Tuesday, January 18, 2011

the long weekend ends...

What an incredibly lovely lengthy weekend with plenty of time spent relaxing, bottomless cups of coffee, english breakfasts and reading every section of the paper.

Hope your time off was just as rejuvenating.

In addition to the aforementioned activities, we ventured out for a friend's birthday, tried to see the Phillips Collection for free (and abandoned that pursuit due to lines around the block), instead browsed vintage furniture shops on 14th, tried out a new Vietnamese restaurant and did some volunteer work clearing out a park in Anacostia yesterday morning.

Oh, and cooked this miraculous meal. As teased for weeks, I finally made the Ad Hoc pork tenderloin stuffed with a sweet and savory mixture of fig and balsamic jam with fennel, country bread, shallots and garlic. Combined with roasted broccoli and another round of these sensational mushies, it was delicious. Dare I even say we had homemade vanilla pudding for dessert? Gluttons. I'll save that recipe for another day.

For now, here is the pork with some so-so photos. I'm ready to give up on food photography and am convinced that all food bloggers stay home and cook in the middle of the day so their shots can be filled with appetizing natural light pouring in through the windows of their pied-à-terres. Night time food photography is doomed before it begins by harsh fluorescents and other-worldly white balances.

So even though it might not look it, this dish is delicious. Even if a little involved.

Ad Hoc at Home -  Pork Tenderloin 
First: Fig & Balsamic Jam (you can make this far in advanced, keeps for one month jarred in the fridge)

What Thomas Says:
2 pounds of figs preferably Black Mission. Remove stems and coarsely chop
1 ½ cups of granulated sugar
½ cup of balsamic vinegar
Fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns tied in a cheese cloth sachet

What I did:
No fresh figs in the market, dried had to do - I used closer to one pound - simmered in water for about 10 minutes to rehydrate and then gave a whir through the food processor before returning to the pan.

Dried figs are sweeter - use less sugar.

Keep liquid measures the same.

A peppercorn sachet - oh Thomas, please - how about a few healthy grinds from the pepper mill?

Combine figs, sugar, balsamic and sachet in a large sauce pan and attach a candy thermometer.
Bring to a simmer of medium to high heat then lower the to maintain a gentle simmer. Stir to break up larger figs. Continue cooking until candy thermometer reaches 215-220. Remove sachet (if you believe in such nonsense) and a lemon juice to taste.

Next: Stuffing (Also can be made a few days in advance and kept in the fridge)

What Thomas Says:
Canola oil
½ cup of ½" cubed ciabatta bread
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of finely chopped shallot
1 cup of Fig & Balsamic Jam
¼ cup of chicken stock
½ teaspoon of chopped thyme
Kosher salt

What I Did:
No fresh thyme in the house - skip. Ciabatta schmamatta, any heartyish bread will do. 

Heat canola oil in a pan and toast the bread cubes until lightly browned - set aside. Cook garlic and shallot in a bit of oil. Stir in jam and heat through. Add bread cubes, chicken stock, thyme and salt to taste. Transfer to a bowl and cool.

Finally: Pork (Thomas says to brine this sucker for 10 hours, I'm sure it's excellent, I'm also sure I had better things to do...)

Canola oil
2.5 lb. pork tenderloin
Salt & pepper

Kitchen Twine

Preheat oven to 350° - cut a slit running the length of the tenderloin, careful not to cut all the way through. Spread open pork and fill with stuffing - Thomas says to use a piping bag, I say please, this is what spoons are for. Tie pork loin with kitchen twine every few inches to secure stuffing in side.

Place a tablespoon or so of canola oil into a large skillet, heat until smoking. Season pork loin generously with salt and pepper on all sides. Sear pork until nicely browned on each side, then place on roasting pan and into the oven.  Bake for 30-40 minutes - I would say a little longer, closer to an hour - until pork is between 135-145° - I would say a little closer to 150-155° - Let rest for 30 minutes.

Slice and serve. 

I'll be making this again for Wednesday Thursday night's dinner club, and probably caving to a few of Thomas' demands - like brining - if you're in the district, I hope you'll come.