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Archive for the ‘Fennel’ Category

If you have been reading my posts, you have discovered that I am a huge fan of pork tenderloin. It is lean and tender, cooks relatively quickly, is readily accessible, not too expensive, and mingles well with lots of different flavors. It can be a plain, down-home entree, or perfect to serve to your grandest guests. I love pork.

And, it’s not chicken.  Oh, I eat chicken once, maybe twice a week, but that’s just for variety. I could eat pork more often than chicken, easily.  Throw in an occasional steak, pizza, or spaghetti dinner, and I’m a happy camper.

Here is an example of a quick entree that uses balsamic vinegar for a pan sauce.

PORK MEDALLIONS WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR

pork tenderloin, sliced 1″ thick, pounded slightly to flatten

flour, 1/4-1/3 cup

salt and pepper

1 T. butter

1 T. olive oil

1/2 c. balsamic vinegar

1/4-1/3 c. chicken broth

1 T. fresh sage, chopped

1. Mix flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish; dredge pork in the flour.

2. Heat oil and butter in a large saute pan or skillet to medium high.  Saute pork, in batches if necessary, a few minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove pork from pan and set aside, covered with foil.

3. Deglaze pan with the vinegar, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Cook, stirring, to reduce the vinegar a little.

4. Add the chicken broth to the vinegar and return the pork to the pan, along with any  juices that may have escaped from the meat.

5. Add the sage and continue cooking, turning the pork over, for a few minutes until the reduced sauce is dark and shiny.

6. Serve the tenderloin slices with the sauce.

(The tenderloin can also be left in one piece, browned in a skillet, and then roasted in the oven to finish cooking. This would be best with the skinny end folded under and tied in place to make the pork even in thickness. After roasting, let the pork rest, covered with foil while you make the sauce in the roasting pan. Slice the pork, and serve with the sauce.)

This pork dish would be great served with potatoes gratin, mashed potatoes, or even baked ones. I would probably not serve broccoli, or Brussels sprouts, or any other strong tasting vegetable with this. The balsamic vinegar sauce is strong enough. I might even serve the following dish instead of potatoes. It is rich and creamy, featuring the subtle taste of fennel, one of my favorite flavors. It can be prepared ahead of time, up to the baking, and then cooked while you are fixing the pork.

FENNEL GRATIN

2 lbs. fennel

1/2 t. salt

1/4 t. pepper

1 1/2 c. cream, half and half, or milk

1/4 – 1/3 c. bread crumbs or panko

1/4 c. parmesan, grated

1 T. butter

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a gratin dish or other shallow baking pan. 
Trim the fronds from the fennel; remove any brown spots from the outer layer of the bulb.  Quarter the bulb and slice 
thinly. Lay the slices in the gratin dish.

2. Mix salt, pepper and cream and pour over the fennel.

3. Mix the crumbs and parmesan and sprinkle over the sauce. Dot with butter. (If preparing ahead, cover with foil and set aside until ready to bake.)

4. Bake 25 minutes covered, and 20 more minutes uncovered. (If stored in the refrigerator, add 10 minutes to the first 25 minutes in the oven.)

This would be beautiful with glazed carrots and the pork. I may have to make this next week.

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Rather than roast a pork loin just seasoned with salt and pepper yesterday, I chose to add a fennel and onion stuffing. I got the idea from watching Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. I had everything on hand, except fennel bulbs and fresh bread crumbs.  Fortunately, I was able to get the fennel from the grocery.

I had a few hunks of leftover No Knead Bread in the freezer and with the aid of my trusty food processor, I had plenty of crumbs in just a few minutes. No-Knead Bread is so easy to make that I almost always have a least one new whole loaf on hand. We always start eating the newest loaf and leave the older one for toast, croutons, or bread crumbs. If there is a piece left, I bag it up and stick it in the freezer until I need it.

To make the pork roast, I first butterflied the pork loin lengthwise by slicing one third of the way down almost to the side. I opened it up like a book and then sliced another third of the way into the thicker side (you’re making a tri-fold, now cutting from the middle, not the opposite end from the first cut) and opened that up also. I now had a roast three times as wide as what I started with.  I pounded it out just a little to even it up and spread the stuffing over the roast, rolled it and tied it with string to keep it together while it roasted.

I hadn’t planned to make gravy, but at the last minute, I couldn’t stand to waste those good juices at the bottom of the roasting pan and quickly made up a gravy with some chicken stock and enhanced it with a tablespoon or so of heavy cream and a sprinkling of Julia Child’s pork seasoning.

