Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Dried Cherries and Rosemary Port Pan Sauce

October 29, 2012

My oldest son asked for Weiner Schnitzel, which I made yesterday. But the problem is that pork tenderloins are only sold in 2-packs; so what to do with the second tenderloin? Today’s recipe is perfect: easy, delicious, family-friendly and can take as little as 35-minutes. Chris Kimball published this recipe 15-years-ago; in 1997; but the medallions were tender and flavorful. Chris Kimball recommends laying a ruler on your cutting board to ensure evenly thick slices.  Aside from a few technical problems, the result definitely satisfied everyone in the family. Overall, I’d give this recipe 4-stars as I prepared it today, but with a potential for 4-1/2 was a little more sauce.

Easy to make and delicious

Comments:

  1. The biggest problem was too little liquid sauce. There were plenty of solids (dried cherries), but not enough liquid (port and chicken broth). In hindsight, I believe that my skillet may have been too hot, so that when I deglazed the pan all the liquid evaporated in just a few seconds. But I also increased the liquid components below as follows’ increase port from 1/3-cup to 1/2-cup, and chicken broth from 2/3-cup to 1-cup.
  2. The other indicator that my skillet was too hot was my vaguely smokey kitchen. It wasn’t too bad, so I didn’t notice it until afterwards. Next time I will pay more attention and turn down my skillet at the first sign of smoke.
  3. I did have trouble removing the silver-skin. It is more difficult on pork because of it’s small size, and I accidentally pulled off some meat in a few places.
  4. Chris Kimball says that you can also use dried cranberries (or chopped dried apricots) in lieu of cherries. My cherry-loving son means that I always try to have cherries in all forms in the house.
  5. I used my splatter screen to cover the skillet, which helped minimize the mess. Without that, you’ll definitely have a little more cleanup of your stove-top; medium/high with splatter screen.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $8.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 6:15 PM. Finish time 7:15 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pork tenderloin (about 1-1/4 pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup port
1/2 cup dried sweet cherries
1 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
Salt and ground black pepper

  1. Use a paring knife to loosen and remove the silver skin from the tenderloin. Lay the tenderloin on a cutting board, and slice into even 1″ medallions. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Use the flat side of chef’s knife to gently pound each medallion to 3/4″ thick.
  2. Place a regular 10″ heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high burner, and heat olive oil until it begins to shimmer. Sear half the medallions for 2 to 3 minutes without moving, then flip using tongs. My stove took 3 minutes to brown nicely. Continue to brown the second side for another 2 to 3 minutes. If the oil begins to smoke, turn down your stovetop. Move cooked medallions to a clean plate and set aside while browning the second batch.
  3. While the pork is browning, roughly chop the dried cherries.
  4. Keep the skillet over medium-high burner, and use port and cherries to deglaze the pan. Chris Kimball says this will take 2 to 3 minutes, but my pan must have been too hot because it had reduced to 2 tablespoons in about 30 seconds.
  5. Increase burner to high, add chicken stock, rosemary, and any accumulated pork juices back to the skillet. Cook for 2 minutes until it becomes syrupy. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.
  6. Turn down burner to medium and add pork back to skillet. Simmer pork, flipping to coat, for about 2 minutes to reheat. Move to individual plates or a serving platter, and spoon sauce before serving immediately.

How to Prevent Squirrels from Eating Your Pumpkins

October 27, 2012

I love living in the old part of town, with its mature trees and half acre lots. I have a 150-year-old maple in my back yard and a 60-foot oak in the front-yard. Of course nothing is every perfect, and the drawback of living in this park-like setting are my constant battles with squirrels. They have become my arch-nemesis. They dig thousand of holes in my lawn, hiding acorns from my oak tree. Later, they dig thousands more holes looking for their buried treasure, and can never seem to remember where they hid the acorns, so they just keep digging. They’ve even dug holes in my roof thinking there might be hidden acorns. As Halloween approaches and my $35 worth of pumpkins sit vulnerably outside, I wanted to share my 100% effective tactic in my never-ending battle against my tireless enemy.

It’s been outside a week, and not even a nibble.

Thickly apply a layer of dish soap over the entire surface of the pumpkin. Use your regular dish sponge and wipe a thick layer of soap over every square-inch. Re-apply once a week or after a rain. It’s the same principle as washing your mouth out with soap. It’s guaranteed to work.

Of course, speaking of rain I am right in the path of another pre-Halloween storm. Here is a bit of the disaster I faced last year; here and here; but the big difference this year is that I have a small generator. So my fingers still are crossed, but also I am better prepared.

This white pumpkin will make a great skull.


