Friday, July 8, 2011

Government Pork... Not as Palatable as Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

In the last 3-4 years we've heard a lot about 'pork' in the government. Pork, properly known as earmarked appropriations has been a favorite subject of ridicule from the right. If you become (as I hope you will) an avid reader of this blog, you'll hear me talk at length about what I find to be one of the most insurmountable problems for liberals. Namely, that most Americans prefer to receive their information and form their opinions based simplified concepts. For this reason, 'pork' is the perfect target because it is so easy to spin as excessive, secretive government spending. In truth, it is not only a drop in the bucket in discretionary spending, but it has the potential to be the MOST transparent of the appropriations. Some offices (the commendable ones) have posted their earmark applications online, and requested that those organizations and municipalities requesting earmarks, record a short video explaining it's impact to the community which is also posted on the web. If the goal therefore, is for so-called 'transparency', earmarks should be held up as a demonstration of citizens, local governments, and organizations working together with their Members of Congress to direct government spending in the most appropriate way.

Far be it from my to expound on earmarking and appropriations procedure-- I leave that to you to read about if you haven't already. Suffice it to say that the argument over 'pork' is just another in a long series of misguided attempts on the part of the right to oversimplify the work of American government in an attempt to drag arguments down to such intellectually low level that only the most outrageous assumptions can prevail.

All this is to say that today's assertion is that Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Dried Fruit and Herbs, unlike government 'pork', is probably something we can all agree on.

Last night I embarked on the first of three Intermediate/Advanced level culinary courses at the Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, Maryland. I won't go into detail about the school itself or my review of their courses yet (I'll leave that until I've completed the first of these three), but I'll take some time now to talk about my most recent foray into the land of the delectable.

Dried Fruit and Herb Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
with Chive Oil and Citrus Gastrique
Potatoe and  Herb Galette
Chocolate Souffle

Dried Fruit and Herb Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Served with Chive Oil 
(see below for all menus and instructions)

Of the three dishes we made at L'Academie de Cuisine, this one was the greatest success. The menu itself is simple. In fact, it was in many ways more simple than I would have preferred, seeking to expand my already fairly solid culinary knowledge base. Nonetheless, I picked up a few good tips. They are as follows:

    - Silver Skin. Silver skin is the part of the fat/sinew that you can't pull away with your hands off the tenderloin. You have to pull it away with a knife (a sharp paring knife works best), starting under the fat and working out.
    - Shitaki mushrooms, though not an obvious choice, are a solid option as a binder for the dried fruit and herbs in the stuffing. Unlike bread crumbs or egg wash, the shitakes gave the stuffing a hearty-without-being-heavy quality.
   - Trussing. Trussing is not particularly easy when done properly. The quick easy way to do it is just to tie several strings around the tenderloin in circles. The trickier, more proper (holds together better) way, is to truss the tenderloin using a slip knot to hook the first loop, and then proceeding to just loop circles around the tenderloin all the way through to the end, tying it off with the second-to-last and the last loops. (I know that sounds complicated but it's not).

  - Sear seam-side-down so that the juices sear the edges of the stuffing/pork together, and present opposite-seam side up. 

End result- DELICIOUS.

Apricots, shitakes, cherries, mustard, thyme and parsley... yummm

Potatoe and Herb Galette
(Let me know if you want the recipe)

I'm not going to spend much time on this one. I generally think the recipe was bad. Even the Chef's presentation of it didn't look very good, and the recipe doesn't really work. Putting that many potatoes into a pan with light oil creates potatoes-stuck-to-the-pan which means flipping is impossible and the end result is a slightly browned edges potato pancake with an ugly gray interior. Also-- it doesn't plate well.

It looked a lot better before it got cooked....

Citrus Gastrique
(Let me know if you want recipe)

So this one is just funny. At L'academie de cuisine, you work in pairs. Because I was busy scraping burned potatoes off the bottom of the galette pan, my partner took the lead on the gastrique (seemingly a very simple task of combining vinegar, citrus and sugar and reducing by 50%). Unfortunately my partner completely overcooked/overheated the gastrique and it candied. We tried to plate it but it was literally hard candy by the time we got it off the burner. Oops. Second oops was that he stuck his finger in it and burned himself (I felt bad.... cooking classes are supposed to be fun).

