Shelter in Sourdough

With everyone locked-in at home for COVID-19 mitigation, it appears many are baking. I can’t find flour at the grocery story and I’ve read that the yeast supply chain is flattened. Fortunately, I still have yeast. Now, folks are getting into sourdough. I spent the first two years after my son’s birth making sourdough bread every week. Below I share some of my discoveries. I blogged the experience in excruciating details over on Tumbler if you want to dig in.

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Pork Tenderloin and Roasted Vegetables

This is a simple, rustic, Pork-and-Vegetables dish that’s pretty easy to make. It’s done in about an hour but takes only 20 minutes or so of prep/work time. I made this up based on what I thought was a recipe in Pork and Sons, but it’s not there. To me, though, it’s kind of the quintessential recipes for that book. The first time I made this I declared it, “the best pork I’ve ever cooked.” Which is not something I say lightly.

Rustic Pork and Vegetables

One pork tenderloin (about 1-⅓ to 1-½ pounds)
6″ sprig of rosemary
4-6 sage leaves
12 juniper berries
Salt and pepper
One small onion, cut into eight wedges
Four small, red potatoes, quartered
Four roma tomatoes, halved
Four cloves garlic, skins on
3 Tbsp olive oil

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Take a third of the rosemary leaves, four juniper berries, and a pinch of salt and pepper and grind them in a mortar and pestle. Rub this on all sides of the tenderloin and set aside to rest.

Prep the vegetables and put them into a 9×13 baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining rosemary leaves and juniper berries, the sage leaves, and some salt and pepper over them. Drizzle with the olive oil. When the oven is hot, place the pan of vegetables in the oven to roast.

After about 40 minutes, put a cast iron pan on high heat on the stove top. When it’s good and hot sear the tenderloin for about 2 minutes on each side. Place the tenderloin in the pan of vegetables in the oven to finish. It should be done in 10-20 minutes, depending on thickness and how done you want it.

I’d serve this with a Burgundy or Côtes du Rhône.

Fire-roasted Vegetables with Polenta Timbales

Flipping through Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers cookbook, I was inspired by the prep photo for one of her meals. It showed roasted garlic, peppers and tomatoes. In her recipe those are pureed and poured over pasta, but I wanted to eat them whole (or nearly). And it seemed polenta would be the perfect accompaniment.

Serves two to three.

For the polenta timbales

4 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup dried polenta cornmeal
1 tbsp butter
1 ounce shredded medium cheddar

Bring the water to a boil in a heavy 3 quart pot. Immediately turn the heat down to medium, add the salt and then slowly pour in the polenta whisking while you pour. Continue to stir for a few minutes until the polenta thickens. Turn the heat to low and continue cooking for 40-45 minutes, stirring frequently and adding water if it becomes to thick.

Just before serving, add the butter and stir when melted. Then add the shredded cheese and stir in until combined. Adjust seasoning.

Scoop the polenta into small ramekins or bowls, about 1-1/2 cups per person. Invert the bowls on the center of the serving plates. You can leave the bowls on while you plate the rest of the food.

For the fire-roasted vegetables

4 Roma tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic, skin left on
1 tbsp olive oil
3 dried Guajillo chiles
1 dried ancho chile
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped celery
1 avocado
Sour cream
2 tbsp parsley, roughly chopped

Place the tomatoes and garlic in a cast iron skillet, drizzle with olive oil. Roll the garlic and tomatoes in the oil in the pan coating all sides. Place the skillet under the broiler and broil on high for 20-30 minutes, rotating the tomatoes and garlic as they roast. Remove the garlic from the plan as when it’s blackened on all sides. Continue roasting the tomates until blistered and slightly blackened. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, hold the chiles over a a flame with tongs and lightly toast each side, approximately 30 seconds. Extinguish them immediately if they catch fire. Place them into a small dish with a little bit of hot water to soften and let sit.

Place the same skillet on the stovetop on low and add the onion and celery and a little more oil if needed. Saute on low until the the onions and celery are softened.

Take one roasted tomato, one roasted Guajillo chile and place in a blender. Squeeze the garlic out of the skin and add to the blender. If any liquid has collected from the reserved tomatoes add this to the blender as well. Pulse and then puree until smooth. Pour this into the pan with onions and celery and heat to combine.

