Sunday, February 17, 2008

Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Purée and Warm Chipotle Salsa

If this recipe sounds fancy that's because it's from the 5th edition of Le Cordon Bleu's Professional Cooking which is basically a textbook for culinary schools. You've got everything in here from the use and care of a chinacap to the basics of broiling and the chemistry of gelatine. It's awesome because you could basically work through this whole book and you'd be a "professionally" trained chef. Now the only problem is is that doing so would cost a fortune because lots of this food doesn't come cheap and all the recipes are written for restaurant portions. Best to pay your tuition and go to a culinary school if that's your bag. But if you're like me, you just want to learn how to cook better so buying a book like this does the trick.

What I was originally looking for was a recipe for Eastern European pork roast with sauerkraut. I don't even know if that's the dish but I'll post it as soon as I've found out. For now we have this South American inspired dish that has the delicious flavour of marinated pork loin, coupled with the sweetness of the sweet potatoes, and all offset with a nice smoky and spicy chipotle salsa. It's obvious that a recipe from Le Cordon Bleu will match flavours properly. Salty. Sweet. Spicy. There's no tart or bitter here but you catch my drift.

The marinade consists of chopped onion, mashed garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, lime juice, olive oil and powdered red New Mexico chiles (I used dried chiles from Mexico but that's what I had on hand...the recipe says that you can also substitute for good old chili powder). As you can see there's nothing magic about this marinade. Just let sit over night, barbecue or roast, and enjoy.

As for the salsa, it's also pretty basic. Roast one garlic clove and 1 lb of plum tomatoes for about 10 minutes, peel, throw into a blender with 2 whole chipotle chiles in adobo (seeded or unseeded depending on how much heat you want), a bit of salt, a bit of adobo sauce, purée and voilà. You could probably add cilantro, onions or other such traditional salsa ingredient but I found this sauce was basic and tasted really nice.

All you have to do once everything is cooked is to cut the tenderloin into medallions, place on top of the roasted and puréeed sweet potatoes, drizzle with salsa and that's it. Delicious. Lean. And lets not forget spicy.

But if you're not a health nut, you can use the leftover tenderloin and salsa with some smoky cheddar all baked on top of some nachos and you've got another delicious meal that's great with a nice cerveza, a hockey game and some wings.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Roasted Sweet & Spicy Lamb on Braised Lentils with Orange & Carrot Salad

I seem to have hit the mark with this one. As many things in the kitchen do nowadays, it all started at the farmer's market when I found these beautiful little lamb loin chops. It's amazing how buying lamb or duck or other such delicacies is ridiculously overpriced at the supermarket and thus relatively cheap when bought directly from the farmer. But that's another story.

I marinated my loin chops in a sweet and spicy sauce. The hope was to recreate something I'd eaten at Three Guys and A Stove in Huntsville, Ontario. Here is the description of the astounding lamb ribs I had there: "Ontario lamb charred with sweet & spicy roasted peanut glaze, grilled marinated pineapple and Frangelico & served with roasted red potatoes and vegetables". If you're mouth is watering at the description, you should definitely try it out for yourself. When those posh feather headed ladys in big city cooking shows say that something is "divine", they've never tasted these ribs. Now my loin chops weren't necessarily divine but considering that I'm no celibrity chef, I have to admit that this dish was well put together as far as flavours and textures go.

The lamb turned out very nice and the sauce had caramelized beautifully over top of it. I sat them on a bed of braised red lentils, the recipe having been found on (I've included the link below). The sweet and mildly spicy taste of the lamb combined perfectly with the rich and very home-cooked tasting lentils. To add and repeat flavours, I made an orange and carrot North African salad that both highlighted ingredients in the lamb sauce and added some extra zing and crunchy texture. The finishing touch was a light dusting of cinnamon. All in all, this was the kind of meal that I would work on to make it really out of this world.

Sweet & Spicy Sauce

2 tbsp marmalade or apricot jam
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 garlic clove, mashed
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
ground or fresh hot pepper to desired spiciness
1/4 cup roasted peanuts (I used pecans cause that's what I had on hand. This recipe would be great with, say, roasted almonds and almond butter or any other such doubling of a nut. A combination of different nuts would propably be delicious as well.)

1. Combine all ingredient to make a paste and slather over meat to marinate for an hour or more. Place the marinated meat of choice on a roasting pan, making sure that sauce is on top. Cook till meat is done and sauce has caramelized.

Braised Lentils :

Orange Salad with Carrot : North African Cooking by Tess Mallos, p. 48

Friday, February 8, 2008

Oatmeal Clusters, Yogurt and Fruit Breakfast

Breakfast is as much an opportunity as any meal to make something delicious. Even that the meal of breakfast is more open to sweeter alternatives like crepes, maple syrup and sugary cereal. Well I felt like have fruit with yogurt and granola clusters recently but didn't have any granola or appropriate cereal. Solution: melt about equal parts butter and brown sugar, throw in enough oatmeal to sort of tie things together; let the mixture cook and caramelize a bit but do not overheat or you'll burn it; set aside till ready to use. As the mixture cools it will also harden and you'll be able to break it up into chunks over a mixture of whatever fruit you happen to have on hand and your favourite plain or flavoured yogurt. It's relatively easy to make, filling and delicious. Plus you can really add anything to the oatmeal to make different sorts of clusters: rice crispies, chopped nuts, and so on.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Duck Tenderloin with Clementine Couli

The French guy at the market had packaged of duck tenderloins for sale this week. I mean duck is already a treat, but having the choice of nothing but the tenderloin is the epitomization of having your cake and eating it too. The wild, almost steaklike taste, coupled with the soft texture of chicken is what makes duck so enjoyable to me. It's so much better than both beef and chicken that I don't know why it's not more readily available than what it is. Yet given that duck is not a usual guest at the dinner table, I don't have thousands of ideas for it. True I could treat it as I would a roast or chicken or a steak but I figured the usual combination of duck with orange would be a safe bet. So off I went making a mild couli of clementine juice and zest with a tad bit of sugar and drizzling it on top of the gammy tenderloins I'd simply cooked in some butter till the exterior was crispy but the interior was still pinkish. It's a beautiful thing to be able to treat oneself.

Breakfast As Therapy

I look over my blog entries and notice that the amount of entries posted is directly related to circumstances of day to day life. For example, the last week or so has been a series of frustrations regarding broken furnaces, bursting pipes and the insuing frustrations of tenants. Put simply, it's been a rough and very expensive week. But once the heat was back on and the water was flowing through the pipes, I started cooking again.

For some, cooking is frustrating. The coordination of various processes which need to be timed so that everything comes out at the same time can be demanding. But for me it's like meditating. It demands my attention and creativity and plunges me into a set of steps which allow the outside world to melt away for 30 minutes. It's methodical. It's skill. It's an escape. And the best time for this is early in the morning before another day of work starts.

When craving something sweet in the morning, there's absolutely nothing that can beat crepes. Their chewy yet smooth, buttery texture is simple bliss. I bought some molasses last time I went to the grocery store. The rich, almost burnt taste of the molasses poured lightly on top of the crepes is pure indulgence. With regards to the recent events, I'd even say that it's a deserved indulgence.
Also in the line of indulgences comes the farmer's market. What you see above are poached eggs, apple sausage that tastes slightly of cinnamon and a slew of other spices, madawaska cheese, and heavy German multigrain rye bread. Along with a strong cup of coffee and a sweet glass of orange juice, the day is off to a great start. And the fact that I don't have to melt snow in order to clean the dishes is an even greater start to the day. It's really incredible how dependant we are on luxuries such as running water and electricity.