Category Archives: dinner

spicy grilled pork tenderloin

We love to make pork tenderloin, especially during grilling season when we can just throw it on the gas grill outside on our back patio. And here in Florida, the weather is suited for outdoor grilling most of the year. Well, this winter has been cold, but I really can’t complain all that much.

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My brother-in-law turned us on to a really easy marinade for pork tenderloins using Dale’s Seasoning. It’s so simple just to marinade the pork for an hour or so before grilling, and the meat has wonderful flavor. In fact, it’s usually our go-to marinade for this cut of meat.

The April 2010 issue of Food and Wine magazine arrived in our mailbox this past week, and on page 48 is a recipe for Spicy Lemon-Rosemary Pork Tenderloin. Since we like lemon, rosemary, and most anything spicy, I thought we’d give it a try. I’ve listed the recipe below, but it’s really very simple — olive oil, fresh lemon juice, rosemary leaves, crushed red pepper, and garlic cloves. And pork tenderloins. That’s it.

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The recipe called for searing in a skillet, but since I’d been on my feet most of the day, I convinced my husband to fire up the gas grill and take over for me.

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The verdict? The meat was very tender, with great flavor from the marinade. And it was spicy. Probably a bit too spicy for the kids, and maybe a tad too spicy for me, but my husband really enjoyed it. When he gets seconds, I know we’ve hit on a good recipe. He went for seconds of this.

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I had been thinking of a white wine to cut through the spiciness of the marinade, perhaps a dry Reisling. Food and Wine recommended a Syrah, so I decided to go with their suggestion. The 2008 Mollydooker Two Left Feet is a mostly Shiraz (Syrah) blend. Great wine, very big and bold, and high alcohol (16%). I think a Reisling would have been a better choice for these spices, though.

mollydooker two left feet

Spicy Lemon-Rosemary Pork Tenderloin

(Only slightly adapted from Food and Wine. I grilled the pork instead of roasting it. Serves 4 easily.)
Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup rosemary leaves
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper (or less, depending on your tastes)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Two 1-pound pork tenderloins
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preparation

1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, red pepper, garlic, and pork. Press out any air remaining in the bag, seal, and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours. Note: We let it sit for about 3 hours, which I thought was plenty.

2. Let the pork stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Heat a gas grill until fully heated, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pork from the marinade and scrape off most of the garlic and rosemary. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Put pork tenderloins on hot grill grate. Grill, turning occasionally, until thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 145 degrees, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from grill, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

And if anyone is wondering, that side dish in the photos is rutabaga. A post on that is coming soon.

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misoyaki roast chicken

One of my favorite websites for recipes is Food 52, the brainchild of two New York food writers, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. The recipes are from home cooks across the country, and selected recipes will wind up in a published cookbook. Since I never create my own recipes, I don’t contribute any recipes to the site (I’m more of a recipe follower, and I’m evolving into a recipe-modifier, learning to add my own flair). But, I am often inspired by the recipes that others post there.

served with rice

Misoyaki roast chicken with shoyu onion sauce, posted by timWuNotWoo caught my eye with it’s unique flavors. It generated a lot of attention, too. One of my favorite food bloggers, Jenn of Last Night’s Dinner, posted about it here. So of course I had to make it.

My first hurdle was finding red miso paste. At two grocery stores in my town, including the local Fresh Market, I was handed miso soup when I asked about miso paste. With some diligence, and a trip across town when I got off work early one day, I managed to find it at the Chinese grocery. Turns out they have a lot of neat things there, including the miso paste.

red miso

red miso and mirin

Instead of a whole chicken, I used bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. I let the chicken sit in the marinade for about six hours, and I wiped off the bulk of the marinade prior to putting the chicken in the oven. According to the recipe, the miso will burn if it’s not scraped off. Turns out that’s true.

chicken, ready to roast

roasted chicken

The chicken was moist, with great flavor. The onion sauce was delicious over the roast chicken breast and the jasmine rice that I served it with. Umami all the way.

served with rice

For the recipe, please visit Food 52 yourself. It’s a great site to check out. The recipe is here.

