Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Stuffed Pork Loin

Tim recently played with the Dudley House Orchestra at Harvard. His folks come over for the weekend to attend the concert, so we decided to make a pork dish, as that is Tim's dad's favorite.
A dear friend from Spoke Folk had given us Frank Stitt's Southern Table cookbook two Christmases ago when he stayed with us.
While we had read much of the cookbook, until now we had only made one beverage from the book. We happened to have a pork loin in the freezer, so this recipe was just calling to us.

Frank tells us to cut a slice through the center of the pork loin and then use a sharpening steel, or a wooden spoon handle to stretch out the opening. We found that the sliced hole did not really want to stretch out, and we had more luck just cutting a larger slit through the center in several directions.

We had way-too much stuffing, so next time we will try to make a larger opening within the pork. But we just baked the extra stuffing along with the pork this time.
This was a pretty dish to serve.

We had wanted to sauté some broccoli rabe, but none of the 3 or 4 stores Tim went to had any... so broccoli became the veggie-of-the-day. Add a few oven roasted potatoes, and this was our supper.

We will definitely make this again... it took a bit of prep (the pork as well as the stuffing) but then you just stick it in the oven and let it be... and you can go sit with your guests for a while.

We halved the recipe, as we had a 2lb pork loin, here are the original amounts:
½ pound slab bacon, chopped (we could not find slab, so used some thick-cut)
1 large onion, 1" diced
2 cups day-old French bread, 1" cubes
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Pepper to taste
4 to 6 pound boneless pork loin

Place bacon and onions in roasting pan and roast at 450 about 15-20 minutes until bacon just turning brown. Stir once or twice during roasting time.
Place bread, garlic and rosemary in a bowl, pour onion and bacon over and allow to cool.
To prepare the pork loin, insert a long knife through pork lengthwise, and turn knife in a circle to create a slit through its center. By whatever means necessary, expand that hole as much as possible without tearing through the pork. Stitt suggests a sharpening steel, or a wooden spoon handle, I used the steel some, and continued to make more slices to expand the cavity.
Fill the cavity with the stuffing mixture. (He says to re-tie the pork loin, but I did not and had no problems with it holding its shape.)
Place the stuffed pork in the roasting pan, roast at 450 about 25 minutes.
Lower the heat to 325 and cook 20 to 30 minutes longer until a thermometer reads 145 degrees. Let it rest about 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Lemon-Oregano Chicken

As you will soon notice, we do a fair amount of Food Network watching. In fact, a Food Network camera crew was at our rehearsal dinner (Food Finds). Some we watch strictly for entertainment (Emeril) some for a laugh (Rachael Ray) some for the science geek inside me (Alton Brown) some to watch the hosts flirt with each other (Tyler and Jaq) and some to remind us of when we lived in Savannah (Paula Deen).

We admire Sara Moulton, but I am not sure we ever jumped onto the internet to download one of her recipes. Tim presented me with this one the other night and it served us well for a mid-week meal. Tim prepped the marinade and chicken before he left to give lessons and then I sliced the potatoes when I got home.

I like the idea behind this meal... marinate your meat, then add other things and let it all bake together. This was just a combo of chicken and potatoes, but I think you could add onions, a red pepper and chopped asparagus and really have a one-pot-meal.

The flavor was "nice". Lemon and oregano was a nice combo, but it was nothing more than "nice". Tim thought the potatoes were too lemony, and I just thought it would be better with more stuff mixed in with it.

So while there was nothing "wrong" with it, this recipe has already been tossed into the recycle bin, so I am not even including the recipe.

This blog was supposed to be about our triumphs and failures... so this is one of the latter.

Tim just brought home a cookbook by Sara Moulton from the library for us to look through... see if we can find something else of hers to try.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Better 1 or 2?

After our visit to the Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, I came home inspired to make cupcakes and test some chocolate frostings.

A month ago I had tested 2 cupcake recipes from Cupake Bakeshop, and found I preferred the recipe from Hershey's that I had used previously... so I will stick with that for both cupcakes and cakes in the future.

The two chocolate frosting recipes I tried this weekend had each at one point been deemed the frosting recipe in our house, so I thought I had best make them side-by-side for a definitive test.

Although Tim feared that we would each like a different frosting better, we did come to a consensus as to which will be the chocolate frosting recipe in our house (at least for now). Both are really good... so we won't tell you which one we chose. Try them for yourself and select the chocolate flavor you desire for your baked goods. (And, if you really want to know which we chose, just ask.)

Cupcake Bakeshop Fudge Frosting recipe: link
Hershey's cake and frosting recipes: link

Happy testing!

Monday, May 22, 2006


Tim and I just spent 5 days in Savannah, Georgia. I had lived there for 3 years (Tim and I about 1.5 years as a married couple) so it feels kinda like going home when we are able to go back.
We saw old friends and ate at old favorites, and we also tried new places that were not there when we were.

