Sunday, December 30, 2007

Grilled Pork stuffed with Blue Cheese and Fresh Herbs

Ah, it's good to be home and back to cooking. One of my resolutions is to update my blog more often!

As the year draws to a close, we decided to try to clean out the freezer somewhat to make room for all that great stuff we want to make in '08. We had some beautiful pork chops that were just begging to be used on this chilly winter night. After spending the holidays in the cold midwest, it was time to fire up the grill! Also, in the freezer was a batch of Sweet Onion Jam that we made prior to leaving town to use up the rest of our CSA onions. I thought it would be a great topper to the pork.

While in my homeland of Minnesota, I indulged in my favorite grain; Minnesota Wild Rice. I couldn't wait to have it again, so I made a big batch to serve with the pork and eat for the next few days. Contrary to the name, wild rice is actually a grain. Not only is it delicious, with a nutty and earthy flavor, it is a wonderful source or protein and fiber.

We paired the pork and wild rice with the 2004 Timbuktu Big Block Red. An Australian blend of Cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, shiraz, merlot and malbec. It went quite well with the meal since we had so many flavors going on, but it wasn't as good as I remembered it. But then, that is what makes wine interesting- even if you've had the wine before, each bottle has it's own personality.




GRILLED PORK CHOPS WITH GORGONZOLA and ONION JAM

2 pork chops (or more if you want)
1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh tarragon (or use a mix of whatever fresh herbs you have on hand)
salt and pepper to taste

Clean pork chops and cut a slit horizontally through each chop to "butterfly." Stuff each chop with a couple of tablespoons of the cheese and lay the sprigs of herbs over cheese. Close the chops and use toothpicks to hold together if you need to. Sprinle with salt and pepper. Grill over medium high heat for approximately 10 minutes depending on the thickness of chops. Serve topped with Sweet Onion Jam.

SWEET ONION JAM adapted from the Mustards cookbook

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups sliced onions
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. red wine
2 Tbsp water

Heat the oil in a skilet over med. heat. Add the onions and cook for 5-8 minutes, until tender and transclucent. Add the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 min. Ad all the remaining ingrendents and cook, stirring often to avoid scorching, for 20 min. or until thick and jamlike. The slower you cook it, the richer the jam will become.

WILD RICE

1 cup dry wild rice
3 cups chicken broth
1 can water chestnuts
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup sliced, shitake mushrooms
1 tsp. dried thyme

I did this in a rice cooker, so I added everything at once and let it cook until done. If you do not have a rice cooker, do the rice according to the package directions. You can add the mushrooms, chestnuts, etc. to broth when you add the rice. Be forwarned, wild rice takes as long or longer than brown rice...




Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Warm Winter Comfort Food


A couple of nights ago, it was pouring rain and cold here in the desert. I was planning on going to Kierland for some Christmas shopping, but decided to stay home and cook instead. (Since I'm not a big fan of shopping, this isn't a big stretch.) I had a pork tenderloin in the refrigerator, that was originally going to be grilled. That idea was nixed by the rain. I preheated the oven (hoping to warm up the house) and searched the internet for some inspiration. I was not about to run out to the grocery store, so I was also looking for something that would use up things I already had on hand. So, as I usually do, I borrowed from a few recipes to pull together the final product. My end result was roasted pork tenderloin with a dried cranberry merlot sauce. Rolling the pork in a mixture of sage and thyme before searing gave it that wonderful winter-ish flavor that we were craving this evening.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with a Dried Cranberry Merlot Sauce

PORK:
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (1 lb) pork tenderloin, trimmed

SAUCE:
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup dried cranberries (I used craisins)
1/2 cup cranberry juice cocktail
2-3 Tbsp. dry red wine (I used Merlot - hence the name.)
1 Tbsp grape (or berry) jam

Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the pork by combining the first 4 ingredients; rub evenly over the pork.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray or light olive oil. Add pork; cook 4 minutes on each side to brown. Take pork out of the pan and put in a baking dish. Place the pork in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the pork is 160 degrees.