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shrimp risotto with peas

My life is crazy. Let me just put that out there. Since I finished medical school almost ten years ago, I have worked full time (and sometimes way more than full time). Almost 6-1/2 years ago, my daughter was born. And then three years after that, my son was born. And I still work full time, because I love what I do. My husband works a lot, too, because he loves what he does. My daughter is in kindergarten, and my son is in preschool. Both kids just started swim practice – this week, in fact – and that activity now takes up a good hour in the evening twice a week.

shrimp

So, my point? It’s really hard to make time to cook. Really, really hard. I have found some tools that help me survive these crazy work weeks. One of them is my husband, who shares in all the household and parenting responsibilities equally — but you can’t have him. A couple of other tools that I rely on are my slow cooker – an ancient appliance that was a hand-me-down from my mother-in-law and looks like it might be straight out of the 1960s – and my electric pressure cooker, a Cuisinart.

Earlier this week, during one of those usual crazy days, I decided to utilize my pressure cooker to make a risotto. It’s so simple and straightforward, and I can have a risotto prepped in no time. Thankfully, I like risotto. The pressure cooker is good for other things too, but the fact that I could make risotto in the pressure cooker was a bit of a surprise for me. Hence, this post.

shrimp

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As I mentioned in my last post, we have this great little fish market in my neighborhood. I stopped by on the way home from work and picked up some fresh St. Augustine shrimp. Everything else I had on hand. Turned out to be a perfect – and quick – weeknight meal, with plenty of leftovers for the next night.

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For the wine for this meal (both for cooking and for drinking), I opened a 2005 Franciscan Chardonnay from Napa. This chardonnay is a lighter, crisper style than one might think of in a traditional chardonnay. It worked well with this dish, but I probably would have preferred a sauvignon blanc or a riesling given the hint of spiciness in the shrimp from the crushed red pepper.

franciscan chardonnay

Shrimp Risotto with Peas

(Adapted from Bon Appetit; Directions are for using an electric pressure cooker. You can always use your traditional risotto recipe if you don’t have a pressure cooker.)
Ingredients for Shrimp

2 tablespoons butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

3/4 pound shrimp

1/2 cup dry white wine

Ingredients for Risotto

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 to 3/4 cup finely chopped onion or shallot

2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon kosher salt

5 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 cup frozen peas (more or less)

Preparation

In a skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Add shrimp and saute for 2-3 minutes or until shrimp begin to turn pink. Add 1/2 cup white wine and simmer until shrimp are done, another 2-3 minutes. Remove shrimp with slotted spoon and set aside. Pour cooking liquid into bowl and reserve.

In the pressure cooker, place 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon butter and the chopped onion or shallot, and saute for 2 or 3 minutes until the onion/shallot is translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add in the arborio rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is opaque (about 3-4 minutes). Add the wine and salt and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. Add 4-1/2 cups chicken stock, stir, and set the pressure cooker to high pressure and cook for 6 minutes. When the 6 minutes is up, use the quick release to release the steam in the pressure cooker. Open the lid carefully.

To risotto, add in 1/4 cup of reserved shrimp cooking liquid and the last 1/2 cup of the chicken stock. Stir until absorbed. Add in the shrimp and peas. Serve immediately.

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seared scallops and brussels sprouts with bacon

Our suburban neighborhood is blessed to have a bakery and a fish market within its midst. I try to stay out of the bakery, mostly because the pastries are just too good to resist. The fish market, on the other hand, is a treasure trove of enticing fish and shellfish. We are only about an hour away from the Gulf coast – and some of the best fishing locations in the state – so the market has a regular supply of great fresh seafood.

scallops & brussels sprouts

As I’ve mentioned before here, I’m on a mission to learn to cook things I’ve never cooked before. I’ve never cooked scallops, but I love them, and they draw my eye when I see them in the enclosed glass case in the front of the fish market. I’ve been intimidated by scallops, but this weekend I decided it was time to get over that hurdle. So, while I took my daughter shopping for spring clothes, I sent my husband on an errand to buy scallops.

