Tag : seasonal
Tag : seasonal
One of the hardest things to get used to when it comes to cooking is the variation from person to person with the same recipe. This recipe has taken almost a year for me to figure out, not because I lacked the skill (though some of it was me figuring out the skills), but because 1) there are very few “chicken pasta with herb cream sauce” recipes online, and 2) everyone has a completely different approach…to every. single. step.
I like simplicity. In fact, my main principle when it comes to food is, “Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS).” If I can take a recipe and simplify or omit a step without sacrificing quality, then you can bet I’ll do just that. Cooking should be accessible, simple, fun, and, most importantly, delicious.
But when you start asking your peers for advice about a recipe, be prepared for frustration and twenty different answers.
When I was figuring out how I wanted to make my chicken piccata, I found a process for doing chicken with a pan sauce that works for me, and they say, in cooking and baking, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” (though I am also the kind of person who will break something just so I can learn how to fix it. This was a mix of both.)
The basic outline is this:
There you have it: meat, aromatics, alcohol, sauce, cream, cheese, herbs, and pasta.
Next adventure? Pumpkin pecan chicken with sage browned butter.
other chicken recipes
pasta with chicken, herbs, and parmesan cream sauce
Note: When preparing pasta, bringing a full pot of water to boil can take a long time, but you really don’t need a full pot. You can cook pasta in a shallow pot of water, and it comes to a boil faster. Use a stockpot or large saucepan and about 1-2 quarts of water. This way, you can start the water boiling while you’re cooking the chicken and the pasta will be ready before the sauce is done.
8 oz pasta (pappardelle or fettuccine are best for this)
olive oil for sautéing
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
4 cloves garlic
1/2 c dry white wine
1 c chicken stock
1 c heavy cream
1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese
2 c mixed fresh herbs (I suggest 3 sprigs basil, 3 sprigs oregano, 2 large sprigs dill, and about 6 sprigs thyme)
parsley plus extra Parmesan cheese for serving
An hour before cooking, place the chicken breast on a plate between two paper towels to let it dry off and come to room temperature.
When ready to start cooking, place a large skillet or sauté pan on medium-high heat.
While the pan is heating, thinly slice the chicken breast and cut each slice in half so you have pieces about an inch wide and 2-3 inches long.
Once the pan is hot, add a splash of olive oil. While the olive oil is heating, continue prepping the rest of the ingredients: mince the garlic finely and set it aside in its own bowl; measure out the wine, chicken stock, and cream into separate containers; and chop, mince, or chiffonade the herbs, adding them all to one bowl.
Add the chicken to the hot pan and spread it out into a single layer. This might be a little difficult because the chicken will stick to the pan as soon as you add it, which it should: protein always sticks to the pan first before it sears. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika, and let it brown on one side for a few minutes before sautéing.
After you start the chicken cooking, set a pot of water to boil for the pasta.
Alternate searing and sautéing the chicken until it has browned on almost all sides, you don’t see any pink on the surface, and there’s a nice layer of brown on the bottom of the pan (this is the fond, like a well of flavor that you’ll mix back into the sauce.) Once the chicken is cooked on the outside, remove it from the pan, set it aside, and lower the heat a little bit for the garlic. Your chicken probably won’t be done on the inside, but that’s okay because you’ll braise it in the sauce and it’ll cook all the way through.
Add another splash of olive oil to the pan and let that warm for a minute.
Once the pasta water is boiling, add 1-2 Tbsp salt to the water and let it dissolve. Then, add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions (about 5 minutes.) You’ll want to remove the pasta from the water early, because it’ll cook a little in the sauce. If you cook the pasta all the way through in the water, it’ll become soft in the sauce.
When the pasta’s done, drain it in a metal colander and quickly toss the drained pasta with a splash of olive oil to keep it from sticking together as it drains.
While the pasta is cooking, add the minced garlic to warmed skillet and sauté for about a minute. Once you can smell the garlic, it’s time to add the next ingredient. If you leave the garlic too long, it’ll burn. You can let the garlic brown a little bit, too.
Add the white wine and turn up the heat a bit so it simmers. While the wine is cooking, use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan (the fond), and mix it into the reducing wine.
Let the wine cook down by about 1/3 – 1/2, then add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer or boil. Let the mixture reduce again by about 1/3 – 1/2.
Whisk in the heavy cream and bring the sauce to a simmer. Let the sauce simmer and thicken for a few minutes, tasting and adjusting with the salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.
Add the chicken back into the sauce (and any juice or oil that accumulated from the chicken), and let the mixture simmer gently for about 3-5 minutes, so the sauce thickens and the chicken finishes cooking through.
Turn off the heat and whisk in the Parmesan until it melts and is fully mixed in.
Add the herbs and pasta and toss everything together.
Taste the sauce and adjust by adding more salt, pepper, smoked paprika, Parmesan cheese, or fresh herbs.
Serve and garnish with fresh chopped parsley or extra shredded Parmesan.
See ya, summer!
previous monthly muffins
It’s cherry season, y’all!!
I’m still working through about a pound of black cherries that I bought a week ago, even after making 48 ounces of cherry jam and many, many batches of these muffins. Half of my shirts are stained from pitting the cherries, I almost ruined a kitchen towel crushing the pits (to get the kernels out for the jam), and I’m bursting with roasty, toasty, hazelnutty goodness.
Hazelnut is one among my favorite flavors, but as much as I love it, hazelnut will never surpass almond. What’s more, almond is a more traditional companion for dark cherries. In fact, the kernels inside the cherry pits taste and smell like almond (and my cherry jam has heaps of Amaretto and Cognac.)
That being said, I used almond in my blackberry almond muffins, and I wanted to venture a little outside my comfort zone. Meaning, I wanted to buy hazelnuts for the first time.