Slice the remaining tomatoes in half placing them cut side down around the polenta timbale on the plates. Pour the sauce over and between them. Trim the top of the chiles, pour out the seeds and then thinly slice them. Distribute the softest rings around the plate. Place dabs of sour cream around the plate. Gently tap and shake the timbales out of the bowls. Place two or three slices of avocado against the timbale and sprinkle the whole plate with parsley.

Braised pulled pork in the crock pot

We met some friends for brunch a few weeks ago at the Phinney Market. L ordered the corned beef hash and was raving about it. I’m not a big fan of corned beef but when I tasted it, it’s the best corned beef I’ve ever had. I immediately recognized the secret to the flavor: it was slow-cooked in a red-wine braise.

Cuing off of this, earlier this week, we wanted to make pulled pork in the slow cooker. So I took a page from Julia Child (ok, I left the page in the cookbook, but read from it), and adapted her recipe for braised red cabbage that I had tried a few month previous.

1 lb. pork loin roast
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
1 apple, cored and sliced
2 cups hearty, red wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
3 cloves
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste

Place roast into the crock pot, add wine and stock, then the rest of the ingredients. Simmer on high for four hours or until the pork falls apart with a fork. Remove pork from the pot, straining the broth (can save for another purpose if you want). Serve with red cabbage slaw.

Enchiladas a Hundred Ways: Recipe 1

I have been making enchiladas for years and enjoy it. It’s always a favorite, but the irony is that my “world renowned enchiladas” change with each time I make it. Some are green, most are red. Some are vegetarian, often they have chicken. So, here’s the start of cataloging of all my variations.

This is Kale Enchiladas in Green Sauce. This recipe is vegetarian.

The Upshot

Lots of autumn in this recipe. It’s hearty and flavorful. The sauce came out somewhat thick, so I added about 2 Tblsp of water per cup of sauce as I used it both for heating tortillas and covering the dish.

The Recipe

¾ pound tomatillos (about a dozen medium ones)
4 mild green Anaheim peppers
3 spicy green Serano peppers
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 medium shallot
1/3 cup cilantro
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large bundle kale (about 1 pound), chiffonade
½ pound Colby-Jack cheese
12-14 corn tortillas

Preheat the oven to 350°.

To make the sauce, blanch tomatillos in boiling water, about 5 minutes, until green but don’t let them lose color. Put into a food processor with peppers, garlic, oil, onion, shallot, cilantro and spices. Process until smooth.

For the filling, saute the onion in a large pan over low heat until translucent. Add garlic and cover the pan; let cook for about 30 seconds, or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the kale, cover and cook until the kale it reduced to about 1/3 original size. Let cool.

In a small sauce pan, about the diameter of your tortillas, heat the sauce a cup at a time, or enough to fill the pan to one inch. Keep the flame low and bring it up to warm, but below a simmer (you don’t want to burn your fingers). Place a tortilla in the pan, buried in the sauce and let cook for a couple minutes. You want the tortilla to soften enough to roll, but not so much that it falls apart. (Fortunately, tortillas come in packs of 24 or 30 or 100.) When the tortilla is soft, remove from pan and place into a 9×13 baking dish. Immediately start another tortilla in the pan. Place a generous handful of kale filling in the middle of the tortilla, spread into a line from one side to another (make sure you get some onions in each). Add a small pinch of cheese. Roll the tortilla until it’s wrapped itself and push to the edge of the pan.

Repeat this with the next tortilla, pushing up against the one previous one in the pan. My preferred pan fits two rows of 6 tortillas perfectly. Feel free to move and adjust the tortillas to get as many enchiladas in the baking dish as you can.

When the baking dish in packed, pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas, being sure to cover the edges. The tortilla edges that are rolled to the top may burn or dry out when cooked if they don’t have some sauce on them. Spread the rest of the cheese on top, adding more if desired.

Put the enchiladas in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. The cheese should be melted, the filling should be hot, but you don’t want to dry them out.

Serves 6.

Pulled Pork a Hundred Ways: Recipe 1

I have made pulled pork a few times; usually with a slow cooker and barbecue sauce. It works, but I wanted something better; and something that I can call my own recipe. I thought I’d try a number of different approaches and keep track of what I put in each time and how it tasted. So here’s the inaugural attempt. I don’t own a smoker, so this is (and likely all future attempts will be) a braised pork recipe with BBQ sauce.

