Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fall Fare

What it is, reader! This weekend's cool and rainy weather inspired me to cook something hearty. Since I'm spectaculary lazy, this had to be easy, take a minimum of ingredients, dishes and prep work.

I had a pork tenderloin in the fridge. Pork tenderloin's leanness is tricky-- the threat of dry awfulness is ever-present. But so lean that you don't have to deal with overwhelming amounts of piggy fat in other cuts.

I had maybe 1/3 of a bag of prewashed brussels sprouts from Trader Joes. One large red potato. Shallots. Onions are also okay.

Key to success is a heavy large skillet--non-stick will not do, so don't even ask. We're looking for stainless, cast iron or enamel coated iron that can go from stove top to the oven. And it needs to be big so the food has lots of surface area to brown.

Some minimal meat prep will be worth it: leave the fat, you'll need what precious little there is of it. But remove the silver skin, as that does not make for a happy eating experience. I use a scissor for this. Next, pat it dry with paper towels. This is also important.

Heat up some olive oil in your pan. You want it hot, so the oil is shimmering as you swirl it around in the pan. Lay the loin in the pan. Now back away slowly from the stove--do not touch or peek or you will interfere with the glorious browning process. You want to do around five minutes per side, the whole surface of the loin.

Preheat the oven to 375.

While browning is happening, chop up the potato in smallish chunks, playing dice size. Keep the skin on, for the love of God. Chop the hard ends off and quarter the brussels sprouts. Dice the shallot. Make sure nothing is wet. Water is the enemy of caramelization.

After meat is browned, take it out of the pan. Put veggies in. Smush them around to coat with oil and then leave them be. Really! Don't touch! Maybe after five or so minutes, give them a turn. You'll see evidence of browning. Rejoice. Cook for five more minutes.

Put the browned meat back in the pan. Avoid crowding, otherwise food steams instead of browning. Caramelization makes deliciousness. While an acceptable method of transforming raw food into cooked food, steaming is not delicious.

Stick the whole skillet in the oven, uncovered. I left mine in there about 20 minutes give or take, and gave the veggies a turn about halfway through. Don't stir more than that. Really. It's that browning thing again. Fork the veggies to see if they're ready. Take the meat out and let it rest. Do not poke or cut. Leave it! Back away! Except to stop the cats from getting on the counter and licking it.

If you're more ambitious than me, this would be a great time to make a pan gravy, scraping up the lovely brown bits (the fond), adding some chicken or veggie stock, butter, cooking over low heat. I just put in a blob of butter and call it a day.

While doing this, be careful not to burn the shit out of your hand as I did. If you do, however, take the Lord's name in vain, loudly, get that hand under cold running water and leave it there for a while. Take some ibuprofen. Have a good laugh at your own absent-mindedness.

Eat. Swoon. Realize you forgot to take pictures for reader. Eat some more.


Anonymous said...

you are a such a food scientist

Professional Critic said...

Indeed. This is why cooking is more fun than baking, in my professional opinion. Cooking lends itself well to winging it, baking, not so much. Leave out one ingredient, like baking soda, and your cookies are ruined.