Just before it turned to citrus candy....

Chocolate Souffle
(See recipe below)

Of all the recipes we tackled, this was the one I was most looking forward to. As it turns out, souffle is actually absurdly easy to make if you have a basic knowledge of cooking and how egg yolks and whites work. Unfortunately, I had a slight mishap with this one too (NOT MY FAULT!) You'll probably read later that my only criticism of the classes so far is that the chef sort of breezes over the instructions. I think that's generally fine if you know how to cook, but when the class is supposed to cut the recipe in half, it might be worth repeating. Needless to say I didn't hear him when he said that, and I think I ultimately ended up putting in one too few egg whites. The end result is that my souffle didn't rise enough. I'm eager to tackle it again though....

All in all, a very enjoyable experience. I loved getting to meet new people, try new recipes, and generally do what I love. I'm very eager for the next class. Thank you all for your support!

Dried Fruit and Herb Stuffed Pork Tenderloin (4 servings)

1 whole Pork Tenderloin- 1-1/5 lb
1 T mustard (dijon, whole grain, or whatever you prefer)
1-2 tsp light oil (canola)
2 T Shallots
2 Garlic Cloves
2 cups mushrooms (shitake is a good choice)
2 T dried fruit (we used apricots, dried cherries, dried blueberries)
2 T Fresh herbs (we used parsley and thyme)
Salt and Pepper
2-3 Feet butcher's twine
2 T White Wine (this is ESSENTIAL. Seriously. Don't leave it out)
4 T Stock (chicken or whatever you have on hand)
1 tsp butter

Preheat oven to 425.

   - Heat a pan over medium-high heat.
   - Add garlic and shallots and sautee briefly
   - Add the dried fruit and herbs and cook until just soft
   - Add 3/4 of the white wine and 3/4 of the stock
   - Remove pan from the heat and allow to cool enough to stuff the meat without it cooking the meat.

    - Remove all the loose fat
    - Remove silver skin (follow directions above)
    - Butterfly the pork using a paring knife to thin out the thick parts
    - Place meat between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound with either a mallet or a heavy bottomed pot (I recommend a pot).
     - Unwrap the meat and season with salt and pepper. Spread mustard onto the top. Add stuffing (enough to fill but not so much that it will fall out when you roll the meat).
      - "Roll" the meat. This really just means fold one side over so that they meet at the other end. It will turn into a 'roll' when you truss the meat.
      - 'Truss' the meat (see above)
      - Seer on medium-high heat, seam-side down and brown slightly. Turn meat over and brown on other side. Turn over again and finish in over 8-12 minutes or until meat is 155*.
     - Remove meat from pan and put under tin foil until ready to eat. De-glaze pan over medium heat with remaining wine and stock and scrape brownings. Pour over the top of the meat.
      - Ready to eat!

Chocolate Souffle

2 T Butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar, plus extra for coating the ramequins
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla extract or orange liqueur
4 egg yolks
5 egg whites
Pinch of Cream of Tartar

- Preheat oven to 400*
- Coat the inside of the ramequins with butter. Add light sugar and tap bowl to ensure even spread. Sugar acts as the ball bearings to allow the souffle to rise.
- Melt the chocolate and remaining butter over medium-low double boiler until JUST melted. Do not.. I repeat DO NOT overheat.. it will separate the chocolate. When chocolate is just about melted, add flavoring (vanilla or liqueur)
- Beat the 4 egg yolks with remaining sugar until a canary yellow color
- Add 1/3 of the yolk/sugar mixture to the chocolate to temper. Fold in. Add remaining 2/3 and fold in.
- Beat the egg whites in a completely clean mixing bowl until soft peaks. Add 1/3 to chocolate mixture, folding carefully in (streaks are A-okay). Add chocolate mixture to remaining egg whites and fold together (again, you want to LEAVE streaks).
- Separate into ramequins. Leave about 1/4-1/2 inch of room at the top of each ramequin.
- Bake for 14-17 minutes or until doubled in height. Do not allow them to crack more than just a tiny tiny bit or they will deflate.
- Remove from over, dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

No comments:

Post a Comment