Monday, July 26, 2010

Pork Tenderloin w/ Tomatillo Sauce & Braised Apricots


Pork and fruit, what a great combo! These dried fruits can withstand the long cooking times needed to braise this dish, and they compliment the pork so well. Tomatillos are such a perfect base for this sauce. Over time, they simply break down and the natural flavors and juices become the sauce that saturates the pork. Tomatillos are related to the tomato, but are also just as closely related to the Cape Gooseberry. They are typically used before they are ripe. A ripe tomatillo is yellow, but most people use them while they are still green. While green, the tomatillo has the aroma and flavor of lemon, apple, and herbs. Because they are under-ripe, the tomatillos do well braising under the low heat, slowly breaking down to become this succulent sauce.

Pork Tenderloin, cut into chops
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 lbs. Tomatillos, husked, quartered
2 Tbsp. Chipotle Peppers, minced
2/3 C. Apricots (dried)
1/2 C. Cherries (dried)

1 lb. Pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Tbsp. Oregano
1 Onion, sliced
4 Cloves, Garlic
3 Green Onions, chopped

Heat the oil over medium high heat. Sear the pork, about 4 minutes each side. Transfer to a holding plate.

Add the onions to the pan, saute about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and chipotles and saute for one additional minute. Stir in the tomatillos and cinnamon stick. Reduce the heat (to somewhere around low), cover and simmer the mixture for about 20 minutes. Once the tomatillos have begun to break down, add the pears, apricots, and cherries and simmer until the fruit is tender. Braise the fruit as necessary. This should take about 15 minutes.

Add the pork back to the pan and reheat to desired temperature. Serve with a healthy portion of pork and braised fruit.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake with Grand Marnier

The recent heat waves have reminded us all that summer is in full swing. Summer means strawberries. There is no fruit more refreshing this time of year. I was looking over some culinary magazines from years past and came across this recipe in Bon Apppetit from 2007. I'm not much for baking and pastry, but this recipe is so easy that I had no trouble with it at all. I think the beauty is in its simplicity. Adding Grand Marnier, which is definitely an optional step, adds just enough flare to impress your friends. This is a wonderful dessert for a summer evening get together on the back porch.


for the biscuits
1-1/4 C. Flour
1/2 C. Cocoa Powder
1/2 C. Sugar
1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
1/8 tsp. Salt
1 C. Heavy Cream
1/2 tsp. Vanilla

for the strawberries
2 lbs. Strawberries, hulled, quartered
1/2 C. Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp. Orange Zest
1/4 C. Orange Juice
1/2 C. Heavy Cream
2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 400F. Using parchment paper, line a baking sheet. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Combine the cream and the vanilla in a bowl and use a stand mixer or electric hand mixer to beat the heavy cream mixture until stiff peaks arise.

Stir the cream mixture into the flour mixture until you begin to see clumps. Transfer the mixture to a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough gently until it forms into a ball. You'll knead the dough approximately one dozen "turns". Press the completed dough down to about 1" thick. Use a 3# biscuit cutter to cut out little cakes. Continue to gather the dough and pat it back down so that you can continue to cut more cakes. You'll get a total of 6-8 cakes from one batch of dough, depending on the thickness. Place the cakes onto the baking sheet. Bake the cakes for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack.

Combine the strawberries, orange juice, orange zest, Grand Marnier, and 6 Tbsp. of the powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. Chill for 2 hours.

Use a mixer to beat the heavy cream and remaining 2 Tbsp. of powdered sugar until soft peaks form. Plate a shortcake with strawberries and juices on top, garnished with whipped cream.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Braised Chicken with Cilantro Dumplings

Everyone looks at me funny when I refer to this dish as a casserole. So, let's define the term so that we are all on the same page. According to The Food Lover's Companion, casserole "refers both to a baking dish and the ingredients it contains." The advantage to this kind of cooking is that the food is served in the very same dish in which it was prepared. I made this casserole in a giant metal pot and served it like a family style soup right from the pot. Hearty chunks of vegetables, chicken quarters, and cilantro dumplings with a home-made chicken stock; YUM!