I had actually found a bag of whole hazelnuts at my grocery store a month ago and I couldn’t resist buying them and storing them in the freezer. When I decided on this recipe, it was the perfect opportunity to start digging into the bag of nuts (and an excuse to buy Frangelico.)
The sweetness and tartness of the cherries is naturally complemented by the Kirschwasser, a German black cherry liqueur (the name means “cherry water”), and it pairs well with the sweet nuttiness of the hazelnuts (which are accented with the Frangelico, an Italian hazelnut liqueur.) You can swap out Cognac, another popular cherry companion, for either of the other flavors, but I recommend keeping the Frangelico for an extra hazelnut boost in the muffin batter. Lightly toasting the hazelnuts really intensifies their flavor. When using raw nuts in pastries, I almost always toast them first.
black cherry hazelnut muffins with kirsch and frangelico
based on my whole wheat rhubarb muffins
4 oz hazelnuts
4 oz all-purpose flour
4 oz whole wheat flour
3 oz almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
5 oz granulated sugar
4 oz canola oil
7 oz milk
1 tsp Kirschwasser (black cherry liqueur; can also substitute Cognac or Amaretto)
1 tsp Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur; can make the same substitutions as above, but the Frangelico is strongly suggested for more hazelnut flavor)
8 oz dark cherries, pitted and cut in half (pitting cherries and olives is easy with the right tool!)
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
Place the hazelnuts in a single layer in a small skillet or on a baking sheet, and toast them lightly on the stove or in the oven for about 5 – 7 minutes, shaking them around occasionally, until they start to brown a little bit and you can smell them.
Transfer the toasted hazelnuts to a cutting board and let them cool while you prepare the rest of the batter.
In a small bowl, combine the all-purpose, whole wheat, and almond flours, and the salt and baking powder.
When the hazelnuts have cooled down, coarsely chop them. They don’t need to be too small, but they should be smaller than a whole hazelnut. Cutting them in half is fine. Add the chopped toasted hazelnuts to a bowl with the pitted and halved cherries.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil, milk, Kirschwasser, and Frangelico.
Add the dry mixture to the wet and quickly mix together. Mix in the cherries and hazelnuts.
Using a cookie scoop or large spoon, divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and bake 30 – 35 minutes, until the tops spring back when pressed down lightly in the center or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Let the muffins cool for a few minutes in the pan, then transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Muffins last up to 48 hours wrapped individually in plastic. If they start to go a little stale, you can microwave them for about 15 seconds.
previous monthly muffins
In my experience, rye flour is one of those gourmet flours that you can find occasionally and only in small, expensive bags. This is fine: I don’t make rye bread very often (of all the bread I’ve ever made, rye has been the most difficult…so we’re on a break like Ross and Rachel.)
A couple months ago, however, when I went to get one of those small bags of rye flour (to try and make some pumpernickel), the only bag I could find was 5 pounds. For anyone not familiar with buying flour or sugar, the biggest bag of regular (all-purpose) flour you can find at the grocery store is 5 pounds, and the average small bag is about 2 pounds. For most of the less common flours, the average is 1 pound. Because I don’t use those flours very often, 1 pound can last a few months.
That means 5 pounds would have lasted a year…but North Carolina summers are a special kind of beast. I went to make these blueberry rye muffins a few weeks ago, and as I opened the bag of wheat flour (that had already been opened but then folded and clipped to seal it), I noticed something moving inside. It was almost as if the flour itself was moving.
It was ants. There were ants all over the inside of the bag…and the 5-pound bag of rye flour…and all of my rice flour…and my almond flour…every single bag of flour that had been open, no matter how well it was sealed, was crawling with ants. There were no ants anywhere else in the pantry (and believe me, I checked thoroughly), except inside my precious bags of flour.
Throwing all of that flour away was like ripping off my own arm and throwing it in the trash.
But enough about ants. Now, the flour shelf in the pantry is full of sealable plastic containers.
By the way, these muffins are amazing. The rye and whole wheat go together well, blueberries pair with any kind of spice, and the spice mixture is like a little bit of autumn in the middle of summer. It’s weird, but it works.
rye spiced blueberry streusel muffins
makes 1 dozen
based on my gluten-free blueberry buttermilk muffins
Note: The streusel can be prepared ahead and either frozen or refrigerated, unbaked, until ready to use. It’s best to chill the streusel for at least 10 – 15 minutes before using, so it’ll bake without melting.
spiced whole wheat streusel
1.5 oz whole wheat flour
1.5 oz brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1.5 oz unsalted butter
spiced rye muffins
7 oz all-purpose flour
3.5 oz rye flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp anise
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
4 oz vegetable oil or butter, melted and cooled
7 oz milk or buttermilk
5 oz granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c (6 oz) blueberries, fresh or frozen
make the streusel
In a small food processor, combine everything except the butter and pulse a few times to combine. Alternately, you can whisk the ingredients together in a large bowl.
Chop the butter into small pieces (at least 6 pieces, no more than a tablespoon each), and add to the dry mixture.
If using a food processor: Pulse the butter and the dry mixture together (stopping and starting) until it forms coarse crumbs. Once it looks sandy and chunky, it’s done. If you pulse too long, you might start forming a dough, which you’ll have to break up again.
If using a bowl: Use a pastry blender, combine the butter and dry mixture until it forms coarse crumbs.
Transfer the streusel mix to a sealable container and chill or freeze until ready to use. You can bake streusel straight from the freezer.
make the muffins
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
In a small bowl, combine flours, baking powder, salt, and spices.
In a larger bowl, whisk together oil/butter, milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla until uniform.
Quickly combine the dry mixture into the wet ingredients and add the blueberries. There may be a few small lumps of flour, but most of the dry mixture should be wet. You don’t need to mix the batter too much.
Using a spoon or cookie scoop, divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups and sprinkle a liberal amount of streusel on top.
