Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunday Dinner - Reconnecting.


Did you ever find yourself going along with your day to day and realize that things were starting to slip? You turn around and realize you haven’t eaten a real sit down meal in like 3 weeks and your poor family is subsisting on PB & J. Well, I did! These days it seems like we are running all the time, but getting nowhere! I mean you get the laundry done (okay most of the laundry) and deal with the household hoo-ha, walk the dogs and we’re painting the house every free minute... By the time you stop for the day you want to smack anyone who might actually want you to drag out a pan and create a culinary masterpiece (and the mess to go with)!

This realization has caused me to re-institute the Sunday Dinner. There are a few self-imposed rules; it gets made at home, by yours truly (squinting my eyes and remembering I LOVE to cook). It is a real honest to Gawd meal, not a one pan wonder – and no box dumping (unless it is pasta). When ever possible, the meal should have at least one new item or recipe. Not so bad really, it has made me actually slow down on Sunday and think about a nice relaxing dinner with M.

This week in pursuit of, I brought out my Cooking Light 2003 Annual Recipes Book and after much flipping I made a choice. I gotta tell ya, I love CL and all, but their cookbooks are a very confusing jumble. Jumble not withstanding I came across 3 of my favorite things; chicken, cheese and prosciutto – all in one recipe. Yeah! Hurray! This recipe calls for arugula too, not one of my favorites, and difficult to find around here (not to mention grossly expensive). Go ahead and use spinach if you need to, don’t fuss too much, the end result will still be yummy.

I made a few changes to this recipe ; I doubled the cheese, not so light any more, mostly because my chicken looked rather empty with only a half an ounce of cheese (this adds about 62 cal. per serving). I also added a bit of chili to the sauce for a twist. I rolled instead of folding as folding sounded like it might be a touch too messy to flip. The rolling actually took a bit longer in the oven, but by the time I had reduced the sauce twice as called for, the chicken was done and it all came together beautifully. Oh, and another diet buster; I found the pan to be a bit dry after cooking the chicken, so I added a little butter (this only adds about 25 cal per serving) before sautéing the shallots.

All this being said; the flavor was terrific and the presentation was great. I can’t help but think that folding wouldn’t have been half as pretty. I tossed some potato gnocchi in a bit of sauce for a side.

Light a candle, serve up some of the left over wine and you have yourself one nice Sunday Dinner!

Cheers M.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Strapping on the feedbag

For some people - literally!

Please, please go to Lex Culinaria and have a read of "No Farting While Eating. Please?" for Table Manners 101. I could not have said this any better myself!

If you can stop laughing, think about how many times you are guilty of one or more of these little foibles - then call your Mom and apologize!!

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Other White Meat


Many moons ago when I moved to Australia I realized that I had better learn to cook or M and I would starve to death! I mean seriously, a fancy dinner involved some chicken cooked with in an inch of dust bowl consistency in way too much butter and AuGratin Potatoes a-la Betty Crocker! And they don't know Betty in Oz! Let me tell you for the first few weeks in OZ we pretty much ate the same meal over and over again ‘cause even the McDonald’s (affectionately known as Macca’s down under) food tasted different.

I still had training wheels on my pots and pans when I met my neighbor – and soon to be life long best friend – over the garden fence. In a fit of neighborly excitement I invited my new victim to dinner that weekend. She gracefully accepted and the panic set in! What was I thinking – I had never thrown a dinner party before!

After much frenzied running around and visiting of the local butcher shops (yes, they still have those in Oz – we actually had 2 in Mt Eliza) I decided on pork tenderloin. I had never cooked a tenderloin before, but thought I could swing it. And swing it I did, the meat was good the veg was good, and the starter soup was actually the star. The only foible was that when my guests arrived – keep in mind I was in a complete state of panic – they handed me a bottle in a brown bag. Like a dunce I just popped that bad boy in the fridge. Well, that bad boy was a VERY expensive bottle of Redman red wine. Not wanting to be difficult my guests kept quiet thinking maybe in the US we chill red wine. God, was I ever embarrassed when M took the bottle out of the fridge at dinner and realized what it was and how much it was worth. We had a good laugh about it; but I still feel like I owe my friends a good bottle of Redman!

Where I am going with all this, is that I chose the pork on a whim, but as it turns out pork tenderloin has become one of my favorite – if not the favorite – meat choice for dinner. In the years since my first attempt I have learned quite a bit about cooking meat and with the aid of a fabulous little gadget, I have no fear of ruining a great cut of meat. With a little meat thermometer inserted before tossing the meat to the flames I am assured that it will be perfectly, rare, well done medium, you name it ‘cause this little gem actually beeps at you when you hit the desired temperature! Okay, so this isn’t the only thing it takes to make a great tenderloin but it is the biggest part of the puzzle. Over cooking meat will ruin it, not matter how good the rub, marinade or glaze.

Recently I found a fabulous guide in meat prep in Niman Ranch Cookbook. Formerly I cooked roasts at the same temp all the way through, with great results (thank you again Polder). However, after reading this book – and book it is, not just a cookbook – I learned quite a bit about meat and what happens when you cook it. Since I got this book I have followed their procedure of “sear and slow” I have found the meat I have cooked to be more tender and more flavorful than ever before.

This lovely piece of pork was coated with a mixture I use for both beef and pork (works with chicken too). I admit to having used a prepared green peppercorn sauce, I mean seriously who has green peppercorns hanging around 24/7? There are s-o-o-o many great prepared sauces out there now, that I don’t feel guilty about using them. Don’t be afraid to embellish a package sauce to make it your own – I added a bit of butter to give this sauce some body and a little extra richness. Occasionally I have replaced half the water with cream, really rich!

I am attaching my “recipe” but I recommend you buy the cookbook and follow their instructions for roasting the loin or any meat for that matter. Read it carefully and know that they may not follow FDA guide lines exactly, but I have had NO problems cooking my pork medium. Enjoy!