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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Pork Tenderloin with Grapes on the Grill

Getting away from the "same old, same old" could be the title of this post as well.  For most of us, we make the same stuff, the same way, from rote memory.  Why?  Well, it is probably a combination of a few reasons: quick, easy, cheap, we like the recipe, yada, yada, yada...  But, it can get tired and boring.  There are only so many ways you can marinade, season, and cook the same piece of meat.  I had a pork tenderloin, green seedless grapes, and Hope was out of the house for the evening.  Hope is always supportive of my experimentation.  I would say my success rate runs about 75%.  But, I have learned what she likes and therefore, my boundaries are defined.  On this evening though, the kitchen was all mine.

After going out and lighting a chimney of charcoal for the Weber kettle, I came inside and started my preparations.  I removed about four cups of green seedless grapes from their stems and placed them in a bowl.  To the grapes I added the following:

2 Tbsp of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp kosher salt
A generous grinding of black pepper

I mixed it all up, set it aside, and turned my attention to the pork tenderloin.  

I lightly massaged some olive oil into the tenderloin and seasoned with salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme.  I grabbed my #12 Griswold cast iron skillet and placed the tenderloin in the middle.  Then, I took my grape mixture and placed it in the skillet on either side of the pork.  

Next, I went outside and spread my burning coals along one side of my Weber kettle and added one piece of apple wood for some smoke flavor.  Once the apple wood was burning, I placed the skillet on the grill grate opposite of the burning wood and coals, put the lid in place, and walked away.  

After 30 minutes, I came back and rotated the skillet 180 degrees so that the grapes on the other side of the pork had an opportunity to caramelize and roast.  

I put the lid back in place and walked away for 30 more minutes.  After a total cook time of one hour, I grabbed my skillet and brought it inside.  I covered loosely with foil and let the whole mix rest for ten minutes.  

The smell was outstanding.  It was hard to wait for the entire ten minute rest.  But, after exactly ten minutes, I removed the pork from the skillet and sliced.  

I usually try and cook my pork tenderloins to an internal temperature of 145-150 F for something that is a hair past medium.  This one made it to 160 F.  But, it did not suffer.  Cooking in the pan with the grape juices kept the meat nice and juicy.  I served the pork and grapes with a side of rice pilaf.  

Final verdict?  The pork was tender and moist.  Just a hint of grape flavor.  The grapes though, wow.  Sweet, savory, slightly caramelized.  The grapes and onions soaked up the pork juices.  Good, very good.  Some things that I will try next time:

Direct heat and less cooking time.  Hopefully this will put more caramelization on the grapes.

More onion and garlic.  This mix was good.  A little more will be better.

The pan sauce created from the pork and grape juices was outstanding.  Perhaps some mashed potatoes on the side as a carrier for this sauce.  

Finally, maybe a splash or two of white wine is in order when mixing the grape mixture.  

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Pulled Bacon Potato Chowder

I was rummaging though the Ice Cave a few weeks ago.  You know, the never ending battle with trying to keep your freezer neat and orderly.  As I was rotating older inventory I stumbled upon a package of the pulled bacon I made with a pork butt earlier in the year.  It was time to make something with the pouch of frozen bacony goodness I was holding in my hand.

As I went upstairs, I started scouring through the pantry and a plan came together.  Bacon, potatoes, chicken broth.  Potato chowder it is.

I have this Chicken Corn Chowder recipe that I have made for years.  The original recipe is from Cooking Light.  But, I have modified it so much, I use it as my own.  I also borrow a bit from my mothers old Potato Soup recipe.  Here is what I did for this particular batch.

Pulled Bacon Potato Chowder

1 lb of Pulled Bacon.  Recipe and method in the link above.  You could substitute store bought with the fat drained from the cooked bacon.
6 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 ribs of Celery, diced
2 Carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium Sweet Onion, roughly diced
4 cloves of Garlic, minced
1 tsp of dried Tarragon
1 tsp of dried Parsley
A drizzle of oil for sautéing
8 cups of Chicken Broth.  I make my own and skim the fat off.
1/2 cup light Half and Half.  You could grab the brass ring and use Heavy Cream.
Salt and Pepper to taste.

First, I roughly minced the pulled bacon to eliminate any large chunks.  Then, I took my 8 quart dutch oven and put a very small amount of olive oil in the bottom and heated to a medium high heat.  I added the oil only because the pulled bacon has a very low fat content.  I didn't want it to burn before I loosened up what fat remained.  Once the bacon was sauteing nicely, I added parsley and tarragon along with the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic mixture.  I sautéed for about 10 minutes on medium high heat until the veggies where just past tender crisp.

Then, I added the chicken broth and potatoes, and brought the mixture to a boil.  Once boiling, I lowered the heat and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes.

At the end of the simmer, I added the 1/2 cup of half and half, then I took my stick blender and pureed the mixture until about 1/3 of the mixture was smooth.  I tasted the soup and added salt and pepper to taste.  Then, I let the soup simmer for about 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Done.  I ladled into soup bowls.  I topped mine with some shredded CoJack cheese.  Hope did the same and added a dollop of sour cream as well.

This chowder had smoky bacon in every bite, but it was not overpowering.  Pureeing the soup added a creamy component that made up for the light half and half.  This chowder was good food.  The best part was flooding the lunch room at work the next day with the smell of smoked bacon while reheating.  I always get in trouble when I do that because I never bring samples...

Thanks for stopping by,