Bake the muffins for about 30 – 35 minutes until they spring back when pressed lightly in the middle, or a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
When I was a kid, I was not a fan of pork (unless it came in the form of bacon). No matter how well my dad prepared the pork, I just didn’t like it. I would have eaten all the broccoli in the world but fried pork chops just weren’t my thing.
And now, either because I’ve gotten older or learned to cook, they are sooooo my thing.
I mentioned to a chef at work that I wanted to learn how to fry pork chops, and he (vehemently) suggested that I brine them. I brined them the very first time I made pork chops, and I haven’t looked back since. They were that brilliant: cooked all the way through, but still juicy and tender; perfectly salted without being off-putting; flavorful, browned, and crispy, and drowning in a rich, brown gravy.
As you will soon find out (if you haven’t already), I’m a huge fan of cooking with booze. Any kind of pan sauce or gravy and there must be alcohol. For some reason, we always have sherry lying around, perhaps because we buy it and never drink it or cook with it (so why do we buy it in the first place?) The first time I did the pork chops, in order to save some money, I decided to pull out the sherry instead of buying a new bottle of wine or beer.
And I am glad I did. Compared to wine, sherry is super mellow, a little sweet, and still just as deliciously yeast-y. From now on, whenever I make a brown gravy with meat, I’ll be making it with sherry.
Thyme normally makes me think of chicken and cream sauce, but it pairs perfectly with the sherry in this gravy and adds a freshness to the salty pork chops.
Minus the tweaks in measurements and process, this is basically the first pork chop recipe I’ve ever made and I’ve been using the same flavor combinations for probably two years now. It’s just that good (but we all also know that I can’t not experiment, so there will be other pork chop recipes in the future.)
pan-fried boneless pork chops with thyme-sherry gravy
Note: The ratio for a pork brine is 16 parts water to 1 part salt, by volume, and you use enough water to cover all of your pork. You can brine the pork in a large pan, but I find it easier to use ziploc bags (you don’t need as much water, and you can keep them in the refrigerator more easily.) 1 quart of water will cover 1 lb of pork, and 1/16 of one quart is 1/4 cup. For one quart of water, use 1/4 cup of salt. You won’t need any more salt for the rest of the recipe, except possibly the gravy (but probably not.)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 c (2 oz) sea salt
2 Tbsp whole peppercorns
2 Tbsp (1 oz) granulated sugar
1 lb boneless pork chops
ground black pepper*
canola oil or olive oil for frying
*You won’t need any more salt for the cooking because the brine will have added plenty.
2 Tbsp (1 oz) butter or olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 c (2 oz) sherry
1 c chicken or vegetable stock
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (about 4 sprigs)
salt and pepper as needed
brine the pork
The goal with the brine is: dissolve the salt and sugar into the water, but don’t cook the pork prematurely with boiling water.
Place the pork chops into ziploc bags with the fresh thyme sprigs.
In a small saucepan, combine the salt, sugar, peppercorns, and 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Boil until both the salt and the sugar are dissolved. The brine will very likely change color and look a little amber.
Combine the brine with the remaining 2 cups of cold water to bring down the temperature and pour the entire mixture into the bag with the pork and thyme.
Close the bag and let the pork brine for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.
If you’re brining the pork more than ~2 hours before cooking, then keep it all in the refrigerator and pull it out about 1~2 hours before you’re ready to fry the pork. Have the pork on the counter for at least an hour before frying to let it come to room temperature.
cook the pork
Remove the pork chops from the brine (the brine can go down the drain or in the trash now), and lay them out between two sheets of paper towels to dry for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a skillet or saute pan (cast iron is best, but any other bare metal is good, too) on medium high and preheat the oven to 350 F*.
*If you’re using thin pork chops or if you pound them out, you won’t need the oven. For the small, thick boneless chops, you’ll need the oven for all of 5 minutes and no longer.
Once the pan is hot, add the vegetable oil and let it heat up for a few minutes, until it shimmers and runs as thin as water. You can test the oil by tilting the pan so that the oil pools around the rim, then sticking the handle of a wooden spoon into the pool of oil. If the oil is hot enough, the oil around the wooden handle will bubble. The oil will also shimmer and ripple on the surface, and if you swirl it around, it’ll be the consistency of water. It might even smoke a bit. You can heat it to the smoking point (unless it’s an unrefined oil, like extra virgin olive oil), or keep it just under the smoking point.
Place the pork chops into the pan: set them down gently, placing first the edge closest to you then the edge farthest from you to avoid splattering yourself with hot oil. You should hear the pork sizzle immediately. Make sure you don’t crowd the pan: it’s better to fry the pork in batches and spend more time on the searing than to try and fit all of the pork into the pan at once to speed up the process. It’s absolutely vital that the pork chops do not touch each other: leave at least 1-2 inches between each piece.
It doesn’t matter if you flip the pork chops multiple times or let them sear for 5 minutes on each side without any movement, as long as you don’t fuss with them too much between flipping. The constant and undisturbed contact between the protein/meat and the surface of the pan is how you get the best brown.
After placing the pork chops into the pan to sear the first side, sprinkle the crushed black pepper on the raw side. Once you flip the pork chops the first time, sprinkle the black pepper over the seared side. Black pepper burns easily, so the less you have floating around the pan, the better.
If you have thin pork chops, use a digital instant-read meat thermometer to test the temperature after the second side has been searing for 5 minutes. You can keep them frying and flipping until the internal temperature reaches 145 F**. If you have thick pork chops, you might need to finish them in the oven: transfer the seared meat to a baking sheet*, then place all of the meat in the oven. Take the temperature after 3-5 minutes. Once it reads 145 F, the meat is done.
**The safe temperature for whole pork is 145 F. For ground pork, where the likelihood of contamination inside the mixture is higher, the safe temperature is 165 F.
If all of your pork chops fit into your skillet at once without crowding each other, then save yourself a dish and just put the whole skillet in the oven.