Chicken Big Mac

October 23, 2012

One of the happiest discoveries of my chicken-loving son during our recent trip to Puerto Rco was the Chicken Big Mac. It’s exactly what it sounds like; A big Mac but with deep-fried chicken patties. After three attempts, I am happy to report that we have found a recipe that exceeds the original. There are really only a few things you need to know. (1) Slice the chicken in half horizontally so that the burger isn’t too thick to fit in your mouth. (2) The secret sauce recipe isn’t really a secret anymore. (3) Slice the top or bottom crust of a bun to form the middle bun. My son said the results exceeded the McDonald’s original, which I only consider praise when it comes from a 13-year-old. He gave it 5-stars.

Home-made chicken mac saves on airfare to Latin America

Comments:

  1. As a healthier alternative I tried to cook the chicken in a skillet with just a little bit of olive oil, but my son deemed it too plain. In another attempt, He much preferred the shallow-fried version when I did the Weinerschnitzel technique.
  2. Of course McD’s uses American Cheese, but I substituted my kids favorite. Parmesan for the 13-year-old and Mozzarella for the 11-year-old.
  3. I still remember the commercial when I was a kid giving the recipe for a Big Mac: “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” I’m not sure why my brain would store such seemingly useless knowledge for 35 years, and surprisingly how it could have possibly come in handy.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $1.25 per sandwich.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 4:45 PM. Finish time 5:30 PM.

The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

Big Mac Secret Sauce Ingredients:
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon onions powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika

Sandwich Ingredients:
4 Chicken Breasts
2 egg whites
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 leaves of lettuce, shredded
4 slices of American Cheese or Grated Cheese of your choice
8 pickles (omitted in my house)
1 slice of onion, diced
6 Hamburger buns (ideally sesame-seed buns)

  1. Lay chicken breast flat on cutting board, and freeze for 15 minutes. Place one hand flat on top of chicken breast to hold in place, and use a chef’s knife to slice the chicken horizontally. Repeat for all your breasts.
  2. Trim thin ends of chicken breasts away, so that the evenly thick part of the breast is about 1″ larger than your hamburger buns. It can be in a rough circle or square shape.
  3. Put Panko bread crumbs in a pie plate, then add flour to another pie plate. In a third pie plate, mix the eggs with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
  4. Working with 1 cutlet at a time, dredge thoroughly in flour, shaking off excess, then coat with egg mixture, allowing any excess egg to drip back. You want to ensure a very thin and even coating. Finally coat evenly with bread crumbs, pressing so that the crumbs adhere. Place breaded cutlets on wire rack to allow the coating to dry for 5 minutes.
  5. Heat 2 cups of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil reaches 375-degrees, put 2 breaded cutlets in pan and cook for 2 minutes per side, gently shaking pan so that cutlets will cook evenly.  Flip and cook the second side for between 1 and 2 minutes. Remove and place cutlets on paper towel-lined plate and flip cutlets several times to blot excess oil. Repeat cooking process with remaining cutlets.
  6. Assemble sandwiches putting special sauce, shredded lettuce, diced onion, and cheese on bottom and middle bun.

Easy Grilled Boneless Pork Chops

October 14, 2012

While this recipe is touted as being perfect for a weekday, it’s getting a little late in the season to be barbecuing after work. So I took advantage of a sunny 55-degree Saturday afternoon. The grilled pork chops themselves are simple; brined for 30 minutes and topped with honey/anchovy paste before grilling. However, the real flavor comes from being topped with one of three possible relishes; I chose the Tomato, Fennel, and Almond Relish. The relish was just okay, but that may be because I don’t love the salty-brinyness of olives, which were a little too prominent for my taste. I overcooked the pork chops because Chris Kimball didn’t integrate the two recipes (which I’ve done below). As cooked today, I can only give it 3 stars.

Unclear instructions; took me twice as long to cook.

I would have preferred the Orange, Jicama, and Pepita Relish, but couldn’t find Jicama in my supermarket, and didn’t have the time to search. Since I’ll be carving my Halloween pumpkins soon, I will hopefully be able to try it again before the end of BBQ season. My friends are all convinced of a harsh winter; we’ll see.

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball also offers two additional relish recipes; Onion, Olive, and Caper and Orange, Jicama, and Pepita.
  2. The Relish recipe yields twice as much relish as necessary, so I’d recommend halving the recipe. Especially if you can come up with another recipe to use the other half of the Fennel.
  3. Because the recipe is divided into two parts, it wasn’t clear that I needed to prepare the relish while the pork chops were still brining. I waited too long to begin chopping the Fennel (labeled Anise bulb in my supermarket) and ended up overcooking the pork chops. Even my kids commented on the pork chops being dry. Below, I integrated the two recipes below according to how I will cook it next time to ensure that I prepare the relish when necessary.
  4. Today not realizing when things needed to be started, I took 1-1/2 hours to make this recipe. Based upon my revisions below, I estimate that this recipe will take about 45-minutes.
  5. It was a little hard to find thicker pork chops; for some reason the butcher seems to love 1/4″ to 1/2″ pieces.
  6. I ended up having to buy a family pack of 8 chops, and I didn’t use the two of the unevenly butchered chops. Out of 50 packages in my supermarket, not a single one offered 6 even thick-cut chops.