Two new (and very different) bakeries have opened since we left in 2001. At the first, we had lunch with our friends who run the music ministry at Christ Church. This was B. Matthews, right on Bay Street in downtown Savannah. Tim and I split a fried green tomato sandwich which was super. I have no photos, as I have not yet built up the nerve to take photos inside restaurants! We selected our desserts from their cases of baked goods -- I had a chocolate walnut bar which looked better than it tasted, and Tim had a big, gooey, honey-pecan sticky bun.

We tried a second bakery for our last lunch before departing. I had heard of the Back in the Day Bakery from its blog. This place is charming and bright and happy, and it was topped off by our getting to chat with Cheryl (an owner and blog author) for a while to discuss this world of food blogs. We arrived just at 11, when they start serving lunch, and were pleased to see a steady stream of folks come through as time went on. Tim and I split a huge (could not have eaten the whole thing alone) Jambon, Beurre, et Fromage... ham, gruyere, and butter on a baguette. Mmmm. We so wanted to take a loaf of one of their breads home, but we knew we did not have enough room left in our bag to carry it. There was a beautiful selection of cupcakes to choose from (look at their web site) and we shared an "old fashioned" cupcake (vanilla with a bright pink frosting) and a "chocolate heaven" which was as good its name suggests. I am not a frosting fan... and this was excellent chocolate frosting... made me want to get home to try the 2 fudge frosting recipes that I have wanted to test in my continual search for the best frosting. We left with a bag containing a molasess cookie and a chocolate chip cookie for our plane trip. (Ok, so the molasess cookie did not make it to the plane, but we were delayed for several hours...plus, we all know that there are no calories on vacation...)

We have decided we can declare the Savannah Tea Room as our favorite restaurant in Savannah. The first time we went there (1999) Tim leaned across the table and whispered, "Is it bad that I really like it here?" While some might think it is a "girly" place to relax over a pot of tea and scones, they have always impressed us with their soups and simple yet somehow complex sandwiches. They make the best egg salad, perhaps just due to the addition of chives. I've had a sweet and juicy heirloom tomato sandwich in the past too. This time I had a grilled shrimp salad with mushrooms, pears and feta (note to self; pears and feta are a great combo). Tim had pepper encrusted tuna over greens with roasted peppers. Their soup-of-the-day was a cream of broccoli, which was not really creamy, but very good. For the first time ever I drank 2 pots of tea! Their house special was called Emporer's Bride and was described as a black tea with pineapple, orange peel, thistle, and qunice. It arrived first by its fragrance, and the flavor matched its aroma. I brought loose tea home for some friends and myself to enjoy.

We are fortunate to have friends who have housed us the last 2 times we have been down, allowing us a true "home" base.

We were taken for a boat ride one afternoon and floated by Paula Deen's new home. Alas, she and her boys did not come out on her porch to wave hello... There was a line of people wrapped around the corner each time we passed her restaurant. While I do not believe the locals go to eat there, she has certainly expanded Savannah's tourism, as the local tour company even offers a Paula tour now!

After 4+ years we still very much miss Savannah. We'd love to offer our recomendations if y'all are ever heading down there.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Biscuits with Sausage Gravy

Tim and I have been in Savannah for the past 5 days, so while I get a Savannah post written here is a "southern inspired" breakfast:

I have recently been making whole-wheat biscuits on Saturday mornings as a quick, warm breakfast. We had some buttermilk in the house, so in a quest to come up with ways to use it, I decided to make a southern-inspired breakfast of sausage gravy served over biscuits (in this case, all white flour).

The biscuits turned out as they were supposed to, light and fluffy (not be confused with eggs made by Veggie Tales), and the gravy was yummy too; however, the photos of said gravy came out looking rather unappealing, so you can be tempted by the biscuit, and try your own gravy made with a basic white sauce.

The biscuits, from Betty Crocker's New Cookbook
(Whenever possible, please buy books from your local independent book seller or used book store. I will only link to Amazon when I cannot find a suitable link to show you a particular book)

1/2 cup shortening (I used butter)
2 cups flour (for the above I used all white, but 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 white makes a great biscuit)
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk (you can use regular milk; you may also need a bit more)

Preheat oven to 450F
Cut butter into flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder until it is fine crumbs (you could also do this in a food processor, and pulse until coarse crumbs)
Stir in milk until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, dough will be soft and sticky
Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead lightly to bring it all together.
Roll into a 1/2"-thick disk and cut into 2-3" rounds.
Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

Will yield about 1 dozen.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Cinco de Mayo

As Tim put it to our friends who came up for a little Cinco-de-Mayo fiesta, "we're offering the rhyming food combo of margaritas and fajitas.”
The reason Mexicans celebrate Cinco de Mayo is that in 1862, 4,000 Mexican soldiers, armed with machetes and a stampeding herd of cattle, surprisingly destroyed the French army of 8,000 who were trying to take over Mexico for Napoleon III.
I am not of Mexican descent, but I do have a fondness for Mexican food, so in recent years we have used the 5th of May as a good excuse to make margaritas and eat chips and salsa.

