Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I made beer braised pork loin

So yesterday I got it into my head that I wanted to make some kind of slow-roasted meat. I looked around online today and settled on this recipe:

It was the simplest recipe of all the ones I looked at, and involved cooking with beer, which I've never done before. So I bought a 2.5 lb pork loin at the grocery store, which was the largest they had (and more than enough for 2 people. I have leftovers for 2 days).

This is how I did it:
1 (2-3 pound) Pork Loin Roast
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
2 medium Onions, diced
2 (15 ounce) cans or bottles Guinness Stout or Dark Beer

I seasoned the pork with salt and pepper, then browned it on the stove in the vegetable oil. Once that was browned on all four sides (took about 15 minutes) I set it aside on a plate. Then I threw two small diced onions into the pot and sauteed them til they were soft, about 10 minutes. Then I put the loin back in the pot with the onions, poured two 15 ounce cans of Guinness around it, covered it, and brought it to a boil. Once it began to boil I turned it down to low and simmered it for about an hour. In the end I overcooked the pork slightly. By the time I checked the temperature it was 160 degrees. I read in my "Cooking Meat" cookbook that I should have taken it out of the pot at about 145-147 degrees as the meat will raise to about 155 once its resting. It was a tad on the dry side, but still very good.

I also made mashed potatoes and oven roasted carrots and turnips. After I took the loin out of the pot, I put it on a cutting board and tented it with aluminum foil. As I cooked the vegetables I brought the beer and onion broth up to a boil and let it slowly cook down. I didn't have the patience to make an actual reduction sauce or gravy at this point (I'd been in the kitchen for about 2 hours), but the broth and onions was still tasty spooned over the potatoes and meat.

The carrots and turnips I coated in oil and salt and pepper and baked on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. For the mashed potatoes I used 6 while potatoes, a healthy amount of butter, and hot milk. There's nothing worse than luke warm mashed potatoes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I made Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho!

Alison was having a dinner party last Saturday and I was trying to figure out what to bring. Something tasty, easy to transport, and seasonal, I thought to myself. Then I realized that I had been excited to make gazpacho all summer long but had never found the time. Well, the time has come, I thought to myself again.

I decided to go with a traditional gazpacho and followed this recipe exactly. It was so easy!!

Classic Andalusian Gazpacho
Adapted from El Faro, Cádiz, Spain

1 (2-inch-long) piece baguette, crust discarded
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar (preferably "reserva"), or to taste - (I did not use "Reserva" vinegar, wouldn't sweat it.)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional) - I say go for it.
2 1/2 lb ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered (As you can see I used 4 large heirloom tomatoes and one smaller guy.)
1/2 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil (preferably Andalusian hojiblanca) - Again, just used my standard olive oil. Why not?

Garnish: Finely chopped red and green bell pepper (I also used Persian cucumber and a bit of jalapeno. I think some very finely chopped red onion could be good too.)


Soak bread in 1/2 cup water 1 minute, then squeeze dry, discarding soaking water.

Mash garlic to a paste with salt using a mortar and pestle (or mince and mash with a large knife).

My attempt at making the paste with a knife. Five minutes after I finished, I found a mortar and pestle in my cabinet that I had no idea existed. Ah well. Next time I guess. It would definitely be easier that way.

Blend garlic paste, bread, 2 tablespoons vinegar, sugar, cumin, and half of tomatoes in a food processor (I used the trusty HAND BLENDER!) until tomatoes are very finely chopped.

The first batch, waiting to be blended.

Add remaining tomatoes with motor running and, when very finely chopped, gradually add oil in a slow stream, blending until as smooth as possible, about 1 minute. Throwing that yellow tomato into the mix made the soup a crazy orange color!

Force soup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing firmly on solids. Discard solids.

Look at all the seeds and peels I strained out!

Strained soup, ready to chill.

Transfer to a glass container and chill, covered, until cold, about 3 hours. Season with salt and vinegar before serving.

Gazpacho to go!

I don't have any photos of the final product, but we served the soup in little ceramic mugs with some of the garnish on top, and it looked pretty cute. I was really proud of this soup. The tomatoes were so flavorful, and the soup tasted fresh and bright. Straining it makes the texture so smooth and creamy and it actually feels a little bit fancy, even though it is really simple. I want to make it over and over while there are still delicious tomatoes to be found. You should too.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I made Blueberry Boy Bait!

This is a dessert I made last week when I got together with Hillary, Alena, and Monique for Burrito Friday. It's a funny name for a cake, and no, I haven't caught any boys with it. Yet. If something WERE to lure boys in however, it might be this cake. It's VERY tasty, and surprisingly light given the two sticks of butter in it. I found the recipe, unsurprisingly, on Smitten Kitchen, and she got it from Cook's Country. The original recipe was actually created by a 15 year old girl in 1954 for the Pillsbury Bake Off. All in all, an excellent dessert and also good as breakfast the next day. My notes are in bold below.

Serves 12, generously

2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour (I swapped out 1/2 cup of the regular flour for whole wheat -- makes it healthy!)
1 tablespoon baking powder (I thought this seemed like a lot, but it worked out fine)
1 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (though buttermilk, which was all I had on hand, worked just great) I used buttermilk as well!
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first as it tends to muddle in the batter)

1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (nutmeg might also be a nice addition)

The Bait! Cut and ready for friends to enjoy.

For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.

For the topping:
Scatter blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up). Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)