As soon as the pork chops are out of your skillet, start on your gravy. The gravy only takes about 5 minutes.
make the gravy
Reheat the skillet on medium-low heat and add the butter or olive oil.
When the oil or butter is hot, add the minced garlic and saute for about 1 minute, until you can start to smell the garlic. Don’t let it brown too much or too quickly: the lower heat, the better, as long as the garlic is still able to cook.
Once the garlic is golden and you can smell it, whisk in the flour. The roux should be thick and pasty, but not too doughy. Cook the roux for about 1-2 minutes until it darkens a little bit.
Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the sherry. Whisk to fully combine the sherry and the roux and let the mixture bubble for about 1-2 minutes, until it thickens to a gravy-like consistency.
Whisk in about 1/3 of the stock until fully incorporated and bubbling. Taste the gravy at this point to see if it’s the right consistency (not pasty or floury, but not too thin), and the right flavor. Continue slowly incorporating the rest of the stock and testing for texture and flavor until it’s smooth and thick, but still gravy-like. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the gravy is too thin, let it bubble and thicken a bit. The finished gravy should coat the back of a metal or wooden spoon but not move when you run your finger through the gravy along the back of the spoon.
Once the gravy is finished, whisk in the fresh thyme and serve.
The pork chops and gravy keep for a few days in the refrigerator in an airtight container or plastic bag. Store them separately.
previous summer muffins
I know blackberries aren’t technically in season yet, but think of this recipe as a preview: by the time blackberries are perfect for the picking, you’ll already have a recipe for them!
And, spoiler alert, another one on the way.
I don’t remember when I started realizing how much I love blackberries, but when I fell for them, I fell hard. They are, by far, my favorite berry. Don’t get me wrong, I love all berries and everything related to berries (except strawberry milk and strawberry ice cream: major blegh.) But blackberries are a league of their own.
One day, I’m going to write a cookbook dedicated to blackberries. But actually, I just came up with that idea and it’s a damn good idea, so I’m totally serious.
My goal with this recipe was to get another good summer recipe using fruit, but because I already have blackberry almond muffins, I wanted to go in a different direction. I believe you can’t go wrong with a good whole wheat muffin, and the honey came to me when I was working on my lemon-honey sponge cake. At first, I added a bunch of spices to the muffins, but it was too much, so I omitted them entirely. The honey itself is at once sweet and acidic, but I add lemon zest for a bright balance to the sweetness of the honey.
I’m discovering that blackberries play well with a lot of other ingredients, and that’s exciting.
blackberry honey whole wheat muffins
adapted from my blackberry almond muffins
makes 1 dozen
4 oz all-purpose flour
8 oz whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 oz honey
zest of 1 baby lemon or 1/2 of one large lemon
6 oz milk
4 oz unsalted butter, melted, or canola oil
9 oz blackberries
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C, and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, honey, lemon zest, and milk, until homogeneous. If using vegetable oil, whisk it in with these ingredients. If using butter, mix everything else first.
Whisk in the melted butter.
Quickly dump the dry ingredients into the wet and mix together. Fold in the blackberries.
Scoop the batter into the muffin pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes. The muffins will feel springy when you push gently in the center with a finger. You can also test with a wooden toothpick: insert the toothpick into the center of the muffin and it should come out clean.
Remove the muffins from the oven and let them cool for about 5 minutes in the pan. Transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
You can keep the muffins up to 48 hours wrapped individually in plastic. Let them cool down completely before wrapping.
Smell ya later, honeys,
I’m excited beyond words to bring you all another first, unlike any first or any recipe I’ve ever published:
My first jam recipe!! (*crowd roars and my ear drums shatter into a million pieces rendering me deaf*)
I’ve been wanting to do jam, preserves, and canning for a few years now, and I finally took the plunge last spring. I crawled to hell and back trying to find the best book for learning how to make jam, and when I stumbled upon The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, the definitive guide to preserving seasonal fruit, I fell head over heels in love with their book.
I challenged myself to make jam 15 times last summer, but moving houses got in the way. I challenged myself to make jam another 15 times this spring and summer, and with only two months down (out of 6 because summer is half a year in North Carolina), I’m already almost halfway there (I just can’t stop…right after I took the photos of this batch, I started a batch of another recipe.)
I’ve run out of jars and am almost out of labels (mostly because I keep giving the jam to people.) My fridge is full of unlabeled tupperware containers with jam that wouldn’t fit into the jars, and the pyramids of quilted crystal canning jars on my pantry shelves are about to topple over. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything to put the jam on right now, so now I have to go and make english muffins or eat the jam straight out of the container (which I totally do anyway.)
The first rhubarb recipe in the book is for a rhubarb and cherry jam, which I attempted…and burned. It was one of two batches of jam that I’ve burned since I started last April. I still had leftover rhubarb, because I was hoarding it, so I tried a regular batch. Silly old me, though, I couldn’t just make a regular batch. I had to add in something odd. I had rosewater and fresh mint, so in they went! It was brilliant and inspired, and the result is refreshing, like a mojito.
Rose is one of those flavors, like lavender and even anise, that you either enjoy or can’t stand. For a long time, I was in the “this tastes like perfume and soap” camp, but I’ve slowly moved into the “this is almost pleasant” camp. I’m still in a transitional stage, so rose madeleines will have to wait another year or two, but somehow the flavor works perfectly in this combination. Both rosewater and mint are common ingredients in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern sweets (like baklava, faloodeh, yazdi cupcakes, and halva.) The rhubarb is tart, and without the sugar it just tastes like vegetables, but with the sugar, it’s almost citrus-y. Whether you like rose or hate it, the flavor of the rosewater marries with the rhubarb so well you’ll never want to have rhubarb without it, and the subtle, refreshing mint goes well with the citrusy-ness of the rhubarb, in the same way that it pairs with the cool sweetness of watermelon.
rhubarb, rose, and mint (“Double R M”) jam
adapted from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, by Rachel Saunders
makes 2 cups (16 fluid ounces)
1 lb rhubarb, fresh or frozen, chopped into 1″ pieces
10 oz granulated sugar
1 oz lemon juice, fresh or bottled
1/8 tsp rosewater**
2 whole sprigs of fresh mint
**If you’d rather make regular rhubarb jam without the rosewater and mint, then just omit them and do everything else as written.
preparing the jars*
*I do my sterilizing and sealing in the oven, but you can use any other method (pressure, steam, boiling, etc.) For this recipe, any sealing or canning method will work.
