Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A good reason to cook

I love to cook, but only because I can more or less do it when I want to.

We're not one of those families that sits down to a family dinner every night. In fact, we forage more often than we cook. With all my travel and our busy schedules, preparing meals is a heck of a lot of work, and sometimes I just don't have the energy. Jami's already told you she doesn't like to cook, so if we're cooking, it falls on me (she handles cleanup duty, which, given the way I cook, is much more work than the actual preparation of the meal.)

One nice thing about this blog, though, is it gives me another reason to cook.

We were exhausted after our Saturday supper club party (more on that in an upcoming post). We didn't stop partying until about 2:30 a.m. Sunday, which is very late for us, so I was surprised I still felt like cooking on Sunday.

The menu: Goat Cheese Salad With Pancetta, Dried Cherry and Port Dressing, Honey-Marinated Pork With Gremolata and Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges With Smoked Chile Cream.

The recipes, all from Bon Appétit (epicurious.com), are included below, but here's a quick summary.

Honey-Marinated Pork With Gremolata: There are a lot of mediocre pork tenderloin recipes out there, and this one fits right into that category. I was optimistic about the honey marinade. Pork tenderloin can sometimes come across as too salty, and I was hoping the honey would offset the natural saltiness, but it actually imparted very little flavor to the pork, and the resulting pan sauces were uninspiring. Jami concurred. She admits she's not a big fan of pork tenderloin anyway, and this recipe didn't do anything to change her opinion. Life's too short to make mediocre recipes, so this one goes in the hopper.

Goat Cheese Salad With Pancetta, Dried Cherry and Port Dressing: This recipe seemed to have a lot of promise, and I thought for sure it would be brimming with flavor. Instead, it was a lot of work with very little payoff. The dressing includes 5 ounces of pancetta, which is enough for a sandwich. It was way too much for the amount of dressing produced. Same with the amount of shallots. If you want to try this one, cut back on the shallots by half and only use about 2 ounces of pancetta. Instead of mixed greens, I used baby spinach because Jami loves it, but ultimately, this recipe was too much work for the reward.

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges With Smoked Chile Cream: The one bright spot of the meal was the roasted sweet potatoes. I'm not a huge sweet potato fan, but I'm finding that roasting is my preparation method of choice for vegetables. Toss the veggies with a little olive oil, kosher salt and pepper, and throw it in a hot oven, and most likely, the results are going to be good (if you haven't tried that with asparagus, you're really missing out). Sweet potatoes are perfect for roasting. The tart lime juice in the Smoked Chile Cream offers an excellent contrast to the sweetness of the potatoes. If you're worried that 2 teaspoons of Chipotle hot pepper sauce will make the cream too hot, don't. The sour cream softens it so that there is only a hint of heat. My personal Scoville scale, Jami, didn't think it was hot, so that should be all the proof you need. One final note on this keeper of a recipe - those sweet potato wedges make great leftovers, whether heated up or cold.

Here are recipes if you want to try them.

Goat Cheese Salad With Pancetta,
Dried Cherry and Port Dressing


  • 1 1/4 cups dried tart cherries
  • 1/2 cup tawny Port
  • 5 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 5.5-ounce log soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet), cut into 1/2-inch-thick slice
  • 1 5-ounce bag mixed salad greens
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted


Combine cherries and Port in heavy small saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat; let stand until cherries swell, about 15 minutes. Sauté pancetta in heavy large skillet over medium-low heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Add shallots and garlic; cook 2 minutes. Add oil

, then vinegar and sugar; stir until sugar dissolves. Stir in cherry mixture. Season with salt and pepper. (Dressing can be made 2 hours ahead. Set aside in skillet at room temperature.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place goat cheese slices on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until warm, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine salad greens and pine nuts in bowl. Rewarm dressing and pour over salad; toss to blend. Top with warm goat cheese and serve.

Honey-Marinated Pork with Gremolata


  • 2 12-to 14-ounce pork tenderloins, trimmed
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage


Place pork in 11 x 7 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Whisk honey, garlic, and orange juice in small bowl. Pour over pork; turn to coat. Sprinkle pork with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Transfer pork to plate; reserve marinade. Heat oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork to skillet. Brown on all sides, turning often, about 4 minutes. Transfer to oven; cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 150°F, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to cutting board; let rest 5 minutes. Reserve skillet.

Pour reserved marinade into same skillet; add wine. Boil gently until reduced to 1/2 cup, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Mix orange peel, thyme, rosemary, and sage in small bowl for gremolata. Cut pork crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices; transfer to platter. Pour sauce over pork. Sprinkle with gremolata and serve.

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges
With Smoked Chile Cream


  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion tops (dark green parts), divided
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle hot pepper sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 pounds medium red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), scrubbed, cut lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide wedges with skin
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin


Whisk sour cream, 1 tablespoon green onion tops, chipotle hot sauce, and lime juice in small bowl. Cover and chill. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 425°F. Combine sweet potato wedges, oil, and cumin in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Arrange potato wedges, cut side down, on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Roast until tender and browned in spots, about 20 minutes, reversing pans halfway through roasting. DO AHEAD: Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in 425°F oven until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place potato wedges on large platter. Drizzle smoked chile cream over. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons green onion tops and serve.

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