Whisk Wednesday~Longe de Porc aux Pruneaux

10 06 2009

I’m so far behind with my posting and cooking right now it’s almost ridiculous.  There’s a good reason…Life is taking up a LOT of my time!  I’m managing to get some stress relief time in the kitchen, but I’ll sure be glad when the end of the school year gets here!!  Somewhere along the line, I hear that happens tomorrow. I’ve just been too busy making it happen to be ready for it to happen! LOL!  Let’s get to the kitchen…I like it better in there!

Last week (see what I mean?) found us preparing the second course of our menu…Longe de Porc aux Pruneaux and Mousseline de Céleri Rave.  Translation:  Pork Loin roast with prunes and Creamed Celery Root Puree.  The pork loin was absolutely fabulous and well worth making again.  Shari, of Whisk: a food blog, thought she’d add an ingredient the next time she prepared this dish.  I think she’s right!  This would work well with several different fruits, but part of the flavor (rich and silky sweet) comes from the fact that the plums are dried.  Didn’t you know?  Prunes are an Italian variety of plum.  They’re oblong rather than round, and have a dark, richly sweet flesh that dries wonderfully.  If you’re driving on the state highway 20 miles south of here, and look right and left you’ll likely be seeing a lot of “prune-plum” trees.   Alas, I digress…

Pork-w-prunes1

The pork was wonderful.  We started with a whole pork loin, butterflied it, seasoned it with salt and pepper and stuffed one end with prunes.  I confess to adding a sprinkling of thyme to the inside of my roast.  We then rolled the roast and tied it.  I watched a great video on tying a roast on Alton Brown’s Good Eats one night.  Now, I’ve got the hang of it!  The roast is then seared with seasoning vegetables (onion, carrot with herbs added), then roasted and basted with the pan juices.

Pork-w-prunes2

The sauce this time around is a “gastrique”.  “Gastrique is a thick sauce produced by a reduction of vinegar or wine, sugar, and usually fruit. It is often served over meat or seafood to add a fruit flavor to the dish. It is made in its simplest form by caramelizing sugar and then adding vinegar,”…Wikipedia Our gastrique was created from a reduction of vinegar and sugar, with the deglazed pan juices.  Oh…my.  This was wonderful.  There were poached prunes used as a garnish as well…and they were gobbled up right along with the roast.

The surprise this time was the vegetable.  Celery root, also known as Celeriac.  I’ve seen it in the market.  It’s a big ol’ ugly thing.  So…I followed the directions…I peeled it.  I got all the hard brown stuff off…and it still seemed kind of hard on the outside.  It really was hard, too!  I ended up taking my Chinese cleaver to it!  What I now know is that I needed to get all of that really hard stuff cut off.  First.  So…if you’ve never cooked this stuff before, get twice as much as you think would be enough to feed your crew.  That was the reason I didn’t cut more off…I thought, “Surely they don’t mean for me to cut ALL of this off…there won’t be much of anything left!  Maybe it gets a lot more tender when it’s cooked…”  No.  That tough outer exterior is just as tough and nasty after cooking.  I seemed to have gotten all of the nasty bits in my serving, Bruce said he got none.  We agreed it had a slight celery flavor and was “good” in an unusual way.  He said he wouldn’t mind having it again, now and then, but not necessarily often.  I agreed.  I had a desire to grate just a bit of nutmeg into it…I don’t know why…I don’t even own a fresh nutmeg right now!  It just felt like I should!

PorkwPrunes-gr

All in all, this was a “keeper” meal.  I’d use both together again without hesitation.  Everything worked out just as I anticipated from reading the recipe and the techniques.  I thought the thyme on the inside was well placed and we really enjoyed the whole dish.

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Whisk Wednesday – Menu 2.1

2 06 2009

Last week we began Menu #2…Salade de Foies de Volailles Tiedes (Salad of Warm Sautéed Chicken Livers), then Longe de Porc aux Pruneaux (Roast Pork Loin with Prunes) and Mousseline de Céleri Rave (Creamed Celery Root Purée), with Savarin aux Kiwis et aux Fraises (Rum Savarin with Kiwis and Strawberries) for dessert.  Again, the idea is to learn to manage your time so that the dishes are all ready to serve in succession.  With Menu #1, I managed to do it all at one time.  This menu didn’t work out as well for me.  It’s a busy time of year at work (school is almost over…),  so my energy levels aren’t as high as they could be.  Sometimes cooking is the last thing I feel like when I get it, and by the time I am ready, there’s not enough time left to prep and cook.  I guess this is my way of saying, “I’m a week behind already, but I’ll get ‘er done!”

This week I’m posting the Salade de Foies de Volailles Tiedes, or Salad of Warm Sautéed Chicken Livers in English.  It sounds much more intriguing in the French.   It’s here that we depart for a moment for True Confession Time.

I cannot abide liver.  That’s it, in a nutshell.  I simply cannot stand it.  And then along came foie gras…  Now, why is it I can’t stand liver, but I can purr over foie gras?  I think it’s kind of like loving sushi as long as it’s fresh…  Does the act of cooking change it so that it becomes something I really despise?  And then there’s the fact that this recipe does call for chicken liver…  I decided to play it safe.    There are two other members of the Clan Giblet…the gizzard and the heart.  They would also have an intense chicken taste and a texture not terribly different than that of the livers.  I purchased some of each, livers and gizzards with hearts.  In the spirit of fair play (my sister Whisk Chicks have all tried something new to them in our lessons), I knew I was going to have to make this and taste it.  While it didn’t change my mind about liking liver in the least, if I had no choice but to eat it…I could almost tolerate it as it is in this salad.  But, since chickens only have one liver, you can have it instead of me.  No problem.

Chicken livers are soft and delicate.  They saute quickly.  Chicken hearts and the gizzard (a section of the digestive system of a chicken where the food is ground) are hard-core muscles..  Muscles that work hard are strong, which means it will be tough unless the muscle tissue is broken down with slow, gentle simmering.  I cooked the gizzards and hearts in enough broth to wet all the gizzards, then topped that off with water until all were covered.  I threw in a few cloves of garlic, some other herbs and salt.   After 30 minutes, I uncovered the saucepan and let the cooking liquid reduce.  When the chicken gizzards had simmered about an hour they were tender.   From that point on, I prepared both sauces side by side, giving each dish half of the sauce ingredients.  The sauce on the gizzards came out a little better.  Perhaps it was because the wine had reduced some by the time I got the cream in.  The sauce on the chicken livers came out fine.  It just didn’t blend as smoothly.

ChickenLiverSalad1

We both enjoyed the salad a great deal.  We each had a double serving as an entree salad.  I subbed Spring Greens for the escarole and red lettuce.   The vinaigrette was as wonderful as everyone said!   We used so little, there’s a full 8 oz. jar left…in my fridge!  The warm sauce and chicken pieces wilt the salad greens a little.  The greens have a tanginess that’s very complementary to the sweetness of the port sauce.  Both of us thoroughly enjoyed our salads.  Bruce said he wouldn’t at all mind having this salad again.  Even if I just made it with gizzards instead of livers.  Awww…what a guy!

With any luck, I can get the pork roast with celery root puree and the kiwi-strawberry savarin done by next week at this time.  We’ll see!  Until then, stop by and visit the rest of the “Whisk Chicks…”