Preheat the oven to 250 F/120 C.
Wash the jars, lids, and seals (if they have seals) with soap and warm water. Rinse everything and place all the pieces on a baking sheet.
Place the baking sheet in the oven to sanitize and dry the jars and their pieces while you make the jam. They should stay in the heated oven for at least half an hour to fully sanitize before you fill and seal them. It’ll take about half an hour or longer to finish cooking the jam from when you turn on the stove, so start cooking the jam after you’ve placed the jars in the oven.
Before you start making the jam, place a small plate and 3-5 spoons in the freezer for testing.
making the jam
You can use either fresh or frozen rhubarb for this. If using frozen, let it macerate and thaw in the pot with the sugar and lemon juice before you start cooking the jam, or else the rhubarb and/or the sugar might burn.
You can also macerate the fresh rhubarb. Maceration entails combining the produce, sugar, and lemon juice and letting it sit for a while, until the sugar has dissolved, the produce is soft, and the fruit has released liquid. The liquid produced during maceration acts as a buffer between the pan and the rhubarb so the rhubarb doesn’t burn or sear. It also helps the jam cook faster by letting the water start to evaporate sooner.
If using fresh rhubarb, you can skip the maceration, if you want.
Have the rhubarb, sugar, and lemon juice in a large, wide pot or pan. You’ll need something like a saucepan or sauté pan, or a Dutch oven, with sides deep enough to contain the jam or any foam if the mixture foams up. The pan/pot should be wide to allow for faster evaporation so your jam can thicken before it burns or overcooks. This large, copper preserving pan is the ideal tool for cooking jam, but a 3- or 4-quart saucier, saucepan, or sauté pan will also work wonderfully. The width is more important than the depth, so avoid using a stockpot or pasta pot. For 16 ounces of jam, at least 3 quarts is a good capacity for the pot.
Turn the heat on high and bring the mixture to a rapid boil, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. You’ll need to boil the mixture for about 20 minutes or so, until the rhubarb breaks down, the mixture thickens, and the foam subsides. The jam will eventually turn darker and gloppy like pudding. As it cooks more, you’ll notice the bubbles become larger and scarcer, and a thick, lightly-colored foam will form in the middle of the jam. Stir the mixture occasionally but keep the heat up. If you notice the jam sticks to the bottom of your pan or if you notice any burning, turn the heat down.
After about 25 – 30 minutes total, once the mixture is thick like mud or pudding and the bubbles become larger and rarer, whisk in the rosewater and whole sprigs of mint.
Turn off the stove and let the jam rest for about 5 minutes to steep/infuse the mint. Leave the whole mint the jam while you’re testing, removing it you’re ready to fill the jars.
testing the jam
Using a large spoon or ladle, skim off any thick, pale foam from the surface and discard.
Take one of the frozen spoons out of the freezer, and using another spoon, transfer about half a spoonful of jam from the unfrozen spoon to the other. Replace the chilled spoon in the freezer and let it rest for 3-5 minutes. Your goal is to rapidly chill the jam so you can see whether it’s thick enough at room temperature (it will always be thicker when it’s cold and thinner when it’s warm/hot.) Freezing the jam brings it down to room temperature fast enough for you to test it multiple times and finish cooking the jam without having to wait too long. When you’re ready to test the jam, the underside of the spoon should be room temperature, neither warm nor cold. Rhubarb jam, unlike most fruit jams, doesn’t thicken completely, so it will run a little bit. When you tilt the spoon vertically, you may see the jam run just a little bit, like thick syrup.
If it seems too thin to you, turn the stove back on and continue cooking the jam**. Taste the jam every time you test it, to determine if you need more of the rose or mint. As soon as the mint is strong enough, you can discard the herb. If you need more rosewater, add more before filling the jars, and if you need more mint flavor, leave the herbs in until the flavor is strong enough.
**Your whole sprigs of mint are still in the jam, and normally, cooking fresh herbs is taboo, but if you need more of the mint flavor, leave them in until they have infused enough for you, even through the continued cooking.
Keep in mind, though, that strong flavors will become more mild once the jam cools.
The rest of the frozen spoons are for you to continue testing.
Bring your jam back to a boil and let it cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking and burning. If you see it starting to the stick to the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat a bit. Test the jam again after 5 – 10 minutes of cooking, following the same process. Keep testing and cooking until it’s your desired consistency.
Once the jam is as thick as you want it after the freezer test, move on to filling and sealing the jars.
sealing the jars
You only need to seal the jars if you plan on keeping the jam for a long time at room temperature. If you’re going to eat the jam within 2 weeks, or keep it in the freezer, you don’t need to go through the sealing process after you fill the jars. You can even use regular glass jars or plastic containers if you plan to freeze or refrigerate the jam.
Refrigerated jam (unsealed) lasts about 2 weeks. Frozen jam will last about 6 months, and properly-sealed jam can last up to a year at room temperature.
As with sanitizing the jars, you can follow any sealing process you want (the manufacturer will have added directions to the packages of your jars.)
Remove the baking sheet of jars and jar pieces from the oven and transfer everything to a cooling rack while you fill each jar (this is just because it’s easier to fill, seal, and transfer the jars from the cooling rack back onto the baking sheet, and so you avoid spilling jam on the hot baking sheet.)