The stuffing is simply sliced onion and fennel, sweated in olive oil and butter until tender, seasoned with salt and pepper, garlic and thyme, Pernod or white wine  (I used white wine), and mixed with bread crumbs. This is spread over the butterflied pork loin, which is rolled up and tied securely, roasted at 425 minutes for 30 minutes and 350 for another 30.  Let it rest for 10-15 minutes, slice it thickly and Bob’s-your-uncle. You can find the complete directions  below or here .

I try to use up leftovers as creatively as possible. Sometimes, it doesn’t work. (I tried making chili one time with leftover spaghetti sauce. Not good.) Other times, it works great.

We had leftovers last night. With lots of stuffed pork roast and gravy leftover (the little ones weren’t thrilled with the stuffing messing up the pork), we had the backbone of our meal. However,  I wanted to “kick up the gravy a notch” so I added a few tablespoons of currant jelly and stirred it in while the gravy heated up on the stove. It added a little bit of “sweet-tartness” to the gravy. Much better.

With the pork and leftover augratin potatoes, I fixed roasted butternut squash. I peeled the squash, removed the seeds and fibers from the cavity, and chopped the flesh into approximately 1″ cubes. I tossed the cubes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, laid them out on a sheet pan lined with parchment and roasted them in a 400 degree oven for a half-hour or so, until a knife tip cut into a cube easily. They were pretty good, but a little dull. I tossed them with two tablespoons of maple syrup and then they were fine. We have lots of squash leftover. I may make a soup with what’s left. I’ll let you know if I do.

We even had leftover tossed salad from New Year’s Day. Yes, the lettuce was wilted. I added some more lettuce and a little bit of bottled blue cheese dressing. It was fine.

Blue cheese dressing can be too much for me sometimes. I often dilute it with homemade vinaigrette which I almost always have ready. This time, the vinaigrette on the wilted salad was also made from leftovers. For Christmas Eve, I made a beef tenderloin with a mustard-herb crust. I had some mustard/herb mixture from that still in the refrigerator. I added some vinegar and oil, salt, pepper and garlic, of course, and I had vinaigrette.

Try experimenting with leftovers. Just remember not to keep anything hanging around in the frig past the safe amount of time. Purge it the day before trash day and get rid of anything questionable at that time. Don’t leave stuff to grow moldy and yucky. Check way in the back. As George Carlin said, “Is it meat, or is it cake?” Throw it out.

INA GARTEN’S (BAREFOOT CONTESSA) PORK LOIN WITH FENNEL STUFFING

From Food Network

Good olive oil 
1 tablespoon unsalted butter 
2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions) 
2 cups sliced fennel (1 large bulb) 
Kosher salt 
Freshly ground black pepper 
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 large cloves) 
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves 
1 tablespoon Pernod or white wine 
3 cups fresh bread crumbs 
1 (3 1/2-pound) loin of pork, butterflied
 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.For the stuffing, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan. Add the onions and fennel with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook over low to medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions and fennel are tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Pernod and cook for another minute, deglazing the pan. Cool slightly.

Add the bread crumbs and 1 teaspoon of salt to the stuffing mixture. Lay the pork on a board fat side down, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread the stuffing evenly on the pork and roll up lengthwise, ending with the fat on the top of the roll. Tie with kitchen string, rub with olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Place the rolled pork loin on a baking rack on a sheet pan and roast for 30 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees F and roast for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the interior of the pork is 137 degrees F. (If the thermometer hits stuffing rather than pork, it will register a higher temperature, so test the meat in several places.) Remove from the oven and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Remove the strings, slice thickly, and serve.

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Are you looking for a quick chicken dish? One that’s full of flavor? Here’s a go-to recipe that requires fresh rosemary and garlic, two flavors that complement each other so well.

Rosemary is an easy herb to grow. It thrives in hot summer with very little attention other than occasional watering and some pruning if you want to keep it compact. I have had it winter over in mild winters, but it usually dies and needs replacing each spring. I have not had luck growing it in the kitchen window for some reason. It gets mealybugs. Yuck. I may try to keep it going in the garage window this year.

This is one of those recipes that benefits from the cook pounding the chicken breasts to an even thickness to prevent one thin end from becoming too dry before the thicker end is finished cooking. You can pound them as thin as you want, just make sure that they don’t fall part.

CHICKEN WITH GARLIC AND ROSEMARY(For variation, see * below)

4 chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless, pounded to even thickness
1/4 c. flour
salt and pepper
1-2 T. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 t. fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 c. chicken broth
2 T. red wine vinegar

1. Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Dredge the chicken and shake off the excess flour.
2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat until shimmering. Saute the breasts in the hot oil, about 4 minutes/side until done. Transfer to a plate, cover with foil to keep warm. Add the garlic and rosemary. Cook 1 minute, stirring.
3. Add the broth and vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer to reduce the liquid to 1/2 c.
4. Return the chicken to the pan and cook over low heat just to reheat the chicken.
5. Serve with the pan sauce.

