Monday, March 2, 2015

spice-crusted pork tenderloin

You all know of my deep and abiding love of all things pork, but I have been keeping a dirty little secret from you: I am not a fan of pork tenderloin. I love the texture of it, but similar to beef tenderloin, it has very little flavor in and of itself, and to a card-carrying meat lover, that's kind of sad-making. That, along with the fact that tenderloin is super lean and easy to over-cook have led me to just basically avoid buying it for many years.

Until this past weekend.

Sexy meat.
I found a recipe for spice-crusted pork tenderloin in a Cooks Illustrated collection of "skillet dinners". They showed medallions of rosy moist pork heavily crusted with spice and served with a sexy golden-brown potato roesti (which, for the unintiated, is basically a giant pan-fried hash brown and is one of the best things you can make with potatoes. Which is saying a lot, in my book, because I love me some potatoes). I was sold. I needed to try it. I tried to talk myself out of it, but it just wasn't working. The hook was firmly set and I surrendered to the pull.

The recipe calls for rolling the tenderloins in a mixture of spices (caraway seeds, ground coriander, nutmeg, allspice, salt and black pepper), then searing the meat off on all sides in a hot pan with a bit of melted butter. The meat then goes in a baking dish in a 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes until it hits 140 degrees. You take the meat out at that point, tent it with foil, and let it rest until it hits 150. I ended up having to leave mine in the oven for about 22 minutes to get it to 140 degrees, but that was entirely my own fault because I didn't pull the meat out of the fridge until like 20 minutes before I wanted to cook, which is a rookie move.

Even with the added cooking time, the meat stayed super juicy and tender, though. And when I say tender, I mean could cut it with the side of your fork. No knives necessary. Redonkulous. I think next time I make this, I'm going to pre-rub the meat (hurrrr) with the spice mixture and let it sit for a while before I cook it, just to see if the flavors sink in more. I suppose you could brine the tenderloin ahead of time if you were feeling really fucking ambitious about it, but a) I'm never that ambitious and b) I'd be a little worried that brining might turn the meat mushy rather than impart more flavor. I don't know. If you try it, tell me what you think.

The roesti was a little more work - I opted to shred my potatoes by hand rather than using my small and finicky food processor, so I got a good triceps workout holding the box grater at a weird angle in the bowl. You then have to rinse the excess starch off the shredded potato, then scoop it into a clean dish towel and wring as much water as you can out of it. You season the potato with salt and pepper, add a little corn starch to help bind the potato together better (there was a reason for this given in the write-up about the recipe but I was skimming so...yeah. No science today, sorry!), then plunk it all into a hot pan with some melted butter and keep squishing it down until it's a nice compact disc. It gets all GBD (golden brown delicious) on one side, then you flip it (which is a delicate operation, I tell you what), and let it get GBD on the other side. BOOM. Giant hash brown heaven. I will say, with regard to the roesti, that I should have had my heat turned up higher when I started, so it ended up kind of greasy. EVEN SO. Giant hash brown. So crunchy, much nom.

I steamed up some green beans with almonds to complete the plate. In retrospect, I could have made them more fancy with like some orange zest and cranberries, I'm the weirdo who likes green beans even raw, so they don't need much fancying up for me to shove them in my nom-hole.

God, nom-hole sounds dirty. I'm keeping it. I love it. Heeeeee.

Anyway - this dinner is gloriously gluten-free (assuming you're doing your own due diligence on your spices). If you're going the Paleo or Primal route, you'd want to omit the corn starch and white potatoes, depending on how strict you're being.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

take your sweet potatoes and stuff them.

The meat-department gods saw fit to put pork butt on sale this week, my friends. You know what that means: another installment in the "what do I do with all this leftover pulled pork" files! Today the answer happens to be, "Stuff it in your sweet potatoes", which sounds like not only an awesome euphemism but also a good culinary idea.

Everything is better with cheese. FACT.

Obviously, this project starts with the assumption that you have some leftover shredded pork butt. Mine was just plain, not sauced, but I'm sure that sauced-up pork would be just as delightful in this application.

