Friday, June 24, 2011

Berry Season!

Strawberries are a beautiful things. Once, when I was waiting tables at a reception, they had strawberries on the buffet table. Nearby, I was operating the champagne fountain. A few glasses disappeared, to be placed under the table with strawberries in them. One of my co-workers caught me and before she could finish saying, "What the expletive are you doing?" I popped one in her mouth. Thus began my lifelong affair with strawberries and booze together.

Austin the former housemate has a patch in his garden that he diligently guards from the local wildlife. Sometimes the deer figure out ways around the netting. Sometimes he gets a nice crop. You can't do better than just-picked, you really can't. Even if it means fighting the deer and the bunnies.

The berries my sweetie and I ate last night were fresh, plump and juicy, though they were not from Austin's garden. While they're delicious just washed and munched on, I like to gild the lily a bit:
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (I used organic. Brown sugar also lovely here, especially with rum)
  • 1.5 Tablespoons good dark rum (I used Plantation,which is made in Barbados. The best rums I've ever had have been in the Caribbean)

Hull the the strawberries and slice them into a medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle the sugar over the sliced berries and stir well with a rubber scraper. Add the rum and stir again. The rubber scraper will help pick up the liquid and spread the flavors around.

Let sit for a bit--I usually make this an hour or two ahead. Stir a few times every fifteen minutes or so. You'll notice liquid beginning to form in the bowl. Not quite syrup, not quite juice, just a luscious marriage of flavors.

Spoon into serving dishes. Add fresh cream if you wish or simply enjoy with a spoon.

I've been making this and variations thereof for at least fifteen years, using several different liqueurs--Chambord, Kahlua, Gran Mariner. The last adds a slightly earthy feel to it that I love. If you like a lighter flavor but still orangey, I recommend Cointreau. If I were to use champagne, I wouldn't add the sugar or cream. I just found a mini-bottle of Limoncello in my gaming bag, so that may be up next, if the berries are still fresh next week.

Questions? Comments? Death threats? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I don't think it's me

But it could be. The recipe looked intriguing to me, but. . .let's take a look:

12 oz sweet orange marmalade 
4 Tablespoons cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon Asian Hot Garlic Chil sauce (does that mean anything byt Sriracha?)
Pinch salt
2 lb pork tenderloin
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash ground black pepper

I look at this ingredient list and I think, "We have sweet, but we have vinegar to counteract it from being too sweet, we have spicy from the garlic chili sauce. We'll have a little bitter on the back end. This has potential."

Instead of the black pepper, I decided to use red--I'd had red pepper flakes in a spicy plum sauce at a Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant in Salt Lake City called Cafe Trang. They've expanded quite a bit since I lived in the Beehive State and that dish is no longer on the menu, but if you're in the area, check them out. Best egg rolls I've ever had.

I also thought I'd eliminate the honey. Marmalade is sweet enough, yes?

The recipe itself was pretty easy to follow:
Combine the marmalade, vinegar, honey, Asian chili sauce and the pinch of salt. Reduce to reduced by about 1/3, about 10-15 minutes.

Cut tenderloins into 1-inch slices. Flatten slightly with the heel of your hand (I just used the flat of my big knife). Combine the flour, 1/2 t salt and pepper in a food storage bag.  Shake tenderloin medallions in the mixture until well coated.

Heat olive oil (I used an extra-light one, about 2T) over medium-high heat. Sear tenderloin medallions for about 3 minutes on each side. Add the reduced sauce, simmer for about 20 minutes.

I know the measurements were correct, and when I tasted the reduced sauce before I poured it over the meat, I got a nice blend of sweet and spicy. Twenty minutes later, I had beautifully tender pork in a way-too-sweet sauce. I think if I'd added the honey, I wouldn't have been able to eat it. The pepper was not there, the vinegar was not there, the Sriracha was completely missing. 

How to fix this? Less marmalade is an obvious start. More Sriracha? More pepper? All of the above? I'm really not sure where to go next with this one. I would love to hear your ideas. If someone submits one I like, I will make the dish again with their improvements sometime this fall. I need a bit of a break before I make this one again.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Scarborough Fair Part Two--Sage and Onion Chicken

Today's entry came out of the "What the hell do I make for dinner?" school, with some help from, "You can't put that chicken back in the freezer so you better cook it in the next couple days."

For the previous few days, I had shucked rosemary and thyme to the point where I was going to soak my fingers in vanilla extract so I didn't smell like an herb garden. Garlic? I had one bulb left and I needed it for the clam sauce. So to the cupboard I went. My sweetie suggested oregano and lemon, but I had used up the oregano. Marjoram? Nothing sprang to mind. Then my eyes settled on the bottle of Dalmatian sage. We had a winner.

I'm afraid today's ingredients were not exactly measured, so please bear with me.

2 chicken breasts
2 T light olive oil
enough sliced onions to cover the bottom of a large frying pan
fine sea salt
freshly ground pepper
ground sage

After heating the olive oil in the pan for about a minute on medium, I added the onions and let them cook until they started to turn translucent around the edges. I placed the chicken breasts on top of the onions, sprinkled sea salt, ground some pepper and gently shook the sage over everything in the pan. I covered the pan for about three minutes, then stirred everything and flipped the chicken, added more salt, pepper and sage and made a point of trying to keep the chicken on top of the onions as much as possible. Lather, rinse, repeat until onions are caramelized and juices from the chicken run clear.

This came out better than I expected and was a treat for the nose as well as the taste buds. I served it with potato salad and steamed brocolini.