Sunday, July 10, 2011

Home Run

Raisins and cherry tomatoes were my at-home-"Chopped" ingredients this week. I thought and thought for a week about what to do with them. Initially I was going to cook them with some onions and broth and spices and then puree them into a sauce for some pork tenderloin medallions. Then I realized that the skin and seeds of the tomatoes would probably not work well in a pureed sauce, so I scratched that idea. I finally settled on making a pan sauce for pork tenderloin using the raisins and then doing a side dish by caramelizing some fennel bulb (my new favorite vegetable since I learned how to cook it in my cooking class) with some raisins and then adding in the tomatoes. I wanted to use caramelized onions and raisins in a sauce (topping might be a better word than sauce, because the raisins and onion made it chunky) for the pork but add in just a bit of heat to compliment, brighten, and balance the sweetness of these ingredients. Similarly, I thought the tomatoes would balance the sweetness of the caramelized fennel and raisins in the side dish. Yeah. I hit a home run with this one. Here are both of the recipes.

Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Raisins and Onions
1 Pork Tenderloin (about 1 lb)
Salt and Pepper
1 Tbsp Vegetable oil
1 Onion, halved and sliced thinly
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1 Tbsp pieces

Trim fat and silvery skin from the tenderloin. Slice it into 1-inch-thick medallions. Season with S&P on both sides. Then press the tenderloins (with your hands or the flat side of a knife) until it's about 3/4 inch thick. Heat your pan over medium high heat. Put in the oil. When the oil is shimmering, add half of the pork pieces. Sear them on one side for 2 minutes, then flip them using tongs and sear the other side for about 2 minutes more (they should be firm around the sides). Remove to plate and cover with foil. Repeat with the rest of the pork. Add the onion and cook until it starts to get soft, stirring occasionally. Add the raisins. Let the onions and raisins cook together for a while so the onions get nicely caramelized. Add wine, cayenne and paprika. If you don't like spicy, you can reduce the amounts of these, but I would recommend still adding them, maybe at about 1/2 of the amount I used. Let the wine reduce by about half. Pour in the chicken broth and any juice from the tenderloin pieces that has accumulated on the plate and continue to simmer for a few minutes longer. Off the heat, add the butter, 1 Tbsp at a time, swirling each Tbsp piece around until it melts. Serve the sauce over the pork medallions.

Fennel with Raisins and Cherry Tomatoes
1 tsp Vegetable oil
2 Fennel bulbs, julienned
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup raisins, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
Sprinkle of salt

Heat a pan over medium high heat. Add oil, then fennel. Stir fennel to coat with oil and add sugar. Stir, then add raisins. Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally, to let the fennel soften and start to caramelize. I can't remember how long this took, but the fennel will start to darken and get soft, but still have a little bit of bite to it. Add the tomatoes and stir them in. cook for a few more minutes to let the tomatoes start to soften, but don't let them get too mushy. Sprinkle a little salt on, stir, serve.

I was so happy with the way these dishes turned out. Lots of flavor and great textures. The only thing I might have done differently would be to add more wine, chicken broth and butter to the pan sauce to have more of the liquid part of the sauce. It was yummy.

We have already decided to go to 3 ingredients this next week and I drew them from our spreadsheet. I do it like the old game Battleship, picking coordinates that my husband matches up the the spaces on his spreadsheet. The one way that we limit what comes up is that he makes sure at least one of the ingredients is a protein. So, next week? Sweet pickles. Bran cereal. And Pickled Herring. Yes, you read that right. Pickled Herring. My husband told me this and then said, "I hate pickled herring." What?! This freaked me out a little, because I thought I was doomed from the start if he hates it (I've never had it, so I have no idea, though I can imagine, how vile it is). I was prepared to go ahead with it, but I think he felt bad for including such a horrendous ingredient on his list. He suggested we draw a different protein, and we did. The next one that came up was Canned tuna. But after thinking about it for a bit, I told him that I wanted to go ahead with the herring. That's the challenge, right? Taking something crazy, and potentially kind of gross, and making it fabulous? *gulp* Hubby did point out that it's actually a win-win situation for me though. If the dish I make is horrible, I can blame it on the herring. If it's delicious, I become a cooking goddess. Score. I told him I can't even begin to plan what I'm going to make though until I go to the store and get some herring and taste it. I have no idea what it's texture or consistency or taste is like, so I can't figure out what I'll do until I know that. Wish me luck!!

In other exciting news from the weekend (and to get on to the cute pics), we got our swing set delivered on Friday! The Hubby and I started putting it together during nap time yesterday.

Naturally we couldn't get it all done while the girls were sleeping, so they joined us outside while we continued to work on it.

We had to put in some more time this morning, though it was mostly the hubby getting it done today because the girls were awake the whole time. Finished product:

We have to trim up the landscaping and the dead stuff underneath a bit and put down some soft mulch, but the girls didn't care about that. They went right to it after they woke from naps.

This one continues to amaze me with her climbing. My mom says she gets it from me.

And no, she didn't actually climb all the way onto the platform by herself, but she did climb the ladder all the way to the top, until her hands reached the platform and she wasn't sure what to do with them to keep climbing. I don't have photos of that part of her performance, because I was hovering around her as spotter just in case. She never even faltered though!

I love this swing set and I know the girls will get so much fun out of it. According to my husband, who had to deal with most of the inevitable frustrations of putting such a contraption together, they'd better!

As a last note, please excuse the status of my header right now. I thought it was about time to change up the photos, but for some reason could not get the far left photo to fit in the header correctly. Also, some of the photos in this post have a bit of a foggy look to them. It's because my camera lens fogged up when I took it from inside the air conditioning to the muggy outside. Sorry!

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