While the pork is roasting, add the chicken broth, dried cranberries, wine and juice to the pan that you sauteed the pork in. Bring to a boil, scraping the pan to loosen the browned bits. Stir in jam; cook 8-10 minutes or until the mixture is slightly thick, stirring occasionally. Cut the pork into medallions and serve with the sauce.


The side I added was braised greens with a pomegranate vinaigrette. I had 3 - 1 lb. bags of mustard greens and dandelion greens from our CSA. Look how the greens cooked down, resulting in 2 servings that all fit in this medium sized bowl. (I can add the recipe if anyone is interested.)

Finally, I had some grits to which I added a couple of tablespoons of gorgonzola. This made a nice base for the sweet pork medallions. You can't really see the grits under the pork in the picture, but they were so easy and so delicious. The addition of gorgonzola was the difference in bumping this plain starch up a notch.

 
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Of course this meal wouldn't have been complete without a bottle of our current favorite merlot - the Avila. Slightly jammy, it not only paired well with the food, but gave a nice warm feeling to this chilly night.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Portland Review

This past weekend, Scott and I had a quick trip to Portland for his company Christmas party. This was my first trip to Portland, and with only 2 nights, I knew we had to try to jam in a lot. The city definately lived up to it's reputation, as it was cold and wet the entire time. In fact, when we were picking out this lovely produce at the Portland State Farmer's Market, it was snowing!

Despite the snow, we quickly picked out some fabulous veggies to bring home. Check out the assorted wild mushrooms - I was in heaven! I would have loved to get more, there was some beautiful squash, so many varieties of kale, vibrant peppers, etc. But, we didn't have a lot of room, and wanted a few things that would travel well.
 



Of course, being the foodies we are, the restaurant selection was overwhelming. Portland has a super restaurant scene. Since the Christmas party was one night, we really only had one dinner and 2 lunches on our own. We finally decided to do dinner at the Portland City Grill. Our argument being, that we really wanted to "see" Portland. (And if you look hard, you can "see" Scott taking this photo.)



While we may have found a more eclectic menu at another venue, we had a great dinner. Pictured is my meal of the Misoyaki Glazed Black Cod. The sweet carmelized mirin and miso glaze was "lick the plate" worthy. I also tried the cioppino, which I didn't get a picture of, before it was gone!
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One thing we found suprising was the lack of Oregon and Washington wines on the wine list. This seemed to be true at many of the places we stopped to have a glass of wine. Many of the menues were loaded with French and California selections, and maybe one or two from the Willamette Valley, but that's it. Disappointing, as our favorite part of eating out when we travel to a great wine area, is trying several new and fabulous wines.

I can't wait to return and spend more time is this great city! Next time we will visit the falls, wine region, and maybe the coast... Mmmm...so many places and so little time.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

An Update...

 


The tree is decorated and it is feeling more festive around the house. The wine tasted even better with the meal than the glass that I had before dinner. I didn't take a picture of the meal, because...well, grilled pork with a dark sauce just isn't that photogenic.

So, I will leave you with this photo of Chase (dressed for the season in his Christmas collar.) Look closely, and you will notice a little stuffed animal by his neck. It's one of the ornaments from the tree that he is obsessed with. He leaves all the others alone, but always finds his little "mini-me" and repeatedly snatches it off the tree.

A little Christmas Cheer!



The sun is setting and it's a cool Sunday evening outside. Perfect for trimming the tree, and enjoying a glass of this red blend, called Reds.

I've really been enjoying red blends this fall, and this 2005 vintage doesn't disappoint. Zinfandel, Carignane, and Petite Syrah round out this exotic blend from the Lodi area of California. I'm tasting a little spice and a hint of cocoa. (Yum... my preference for tree trimming over hot cocoa any day.) It is definately a bold and dry red,one that would go quite well burgers and barbecue. Doesn't it look lovely in the poinsettia wine goblets?

When I get done trimming the tree, we will drink the rest with a pork tenderloin in a pomegranate molasses sauce which I think will match nicely.

Cheers!