Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pork and Grapes -- A New Twist on an Old Favorite

One of my all-time favorite special occasion recipes is Jeff Smith's Pork with Wine and Grapes from the cookbook The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine

It is no secret that I was a huge fan of his cookbooks back in college and my early twenties.  They were the first cookbooks I ever bought for myself.  Those books would never fly today.  They were compact mass-market paperbacks (I bought my first copy at Kmart), dense with text, with no glossy photos, no step-by-step instructions, and no easy page turning.  Somehow I learned to cook from those books.  Maybe Smith knew he didn't need all the bells and whistles to make his recipes doable and tasty.  I know I say this all the time, but I miss that crazy old pervert!

The recipe is not a difficult one, but it is somewhat extravgant.  You marinate a pork roast in brandy, thyme, garlic, onion, and olive oil.  Then you slowly braise it in a mixture of wine, grapes, and heavy cream.  The recipe calls for a butt or shoulder, bu most of the time  in the past I just used the biggest loin I could find.  The richness of the sauce helped it stand up to that kind of long cooking and still be tasty. 

I was having a craving for that recipe recently.  I hadn't made it in quite some time. I guess everyone has become too health conscious.  Plus my husband won't touch it.  (Pork and dairy?  Am I trying to kill him?)  I decided I wanted to make it again, but find a way to make it a little less rich and also cut back on the number of servings since I would be the only one eating it.

My solution was simple.  I used a pork tenderloin instead of a larger roast.  I eliminated the cream.  I also sliced the grapes in half (Smith doesn't tell you to do this in the original recipe) so they would release more of their juices.  In the end I sprinkled a few toasted pine nuts on top, because everything tastes better with toasted pine nuts on top.  I still used Smith's marinade though.  There is nothing that this marinade won't make more delicious.

I'm starting to eat all of my meals off of dessert plates to trick my body into thinking I'm eating more.  I posed the dish with some slices of bread in this photo because some bread to soak up the juice is a nice idea.  I didn't actually eat the bread that night though.

Pork Tenderloin with Grapes and Wine

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 onion, cut into chunks
  • 4 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (plus 2 Tbl more for frying)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbl butter
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 grapes, halved
  • 2 Tbl pine nuts, lightly toasted
Mix together brandy, rosemary, thyme, onion, garlic, and olive oil in a nonreactive bowl.  Place tenderloin in marinade.  Cover and refrigerate.  Marinate eight hours or overnight.

Heat remaining olive oil and butter in a large pan over medium heat.  Sprinkle the tenderloin with salt and pepper and brown really well on all sides.  Get a good crust on it. 

Add grapes and wine to the pan.  Bring to a simmer.  Simmer the tenderloin for another 30 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.  Remove from heat and let rest a few minutes.  Slice and serve topped with grapes and sauce and a sprinkling of pine nuts. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I Don't Want to Feed the Trolls, but It's Time to Address the Anonymous Pioneer Women Leghumpers

When I first wrote my post concerning my thoughts on the Pioneer Woman over a year ago (yes, folks, over a year ago, as in quite a bit of time ago), I expected it to generate some controversy.  I know Ree Drummond has legions of fans.  I wasn't expecting my post to be popular.  I didn't expect the overwhelming support I received for the post.  It seems more people feel the way I do than I expected - at least among those who regularly read my blog.  Many of my blogging friends started out as I did. They were interested in her blog in the beginning, but lost interest after it began to feel phony and found the recipes were being dumbed down and disgusting.

Now suddenly that year-and-a-half old blog post is being deluged by anonymous commenters who want to scold me.

I'm not sure why they are choosing to do so now.  The blog is old and quite frankly I have more important topics to discuss on TERP these days, but the comments keep coming.  They are also anonymous.  That's annoying.  What do you people have to hide?   Do you work for Voce Communications?  Are you afraid I'll troll your blog in return?

I really don't care that much who you are, but I'd like you to know that this is the one and only time I am going to address you.  I will continue to delete your comments because I don't think they add to the discussion (since the discussion has long since ended as far as I'm concerned).  Here is what I have to say to you.  I'll only say it once.  ("Listen carefully.  I am only going to say this once." Name that show!)  I will give you your chance just this once to respond in kind.  Then we are going to consider the issue closed.

First I want to remind you that the blog was titled, "My Thoughts on the Pioneer Woman and Her New Show."  Notice the blog said "My thoughts".  It did not say, "What I think your thoughts should be."  It did not say, "Why you must hate the Pioneer Woman."  I'm usually the kind of person who believes everyone is entitled to my opinion, but in this case, I will gladly let you have your own.  Just keep in mind that post was my opinion, on my blog.  If you don't like it, go back to reading The Pioneer Woman blog and leave me alone.

