Category Archives: Pork Main Dishes

Raiding the Refrigerator: Italian Pork Loin with Fennel

Refrigerators, much like pantries can go from neat and current to “what is that?” very quickly. While I have been able to identify most everything currently dwelling within, there are a few items that have over stayed their welcome. A recent exploration resulted in a jar of Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and a bottle of Balsamic Vinaigrette. What can these two items have in common other than shelf life? My solution was to use each of them as a marinade, and here is how the story goes…

The pesto became the primary component of a wet rub for a small Pork Loin. I added fresh basil and some olive oil and gave it a quick whirl in the processor. Then I slathered the  mixture over the roast, gave it a plastic wrap blanket, and let it chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours. I’m guessing that this would work with Basil, Artichoke, or any other kind of pesto you may come across and it certainly wouldn’t be wrong to use you own homemade creation.

I admit that there are several bottles of salad dressing in my refrigerator, not that there’s anything wrong with that. They come in handy to top a quick-lunch salad and in this story they make an easy marinade. The veggies that I chose for this dish included a bulb of fennel, a bag of cipollini onions, and some colored baby bell peppers. Of course there was garlic…remember whose kitchen this is.These gathered together and marinated in a healthy dose of Balsamic vinaigrette. They then went into a baking dish where, after a short head start, they were topped with the pesto rubbed roast.Roughly 40 minutes later, the roast was roasted to  perfection and the vegetables were a lovely golden shade.Keeping with the Italian spirit, Polenta, laced with Romano Cheese and Rosemary joined the plate. (Click here to see an earlier polenta adventure.)

 

Print
Italian Pork Roast with Fennel
Servings: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 2-1/2 Lb. Pork Loin
  • 1/3 Cup Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Or pesto of your choice
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Bulb Fennel Cored and sliced
  • 4 Ounces Cipollini Onions Peeled and halved
  • 6 Ounces Baby Bell Peppers Cut in half
  • 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinaigrette
Instructions
  1. Combine the pesto, basil, and olive oil in a small processor until well blended. Spread this mixture on the pork loin and cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, even overnight if you have the time.

  2. Combine the fennel, onions, and peppers in a large bowl. Toss with the Vinaigrette, cover and marinate in the refrigerator along with the pork. 

  3. When you are ready to roast. preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Add the vegetables and about half of the salad dressing. Roast for 10 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften.

  4. Place the roast on top of the vegetables and return the dish to the oven. Roast for about 40 minutes to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Allow to rest before slicing.

  5. Serve the roast and vegetables on their own or add a starch of your choice. Polenta is very nice.

This was easy to prepare and very easy (and delicious) to eat. It turns out that pesto makes a very good marinade for meat and this story has a happy ending.

Let the Grilling (Season) Begin – Kale Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Here in the Midwest, we seem to finally be having Spring like weather, (with Memorial day just around the corner, it’s about time). Warmer weather lends itself to grilling. Lighter meals and less time spent in the kitchen are both good reasons to take the cooking outside. Even though we grill year round, there’s something special about cooking out in warmer weather. The fact that it is staying light longer makes lingering outdoors to enjoy the warmer temperatures a real pleasure. Plain and simple, grilling just seems like the right thing to do.

A recent outing featured the ever popular Pork Tenderloin. While this lean cut of meat can be easily decimated on the grill, a few carefully chosen steps can result in a juicy and tender piece of meat. I opted to use a stuffing to add moisture deep inside the pork. Then just to make sure that everything stayed juicy, I wrapped it in bacon. Yes folks, we had pork on pork goodness.