The Up-shot

This was not my best pulled pork. It ended up good, but not mouthwatering and, honestly, a little dry.

The pork loin roast I used was two pieces, which helped keep the lard and pork fat hot enough to brown. However, it was trimmed almost to no fat. I think extra fat would have helped the flavor. I browned the fatty side first to render off more fat for browning. If the roast had not already been trimmed I would have just trimmed it myself and used the fat for browning, rather than lard.

Next attempt, I might try brining the roast first. Either by patting with salt and letting it sit at room temperature for an hour, soaking in a brine in the fridge over night (then reducing the amount of liquid in the sauce) or dry-rubbing with some of the spices and salt and letting it refrigerate over night.

I also found the sauce had pretty much lost all character. I think adding something like beer, wine or vinegar during reduction would brighten it up. Of course, this isn’t a very sweet sauce; so perhaps some brown sugar would make it more enjoyable.

The Recipe

2 tablespoons lard
1 boneless, lean pork loin roast (3½ pounds), in two pieces

½ cup onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cup Jack Daniels whiskey
½ cup apple cider vinegar
juice of ½ lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 teaspoon fennel seed, whole
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, whole
1 teaspoon peppercorns, whole
1 tablespoon paprika
½ teaspoon dried mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water
1-½ teaspoons salt
½ medium tomato

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Heat a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the lard and melt until clear, but not smoking.

Brown each pork roast piece individually on all sides starting with the fatty side. Remove and set aside as pieces are browned.

Lower the heat on the fat and add onions, stirring until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Pour Jack Daniels into the pan and deglaze, being careful to keep the temperature low enough not to boil. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients except a ½ teaspoon salt and the tomato and stir. Cover the casserole, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Immediately add the roast pieces, fat side up, and keep over medium heat until the liquid is simmering.

Transfer the covered casserole to the oven and cook until the roast can be pulled apart with a fork, about two hours, turning meat halfway through cooking.

Remove the pork to a bowl. Strain the sauce, reserving the liquid to cool. Add the solids, a little liquid, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and the half tomato to a blender and blend until smooth.

Using a pair of forks, split the pork into strands.

When the broth has cooled, skim fat off the top.

Bring the broth to a simmer, whisk in the puree from the blender and simmer until reduced to half the volume. Pour this sauce into the pork and mix thoroughly. Continue to mix, periodically, until you serve to ensure that the pork absorbs as much of the liquid as possible.

Rhubarb Vodka

We have have some rhubarb in the garden that’s been growing for a few years. This year I was brainstorming ideas of what to do with it (besides pie, crisp, cobbler and compote) and thought, What if I infuse some vodka? After all, the rhubarb Dry Soda is pretty good. Wouldn’t that make a nice flavor for cocktails.

I’m not the first to think of this, and found lots of people’s recipes to follow. One suggested making a compote and then infusing vodka with that, but I didn’t like the idea of adding all that sugar. Most others just stuck the rhubarb in the vodka and infused it for a day or a week. I thought I’d run an experiment and take tasting notes as it infused.

I started with one large stalk of rhubarb, well cleaned, and a fifth of Stoli. I put this all in a Ball jar and let it sit.

Day 1 Uck. Super sour and sort of ‘green’. A very light hint of rhubarb and a strong ‘hint’ of the alcohol. Granted I wouldn’t normally taste Stoli straight. On ice it wasn’t much better.

Day 2 Still really sour. Concerned that this may not be something that anyone wants to drink. Did I waste a bottle of vodka?

Day 3 Hmm. Well, it’s not as sour, so I have hope. I can start to taste the rhubarb-ness and not so much the vodka-ness. On ice, helps mellow the vodka some.

Day 4 Now we’re talking. Tastes like rhubarb pie. Rich and somewhat sweet rhubarb flavor. Still sour, but that rhubarb-y sweetness without the sugar. Mixed one-to-one with vanilla vodka (had to find some way to use that up) and topped with soda over ice. Now that’s a yummy pie-like summer cocktail. Great for a picnic dinner in the garden.

Day 5 Much like yesterday — rhubarb pie. Yeah, it’s sour, but in a good way. I think it’s time to decant this, put it in a nice clean bottle and make a label for it.