2-4 Chicken Portions (Leg Quarters)
1 Qt. Chicken Stock
2 Leeks, White Part Only, chopped
4 Carrots, chopped
2 Onions, quartered
4 Celery, halved
2 Parsnips, chopped
1 Celeriac, diced
2 Bay Leaves
Thyme Sprigs
3 Lemon Grass Stalks
1 Ginger Root, bruised
Salt & Pepper

Cilantro Dumplings
1-3/4 C. Flour
1 C. Shortening
1/4 C. Cilantro, chopped
3/4 C. Water

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a pot with oil over medium high heat and brown the chicken on each side. (If using a glass casserole dish, transfer the chicken to the glass dish before following further instructions). Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables and bring back up to a simmer. Finally, add the herbs, ginger, and season. Cover the casserole and let it simmer for 20 minutes, until the chicken is tender.

If you are not a fan of fat, let the casserole cool down (this will take several hours and can even be done a day ahead of time), and then skim the fat from the surface. If, like me, you don't mind fat, then continue on with the recipe.

To make the dumplings, mix the flour, shortening, and cilantro in a bowl with the water. Knead the dough until it is soft but adheres to itself. Shape them into dumplings. I used spoons to make quenelles. Drop the dumplings into the stock and simmer for 10 minutes. The dumplings will double in size and become fluffy. Remove the ginger from the stock and serve.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pan Roasted Apples & Pears w/ Minted Blackberry Stock & Creme Fraiche

I spent the fourth of July weekend lake-side with about two dozen friends from college. The weather was perfect and sunny, the lake was cool, and the grill was always full. After dinner and hours in the sun, I was craving something refreshing and sweet. I whipped up this fruity dessert and served it in wine glasses just as the sun was setting over the water. We had dessert shots of Apple Brandy, which complimented this dish beautifully so I decided to incorporate them into this recipe. This is a wonderful dish for a crisp summer's eve.

2 Anjou Pears (or your favorite)
2 Fuji Apples (or your favorite)
1/4 C. Powdered Sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1-1/2 C. Blackberries
1 C. Simple Syrup (recipe follows)*
1 C. Creme Fraiche, for garnish (recipe follows)**
4 Sprigs of Mint, for garnish
2 Tbsp. Apple Brandy, Calvados (optional)

*Simple Syrup - there are three common types of simple syrups categorized as thin (3 parts water to 1 part sugar), medium (2 parts water to 1 part sugar), and heavy (equal parts sugar to water), but the possibilities are endless. Some syrups are even flavored with citrus zest or liquours. The recipe that follows is the one that I use every time I need a simple syrup.

Simple Syrup

1-1/4 lb. Sugar
1 Qt. Cold Water
1 Lemon, zested

Using low heat, dissolve the sugar, then boil for five minutes. Cool in the refrigerator, then pour the syrup into a container, and chill for up to 30 days.

**Creme Fraiche - a matured, thickened cream (similar to whipped and sour cream combined) with a tangy, nutty flavor. One of the benefits to creme fraiche is that unlike sour cream or other dairy products, it can be boiled without curdling. In France, cream is unpasteurized and; therefore, naturally contains the bacteria necessary for thickening cream. In the United States; however, all of our cream is pasteurized (free of this needed bacteria). In order to acquire the fermenting agents that are necessary to create the bacteria which thickens creme fraiche, we must add sour cream or buttermilk.

Creme Fraiche

1 C. Whipping Cream
2 Tbsp. Buttermilk

Combine the two ingredients in a glass container, stir well to incorporate, cover, and let stand at room temperature for 8-24 hours, or until very thick. Unwrap, stir generously, and refrigerate for up to 10 days.

First, you need to core and then slice the apples and pears. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Toss the apples and pears in the powdered sugar and then add them to the skillet in a single layer. If you have to cook the fruit in batches, that's fine. Cook the fruit until it is caramelized, then turn the fruit to caramelize the opposite side. Be careful not to overcook the fruit, they should still be firm. Medium high to high heat works best because it will caramelize the sugars on the outside of the fruit quickly without cooking the fruit through the center.

Using a fork or a potato masher, mash the blackberries in a bowl. Add the caramelized fruit mixture, simple syrup, and apple brandy (if desired). Toss all the ingredients until incorporated. Let cool in the refrigerator at least 2 hours. The sugar will thicken the syrup as it cools.

Spoon the dessert into serving dishes or wine glasses, and serve garnished with creme fraiche and mint.