Next, I'm tired of all of your rhetorical (or is that REEtorical- ha ha) questions regarding the points I made in my blog.  My blog said everything I had to say.  You think if you ask me another three times, "So what if she's rich" or "So what if her recipes contain enough fat and sodium to kill off an entire team of marathon runners?" that I will somehow give you some kind of insight to help you hate me more?   I addressed all of your questions my blog.  You just didn't want to read it.  Constantly badgering me isn't going to change anything I said in my blog, which you don't seem to read very thoroughly anyway.

I see Pioneer Woman as a wealthy, well-educated, media savvy woman whose media-generated image of a struggling ranch wife has been slickly produced by a high-end PR company.  She recycles old recipes and passes them as her own.  It does not endear me to her.  It does not endear her to a lot of people.  Obviously it doesn't matter to you.  That's fine.  I'm cool with that.  I don't go onto your blog and tell you how wrong you are for saying it doesn't matter to you.  Write a dozen blogs singing her praises.  Better yet, go onto her blog and tell her how wonderful she is directly.  What you do doesn't matter to me and doesn't offend me.  Buy her books. Buy from her sponsors.  It's your time and your money.  I'm not about to tell you how to spend either one,although your time is being wasted if you're planning to troll my blog.

So that's it.  I will not engage you further.  My blog.  My opinion.  I'm sorry you feel so offended that I expressed distate for someone neither of us knows very well.  There isn't much I can do about it though.  I feel the way I feel and you're not going to change that with your long-winded comments.  You just need to accept that I have a different opinion from you.  It doesn't make me a bad person.  It just makes me someone who dislikes that Pioneer Woman persona*, blog, and TV show. 

I have a blog on a free Google site.  I don't pay for domain hosting.  I used ready-made templates instead of having a professional designer.  I don't monetize.  I don't have sponsors.  I don't sell anything.  No one is being paid to promote my blog for me.  This means I have about four regular readers.  That's okay by me because this blog exists for my pleasure alone because I enjoy cooking and writing and I want to archive my recipes and food experiences.  Would I love fame and fortune.  Sure.  I also know a cooking blog by a complete amateur in the kitchen is not the best way to seek it.

*Note I said persona. I'm not here to slam Ree Drummond personally. I don't know her.  I doubt I ever will know her.   She seemed perfectly nice when I met her at the book signing.  I simply dislike the media-generated image she has created.  I can say the same for Rachael Ray Paula Deen and many other carefully cultivated TV personalities.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Quick Potluck Salad

Saturday night  Oxbow Stables held its annual awards dinner.  It's a large potluck affair where the kids at the barn who ride in the 4H and the Pony Club give out their awards for their completion of tasks in the past year and awards for high scores in horse shows are handed out.  It's an exciting time for the kids.  For the adults it can be a bit of a snoozefest.  Still, it is nice to socialize with everyone outside the mud and manure and see what we all look like when we're not dressed in barn clothes.

The other fun part of it is the food.  It's great to see what everyone's specialties are.  There is always so much to try and it's hard to make a choice and it's hard to try it all, even though you want to.

Kevin and I were assigned to bring a salad.  He was skeptical of that.  His reaction was that they forget when they send out the invites that we have a long way to travel and can't be transporting perishable salads.  We were planning to just buy some soda to contribute to the beverage table.

Then I thought about it.  Salads don't have to be perishable.  Tamar Adler defines a salad as "Anything cooked or raw, cut up a little, mixed firmly with acid, salt and a little fat, laid carefully onto a plate, or spooned nicely into a bowl."  Surely I could make something like that to take to the party.

I decided on sweet potatoes.  They are sturdy and keep well.  I mixed them into a cold potato salad with black beans, tomatoes, and red onion and then made a dressing of lime juice, chipotle, honey, cumin, and cilantro.

 There are other salads like this, but this one is mine.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad

  • 3 lbs sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes - red and yellow if you can get them
  • Juice of two limes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 2 Tbl chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbl honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil 
Cook sweet potatoes in salted boiling water until a little less than fork tender.  Darin and rinse with cold water.  Remove skins. 

In a small bowl combine lime juice, cumin, chipotle powder, cilantro and honey.  Slowly stream in the olive oil and whisk vigorously until a good emulsion has formed.

Place potatoes, beans, onion, and tomatoes in a large bowl.  Toss with dressing.  Allow to sit a few hours before serving so flavors can really meld.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Medicinal Chicken" (A Five Finger Discount)

As I mentioned in previous blogs, 2013 did not start out well for me.  I was sick with one cold or another for more of January.  I still don't know how I avoided one of my common attacks of bronchitis. 

Sitting at home treating neverending symptoms meant that I was trying everything in the book.  I took over-the-counter cold tablets, nasal washes, cough medicine, cough drops, and the occasional attempt at more natural remedies.  One of my favorite treatments was to sip a cup of tea made from ginger and lemon and sweetened with honey.  It's a very tasty combination for sure. 

Imagine my pleasant surprise when sitting at home reading through my favorite food blogs when I saw this post from the lovely Bellini Valli.  Sitting there on her blog was a recipe for fried chicken flavored with some of the very flavors I used to soothe myself when sick.  If I enjoyed a cup of ginger tea with lemon and honey, why had I not thought to use those flavors in other recipes? 

