Sunday, October 18, 2009

Butter and Cream in the Kitsch

Friday Evening's Menu:
Cheese Plate
Roasted Pork Tenderloin in a Mustard-Spice Rub
Grilled Asparagus
Mashed Potatoes
Chimay Red Ale
Banana Pudding

The 1992 Paramount Classic
Captain Ron, starring Kurt Russell

C and I went to Ralphs. The biggest hangup was over the pudding mix. C was most comfortable with the JELL-O brand, but only the Kroger brand had the Banana Creme flavor. We stood, debating. "Kroger has 2 for 1," I offered. C winced again. We futiley tried to compare the ingredients, as if they'd be different. "You could get vanilla," I offered. "No, it's not the same." So we bought the Kroger Banana Creme pudding mix, and made a double batch.

There were about 4 brands of Pork Tenderloin, one of which was unseasoned, which became our friend. 1 1/4 lbs of pork tenderloin for a little more than $5.00. When the idea for tenderloin was proposed, I immediately threw a parade around my house. Since fall is slowly approaching, rainstorm by rainstorm, it's time for warmer, heartier foods, and roasted dishes.
Back in the kitsch, I began the Banana Pudding as C boiled water for the Mashed Potatoes and preheated the oven.
Banana Pudding
(double recipe)
4 cups heavy cream (Heavy Cream, you gasp? Yes! Milk is for sissies!)
2 pkg Banana Creme pudding mix
2 bananas, sliced thin crosswise
2 cups Nilla Wafers, whole
Pour the cream into the mix, and whisk together for 2-3 minutes, until thickened to palatable pudding consistency. Slice two bananas into the pudding and fold. Dump in the Nilla Wafers, fold in, trying not to break any cookies. Scrape down the sides, smooth out the top, or if you've got a second container, transfer the entire mixture then do the same. With the extra Nilla Wafers, make a design on top. That's let to each one's own creative Nilla whims.
Mashed Potatoes
6 small yellow potatoes
1 stick butter
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper

Put a medium pot of water on the stove set on high to boil. Cut the potatoes into eighths, and plop em into the boiling water. After 20 minutes, check a potato for tenderness, and drain accordingly. Throw them back into the pot, add the butter and begin to mash. Add the cream. Taste it, add your salt and pepper, and other fancy spices that you wish. We didn't do garlic. We didn't do saffron. We just did 'em straight up mashed potatoes (with the skin!)

Roasted Pork Tenderloin in a Mustard-Spice Rub
1 1/4 lb pork tenderloin
1/2 cup mustard mix
(we used a mix of 70% stone ground and 30% sweet-hot)
2 to 3 tsp each dried thyme, rosemary, and oregano
Kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line your baking sheet/pan with tinfoil, unwrap the tenderloin and lay onto your pan. Commence the rubbing of the mustard! Using your hands, cover the meat with the mustard, making sure that the bottom has a small amount, and leaving the bulk on top. Sprinkle thyme, rosemary, oregano and salt on top and press into the meat. Add on more mustard if desired. If the tenderloin is too long for your pan, you can fold either end under, or form the cut into a circle if using a cake pan, or making room for roasting vegetables, etc. Put into the oven. Cook for 20 minutes, and then check for doneness with a meat thermometer. Depending on the oven and the slice of meat, you may need more time. The wrapper for the tenderloin should also include sanitary/food safety guidelines. At doneness, the pork should be about 190 degrees at the center of the thickest section. If you don't have a meat thermometer, use the tried and true method of cutting into the meat and using your best judgment. The skin turns golden brown, and a rich mustard smell fills your apartment. That's also a good sign to check it.

While the pork was in the oven, I began to prepare the asparagus. Sadly, this is not the season for this glorious vegtable. They were the size of a French green bean, very slender and tender. Asparagus season is generally from Mid-April to Mid-June or early July.

If you haven't read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, there is a great section on the wonders of fresh greens and gigantic, plump asparagus, and the true, simple pleasures they bring.
Grilled Asparagus
1 bunch asparagus
1 tbsp butter or olive oil
salt and pepper
Begin by rinsing the asparagus. To find out where to cut the asparagus, take one stalk, grab each end, and bend it from the bottom end until it snaps. Where it snaps is a good guideline for where to cut for the rest of the bunch. If you have time or interest, like I did, you can snap the whole bunch. In a medium frying pan, set the heat to medium-low, add the butter to melt, and then add the aspargus. Toss the aspargus to coat. Then increase the heat to medium-high. Turn the asparagus regularly, and after a few minutes, add the salt and pepper. After about 15 minutes, check for doneness.
The result was a little overdone, but roasted and slightly blackened. Very delicious. I wanted to add lemon juice, but alas, there was none. We had some oven issues, so the asparagus and potatoes were done a full 10 minutes before the pork, so we had time to munch on some Swiss and Stilton, and crack open our Chimay.

It was so fine. Decadent was my word.
So much creammmmm...
and Kurt Russell is still hilarious after all these years. My other favorite Kurt Russell film is Overboard, featuring wife Goldie Hawn, in which he takes advantage of newly-struck amnesia patient Goldie Hawn, convincing her to be wife to him and mother of his children. The 80's. Come back. Bring your cooking tips!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Felicious Dish of the Week: Potsticker Stir-Fry

On Sunday, I was driving home, and remembered what was in the vegetable drawer: Portabello Mushroom Caps! Three of Them!