Use a ladle or spoon (a flexible silicone ladle is the best tool for this, I’ve found) to fill each jar to within 1/4″ (~0.75 cm) of the rim and use a damp paper towel to wipe the rim of the jar clean. There shouldn’t be any jam stuck to the top or outside of the jar before you put the seal on.
Place the seal on your jar and screw the lid band on snugly (not as tightly as possible, but almost all the way.) Once all of your jars are filled, place them all back onto the baking sheet (if it’s not clean, get another one), and place the baking sheet in the oven. The filled and sealed jars need to sit in the hot oven (250 F/120 C) for at least 15 minutes to re-sanitize and create a vacuum so they seal themselves.
Any jam that you couldn’t fit into the jars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
After the filled and sealed jars have been in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, take them out and transfer them all to a cooling rack. Don’t disturb the jars until they’re all fully sealed and cooled. You’ll hear popping noises (once per jar) as the lids seal themselves. They should all be sealed within about 10 minutes from taking them out of the oven. You can test the seals by pressing down in the middle with a finger: if you feel a popping, the lid isn’t sealed. If, after at least 10 minutes and once the jars are cooled, any of the seals are still open, you can put them back in the hot oven again for 15 – 20 minutes, or you can freeze or refrigerate them.
Once you release the seal from a sealed jar, store the jam in the refrigerator or freezer.
Here are some ideas for what to do with the jam:
Spread it on toast or English muffins (this goes without saying).
Use it to fill an almond-rhubarb tart (with a lattice top or frangipane crust).
Spread it between layers of sponge cake (with a whipped cream filling/topping and fresh fruit) for a spring treat.
Whisk it together with tonic water and rum to make a sweet rhubarb-mint mojito.
Serve it with some cream cheese and crackers for a nifty appetizer.
Pipe it into a donut or choux pastry for a jam-filled dessert.
Eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon (like I do).
I love winter (I love all the seasons.) I love seeing the bare, spindly branches of trees and feeling my face get all chapped from the wind when I go outside. I love turning on the fireplace and spending all day in my pajamas.
But I’m done with winter. We had a string of snowy days throughout February, interspersed with warm, sunny spring days. It was confusing (it was global warming.) As much as I love winter, though, I was done. I started wearing my spring clothes (shorts in the rain), making spring meals (lots of grocery store herbs), and listening to my spring playlists (Alanis Morissette, heyyy), hoping that I could will it to become spring just by focusing hard enough.
And it worked! Or it just naturally became spring. Despite the equinox being yet another snow day, it is finally actually springtime, which means herbs and berries out the wazoo. Every day my freezer magically refills with berries (or I can’t help myself when I’m at the grocery store and I need a place to store them), and I love it.
Blackberry has always been a personal favorite, even more than blueberry, strawberry, or raspberry. My natural inclination is to always combine blackberry with almond, but I wanted something a little different this time.
spring pies: very berry spring pie with orange streusel
Anise, on the other hand, has not always been a personal favorite. Until recently, I couldn’t stand either anise or fennel (and yet I have an anise star permanently inked onto my shoulderblade…) My taste for the licorice-y spice started changing in December when I was making German pepper nut cookies, and as with cardamom, my love of anise sort of just blossomed from there.
I’d love to say that the choice of anise in this pie was calculated and inspired, that I tasted a blackberry and thought, “I detect a hint of anise, so anise must be the best addition.” But in reality, I really just wanted to add anise to something, and this worked out really well. I noticed after the fact that blackberries already have a bit of an anise flavor naturally. In the finished pie, the spice both blends right in and stands out: you can tell there’s something extra, but it isn’t aggressively licorice-y or spicy.
It is super addicting, though, and the smell of butter, sugar, blackberries, and the anise from the pie baking in the oven is possibly the headiest, most addicting smells I’ve ever come across.
blackberry aniseed double crust pie
adapted from Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter, by Kate Lebo
makes one 7″ pie (double to make a 9″ pie)
5 oz granulated sugar
hefty pinch of salt (1/2 tsp)
5 Tbsp cornstarch (6 Tbsp if you’re using frozen berries or freezing the pie before you bake it)
1/2 tsp aniseeds, ground or whole (seeds, not stars)
12 oz blackberries, fresh or frozen
juice of 1 baby lemon (1 small lemon, or half of 1 regular lemon; 0.75-1.00 oz of juice)
*Save yourself some stress by making a full batch of pie crust, dividing it into four pieces, wrapping each individually in plastic, and freezing the dough until you want to make pie. Thaw the frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator. Alternately, the day before, or a few hours before, you’re planning to make the pie, make the dough and refrigerate it (divided into the appropriate portions for the top and bottom crust.) The dough should chill at least an hour before you roll it out, and it’ll need to come to room temperature for about 15 minutes before you can roll it, so plan to make each portion of dough at least 75 minutes before you need to roll it out.
egg wash (enough for one 7″ or one 9″ pie)
1 whole egg
1 oz cream
Demerara sugar for topping
make the filling**
**If you’re using frozen berries and freezing the whole pie before you bake it, this should be the last step. You want to avoid thawing the berries if you’re going to freeze them again. If you’re using fresh berries or the pie is going straight into the oven after you assemble it, then this step will save you some trouble. Additionally, if you’re making the pie in advance and freezing it unbaked, you don’t need to preheat the oven until you’re ready to bake the pie (but give your oven about 15 – 30 minutes to come up to temperature.)
Preheat oven to 425 F/220 C.
In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, salt, cornstarch, and ground anise/whole aniseeds.
Add the blackberries and toss to coat them evenly.
Pour or squeeze in the lemon juice and toss to moisten the filling.
Set the filling aside until you’re ready to assemble the pie.
assemble the pie
Pull the dough out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you plan to roll it out. You can roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap, two sheets of parchment paper, or directly on a clean, well-floured work surface. Using the plastic wrap or parchment saves flour, but rolling the dough directly on the counter saves time.
