Jousting with Apples, Cayenne and Maple Syrup

28 09 2009

Oct_09bI really love Jousting at The Royal Foodie Joust.  Jenn, also known as The Leftover Queen, plays hostess to a court of Foodies who have been playing “Chopped” for much longer than the Food Network has!  Each month the previous month’s “Best Over All” winner gets to select the 3 ingredients that will tease and torture us!  Some months are more difficult than others. I’ve been away a few months between work and availability of ingredients…and one combination I just could not get my head around in time.  It happens…  So when I finally got a chance to peek and see what we were up against this month and discovered we were to work with apples, maple and cayenne, a couple of things started working in the back of my mind.  I just left well enough alone until one concept of the other started to come together.  It helped that all 3 ingredients were in the house!

I knew I was going to mix the cayenne and the apples and the maple, but…as an appetizer or a main dish?  Then I remembered I had a port tenderloin…SOLD!

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Pardon, I sloshed…

Dijon-Cayenne  Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Maple Apples

1 1/2 # pork tenderloin
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1/2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
Mix last dijon, cayenne and maple syrup. Rub well into pork tenderloin.
Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves.Set aside for at least 2 hours.

About 45 minutes before you plan to serve dinner,prepare apples.

2 fuji apples, peeled and cut into eighths
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne depending on your taste.
Saute until apples are tender…add additional water if needed

When apples are tender, set aside and keep warm while preparing the pork.

Preheat oven to 425º
In a heavy pan that can go into the oven safely, melt:
1Tb butter
2 tbsp olive oil

Sprinkle the meat with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Brown tenderloin on all sides in the butter and olive oil.
Place pan into 425º oven for 15 minutes.
Remove to a plate and wrap to rest while you finish the sauce.

1/2 cup white wine
Balsamic vinegar
Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup white wine; add 1 tsp balsamic vinegar then add apple mixture to heat

through and reduce.

Slice pork,  Serve on a bed of apple slices with a drizzle of sauce.

Serves 2-3
Doubles easily for 2 tenderloins.

Tasting Notes:
We agreed this was a slightly unusual dish, but also very good.  Apples go well with pork; pork goes well with maple; maple goes well with apples…we have a circle! We both thought the tenderloin could have been a little spicier without any problem.  I may have been a bit too restrained there.  It was still very flavorful, moist and tender. The addition of the balsamic vinegar to the sauce helped the apples feel a little sweeter.  This is a recipe where you can change the apples, without changing the outcome drastically.  I think a sweeter apple would have been fine, but the Fujis don’t give up their shape while they’re cooking, and that’s what our tree was FULL of.   So Fuji apples it was.  The balsamic vinegar added a little tang, and at the same time a little twisted sweetness to go with the maple…which almost disappears, and yet, it’s the only sweetener.  Our verdict was it was good enough to have again sometime this Fall!

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Cooking Italy~Bolognese Sauce

26 09 2009

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This episode of Cooking Italy has us creating Marcella Hazan’s Classic Bolognese Sauce.  I have to admit, I have never, ever tasted anything quite like this in my life. I am totally, 100% amazed.  I have no idea quite how I measure up yet, but I have come upon a potential solution to that.  One of the administrators in my school district is Italian…and his mama makes the best cookies!  The pastas never got this far. *Ü*  Having worked for him, I know he can always be prevailed upon to take a taste-test.  I just need to make sure he’s on campus and drop off a serving for him.  He’ll critique for me.  If he remembers to eat it! LOL!  That really makes me feel a little better…it’s one thing for us to be impressed, but even though it’s good, what if it isn’t “right?”  It kind of defeats half of the purpose!  Enough rambling…on to the Bolognese!!