Rating: 3 stars.
Cost: $14.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 4:45 PM. Finish time 5:30 PM. (estimate based upon my revisions below)

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe (including revised order) are given below:

Pork Chop Ingredients:
6 boneless pork chops, 3/4″ to 1″ thick
3 tablespoons table salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1-1/2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Tomato, Fennel, and Almond Relish Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded
6 garlic cloves
2 tomatoes
1/4 cup pitted green olives
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Make 2 release cuts 1″ apart, slicing through the outer layer of fat to prevent cupping. Put 1-1/2 quarts of cold water in a large bowl, and dissolve 3 tablespoons of table salt. Brine the pork chops at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  2. While the pork chops are brining, prepare the relish ingredients (including toasting the almond slivers in a dry skillet). Cut away a discard that fennel stalks, cut the bulb in half and cut into 1/4″ dice which should yield about 1-1/2 cups. Peel and slice the garlic thinly. Cut tomatoes into 1/2″ dice, discarding the seeds and juices.  Coarsely chop the 1/4-cup of olives (next time I will half the amount of olives to suit my taste). Mince your parsley.
  3. After 15 minutes of brining, open your grill’s bottom vent completely. Ignite a chimney starter filled with charcoal (about 6 quarts). It should take about 20 minutes until the charcoal is ready to use.
  4. In a small bowl, combine vegetable oil, honey, anchovy paste, and pepper. Whisk together to form a paste.
  5. After 30 minutes of brining, remove chops and dry using paper towels.  Evenly spread half of paste mixture over one-side of each chop.
  6. Continue preparing the relish (before putting the pork chops on the grill): add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a 10″ regular skillet. Pre-heat over medium burner until the oil begins to shimmer. Saute fennel for 5 minutes.
  7. Empty charcoal evenly over half of grill. Clean and oil grill grate. Put pork chops with the oiled-side down over the hot side of the grill. Grill for about 5 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen stir in the garlic and saute for only 30 seconds. Add diced tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.
  9. Back out at the grill, spread the rest of the paste evenly over second-side of pork chops. Flip chops and continue to cook, uncovered, for about 5 more minutes until in internal temperature is 140-degrees.
  10. In the kitchen, remove fennel/tomato mixture from skillet and put in medium bowl. Mix together the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, olives, almonds, vinegar, parsley, sugar, salt, and pepper.
  11. Allow chops to rest for 5-minutes and serve topped with relish.

Quick Tip: Best Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

October 13, 2012

Peanut butter sandwiches are uniquely American. And while the rest of the world turns their noses up on this lunchbox stable, we Americans never tire of them. Personally, I have enjoyed every one of the thousands I’ve eaten over my lifetime. But my 13-year-old son and I recently discovered a Quick Tip to make every sandwich better;  at the price of only 5 seconds of extra effort. The problem: by lunchtime the jelly has soaked through the bread and made one slice soggy. The solution: Spread the peanut butter on both slices of bread. The peanut butter acts as a barrier to prevent the jelly from coming in contact with bread, and the bread will stay in great condition for up to 8 hours.

Spread peanut butter on both slices of bread

But if you leave the sandwich too long (over 8 hours) eventually even the oils from the peanut butter degrade the texture of the bread. Fortunately, that’s plenty of time for an average lunch. I do remember eating PBJs for dinner when I was a kid, but I won’t let my own children do the same.


American Sandwich Bread

October 5, 2012

About 1 and 1/2 years ago, I started working on Sandwich Bread recipes for my two son’s sandwiches. (see here, here, here and here). After some trial and error, I now have the art of making sandwich bread down to a science. At this point all my potential problems are known. While the whole process takes about 20 minutes of effort, those 20 minutes are spread out over 3 hours (slightly less in warmer months and more in colder months). Because I control all the ingredients I know that my bread is healthier, and fresh bread always tastes better. My two son’s love the homemade bread, and seem truly disappointed when my schedule forces me to buy store-bought bread.