You're also going to need some sweet potatoes, obvs. I used two medium-sized ones to feed myself and the Ginger Beast, and honestly, it was a lot. Next time I'd either just serve half a potato each, or use smaller potatoes.

Anyway - you can bake the sweet potatoes ahead in the oven if you're fancy, but I'm personally really fucking lazy about shit like that, so I just cut a slit in each of mine and throw them in the microwave on the "potato" setting until they're done. These two took about 12 minutes total, and I flipped them over halfway through.

Once the potatoes are cooked, split them in half and scoop out all but a little bit of the flesh from the skin (that sounds totally sinister, sorry). You want to leave a little rim around the edges so that the skins keep their general shape. The scooped-out flesh should go into a bowl big enough to mix some other stuff into. Also, side-note between you and me? This whole flesh-scooping thing is WAY fucking easier to do if you let the potato COOL DOWN a little first, says she who now sports steam-burns on her left. hand. Yes, that type of thing is probably obvious to most people, but a) I am the queen of impatient and b) I am not most people. So I'm just throwing it out there.

Where was I? Oh, yes, potato flesh in the bowl. To that, you're going to add the pulled pork. I used like two cups or so of pork because we are hungry, hungry hippos. Use less if you're on a diet or you hate the world or something. I also added a pinch of kosher salt, a shake of black pepper, a teaspoon-ish of ground cumin and a half a teaspoon-ish of ground coriander seed. Also, and this is KEY, the juice of one fresh lime. It's really good, trust me on this.

So, mix all that stuff up in the bowl until it's well-combined. At some point you should have pre-heated your oven to like 450 degrees - I should have mentioned that earlier, sorry. You also need a baking dish. Surprise! This is how my ADHD-addled brain actually works when I cook, by the way. All these recipes I post where I have measured nothing, timed nothing, and can only remember half of what I put in the pan? Welcome to my life, pumpkins. This is how I roll.

Side-tracked again, sorry. So, yes. We're stuffing the pork-mash mixture into the hollowed-out potato skins. It's probably best to do this once you've placed the skins IN the baking dish, otherwise you might end up with one falling apart, pork and sweet potato all over your floor, and the happiest dog in the history of life (assuming you have a dog. We do. He would have been ecstatic, trust me). Once you've stuffed the skins, you can sprinkle some shredded cheddar on top for extra tastiness. Put that whole mess in the oven and let it fester for...oh...I don't know, like 15 or 20 minutes? Long enough for the cheese to reach golden-brown deliciousness status. When you've achieved said crispy cheese enlightenment,'re done. Well, the potatoes are done, anyway.

If you want to experience the delight of the side-dish as pictured, that's super simple as well. It's just a baby mixed greens blend (I like the Olivia's Organic saute blend, personally) that has been sauteed with some onion and chopped radish (JUST TRY IT, OK?! Stop making faces. I would not lead you astray. Much...). I use a dab of bacon fat as my saute medium for this, and I add the onions and radishes first to let them caramelize a little before adding the greens in, because those cook really quickly. Oh, and a pinch of kosher salt. Unsalted greens are sad greens, yo. The better your bacon fat, the better the greens will be, as well. Mmm, smokey!

AND, for anyone playing the Paleo / Primal game at home, this meal would easily be considered Paleo if you left off the cheese, and is Primal-compliant as-is. It's also gluten-free, cha-cha-cha!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

pork chops with mushroom gravy

Mmmm. Graaaaavy.

My Nana's mushroom gravy is the gravy yardstick I measure all others by. Any time I've ever asked her how to make it, she has just smiled and said, "Well, it's just gravy with mushrooms in it". I've been trying to re-create her gravy for YEARS, and I think this is about the closest I'll ever come. It IS very simple, but it's certainly not just gravy with mushrooms in it!