*Variation:

In addition to the above ingredients:
1 fennel bulb, sliced lengthwise, core removed
1 small onion, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
half of a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes (or whole ones broken up), with half of the juice

After browning the chicken, remove to plate and cover. Add fennel and onion to the hot oil. Saute, stirring, until tender. Add garlic and resemary. Cook 1 minute. Add broth, tomatoes and red wine vinegar. Bring to boil to reduce the sauce by half. Lower heat and return chicken to pan and simmer for a few minutes.

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We had a delicious ribeye steak tonight for dinner.  We bought a nice thick ribeye on Saturday and it was big enough for us to share it.  I seasoned it and broiled it for four minutes of a side for a medium rare finish. (I used a gas grill, preheated for ten minutes, and cooked the steak over medium heat, four minutes on a side.)  I rarely like steak sauce, such as A-1 or Heinz 57 on a really good steak.  I prefer to taste the quality beef by itself. 

Sometimes, however, I will make a simple wine sauce, like Jacques Pepin’s Marchand de Vin sauce (more on that another day) or a vegetable garnish.  Today, I sauteed a sliced onion with a sliced fennel bulb in a tablespoon of butter slowly until they were carmelized slightly.  A little salt and pepper over them and they were ready to keep on low heat until the steaks were ready to eat. I served each piece of the steak with a large spoonful of the onion/fennel mixture on top. It was a great addition to the steak which really needed no embellishment.

Mac had two small baked Yukon gold potatoes and we had a nice caprese salad (see my post on Insalata Caprese) with a handful of fresh basil, fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. I have five different kinds of basil growing in pots and I picked a few leaves from each.  I will have to taste the individual leaves to see which ones I like best. I have so much basil that I doubt if we will be able to eat it all.  We’re not terribly fond of pesto, so I doubt that I’ll be making and freezing it. basil_main2.jpg

We do love bruschetta and will use a lot of basil for that.  I have a great recipe for soup that uses a pesto garnish swirled into the finished soup for serving.  Maybe I will make pesto for that.  When I do, I will give you the soup recipe.  It is a great recipe for using summer vegetables.   

Until then, happy dining.

Morgana

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Fantastic Fennel

fennel.gif

I don’t remember when I first tasted fennel. I was probably inspired to buy a few bulbs by a TV food show or magazine article featuring it as an ingredient. The first recipe I prepared was a fennel gratin that Mac an I really liked. From then, I was off to find new ways to use the “F” vegetable.

Unfortunately, at that time, probably ten years ago, it was a difficult vegetable to find. Our local grocery, a small independent one, carried few vegetables beyond those most commonly used. I remember being thrilled to find fresh asparagus there. Even the big chain groceries in the neighboring towns and city had no fennel. I asked for it at my local grocery and they obliged my request and started carrying it. But they had to buy a big box of it and no one but me ever bought it. One can only eat so much fennel in a week even if one is inordinately fond of it! So, with the bulbs languishing in the store’s precious limited space, fennel was scratched off their order list.

I had to drive quite far to find it and then it was not always available. But sometime in the past ten years, others have found the vegetable appealing and it is now available at my nearby Kroger as well as other large groceries.

I have used fennel raw, sliced like celery sticks, in salads. One of my favorite is a combination of fennel and Granny Smith apple wedges with a slightly mustardy vinaigrette.

Here is a recipe from Sara’s Secrets (Food Network) that is easy and delicious.

BRAISED FENNEL

1 large fennel bulb or 2 small bulbs
2 tablespoons butter
1 small clove garlic, whole
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine, optional
Water and/or chicken stock, to cover

1. Trim stalks flush with fennel bulb and cut each bulb lengthwise into quarters, or halves, if using small bulbs.
2. In a heavy saucepan large enough to hold the fennel flat in one layer, melt 1 tablespoon butter over moderate heat.
3. Add fennel garlic, thyme, and toss to coat with butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add wine, if using, and chicken stock.
4. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Braise for 15 to 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
5. Stir in remaining tablespoon butter and salt and pepper, to taste.

(I have made this and added a sliced shallot to the mix.)

This same dish can be prepared with a little less water or chicken broth and baked in the oven until the vegetables are just tender. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and broil until the cheese melts and browns a little.

Find a fennel recipe and try it. The taste reminds me a little of licorice (which I don’t like at all) but it is a clean, fresh taste when raw and deep and hearty when cooked.

Bye for now,

Morgana

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