Whether you’re keeping the dough in plastic wrap or between parchment paper, or having it directly on the counter, sprinkle a little bit of flour on both sides of the dough (and the rolling pin if you’re not using plastic wrap or parchment paper.)
Starting with your rolling pin in the middle of the dough, roll outwards towards the edge, making sure you don’t roll the pin off the edge of the dough. Alternate rolling and rotating the dough (about 1/8 of a circle, 45 degrees each turn), in order to roll the dough out evenly in all directions. Once your dough is at least 7″ across (use the pie plate to measure), focus on rolling out the sections that need to be longer/wider, to form a circle. Run your hand gently across the surface of the dough occasionally, to feel if there are any sections that are thicker than the rest. Make sure the dough is a consistent thickness all around. Every full or half turn (180-360 degrees), flip the dough over and re-flour as needed, to be sure the dough doesn’t stick.
If using plastic wrap and the dough seems to stick to the wrap, gently peel away the plastic and lightly flour that part of the dough, lay the plastic back onto the dough and continue rolling. If the dough comes out of the side of the plastic wrap, peel off the plastic and recenter the dough so it stays within the sheet of plastic.
Once your circle is about 8-9 inches wide, lift it into the pie plate. Make sure you don’t stretch the dough at all. Lift the edges, one small section at a time, and lower them into the plate, pressing down into the corner of the pan to secure the dough against the sides and bottom without creating air bubbles. After the dough is all pressed into the bottom and sides of the pan and there are no trapped air bubbles, place the empty shell in the refrigerator to chill while you roll out the top crust.
Repeat the same rolling, turning, and dusting process with the second piece of dough. If you want to cut shapes into the top crust, do that at this stage, using a knife or cookie cutters. If you just want to vent the top crust with slits, wait until the pie is assembled.
When the top crust is 8-9 inches wide, remove the empty shell from the refrigerator, scoop the filling into the shell (spreading it around to cover the whole capacity of the pie plate), and gently place the top crust on top of the filling.
Use a sharp paring knife or a pair of scissors, to trim off excess overhang from the bottom and top crusts, leaving about an inch of each hanging over the edge of the pie plate. You can either fold this extra crust under itself or up and over. Use a fork or your fingers to press down the edges or crimp them as you like. Use a paring knife or fork to poke slits and vents into the top of the top crust.
At this point, you can freeze the pie unbaked until you’re ready to bake it. If the dough is feeling loose, warm, or a little wet, refrigerate the whole pie for about 15 minutes to let it cool down before moving on.
bake the pie
When you’re ready to bake the pie, put together the egg wash. Whisk the egg and cream together in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, coat the top crust in a layer of egg wash and sprinkle Demerara sugar liberally over the surface.
Place the assembled, washed, and sugared pie onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and in the oven. Bake for 45 – 60 minutes until the crust is dark brown, the filling is bubbling, and it looks thick and syrupy, not thin and water-y. At first, the filling will be thin, like water, and bubbly, but as the cornstarch cooks, the filling will thicken like a syrup. You’ll be able to see the liquid through the vents of the top crust, or as it runs out over the surface of the pie.
When the pie is finished, remove it from the oven and carefully transfer the pie without the baking sheet and parchment to a rack to cool completely, so it doesn’t stick to the parchment (the filling may have started to run out a little bit onto the pan.)
Let the pie cool completely before serving. Pie lasts up to 2 days wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator.
Ani-see y’all later,
previous warm-season muffins
The first time I ever baked with rhubarb (the first time I ever used rhubarb, period), was when I worked at the restaurant a few years ago. Even though I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the desserts on that menu, I was oddly enamored with the idea of baking with rhubarb. I think because rhubarb desserts aren’t common, the rhubarb season isn’t long, and rhubarb itself isn’t Southern (and thus it’s difficult to come by here). We want what we can’t have and rhubarb in its rarity had some kind of allure to me.
The only other memory I have of rhubarb, and in fact the only other exposure I had ever had to rhubarb, was when I was much younger: I remember my grandma making rhubarb pie when we visited her in Boston. I have a faint memory of the taste: kind of orange-y, ginger-y, tart, a little bit sweet. But it’s just a wisp. Until recently, I had forgotten that I had ever had rhubarb before the restaurant experience.
Last year and this year, wanting so desperately to master this warm weather produce, I would stock up on a pound of rhubarb each week, chop it into bite-sized pieces, and store it in the freezer until I had time to make something of it. Last spring, the rhubarb found its way into the occasional pie or crumble, but nothing notable (aside from a super delicious jam that will be coming up in a few weeks.)
This year, I finally have a rhubarb recipe: whole wheat ginger rhubarb muffins. Ginger and rhubarb are a natural pair, in my mind, but because their flavors are so aggressive, I used some whole wheat flour to round out the flavor of the muffins.
whole wheat ginger rhubarb muffins
makes 12 muffins
6.5 oz whole wheat flour
3.5 oz all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
5 oz granulated sugar
7 oz milk
3.5 oz vegetable oil
2 oz fresh ginger, grated
2 large eggs (4 oz total)
6 oz fresh rhubarb (1 cup), plus extra pieces for topping, if desired
1 oz crystallized ginger
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
In a small bowl, combine flours, salt, and baking powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, milk, oil, ginger, and eggs until uniform.
Quickly mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, then fold in the fresh rhubarb and crystallized ginger.
Using a spoon or large cookie scoop, scoop the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 – 3/4 of the way. If desired, top each muffin with one piece of rhubarb and extra pieces of crystallized ginger.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the muffins spring back when pressed lightly in the center with your finger, or a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let muffins cool for a few minutes in the pan, then remove them from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack.
Wrap leftover muffins individually in plastic and store in the refrigerator overnight. Microwave muffins if they start to feel firm or dry, about 10 – 15 seconds. The muffins will last up to 48 hours, but are best the day they are made (within a few hours of coming out of the oven.)