I started by searing seasoned pork chops in a pan with a bit of bacon fat, about three minutes per side. I had five pretty big rib and sirloin chops to do, so the pan built up a nice fond. Once the chops were seared and set aside, I added some chopped shallot to the pan and let it soften. To that, I added some chopped cremini mushrooms. A few minutes later, I sprinkled the whole thing with a tablespoon of flour (normally we avoid gluten, but sometimes you just want old-school gravy. Don't judge.), gave it a stir, and let it cook for about a minute or so. I slowly added beef stock, stirring and scraping up the bits of good stuff from the bottom of the pan. After adding the beef stock, I added black pepper and rosemary, and let the gravy come to a boil and cook for 3-4 minutes. It needed just a pinch of salt at the end, then we were ready to eat. Sides were steamed broccoli and sweet potato mashed with butter.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

ridiculous key-word searches, and a meatloaf dissertation

This afternoon, I made a post on Ravelry about one of the more ridiculous key-word searches that showed up on my StatCounter for this blog lately:

I have a blog, and because I am a nerdy nerdy data nerd, I use StatCounter to see how much traffic I get on my posts (when I actually post regularly, anyway. Ahem). One of the functions on StatCounter is a report that shows you recent keyword searches that people have used to get to your website. My blog is mostly cooking and food related, so there are completely reasonable things people have searched on that led to me, such as:

chicken thigh recipe
tortilla-less fajitas
pork rib roast
adding seaweed to soup
paleo meatloaf

However, today I logged in, looked at the keyword search thingy, and one came up that had me simultaneously snorting with laughter and WTF’ing:

one girl one meatloaf

Now…I know how my blog ended up in their search with this, because the blog is titled “One Girl Cooks”, and I’ve posted a lot about meatloaf. BUT STILL. I really have to wonder what the person who did a Google search on “one girl one meatloaf” was REALLY looking for. I’d like to believe that it was a single woman looking for an individual-portion meatloaf recipe maybe, buuuuuuut…yeah.

/cool story, meatloaf

The conversation quickly turned to meatloaf, of course, and at one point I was asked for my meatloaf recipe. I tried to explain that I don't really do recipes because I lack the attention span to, you know, measure things and take notes, but then I ended up writing what I am calling a stream-of-consciousness meatloaf dissertation. I thought readers might find it helpful, or at least entertaining, so here you go:

I make a few different versions - one that uses spinach for filler, one that uses minced mushrooms for filler, and my regular one that can be done with normal bread crumbs or gluten-free ones. If you want to use spinach, get frozen chopped spinach, thaw it out, squeeze as much liquid as you can out of it, and add it directly to your mix. If you want to use mushrooms, I would suggest either button mushrooms or baby bella. Mince them up very fine, toss them in a hot pan with a little fat to lubricate, a little salt, and some garlic and/or herbs if you want (thyme and rosemary are nice). Cook until mushrooms have released their liquid, then let cool for a few minutes and add to your meat mix. My bread-crumb version just involves soaking some bread crumbs (I use GF ones) in a little milk (I use almond milk, but whatevs) and adding that to the mix. I also add a beaten egg or two to my mix as a binder.

Onions, I feel, need their own paragraph, because I have FEELINGS about them. I hate big chunks of onion in meatloaf. I actually grate my onion (food processor for the win) so that it’s pulp and juice, because a) it gets the onion flavor more thoroughly incorporated, and b) you aren’t crunching on pieces of onion as you eat. Not everyone is as picky about this as I am. Do what you feel is right.

For meat, I like to use a mix of ground pork, beef and veal (at my grocery store, you can get 
“meatloaf mix”, which has all three in it). You want a mix with a fair amount of fat in, otherwise your meatloaf is going to be dry. Meatloaf is really not the time or place to be worried about calories.

Seasoning-wise, I like the afore-mentioned HP sauce immensely, but if I don’t have it on hand, I will usually spice my meatloaf with salt, pepper, a little bit of allspice, garlic, and thyme. Rosemary is good, too. Sage is good if you’re using mostly pork - gives you a kind of sausage-y flavor.

You want to cook the meatloaf until it registers 170-ish in the middle, whether you’re cooking a big one or mini ones. I say “ish”, because you can pull them at like low to mid 160’s and let carry-over cooking do the rest if you’re going to be working on sides for another 10 minutes or so…but that’s up to you, and that’s something that makes some people really twitchy.

