From a “Quick & Healthy Dinners” class at the Cookbook Company. (And Happy Birthday Mom, Anne and Leo!)
Mike saw my blog last night. He came into the bedroom and said, “people are going to think you’re so full of it. They aren’t going to believe we eat that kind of thing for dinner on a normal night!”
Is this true? Am I coming across as a food snob? Because really, any meal that you write out in overly descriptive terms comes across far more cheffy than it really is. I learned this a couple years ago, when they invited me to be a presenter at Epicurean at the Jasper Park Lodge. The lineup included Chef Michael Smith, Brad Horen (recently named the best chef in Canada), some other serious restaurant chefs, and me. I argued that they didn’t really want me there – I’m not a formally trained restaurant chef with my hard-earned whites and line experience. My expertise is more on the eating end of things. They seemed confident that I would fit in, so I set to work putting together some menus – we were each responsible for a course at every fancy meal. And it turns out if you use superfluous words when describing your food, anything can sound cheffy. Example:
roasted grain-fed tenderloin of pork in a maple-cider reduction
with fresh rosemary and caramelized pink lady apples
(I love because they were my Grandma’s favorite, and in homage to the Pink Ladies of Grease.)
smashed Poplar Bluff Farm potatoes with buttermilk and grainy Dijon
vanilla bean panna cotta with braised cherries
Translation: roast pork tenderloin in an easy marinade, with apples that have been sliced and sauteed in the same pan the pork was browned in, with the simmered marinade poured over top. The bag of potatoes we found under the sink, gouged the sprouting eyes out of and chopped in pieces without bothering to peel them, boiled and roughly mashed with a potato masher with a few glugs of buttermilk, a small knob of butter and a spoonful of grainy mustard. Cream Jell-O – literally, you make panna cotta in about 4 minutes by dissolving gelatin and sugar into half & half, spiking it perhaps with some vanilla and chilling it in little bowls – with dried cherries simmered on the stovetop in some sort of juice or booze until plump.
So tonight there were 31 people at my class, and it was fun. I was so excited about that goat cheese gratin the other night, I made it for all of them to try. Then I made the aforementioned pork tenderloin (although the idea to use mustard came afterward; I added a spoonful of the onions I caramelized for the stuffed chicken), those orange peanut shrimp (with spinach thrown in to wilt this time, and extra sauce), chicken breasts stuffed with brie, caramelized onions and garlic (read: onions and garlic cooked in a pan until brown), and an easy lasagna made with layers of fresh ravioli, which I think I’ll make tomorrow, it looked so good. And for dessert, chocolate sorbet.
Maple Roast Pork Tenderloin with Apples
This made it onto the Epicurean menu – for which we fancied it up with mashed potatoes and parsnips (correction: puree of potatoes and parsnips with crème fraiche) and roasted tomatoes on the vine. But I suggest serving it on the couch in a wide, shallow bowl, over a big glop of mashed potatoes to catch all the drips.
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp. Dijon or grainy mustard
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 – 3/4 lb pork tenderloins
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. butter
2 of your favorite apples, cored and sliced
1 cup apple cider or juice, or more to taste
1 tsp. cornstarch
In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, mustard, rosemary, lemon juice, and soy sauce. Pour over the pork and marinate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
When you’re ready for dinner, preheat the oven to 400F. Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Remove the pork from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and brown the tenderloins on all sides, turning as necessary. This should take about 5 minutes.
Transfer the pork to a baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes. (If you have a meat thermometer, it should register 155°F/68°C). Transfer the pork to a cutting board, cover it with foil, and let it stand until you’re ready for it.
Meanwhile, add the butter to the skillet (don’t wash it out!) and sauté the apples for 5-7 minutes, until the apples are tender and golden. Transfer the apples to a plate. Add the marinade and apple cider to the pan and bring to a simmer, scraping up any flavourful browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Pour a small amount of the sauce (about 1/4 cup) into a small dish, whisk in the cornstarch until you get rid of all the lumps (this is called a slurry) and return the mixture to the pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Return the apples to the sauce along with any juices that have collected on the plate.
Slice the pork and serve it topped with the apples and sauce. Serves 4-6.