I made a double batch…and the mise en place shots are on the actual camera, and I’m trying to figure out how to get them transferred.  I chopped my vegetables (onion, celery and carrot ) to about 3/8 inch and prepared a simple Italian “soffritto” with butter and olive oil.  This recipe is much like French cuisine in that it is the long, slow cooking with ingredients added one after the other that creates the individual layers of flavor and develop the complexity of the sauce.  This isn’t a 30 minute meal…this one is easily 6 to 12 hours.  Next came the meat.  I used beef, the favored cut is chuck.  There needs to be some fat for flavor and to help the sauce stay liquid in its final stage.  Pork may be used, but only replacing 1/3 of the meat according to Hazan.

The ground meat is cooked until there is no redness left.  Making a double batch, I ended up using beef from 2 sources. I found freshly ground beef to be much easier to break up than a cyovac’d packed a picked up from Trader Joe’s which was clearly a superior product.  Sometimes you just can’t win for losing! LOL!  Next comes the step that signifies this is a Bolognese dish…we’re going to simmer the meat in milk until the milk has completely evaporated.  Now we add nutmeg… I didn’t ask why. But I did pull out both kinds of nutmeg and did a Nutmeg Grate-Off….you’ll have to read that post and see the pictures…that are also stuck on the camera….arrrrgh!  I may have to make this sauce again soon just to get these pictures again before I go bonkers!!

To our seasoned meat, we now add white wine, and simmer, simmer, simmer until all the liquid is gone.  Are you seeing where all the time goes yet?  There’s easily an hour to 2 hours of cooking time, especially if you can let it take its time to reduce.  I used a Mexican Comal on my gas burner, and then a multi-layered stainless steel cookware pot on top of that to diffuse the heat and maintain a very low, even heat.  After this mixture simmers dry, it’s time to add tomatoes, season a bit and simmer at least 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

There are a couple of wonderful aspects of this you don’t think of initially…your house is going to smell wonderful throughout the cooking process…every layer has its own aroma, and they’re all delightful. This simmers, and doesn’t require constant attention, just occasional attention.  Set a timer for 15-20 minute intervals and check it, give it a stir, and keep on doing whatever. The early simmer stages can stretch a bit longer.  Once this is made, you have the sauce for a lot of fabulous recipes! I found this used with crespelles and lasagne in particular.  You can bet I’ll be trying the crespelle recipe!  And I’m dying to make the lasagne!!  With freshly made pasta sheets! Oh yeah!! But…don’t worry about your pasta until your sauce has simmered at least 3 hours, and is in it’s drying out stage.

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We were totally amazed at how incredibly thin and light the pasta came out this time.  I’m not sure what I did differently. Maybe just a tad bit more confidence, less trepidation, and more purpose.  I don’t know.  I figured 1/2 cup flour to 1 of my free range hen eggs, which aren’t quite as big as large eggs, more to the medium size.  That seems to be about the right proportions.  This is how the pasta sheets looked after running through the 7th setting.  I can’t wait to make lasagne with these sheets!!  We had the pasta drying rack put together, but the dowels are too skinny for my liking. I used a tube clothes hanger instead. But now…I’ve got a pasta rack in my head… “Honey…do you think….” *giggle*  I don’t know how Italians learn how to measure pasta cuts by the eye, but I’d love a lesson!! In the meanwhile…I’m thinking about creating a template.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  LOL!  Yes, my dear Heritage Ladies…you may be entertained!  This batch of pasta, being a little thinner, cooked so fast!!  It was on the surface of the water in mere seconds, and I tasted it, but got a floury taste, so back in.  I think I boiled it about 90-120 seconds all told, then a quick drain and into the skillet to toss with butter and sauce.

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Tasting Notes:  This is simply not like anything I’ve ever, ever had before.  I know I haven’t been exposed to any authentic Italian, probably not in my life.  Well…when I was, I wasn’t looking at Bolognese sauce. The sauce is a complex blend of sweet, savory, creamy, grainy flavors and textures…with hints of flavors that are virtually impossible to single out.  You can see bits and pieces that give away the ingredients, but the liquid ingredients leave you guessing.  As I said, I don’t know if I’ve made this properly, but I’m going to find out if it passed the Italian test. LOL!  We certainly enjoyed it nonetheless!  I have 2 cups put away to make lasagne with…regardless of the results of the Italian taste test!





