I adore good food and wine. A perfect meal can perfect a special occasion or a random Tuesday evening.
I occasionally review restaurants on Yelp and TripAdvisor, have contributed a few recipes to cooking web sites, and talk about my cooking triumphs, mediocrities, and misadventures as much as people will listen.
Recipes and Such
I am a whimsical chef. I don't, per se, use "recipes," or "measure" ingredients as I go along. I think I have a good sense of how to build a flavor profile, I've trial-and-errored enough to guess well most of the time now, and can usually tell friends who are interested approximations that are close enough for them to reproduce what I've done. My favorite cooking is what I call the MacGyver Meal™*—making something delicious from the ingredients that are available.
Jeannette's Pork Tenderloin in Peach Salsa
I love pairing meats with complementary fruit garnishes. This recipe came to me in a flash of inspiration in the summer fruit aisle. I served it with some Israeli cous-cous simply prepared in chicken stock. Nice with a crisp white, a pinot noir, or the right rosé
First, we take the (unbrined, see notes) pork tenderloin out of the fridge and rub it with a generous amount of salt, smoked paprika, and just a whisper each of cinnamon and cayenne pepper. We leave the rubbed pork out at room temperature to warm up a little. It occurs to us that now is a good time to preheat the oven to the temperature indicated by The Joy of Cooking.
Then, we make Jeannette's Peach Salsa. We need 1 yellow bell pepper, 1 red bell pepper, 2 peaches, 1/2 red onion, 1 jalapeno, salt. Dice the bell peppers, onion half, and peaches into close to equal sizes. Mince the jalapeno, and, because we love ourselves, we don't touch it while we do so—we use food gloves or a paper towel to protect our fingers from the capsaicin. Then we mix these salsa ingredients with a little sprinkling of salt.
In a cast iron skillet, we brown the pork in olive oil, then add the salsa just long enough to sweat. Then we place our skillet in the oven and set the timer for however long indicated by The Joy of Cooking. Then we remove it from the oven, and let it rest 10 minutes before carving. We are just absolutely delighted by the result.
Most of the heat of the jalapeno is in its seeds. Ergo, you can adjust the heat of any dish in which you use a jalapeno by ditching some or all of its seeds.
I've found three ways to perfectly cook a pork tenderloin:
- Brine it, then cook it almost anyway you want as long as it gets to temperature.
- Choose a small tenderloin—1-1 1/2 1bs— and brown it, then roast it at high heat—450-500℉—for 20-30 minutes, then let rest, tented in foil, for 10 minutes.
- As in this recipe, follow the cooking temperature and time indicated by The Joy of Cooking.
Jeannette's Orange Chicken and Green Rice (another take on chicken and rice)
Various combinations of orange and chili is one of my favorite flavor profiles to experiment with. My friend had a whole, frozen organic chicken, white rice, some red onions, a can of refried beans, and normal pantry items. I did this:
- Thawed the chicken in a cold water bath (which took 5 hours).
- Went to the store and bought 2 oranges, 2 pasilla chilis, a bunch of cilantro, 4 anaheim chilis, a pouch of dried ground red chili, and a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
- Poured myself a glass of Pinot Grigio.
- Zested the oranges and added the zest, salt, and some ground red chili to some EVOO.
- Put the orange zest mixture and some additional butter between the skin and flesh of the chicken.
- Squeezed half an orange on top of the chicken then stuffed it in the chicken cavity. Put the chicken on top of 1/2 inch slices of red onion and halved anaheim chilis in a cast iron pot, covered the pot with foil, then placed it in an oven I had preheated to 500, then turned the oven down to 400.
- Sipped Pinot Grigio.
- Did a very fine dice on the pasilla chilis and half a red onion. Sauteed them in butter, than added 2 cups of rice, browned the rice, then added 3.75 cups of water, brought to boil, turned to a simmer, and covered for as long as you need to cover rice.
- Sipped Pinot Grigio.
- Wondered how the chicken was doing, pulled it out to test it, and found it was just at 165.
- Left the chicken covered on the counter, dumped the can of refried beans into a pan with a giant dollop of sour cream, stirred, and heated.
- Chopped half of the bunch of cilantro and threw it on top of the rice and covered to let it steam a little.
- Turned the heat off the beans, took the foil off the chicken, stirred the cilantro into the rice, and announced that dinner was ready.
- Enjoyed dinner with a little Pinot Grigio.
The self-basting method forgives overcooking.
Orange is a beautiful aromatic for the chicken.
If your chicken is too big, cooking time will be too long for the onion and chili underneath it.
Other than the occasional batch of cookies, I've never been much of a baker. I say, hoping that it will eventually become a famous quote, "Cooking is alchemy, baking is chemistry." Baking requires exactness and patience where most cooking has room for embellishment and recipe interpretation no matter how many glasses of wine you've had*.
Inspired by bread freshly baked by a friend at a weekend retreat, I decided to research if there was an extremely lazy way to produce it. There is. If you search for "no-knead bread," nearly every recipe you'll find will be based on this popular recipe published by the New York Times. I followed the recipe exactly (a challenge for me), and ended up with a tasty, if unhandsome loaf. A few more attempts finally resulted in this most bread-like product:
Things You Should Always Stock In Your Pantry
- Soy sauce
- Olive oil
- Cayenne pepper
- Citrus fruit
- Canned or dried beans
- Canned tomatoes
- At least one of: milk, half and half, whole cream
**Just kidding. I can't trademark MacGyver. It was, like, a totally famous TV show. But I coined the phrase "MacGyver Meal," and don't you forget it.