The stuffing was a simple blend of onions, garlic, and kale sautéed in olive oil that cooked down to caramelized deliciousness. A little salt and pepper was the only other addition. Once the tenderloin had been opened up, the filling went into every nook and cranny.IMG_1798How to securely enclose this lovely filling? There is always butcher’s twine, but since the little torpedo was going on the grill, something that could provide a bit of protection seemed like a better choice. Enter Thick Cut Peppered Bacon. I precooked it a little before inrobing the tenderloin. It rendered a bit of the fat and ensured both of the porks would be ready at the same time. Again, butcher’s twine could have and probably should have come into service. Instead I used toothpicks, eight to be exact. Knowing the exact number is actually pretty important; it prevents someone getting an unexpected surprise.IMG_1800Off to the grill it went. The wonderful thing about Pork Tenderloin is that it cooks very quickly making it a perfect weeknight meal. This was average size, weighing in at around a pound and it was ready in about 25 minutes. It rested for a few minutes while the rest of the dinner came together (in this case, steamed broccoli). IMG_1804Not to brag, but the slices looked beautiful. The filling created a perfect green bullseye on each slice.IMG_1807

The taste matched the visual appeal. The rich, slightly bitter kale was a perfect counterpoint to the smokey flavor that the pork received from the bacon. All things considered, this was an excellent use for the last of the kale I had on hand. It had lost some of its luster and there wasn’t enough to create a true dish, but as the star of this filling, it stood proud and I felt noble having saved it from the compost bin. Any vegetables that you have on hand would work in this filling, so use what you have. As with the filling, the outer wrap is subject to what you have on hand. Prosciutto or pancetta would be wonderful. 

Grilled Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Kale
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Grilled Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Kale
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium size skillet. Add the onions and toss to coat. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes.
  2. Add the kale and the garlic and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so. The kale should be wilted and somewhat tender and the onions and garlic should be golden.
  3. Add a little half and half to keep things moist and continue to cook until everything is very tender. Set aside
  4. If you choose to precook the bacon, lay the strips in a medium skillet and cook over low heat 5 -7 minutes until the bacon begins to render some fat. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels while you prepare the tenderloin.
  5. Trim any fat from the tenderloin. Using a sharp knife, cut along the length of the tenderloin so that it lays flat. Be careful not to cut all the way through. Set aside.
  6. Spoon the filling into the pork tenderloin stopping a bit short of the ends. Smooth the filling out stopping about 1/2 inch from the edges.
  7. Pull the cut edges together so that the filling is completely enclosed and the tenderloin is more or less back to its original shape.
  8. Wrap the bacon strips around the tenderloin covering it completely. Overlap the strips as necessary to create the coverage. Secure with tooth picks. Know how many you are putting in and make sure to take the same number out prior to serving.
  9. Place the tenderloin on a preheated grill and cook over medium high heat, turning as needed to brown and cook evenly, 20 - 25 minutes. Tenderloin is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees.
  10. Allow the tenderloin to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.
Share this Recipe
Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe

As we head into the first “Official” weekend of the summer, fire up those grills (if you haven’t already) and let you imagination run free. There should always be an affirmative answer to the question, “Can you grill it?”

Lovin’ From the Oven – Smothered Pork Chops

As you probably know, Mama D runs a pretty healthy kitchen. Fresh and light are terms often used in the posts that appear here. Every once in a while though, especially when the weather is getting chilly, she loosens her apron strings and goes for a little more gusto. Smothered Pork Chops from the oven is one such dish. It is a little richer than what I usually prepare, but it is lightened up in a few places as well. It’s the perfect weekend splurge that won’t break the calorie bank.

Pork is probably my favorite meat and pork chops are high on my list of favorite cuts. I wanted to see if I could come up with a different spin on this Southern favorite. I poked around the internet to get some background on this dish. Some called it Creole, some called it Soul Food, but everyone called it a comfort food staple. I kept some of the ingredients and a few of the techniques, but in the end it was a Mama D original.

It starts with thick center cut pork chops. Keep the bone in, the flavor it imparts is amazing. I skipped the dredge and seasoned the chops with Italian Herb Seasoning. I got a small cast iron skillet screaming hot and sprayed it lightly with Olive Oil Cooking Spray.IMG_0647 The chops got a quick sear before they took a seat on a nearby plate. I left all the wonderful bits and drippings in the pan and turned the heat to low before I added a bit of olive oil.IMG_0648 I added onions, leeks, and garlic and let them cook undisturbed for 5 minutes. I added a small pinch of salt and let them cook slowly for another 20 minutes giving them a stir every now and then.