Cooking Italy: Crespelle Layered with Tomato and Prosciutto~

20 09 2009

Well…almost.  I didn’t have prosciutto in the fridge when the time finally came, and neither did the store I was in…so we went with (shhhhh) ham.  If it gets better, oh my! That’s pretty hard to imagine!  We’re cooking from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, and this is a two-for-one recipe.  Crespelles, which are very crepe-like and the sauce just a page later. Both recipes are extremely easy and go together in no time.

I’m playing catch-up and have heard nothing but good about these recipes, so I made the full batch of crespelles, even though a half recipe is called for. I just had a feeling I was going to want a full batch in the long run, and the freeze really well.  I got 15 out of an anticipated 16-18.  My ladle might be a bit generous…or my hand!  I’ll edit and post images of the crepes as soon as I figure out how to get them from the camera’s memory to my computer…they aren’t on the card. I hope I don’t have to sacrifice them.

The sauce was really easy to put together.  I can’t get imported Italian plum tomatoes, but I can get fresh Roma tomatoes, so I used about 1 cup of those, and cooked them down a little longer with just a touch more salt (to replace what would have been used in canning).   The sauce was amazing!  What flavor out of so few ingredients!

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I’ve been invited to fix this recipe again as soon as possible.  It’s light, delightfully flavorful and a real show stopper.  Once the crespelle are made, the rest is a piece of cake. It takes mere minutes to assemble the tower, I folded mine, and sauced between each layer.  We wished I’d made 4 servings…we’d have eaten more! That’s ok.  It’s on the menu for Tuesday night after chorus…so if you don’t have anything going on about 9:30…9:45 Tuesday night, come on over.  We’re having layered crespelle!

Tasting notes:  The sauce is on the sweet side, but with a fresh taste that is so incredible!  It’s hard to imagine we’re only talking about garlic, parsley and tomatoes cooked in olive oil.  I’d use this in a heart beat instead of reaching for a jar – when I have everything!  I’m anxious to play with this and work with it a little.  It’s an incredibly great fresh base sauce.  What a great choice of books to learn from!





Annual September Hiatus~

20 09 2009

I don’t know why I just don’t admit it to myself…September is a killer month for me.  School starts the end of August and the next 4 weeks are a whirl of activity I can barely keep up with.  I’m so very far behind with my cooking groups that it’s scary! But…it is what it is.  I’ve cooked when I could, in some of the more unusual circumstances…LOL! You’ll get the idea when I get the pictures up.

I have cooked, most nights…not always from scratch, but I have cooked. Trader Joe’s has been a real pal! We’ve had a lot of pasta dishes…very easy to put together. I replayed the zucchini-pasta dish with the zucchini cut into batons…and it was ok. We liked the coins better.  I’ve used a lot of interesting sausages with different sauces and pastas to see what we like.  We prefer the red sauces to the heavy cream and cheese sauces…although they do have their place!  Right now Arrabiatta is our favorite.  I’m looking for a recipe for one that reads the way my mouth tastes it.

I’ll work on the posts for the dishes I have finished…Minestrone…is that all? I suppose it is…and I didn’t take photos, so it’s hard to post what I don’t have.  Ok…well, today is a cooking day because I finally feel like it!  Today we’ll be making bolognese and crespelle for Cooking Italy, then traveling over to see just how out of sync we are at Whisk Wednesday, where our Fearless Leader (seriously!!) has begun her Le Cordon Bleu courses!!  These latter courses have been very difficult due to ingredients. I have no desire to try a chicken version of a veal dish. I want VEAL!! Oops. Sorry… If you’re a member of PETA, my apologies…

Now…it’s time to rotate the laundry…yes, food bloggers usually do laundry too!…and get that stove up and running! I’m in the mood for FOOD!