don’t understand it either and I’m through fighting about it); have reliable foods around for lunch during the week, so I don’t spend loads of money buying every day; be a bit healthier/less inclined to overeat by having a portioned amount of a delicious soup I made myself; and to help in my new goal of reducing my wheat intake (for health reasons more than anything). A few weeks ago I showed you my chicken soup—this week I made roasted butternut squash!

This soup could not be easier. I cut up a medium-sized butternut and half a giant onion, tossed them with a handful of baby carrots, and a few cloves of garlic (in their skin), olive oil, ground thyme, a pinch of white pepper, a pinch of salt, one bay leaf, a mere pinch of red pepper flakes, and a teeny bit of brown sugar, and roasted it all at 400 for about 30 minutes, until the onions were fully caramelized and the squash was cooked through. Above you can see the before and after for the veggies.

Dumped all of it in the food processor (wait! I squeezed the roasted garlic out of its skins first, of course, and trashed the bay leaf), and pureed it with a touch of warmed chicken stock until it was a nice smooth puree. That was too thick for a soup, but there wasn’t any room left in the food processor, so I transferred it to a bowl and whisked in additional chicken stock (4 cups total) until it was nice and liquid. Still thick, but also easily poured—not gloopy at all. I know it’ll thicken a bit upon standing, and I don’t want to feel like I’m eating squash pudding. Hopefully this picture captures the consistency.

Honestly I didn’t add any additional salt or pepper, but of course you should season to taste at this point. It’s sweet and squashy and delicious!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
makes about 3 servings (6 cups of soup total)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and seeded (roast those seeds for a snack!)
½ large white onion (or, you know, one small. this onion was the size of a softball to start)
7 baby carrots
3 large cloves garlic, in their skins
1 teaspoon ground thyme
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used chipotle pepper flakes)
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
4 cups stock (chicken or veggie; I bet it’d be tasty with plain water too)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil (to save cleanup time). Cut the squash and onion into pieces just a bit bigger than the baby carrots, and toss all the veggies and spices (through bay leaf) with the olive oil. Transfer to the prepared sheet and spread into a single layer. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top. Roast in the oven, stirring every now and then, for about 30 minutes, or until caramelized and the squash is cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat the stock in a pot and keep warm.

Transfer the roasted veggies to a food processor, squeezing the garlic out of its skin and discarding the skin, plus removing the bay leaf, and process until smooth, adding stock by ¼-cupfuls until the puree is completely smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and slowly whisk in the remaining stock. If serving immediately, transfer to a pot and heat until hot; season to taste if necessary. Otherwise, transfer to your containers for taking to work! You could garnish with yogurt or sour cream, and I bet it would be delicious, but I didn’t think it was necessary when I had a bowlful.