If you’re making mini meatloaves, what I like to do is form the mini-loaves and sear the tops and bottoms in a ripping-hot pan, then transfer them to a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 400 degree for about 20 minutes or so. If you’re making one big meatloaf, it’s going to take a lot longer to cook - like an hour probably, depending on how much mix you have. Even when I’m doing a big loaf, I still cook it on a cookie sheet rather than in a loaf pan, because it lets some of the grease escape and it gives the whole thing a nice crust.

You can glaze your loaf as it’s cooking (barbecue sauce is good, HP sauce is awesome, please god don’t use ketchup and ruin all your hard work), or you can get super meat-porny and lay bacon strips over the top (do them width-wise, not end to end, otherwise you end up with bacon bits when you cut into it to serve).

Sunday, November 30, 2014

pork magic

Pork is my favorite meat. Shocker, I know. There's just something about pork, though. Something delicious. I could never be a vegetarian, because pork. Any other type of meat, I could easily do without - but take my pork away and I would be a sad panda indeed.

Last weekend I did a bone-in pork rib roast slow and low, and it turned out fantastic. I didn't take any pictures of it because I wasn't in a blogging mood (doing some work getting my brain-meats sorted out lately, hence the absence), but it was good enough that I was quite happy with the idea of a repeat performance today. When I found a blade-portion roast all ready to go AND on sale at the meat counter during my shopping trip, I did a little happy dance.

 I was thinking about doing some sort of cumin-crusted application with the pork, but one of the things I managed to forget whilst shopping was, in fact, cumin. Standing in front of my spice rack, I was starting to scheme about another rub to do when it hit me - I had a tub of ras el hanout, which is cumin-based, still sitting on the shelf from a previous spice-mixing venture. Hooray! I gave the roast a good rub of the spice mix, plus a little extra sprinkle of kosher salt, then popped it into a 250 degree oven. I checked the temperature after an hour, and down by the bone it was registering 90 degrees. Definitely not done, but that was to be expected. I bumped the oven up to 275 and left it for another 45 minutes. When I came back to check it again, it was reading at 140 by the bone. I pulled the roasted, tented it with foil, then let it rest for about 35 minutes while I roasted off the veg for my side.

When I went to carve the roast, I knew I was on to a winner. It was ridiculously tender, and the little rind of fat on top of the roast had crisped up beautifully. The rich, spicy, orange-y smell of the ras el hanout combined with pork fat was fabulous. Such a good combination!

Mmm, roasty.

The veggies on the side are a combination of roasted parsnips, Brussels sprouts, shallots, and a few carrots I had hanging around that I wanted to use up. The Brussels sprouts, for the record, were ENORMOUS. The largest one was almost as big as a lightbulb, and they were all bigger than an extra large egg. I was a little worried that they'd be bitter, but they weren't at all, which was a relief. I roasted the veg very simply - I just tossed them with salt, pepper and olive oil and spread them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (makes a big difference in terms of things not sticking). They went into a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, then I stirred them a little and put them back in for another five minutes or so just to brown a little more. If you've never had parsnips, this is the way to try them, seriously. I grew up in a non-parsnip household because my mom hates them, but I've grown quite fond of them since my husband talked me into cooking some for him a few years back. Roasted parsnips have a sweetness to them - their astringency melts away and they end up mellow, almost fruity tasting. The more brown, crisp and caramelized they get, the more delicious they are.

For anyone playing along at home, this dish is not only completely gluten-free, but also Paleo- and Whole30 compliant. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

fridge-emptying Paleo breakfast bake

I am not a morning person. That's not to say that I don't LIKE mornings, because they're actually my favorite time of day - but I do not like being expected to function in any sort of productive manner before about 10am. Trying to feed myself and my husband a decent breakfast tends to be at odds with my desire to maintain a sloth-like morning agenda.