Smothered Pork Chop Gravy can be anything from decadent and creamy to rich and savory. I opted to create a lighter sauce  without short-changing the flavor. The carmelized onion and garlic mixture was the perfect flavor base. A little Wondra Flour went in and cooked for a couple of minutes. Then I gradually added chicken broth and 1% milk and let it bubble into a beautiful thick sauce. I added some thyme sprigs while it was bubbling to give a delightful woodsy scent. Rosemary would also be wonderful as would any combination of woody herbs.IMG_0655

I added the chops back to the pan. The sauce almost covered the chops but I gave them a few turns to make sure every nook and cranny was coated. Some cracked black pepper went on the top before it headed into the oven to become a skillet full of golden love.IMG_0658The gravy was beyond fabulous. I even caught myself eating the leftover golden goodness out of the pan as I cleaned up. Gravy is meant to top something and the pork chops were delighted I chose them.

I rounded out the plate with some Polenta. I happened to have instant in the pantry so that;s what I used. I have to say I prefer the longer cooking variety as it has more texture, but this did fill in nicely. I added some sautéed spinach and garlic to the polenta as it was cooking. It made a wonderful side dish that also enjoyed a bit of gravy love.

IMG_0660

Smothered Pork Chops
Print Recipe
Servings
2
Servings
2
Smothered Pork Chops
Print Recipe
Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a small cast iron skillet over high heat. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning on both sides of the pork chops. Spray the skillet with the cooking spray. Add the pork chops and sear 3 minutes on each side. Remove the chops from the pan and set aside.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the olive oil to the skillet. Add the onions, leeks, and garlic to the skillet and cook undisturbed for 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and continue to cook slowly for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are golden brown.
  3. Add the flour to the skillet. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Slowly add the broth and milk stirring to keep everything smooth. Add the thyme sprigs and continue to cook until the gravy begins to thicken, 5 minutes or so.
  4. Return the chops to the pan and turn several times to coat them with the gravy. Top with a generous dose of cracked black pepper. Place the skillet in a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake 20 - 30 minutes until the are cooked. Remove the thyme stems. Allow to cool slightly before plating.
Spinach Polenta
  1. Saute 2 cups of chopped spinach in a little olive oil with a clove or two of minced garlic. Set Aside
  2. Cook 1/2 cup polenta according to the package directions using equal parts of milk and chicken broth. When the polenta is the consistency you like, add the spinach mixture, 1 small pat of butter, and a small handful of Romano cheese. Serve.
Share this Recipe
Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe

Mama D’s Fall Kitchen Adventures

There  is more than just a hint of fall in the air. Cool days and cooler breezes make it abundantly clear that the season has changed here. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m ready for Fall, at least I think I am. I enjoy the cooler days and the leaves changing colors. No longer having to rake them makes the whole process even more enjoyable. While I’m not anxious for Winter, I am ready for this change and the change in my cooking focus that it brings.

I want to share a few quick picks of what’s been happening in Mama D’s Kitchen. Many of these are Non-Recipe Recipes; that is they really are just musings on what’s in season and more importantly what’s in the house. So come join me as we a take a culinary walk back over the last couple of weeks.

I bought some Nan bread (the garlic variety) to go with a curry dish. The curry wound up being paired with some Brown Basmati Rice and the Nan was left to fend for itself. In case you’ve never thought of it, Nan makes a great quick pizza crust. It’s the perfect shape and size for personal pizza and works in the oven or on the grill.

I opted for a version of White Pizza using some of my Homemade Ricotta (thanks, Ina Garten) and Pesto. I mixed the two together to create the “sauce” I drizzled the Nan with some olive oil and toasted it in the oven briefly before adding said sauce. The toppings were Italian Sausage and Mini Heirloom Tomatoes both of which were on hand and waiting for their moment to shine. The cheese was a marinated mozzarella that was purchased on speculation, but perfectly suited to the pizza.2015-09-29 19.07.46 Once baked it was topped with some basil, olive oil, and served with baby greens dressed lightly with lemon juice and olive oil. Now, that was a delightful and very easy supper.2015-09-29 19.17.31