Then and there I made plans to steal the idea!  My apologies to Val.

I used whole chicken pieces and instead of marinating, coating, and frying, I simmered them in my ginger-honey-lemon sauce.  I didn't use any other ingredients.  I kept it simple (not always easy for me) and tried not to overdo the lemons. 

I was too lazy to plate these up and photograph them properly, so I showed them cooking in the pan, making them look like a dozen other chicken recipes on this blog.  Still I like to think the way the honey created a lovely glaze is visible.

This recipe is a keeper for cold winter nights burdened with sniffles.

Ginger Lemon and Honey Chicken

  • 2-3 pounds bone-in, skin on, chicken pieces (I used breasts and thighs, but use what you like)
  • Salt and pepper for sprinkling
  • 1 Tbl grated fresh giner
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbl honey
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 Tbl butter
Heat oil and butter in a large frying pan or saute pan.  Sprinkle chicken pieces lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook skin-side down about 10 minutes or until browned.  Turn over and brown the other side.  Remove from pan.

Combine lemon juice, zest, honey, and stock.  Pour into pan and deglaze, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom.  Bring to a boil and boil one minute.  Reduce to a simmer and return chicken to the pan.  Simmer an addition 30 minutes, or until cooked through and glazed with the sauce.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Super Bowl Sunday Cake

I hate sports.

It's not that I don't like playing certain sports (or maybe I should say engaging in sporty activities), but I really hate spectator sports.  I find no greater waste of time than sitting around watching other people play sports.  Even sports I enjoy engaging in I don't really want to watch.  I'd rather be out riding than watch a horse show for example.

I save my biggest distaste for football.  I can't think of a game more torturous than football.  I absolutely can't stand the pace of it.  There are two minutes left in the game, but the spectator must sit through thirty minutes of stopping and starting and stopping and starting.  It's like having one's fingernails pulled off in tiny increments.

What would be my ideal Super Bowl Sunday?  (Along with a nice dinner and a good wine, followed by bedtime)

(Why did they kill off Sybil?  Yeah.  I know. Contract disputes.  Still it was a crummy thing to do.)

But the Super Bowl isn't just about the boring football game.  It's also about the preceding parties.  Since I don't know anyone having a Downton Abbey party, I had  planned to spend Super Bowl Sunday at an actual Super Bowl party with some good friends.  Over the years it has become traditional to spend our Super Bowl Sunday with this group of friends (even though it's not the type of Super Bowl party where the women watch chick flicks in another room).  We simply want to enjoy the company of friends as much as possible.  We kick back, eat lots of food, and enjoy each other's company.  When it's time for the game, I enjoy a nice nap (brought on by both the dullness of the game and the amount of wine consumed) occasionally waking up for the commercials.

I always try to take a homemade dessert to these parties, as I try to do for every party.  As long as I'm able-bodied and don't forget to buy the right ingredients I bake.  It always seems to be appreciated.

The party was a fair distance from home so I needed to bake something that traveled well.  I decided on a nice, sturdy pound cake.  Ever since I made my bourbon-orange pound cake, I have been obsessed with making variations on that theme.  This time around I decided on a Bailey's Chocolate Chip Pound Cake.  

It was super-easy to do the cake this way.  I just replaced the cup of liquid (in the original recipe it was milk and in my first variation it was bourbon and orange juice) with a cup of Bailey's, my favorite dessert drink.  I worried that it might be a bit too sweet, but decided, "It's a cake.  Cakes are sweet."  Then I tossed in a bag of mini chocolate chips.

The extra sugar in the cake did present a slight problem.  The cake had a bit of a crust on the outside so it crumbled a bit when I cut it.  If you bake this cake, the only way to test for doneness is to use the toothpick method.  The cake will most decidedly not spring back when you touch it.  Be willing to catch some crumbs when you cut it.

After all the planning, Kevin, who had caught the bug I had last week, realized that there was no way he could handle the long drive and late night for the party.  We ended up not going!  We had the cake to ourselves and I watched Downton Abbey after all.  As for the dinner and the wine? Well, we just ordered Chinese and drank Snapple instead.

Still, I'm happy to share my cake recipe with you.

Bailey's Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

  • 2 sticks of room temperature butter
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, whisked to combine
  • 3 cups plus 2 Tbl flour
  • 1/2 tespoon salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Cup Baileys Irish Cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 bag mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a Bundt pan.

Sift together 3 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.  Toss chocolate chips with remaining flour and set those aside.

In a mixer, cream butter until soft. Stream in the sugar and continue beating on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs just a little (about a tablespoon) at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Mix at medium speed until all eggs are mixed in and mixture is pale and gaining more volume.

Add flour and liqueur alternately, ending with the flour. When it is well mixed, gently stir in vanilla.  Then gently add the chocolate chips (I do it manually).

Pour mixture into pan and bake for 55-65 minutes. Use the toothpick test to test for doneness. When baked cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then remove from pan.