brussels sprouts, blanched

I found a recipe in Gourmet Today that I thought I’d give a try. After all, the scallops were served over Brussels sprouts with bacon. I mean, what sounds better than that?

brussels sprouts with bacon

The Brussels sprouts were fantastic, as expected. They were tender, with no trace of the bitterness that turns many people off, and the crispy bacon bits added a nice salty, smoky flavor. Searing the scallops was a bit of a challenge for me. I blame my husband for this, for no good reason except that he purchased the scallops and he was standing nearby. However, I managed to accomplish my task. And, although it was not pretty, the sweet scallops were delicious and a great compliment to the Brussels with bacon. And I forgave my husband and all was right with the world.

scallops & brussels sprouts

And before I forget, let’s talk about the wine. No meal is complete without the wine, you know. We paired the scallops and Brussels with this yummy 2005 Chalone Estate Chardonnay, and it was a great combination.

Chalone Estate Grown 2005 Chardonnay

Seared Scallops with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

(only slightly adapted from Gourmet Today, or you can find a very similar recipe here)

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise

Salt

4 bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch-wide pieces

1 1/3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Fresh ground black pepper

1 pound sea scallops

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees (for warming the Brussels sprouts when done).
  2. Blanch Brussels sprouts in boiling salted water for 2 minutes; drain and set aside.
  3. Cook bacon over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until crisp. Transfer bacon with slotted spoon to paper-towel-lined bowl and reserve rendered bacon fat in another small bowl.
  4. Add 1/3 cup chicken stock and 1/4 cup water to skillet, bring to simmer, and scrape up any brown bits. Add sugar, butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and Brussels sprouts to pan; simmer uncovered for 4 minutes. Remove lid and cook over moderately high heat for another 8-12 minutes or until liquid has evaporated and sprouts are tender (to your liking). Stir in bacon, transfer to a platter, and keep warm (covered) in oven.
  5. Wipe skillet clean. Pat scallops dry and season them with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon peper. Heat oil with 2 teaspoons of the reserved bacon fat in the skillet over moderately high heat until the oil/fat begins to smoke. Add scallops and sear, turning once, until golden brown and just cooked through, 4-6 minutes. Transfer to another platter and cover loosely with foil.
  6. Pour off any remaining fat from skillet. Add remaining 1 cup chicken stock, bring to simmer, and scrape up any brown bits. Simmer for one minute. Stir cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water in a cup, then add to sauce (along with any juices accumulated in scallop platter), and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve scallops over the Brussels and top with sauce.

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keller’s ad hoc-inspired roast chicken

“How did you get the skin so crispy?” It was the first thing my husband asked me as he started carving the bird. I took this as an indicator that this recipe, although we had not tasted it yet, was going to be a great one.

roast chicken & veggies

Let me back up a bit. Before I made this, I had only roasted a chicken once before – years ago, when I was just starting to learn to cook. Unfortunately for me, that first chicken had a few scraggly feathers still left on it when I unwrapped it from the grocer’s plastic. Those few chicken feathers immediately conjured up images of happy white-feathered hens clucking around the yard, and that train of thought led me to think of the pet chicken we owned when I was a kid. Dixie was a sweet hen who, in all honesty, thought she was a dog. Her best friend was our dog, Jesse, and she was always at Jesse’s side.

So, those feathers left on that raw chicken made it really difficult for me to roast and cut up the bird. And I certainly did not enjoy one single bite of it. And, because I was acting so squeamish about the whole thing, I’m sure my husband didn’t enjoy it either. He ate it, but I think he was expecting a good case of food poisoning after the experience.

chicken

But this is a new era for me. Time – and practice in the kitchen – have helped me become less squeamish about handling raw meats, including chickens with scraggly feathers left on them. So, I decided it was time to roast a chicken again.