I found some lovely beets at the store and since they are one of Papa D’s favorites I had to bring some home. My preferred method of cooking is to roast them. This also is the most stain proof way, in my opinion. Wash them off and remove the greens leaving a little of the stem. Lay them on a couple of sheets of heavy foil, drizzle with a little olive oil and wrap them up tightly. Let them roast at 375 – 400 degrees until they are easily pierced with a knife and the kitchen has the earthy aroma of beets. This can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes depending on the beets.2015-09-27 19.45.11 Let them cool long enough to make them handle-able. I love beets, but beet red is not my color, so I opt to wear gloves to rub the skins off. If you enjoy red fingers go ahead and use bare hands and paper towels. Once peeled, I cut them into chunky chunks and dressed them lightly with a Balsamic Vinaigrette that was laced with some orange peel. Any dressing that you love would work here. I set them on top of some baby greens (left from guess what?) and garnished them with some goat cheese. Wonderful!2015-09-28 19.34.01

Finally I have to share another “Pork Love” dish, Stuffed Pork Chops. I have recently re-fallen in love with pork chops, particularly the thick cut, bone in, center variety. They are eating perfection. The thin ribbon of fat on the edge and the succulent bone along the side create a depth of flavor that is divine. They are wonderful simply prepared on the grill or in the oven, but I knew they were just begging to be stuffed.

This stuffing was inspired by what I had on hand and included some frozen chopped spinach, red bell peppers, and whole grain bread. Honestly anything could go into the stuffing. Leave out the bread and go all veggie, or use rice, quinoa or any other grain you have within easy reach. I started my stuffing with onion and garlic that I sautéed in a little olive oil (Is there any other way to begin?). The spinach and bell pepper jumped in and got very friendly with them. I put the bread in the toaster and then crumbled it into the veggies. I added a little chicken stock to moisten everything and packed it generously, albeit lightly, into the pockets that I had cut. I added a little wine to the pan and salt and pepper to the chops. For a crowning flavor boost I topped them with some sliced onions.2015-09-28 18.42.53

I let them bake covered for 20 minutes or so then I lifted their foil blanket and let them roast another few minutes to get lightly golden. I opted for 350 degrees because that seemed right. Baking time depends on the thickness of the chops and what’s inside…use your best guess, but do not overcook them.2015-09-28 19.38.31

The chops were scrumptious; moist and tender and positively dripping with flavor. I’ve started a mental list of what to add the next time; herbs, sausage, cheese, the ideas are endless.

So there you have it, three quick and easy kitchen adventures. Now it’s your turn to take my ideas and run with them.

 

Pork Tenderloin A La Boulangere…and Other Words of (Pork) Love

When I was growing up, my mother would cook Pork Tenderloin often. It was the 50’s and she would get it from the butcher at the Bonnie Bee. He did all the work of pounding it into thin cutlets. She took these lovely slices home and dredged them in flour seasoned with Lawry’s Salt. Fried in Crisco, in her electric fry pan, and usually served with mashed potatoes, it was heaven on a plate. That was then…this is now. My approach is lighter and healthier but, the result is still heaven on a plate.DIGITAL CAMERA

Why do I Love Pork Tenderloin?                                                                                                                     It is just the right size: Weighing in at right around one pound it is the perfect size for two people with enough leftover to make a fabulous lunch the next day.                                    It is relatively cheap: the going rate around here is somewhere around $3.00 to $4.00 per pound. That’s cheap for 2+ servings of deliciousness in my book.                                                     It is lean: cuddled deep inside the loin, it has little visible fat and is as tender as pork comes.