Most mornings lately, I've been having a pumpkin smoothie for breakfast because a) it's fast and b) it fills me up. There's also some nutrition in there somewhere I'm sure - but the simple fact is, dumping things in the food processor doesn't take a whole lot of mental fortitude. That's key in the blurry pre-10am hours around here, trust me.

However, this coming week we're going to be traveling, which means two things (well, more than two, but for the purpose of this blog post, I'm saying two) :

 1. I need to use up some leftover food in the fridge, and

 2. I want to create as few dirty dishes as possible, because the less dishes I have to wash the night before going on holiday, the better.

To be fair, the less dishes I have to wash EVER, the better...but you know what I mean, I'm sure.

This breakfast bake checks both those boxes. Not only did it use up all the leftover bits in my fridge, but since I did the washing up directly after making it, it becomes very un-dish-intensive. Also, it gets bonus points for me not having to do anything TO it in the morning except put it on a plate and warm it up. BREAKFAST LAZINESS GOLD MEDAL! Literally the only thing lazier would be, like, cracking raw eggs into my mouth,

So, what I had hanging around was:

half a red bell pepper
half an onion
half a box of mushrooms
about 3/4 of a pound of pork sausage
nine eggs
one large Russet potato

Aside from the chopping involved, this could not be easier. I browned the sausage, then scooped it out to drain on paper towels while I sauteed the chopped veg in a little bit of the leftover fat. I washed the potato, poked it with a fork a few times, then stuck it in the microwave for about nine minutes. While the veg was getting soft in the pan, I cracked the eggs into a bowl and whisked them up. When the veg was read, I scooped it and the sausage into my baking dish (which I had swiped with olive oil just to ensure things wouldn't stick). When the potato was almost done, not quite cooked through, I pulled it out of the nuker, chopped it up (HOT POTATO, be careful, learn from my mistakes), tossed it with a little kosher salt and then threw it into the frying pan with the rest of the leftover pork fat. I cranked the heat up and let the potato get kind of brown and crispy in the pan, then scooped that into my veg and sausage mix. The egg got dumped over the top, dish got a little shake, then it went into a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Ta Dahs:

It's like a craggy landscape of nom.

As long as you use a sausage that doesn't have added sugar, gluten or processed weirdness, this is a Paleo- and Whole30-compliant dish. If you don't like sausage, you could use bacon, ham, ground bison, really whatever floats your canoe. There's also no saying that you have to eat it for breakfast - you could stick some in your facehole when ever...I don't judge.

Friday, September 26, 2014

brussels sprout curry, aka: colon-blow curry

Truth time. I had a pumpkin smoothie for breakfast, rather a large amount of broccoli at lunch, and then washed this curry down with a glass and a half of porter. I predict things are going to start getting musical (and fragrant) around here in about, hmmm...let's say four hours or so. The effect will of course be doubled because the Ginger Beast had the same dinner as me (and is generally far more prone to flatulence in general). So basically what I'm saying is, you're probably not going to want to visit any time in the next 8-12 hours. You have been warned.


This curry was very much an on-the-fly thing. We had company coming for dinner and all I had for protein was a package of defrosted meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork and veal combination). Trying to come up with what to do with that, a box of shredded Brussels sprouts and a can of fire-roasted tomatoes (I love you, Muir Glen!)  made for an entertaining ride home, but then it occurred to me that curry could in fact be the answer to my problems. Well, some of them...possibly the root of others, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Mmm. Fiber.
Basically, this is just a standard mince curry with a few cups of shredded Brussels sprouts added when I added the tomatoes. I also used a can of coconut milk, but I only used the solidified cream from the top of the can, not the watery part. And yes, that's a little bit of rice at the bottom of the bowl there. This is the first rice I've had in...I can't even remember how long. Many months. It was just there for filler because I was feeding a non-Paleo-eating person who is accustomed to a starch with dinner. My portion size was about 1/4 cup of the rice with about a cup and a half of the curry over top.

Minus the rice, this is Paleo compliant. The glass and a half of porter I drank with it , of course, are not. Is not? NOT. Beer am good. I wonder if there's any left...