I believe I had my first-ever margarita on our honeymoon, which happened to be not on Cozumel, but on Cape Cod. Harwich has an authentic, and terrific, Mexican restaurant called Ay! Caramba which we hit every time we to go to the Cape. Tim and I make pretty good and powerful margaritas at home following the recipe from Ina Garten in her second book. I have found the key is a little extra lime juice than what is called for.


"Real Margaritas" from The Barefoot Contessa Parties

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2Tbps freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup Triple Sec
1 cup White Tequila (cheap tequila makes the best margaritas according to Ina)
3 cups ice

salt for rim if desired

Add lime juice, lemon juice, Triple Sec and ice in a blender and puree. Add tequila and process a few seconds more. Serves 6

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I really like to bake. Almost any time, whether it is after a long day at work, or a quiet Saturday afternoon...if there are butter, sugar and eggs in the house, I am ready to bake.

This past weekend I had a great excuse to bake something simple yet satisfying. I was able to see a
college friend, whom I had not seen since he graduated 13 years ago, star in musical. Doubly fun was seeing several other alums and having it be a surprise to Steve that we were all coming to see his performance.
I wanted to take something to give him after the show, and was not sure if flowers were what one gives to a male performer. But what one cannot say with flowers, one can definitely say with cookies!

So a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies was made. This is one of my stand-bys, as far as cookie recipes go. It's based on the recipe you can find on the lid of Quaker Oats, but instead of 1 tsp of cinnamon and 1 cup of raisins, I halve the cinnamon and add chocolate chips. And this batch even got 2 types of chips... some standard Tollhouse semi-sweet, plus some
Ghirardelli 60% cocoa bittersweet chips. Tim and I are both big dark chocolate fans... and these dark chips have become a new favorite not only in baking (they make great fudge frosting) but also right out of the bag!

As with most cookies, I bake them till medium rare, so that they stay moist and gooey. These normally stay soft when stored in an air-tight container.

The recipe: From the lid of Quaker Oats

1 cup butter (I use Cabot unsalted)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon (in original recipe, I use ~1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups oats (quick or old fashioned--I use quick)
1 cup raisins (in original recipe-- I use chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350F
Beat butter and sugars until creamy (you can't do this step too long)
Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla

Combine flour, soda, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl

Add the combined dry ingredients
Stir in oats and chips (or raisins)

Drop by tablespoon on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.
Makes 4 dozen

Can also spread into an ungreased 9x13 pan and bake for 30-35 minutes to make bar cookies.

Carmelized Onion and Mustard Tart

So Tim was in a favorite independent bookstore when on the sale table he saw The Accidental Vegetarian for like $8. It's a fun story-of-a-cookbook about a gentleman in England who bought a vegan restaurant knowing nothing about running a restaurant, or vegetarian cooking! Well, his recipe for a mustard-onion tart jumped right out at us, and it is the first thing we have tried from this book.

After making the rich pastry dough, you slice 4 large onions... these were some powerful onions that had Tim avoiding the kitchen as their fumes were causing tears a room away.

It is always amazing to me how much onions reduce... especially after 40 minutes of cooking:

Some cream, eggs and the whole grain mustard are added to the onions and put into the blind-baked crust (which, but the way, was supposed to be in a tart pan... I don't have a tart pan, so I used my springform pan... gonna go buy a tart pan)

This all bakes and comes out slightly browned and looking kinda rustic.

It is thick, not custardy (which is a good thing in my book), and sweet due to the slow-cooked onions as well as the mustard and pastry. We served this with steak and our favorite syrah, and had its leftovers with a salad and surprisingly good grape tomatoes. We think this will be a good summer dinner with fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes.

The recipe: From The Accidental Vegetarian, by Simon Rimmer


1 3/4 cups flour
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
pinch of salt
3 1/2 tbsp(I needed more) milk
1 egg yolk

1. Put flour, butter and salt in a food processor and pulse until crumbly.
2. Add the milk and egg yolk and pulse until a dough forms
3. Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and kneed slightly and form into a flat disk. Wrap in saran wrap and chill at least 1 hour (great to make ahead of time so it's ready whenever you are)

Carmelized Onion and Mustard Tart:

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 large spanish onions, sliced
1 clove of garlic (he says crushed, I minced)
2 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp whoel grain mustard
2/3 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F
1. Roll out the pastry to fit an 8-10" tart pan (as I said above, I used a springform pan... a pie pan should work as well). Press into pan and chill for 20 minutes.
2. Bake the pastry for 25-30 minutes until crisp and dry. (he does not say to weight it down, but this needs to be done or else it puffs up)
3. While the pastry bakes, melt butter and oil in a pan over low heat and add the onions, garlic and salt and pepper. Cook slowly until the onions are golden but not burned... about 40 minutes.
4. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, mustard and cream together. Mix into the carmelized onions.
5. Reduce oven temperature to 350F. Add onion mixture to pastry shell, and baked for 20 minutes until set firm and golden.