"Ohh, yes," I thought, "This is going to be damn good." Mushrooms are one food item I've grown to love since 'becoming an adult,' which just means, some specific dish I ate some specific time in college. I dig porcini and portabello, but as of yet have not branched out to some of the more spindly and exotic kinds, like the kinds you could pick on a walk through the woods. When I worked at Wildflour as the sandwich lady, I had to grill Portabello Mushrooms, Zucchini, Red Onion, and Red Pepper. The mushrooms take the longest, just like cooking a piece of meat, I'd stand and flip them long after all else had been grilled. I was a very happy camper on those days. The red pepper skins would be scorched black, so you have to rub them off, and sometimes I didn't wear gloves, so I'd have red pepper hands.

1. started 1 1/2 cups brown rice.

2.I spent some time grilling the three mushroom caps in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. While they were cooling before chopping,

3.I spied an onion and decided i may as well hang out and make a little bit of caramelized onions. So it was.

4.When the rice was done, I chopped up some ginger and garlic and threw it in a little pan of soy sauce to heat up.

5. Then chopped up the mushrooms finally.

6. put the mushrooms back in the pan, along with the small pile of onions, added the rice, and put it on a low burn. Then I added the ginger, garlic, and soy sauce mix.

7.ENTER POTSTICKERS: Trader Joe's Thai Vegetable Gyoza Potstickers. I really like the Chicken Potstickers as well, but these veggie ones come in such a beautiful green package. I RECOMMEND THEM WITH MY LIFE! Usually you cook them in hot oil and leave them in the pan to steam for a few minutes, which I attempted, but just decided to throw them in the warming rice.

8. After a stir or two, I grabbed a few stalks of kale, chopped em up, and threw them into the mix as well. Don't be afraid of the green. It's your friend. Kale and Chard and Collard Greens are a hell of a lot firmer than, let's say, lettuce, so it takes some time for them to wilt. Good time for the Potstickers to fully cook through.

9. Finish. Admire. Eat.

Sorry I don't have a time frame for this adventure, as it was quite leisurely. Brown Rice takes 30-45 minutes, depending on whether or not you cheat and raise the heat, giving you slightly underdone rice, which would be fine if you're making a stir-fry like this.

And that is my Felicious Dish of the Week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
from The Silver Spoon, published by Phaidon.

A.K.A. "The bible of authentic Italian Cooking" and "Italy's best-selling cookbook for over fifty years."

First published in 1950, Il cucchiaio d'argento was conceived by Editorale Domus, publisher of Domus, the Italian design and architectural magazine. Editorale commisssioned experts to compile hundreds of recipes to showcase every regional specialty.

A bible it is. Over 1200 pages, including the index. Up to this point I have used it as a reference for flavor profiles and dishes I've never heard of. I sit there while watching TV, thumb through the vegetable and veal sections, and I dream away.

Spaghetti Carbonara is a dish I have heard of all my life, but never had the pleasure to make. It's listed on page 300, next to Spaghetti Amatriciana, which is a variation on the pancetta base, but uses fresh tomato and fresh chile to give it a clean kick. There's another variation I saw online in which you use cream and shallots along with the pancetta, butter and cheese. My mind drools every time I think about eating it. D'accordo, here's the recipe:


2 tbsp butter
generous 1/2 c pancetta, diced
1 garlic clove
12 oz spaghetti
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 c Romano cheese, freshly grated
salt and pepper


Melt the butter in a pan, add the pancetta and garlic and cook until the garlic turns brown. Remove and discard the garlic. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pan of salted, boiling water until al dente, then drain and add to the pancetta. Remove the pan from the heat, pour in the eggs, add half the Parmesan and half the romano and season with pepper. Mix well so that the egg coats the pasta. Add the remaining cheese, mix again and serve.

ACTs-anecdotes, comments, thoughts
C and I went to Vicente Foods, a fresher market store than most. It also has a pharmacy attached, which features natural and homeopathic remedies. (Didn't smell like pills as we walked past!) We went to the meat counter to get some sliced pancetta. We got a 1/2 lb sliced medium. The meat and fish selection was thorough, also accomodating to Jewish cuisine as well.

By adding the garlic and then removing it, the result is a warmer flavor, and a tasty fried garlic clove. We sliced it in half and ate it up! I was afraid of adding too much of the egg too quickly, because then it would curdle, but by the time we got to it the pasta had cooled down enough, so in the end I gave my portion a quick zap to eat it hot. The result? Rich, buttery, cheesy, and even better with some red pepper flakes and a couple Rosso beers. Assolutamente delizioso!

Perhaps the difficulty in the book is that the directions do not include the prep work. We read the recipe a few times, and relied on our inner cooks to know when to grate the cheese, chop the pancetta, beat the eggs, etc. While technically for this recipe all of it could be done prior to cooking because the recipe is so simple, I predict that for more complicated dishes it could be an issue. There are literally thousands of recipes in The Silver Spoon, so I look forward to the multitude of ways for me to hone in on my inner Italian mother.

Next...Grilled Veggie and Potsticker Stir Fry!