DIGITAL CAMERAIt is a perfect blank canvas: it loves rubs and marinades,DIGITAL CAMERAand it can be grilled, roasted or sautéed.DIGITAL CAMERAWith a little patience, you can even stuff it.DIGITAL CAMERA

I think my favorite preparation however, is cooking this lovely little morsel whole. And I’m torn as to whether I like it better roasted or grilled. So, I’m sharing recipes for pork tenderloin both ways. The grilled version is more of a guideline than a formal recipe. The oven recipe is more specific and features smokey bacon that adds tons of flavor as well as an insulating robe of moistness.DIGITAL CAMERA The grilled version gets flavor from, well, the grill, and retains its juciness with careful supervision ( a little olive oil helps, too).DIGITAL CAMERANow, back to the roasted tenderloin. The inspiration for this recipe came from my Doubleday Cookbook. I’ve shared my long-term love affair with this two-volume gem before. It is still one of the best cookbooks I’ve ever used. The recipe is Roast Pork A La Boulangere;  potatoes, onions and pork prepared as a French baker’s wife would do it. This is usually done with a bone-in pork loin roast that results in succulent meat served with potatoes and onions that have roasted in the pork fat and juices. It is comfort food on steroids and probably not the healthiest of meals, but it is wonderful.

Substituting the pork tenderloin reduces the fat and cooking time tremendously. Yes, there is bacon, but it’s only two slices and the flavor they give to everything is more than worth the indulgence. Pork tenderloin cooks very quickly, 20 to 30 minutes in a hot oven is all it takes. The potatoes and onions take longer than that, so I gave them a head start. Salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil was all that I added. DIGITAL CAMERAI let them roast for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. While that was happening, I spread some Dijon mustard on all the sides of the pork. I wrapped the bacon around the little torpedo, securing the strips with toothpicks. Some freshly ground pepper and it was ready to sit high atop the partially cooked potatoes.DIGITAL CAMERAIt only took 25 minutes for the pork to cook. I strongly recommend using a meat thermometer. Current guidelines recommend an internal temperature of 145 degrees. This results in juicy slices with just a hint of pink.DIGITAL CAMERA

Pork Tenderloin A La Boulangere
Print Recipe
Servings
2
Servings
2
Pork Tenderloin A La Boulangere
Print Recipe
Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a baking pan with cooking spray. Combine the sliced potatoes, onions, and garlic in the pan. Add the olive oil and toss to coat. Add 1 teaspoon of coarsely ground pepper and a pinch of salt. Roast for 30 minutes.
  2. While the potatoes roast, prepare the pork. Lay the bacon strips crosswise on a cutting board. Brush a little of the mustard down the center of the bacon. Brush mustard on one side of the pork. Lay the pork in the center of the bacon mustard side down.
  3. Brush the remaining mustard on all the other sides of the pork. Wrap the bacon around the pork at a slight diagonal. Fasten with toothpicks. Sprinkle the remaining pepper on all sides of the pork/bacon bundle.
  4. Remove the pan from the oven. Place the pork on top of the potatoes and return it to the oven and roast for about 20 -25 minutes.
  5. Check for doneness with a meat thermometer after 20 minutes. The internal temperature should be 145 degrees. Continue to roast, checking often for the correct internal temperature.
  6. When the meat is cooked, remove the pan from the oven. Transfer the pork to a warm platter, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 - 15 minutes.
  7. Remove the foil and cut into thick slices. Serve with the potatoes and onions.
Share this Recipe
Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe

While the roasted version is richly delicious,the grilled version has just as much to offer. As I’ve said, this blank canvas takes to anything you want to put it in or coat it with. This is a non-recipe, recipe. I’ve slathered it in mustard, soaked it in teriyaki, rubbed it with spices and tied it with herbs. These are suggestions that you can use to create your own pork love. Any marinade that strikes your fancy will work. The same goes for herbs, spices, and wet rubs, too.

A word of warning here: Pork tenderloin is very lean. Read that to mean it can go from wonderful to burnt and dry in a matter of minutes. Once the meat is on the grill, designate a responsible guardian. For even cooking and browning, turn every 4 or 5 minutes and move it around as needed. Keep that meat thermometer handy and check for the magic 145 degrees at the 20 minute mark. Continue to turn and check until that temperature is reached. Bring the pork in and allow it to rest before slicing. Partner it with any sides of your choice and enjoy the love.

DIGITAL CAMERAI keep a small stash of these little bundles of joy in my freezer. Every time I cook one it is a new adventure. There are so many directions to take this delight in that I know I’ll be sharing for a long time to come. I hope that you will, too.