I’ve mentioned this before, but Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home is a fantastic book, and he has a wonderful recipe on page 22 for roasting a whole chicken on a bed of root vegetables. What I love about his recipes is that he gives great tips before each recipe for how to ensure a perfect result. At the beginning of this recipe, Keller says,

The root vegetables make a bed for the chicken, and the rendering fat and juices from the chicken flavor the vegetables. If you have a big cast-iron skillet, use that.

roasting veggies

For the crispy skin, which was the first thing my husband noticed, Keller advises,

We also often leave it uncovered in the refrigerator for a day or two, which dries the skin and thus helps it to crisp during the roasting.

Adam Roberts of The Amateur Gourmet has written a post detailing the recipe from Keller’s book, so I’ll refer you there for the details.

I used the vegetables that I had on hand, which did not include the rutabagas, leeks, and turnips that the recipe calls for. Instead I used some red new potatoes, small Yukon gold potatoes, a yellow onion, and some carrots. I also used the new Lodge cast-iron skillet I purchased about a month ago. And, since I didn’t know that I was going to roast a chicken two days prior to making it, my chicken sat uncovered in the fridge for about six hours.

roasting veggies

And the chicken? It had intensely flavorful, crispy skin and was moist and tender on the inside. The vegetables were the most flavorful roast vegetables I’ve ever made, thanks to the rendered chicken fat in the skillet. I still need to practice my chicken trussing technique, but that’s simply a cosmetic issue.

roast chicken & veggies

So, thank you, Mr. Keller, for the perfect recipe for reintroducing me to roasting a chicken.

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simple sunday dinner

Sometimes I just crave a simple dinner, and Sunday was one of those days. After browsing through cookbooks and my latest food magazines, I just couldn’t get motivated to prep something creative and exciting. The fact that I had caught a cold over the weekend wasn’t helping matters, of course. It’s very hard to imagine cooking something fabulous when you can’t even smell it, you know?

brussels

With the warm weather we had yesterday – sunshine, low 70s – it seemed the perfect evening to use the grill. My husband made a quick trip to the grocery, and he came home with two steaks, a bag of Brussels sprouts, and potatoes.

fingerling potatoes

fingerling potatoes

The kids ate early, and during their bathtime, I prepped veggies and brought the steaks up to room temperature. The steaks were seasoned with olive oil,  Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and then grilled to about medium.  While the fingerling potatoes roasted in the oven, I sauteed the  Brussels sprouts in olive oil and seasoned them with Kosher salt and a dash of balsamic vinegar at the end.

steak dinner

Served with an easy-drinking glass of 2005 Marietta cabernet sauvignon, it was a perfect simple Sunday dinner.

(Note: the last photo illustrates what bad lighting does to an otherwise decent photo of good food. )

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a grits revelation

Being from the south, I know grits. And I like grits. [Side note: I feel like I should throw in a Ya’ll or two here, but I’ll resist.]

Anyhoo…I’ve never actually made grits. I confess that in the distant past, I have microwaved a package of instant grits for my kids, but only once or twice. A long time ago. Before I turned over this new culinary leaf.
creamy grits with pulled pork
Grits have become very popular it seems. I’ve seen lots of recipes for creamy grits, and I’ve seen them show up more frequently on restaurant menus. The best brand according to all the hype is Anson Mills. For my first try at making grits, I really wanted to make the Anson Mills variety, but none of the local markets here carry them. I was able to find a brand in the local Fresh Market called Charleston’s Own, so I decided to go with those. What the heck.

Given that it was a work-day, I put a pork shoulder in the slow cooker (following this recipe from Better Homes & Gardens) first thing in the morning, and I worked on the grits when I came home. For the creamy grits, I semi-followed this recipe from Gourmet magazine. [Another side note:  I really, really, really miss that magazine.]
pulled pork with creamy stone ground grits
And these grits were the best grits I’ve ever eaten. The pulled pork was juicy and had some heat to it at the finish, and the creaminess of the grits was the perfect counterbalance to that heat. My husband — who told me just as I was serving it up, “You know, I don’t really like grits,” — really enjoyed the entire dish, grits included.

Never, ever again will I tear open and microwave a package of instant grits. I’m a stone-ground grits convert.

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