The smell of fresh bread makes the whole house happier

Special Equipment and Supplies:

  1. 2-pound Pullman loaf pan.  (I got mine for $11 here)
  2. Bread Bags.  ($20 per 1,000 bags at Sam’s Club, but I got mine here for $25, or $30 here)
  3. Laminated Twist Ties. ($4 per 2,000 here)
  4. Granulated Lecithin.($12 per pound)
  5. Fruit Fresh. ($3 in Walmart)
  6. Bulk Instant (Rapid Rise) Yeast. ($3/lb here). Which is about 48 tablespoons, so enough for a year’s supply of sandwich bread.

My Advice:

  1. Because I need the bread to stay fresh for a full week of lunches, I added a few natural “dough conditioners”. I add a tablespoon of granulated lecithin which makes for a moister loaf.  Chris Kimball’s original loaf  would dry out after a few days. I include 1/4 teaspoon of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C ) to slightly change the pH to inhibit mold growth. When I made the loaf without this it grew mold in as little as 3 days.
  2. Resist the urge to slice the bread until it has cooled for 3 full hours. Slicing warm bread will allow moisture to escape from the loaf. In the best case you’re left with dry loaf, but if you then put it in a plastic bag the escaping moisture will encouraged molding after only 3 days. Never put warm bread into a plastic bag.
  3. I like the sponge, but truthfully only about half my loaves are made using a sponge (which I start before bed on Saturday night). If I don’t make using a sponge, I use closer to 1/2 teaspoon of ascorbic acid.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $.90 for 29-ounce loaf.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Finish time 7:00 PM. (But don’t slice for another 3 hours)

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared and baked the bread are given below:

Sponge:
3-1/2 oz warm water
1/8 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast or dry active yeast
3-1/2 oz flour

Wet Ingredients:
1-3/8 cup milk (10-1/2 ounces)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rapid-rise yeast or dry active yeast
1 tablespoon granulated lecithin

Dry Ingredients:
3-1/2 cups bread flour (18 ounces)
2 teaspoons table salt
1/4 to 3/8 teaspoon fruit fresh or other powdered Vitamin C

  1. About 12 to 24 hours before making the loaf, prepare the sponge by heating water in microwave for 15 seconds to 105-degrees. Whisk in yeast and let it hydrate for 5 minutes. Finally, whisk in flour, cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm spot in your kitchen for up to 24 hours.
  2. If your kitchen is less than 70-degrees, adjust an oven rack to low-middle position. and pre-heat oven to 200-degrees, then turn it off. You will use the residual heat of the oven to speed the first rise in a cool kitchen.
  3. Add 10-1/2 ounces of milk to a Pyrex measuring cup (at least 2 cup capacity); heat in microwave for 40 seconds until mixture reaches 105-degrees. Mix in yeast, olive oil, sugar and granulated lecithin; allow to hydrate for 5 minutes.
  4. Add sponge and dry ingredients to the bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook.
  5. Turn on standing mixer to lowest speed and slowly add liquid; use a rubber spatula to scrape out measuring cup. After the dough has come together, increase speed to 4 on KitchenAid mixer (medium-low on other models). Continue mixing for 10 minutes, stopping twice to remove the dough from hook. The dough will become smooth, add a little more flour or water if necessary. Lightly flour a work surface and gently turn out the dough. Knead by hand for about 15 seconds to form a smooth ball.
  6. Lightly oil a large glass bowl with non-stick cooking spray, add dough and roll around to lightly coat the dough ball. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in your warm (but turned off) oven. The dough should take about 45 minutes to double in size.
  7. Spray your loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Gently turn the dough out onto floured surface. Gently press the dough into a rectangle that corresponds exactly to the length of your loaf pan. Lightly spray the dough rectangle with a water bottle before rolling to try to prevent large air bubbles (or brush water on using a pastry brush). Roll the dough into a tight cylinder so that it corresponds to the length of your loaf pan, firmly pressing down as you roll to ensure that the dough sticks to itself and that there are no large air bubbles. Pinch the seam closed along the length of the cylinder, and put into your loaf pan seem-side down. Softly press the dough so that it touches all four sides of the pan.
  8. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap, realizing that the loaf will grow above the top of the pan. Place it in a warm spot in your kitchen for between 1 to 2 hours. Depending upon pan size, wait until the dough grows to fill your loaf pan.
  9. About 20 minutes prior to baking, begin pre-heating your oven to 425-degrees. Adjust an oven rack to middle position; any lower and your bottom crust will be too hard.
  10. Carefully remove plastic wrap, spray the loaf three times with water from a spray bottle, and place loaf pan in oven. After 5 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 325-degrees and turn loaf 180-degrees. Bake uncovered for 8 additional minutes. Tent with aluminum foil to keep the loaf top very soft; baking for another 12 to 14 minutes until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 195 degrees. Carefully remove bread from pan, and let cool on a wire rack for 3 hour before slicing.

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