Happy Easter and Passover, y’all,
previous butter + milk monthly muffins
Cheese is in the air this week. Or is it love?
They’re basically the same thing.
When I think of February, I think of Valentine’s Day: chocolate, roses, champagne, fake aphrodisiacs, raspberries, tomatoes, cheese. I’m not the only one who thinks of tomatoes and cheese, am I?
If aphrodisiacs were a real thing (and we’ve proven time and again that they are not), cheese would be at the top of the aphrodisiacs list. Ignore the fact that it makes some people (me) fart like an angry motorboat.
Ever since I started this Monthly Muffin series, I’ve been thinking I should do something savory. Jalapeño english muffins are still on the docket for some time in the future, but I’ve actually had the idea of cheddar tomato muffins in mind for at least a year. I attempted them once maybe a year ago and then never got back around to them. I had so little faith in the results of that first attempt, I decided I wasn’t sure if I was ready to date again.
I mean, if I was ready to attempt to make cheddar tomato muffins again.
And now here we are, back in the game. And the game is bright, cheesy, herb-y, and delicious.
The muffins are made with just the rind of the tomato and without all the excess water from inside, shredded cheddar cheese, fresh oregano, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top, plus a splash of ground white pepper for a little kick.
I considered using sundried tomatoes, but to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of them compared to fresh tomatoes. On the other hand, fresh tomatoes are insanely watery and I knew even before attempting these that it would be frustrating trying to get the recipe right. I remembered a technique I learned in a knife skills class at work for prepping tomatoes so that you avoid both the seeds and the water.
Voilà! C’est une tomate sans les organes!
Making the muffins without the tomato meat means you won’t have to worry about too much moisture in the batter, the muffins getting damp after baking, or adding excess flour to compensate. Whenever you bake with fruit, you’ll always end up with excess water.
cheddar tomato muffins
makes 1 dozen
8.5 oz (2 c) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground white pepper (can substitute black pepper if you want)
8 oz (1 c) milk
2 oz (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
6-7 oz diced tomato rinds (~3 regular tomatoes, 5~6 Roma tomatoes)*
2 Tbsp fresh oregano, minced
~1/4 c finely grated Parmesan cheese, for finishing
*The cutting and dicing technique is nearly impossible with cherry tomatoes, because they’re too small to hold while cutting. A larger tomato is easier, and a firmer tomato is easier to peel and dice than a soft one, as well.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, white pepper, and baking powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, and eggs, until uniform.
Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture and quickly combine.
Add the cheese, tomatoes, and oregano, and fold the batter together just until no dry patches remain.
Scoop the batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup about 2/3 of the way, and sprinkle a large pinch of shredded Parmesan cheese on top of each muffin.
Bake 25 – 30 minutes until springy to the touch and the tops are turning a bit golden.
Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Muffins keep for up to 48 hours wrapped individually in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.
My relationship with cooking pork is much like the oft-debated “When was our first date? Was it the night on Lover’s Overlook when we fondled each other with our clothes on? Or was it the first time you took me out for dinner at Johnny Rocket’s and paid for my meal?”
Excluding bacon, the first time I cooked pork was soon after I moved home from Japan. I was just starting my individual foray into the world of cooking techniques and, intrigued by the idea of braising, I decided to try braising a pork belly. I expected something similar to Chinese spare ribs or those delectable slices of chashu/charsiu you get in ramen.
I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t even find pork belly. I braised some part of a pig in coconut milk and spices, and I was so excited to try this homemade delicacy. I had braised! I had made pork! It would taste sooooo delicious!
It tasted like Death.
Let me clarify: that’s Death with a capital D. It didn’t necessarily taste bad, though at the time I figured I might never braise a pork whatever-it-was again (it’s been long enough, I should give it another chance.) It just tasted…dead. Not like blood, not like mold (cough cough, lamb, cough cough), not like rot. But like flesh, or like dirt. Eating those chunks of whatever part of the pig I bought, I had a striking sense that this thing had lived, had skin, muscle, and bones, and then had died.
For my vegan and vegetarian readers, I apologize for the graphic imagery. For the rest of you, I rarely have qualms about what I’m eating, because as much as I can, I try not to eat things that would give me qualms (or salmonella, but that’s an entirely different monster.)
So it wasn’t that I felt psychologically or spiritually that this thing was dead. It just tasted dead. Like Death.
If I had to find a better analogy, I would say it tasted a little like dirt.
At the time, I figured that pork usually tasted like dirt, forgetting that I had actually eaten plenty of un-dirt-y pork in my life already, and I decided to focus on chicken instead.
That brings me to the second date, the one where he actually took me out in public, to a restaurant, as a couple, and paid for my dinner: Easter, 2016.
Knowing that pork and lamb are the common Easter dishes, I decided I would go out on a newly-blossomed limb and try one or the other. I gathered together a packet of spring pork and lamb recipes, attempted a shepherd’s pie well before the holiday to prepare, decided with certainty that I would never cook lamb again (that tasted like an entirely different kind of Death), and then picked out a pork recipe for the big celebration: Brunello Cucinelli’s pork tenderloin with garlic and rosemary.
I had to make a few tweaks to the process because Signor Cucinelli is far more skilled than I was, but when we finally cut into the garlicky, floral pork roulade, it tasted…like Life?
That’s tacky. Sorry. It tasted like spring. No capital letters.
Everyone who tried it (my grandma and my parents) agreed that it needed to come around again, so throughout the last 2 years, I found times to try the recipe again, or to try other (simpler) pork recipes (one of which will feature on the blog later this year), or, feeling super creative, to adapt that recipe for the season.
And so that’s what we have: in December, feeling the cold of winter deep down in places where cold should not be, I went whole-hog (not literally) and changed up the recipe to suit the season: rosemary became fennel and star anise; the garlic became garlic, apples, walnuts, spices, and honey; the white wine for roasting became apple brandy; and the white wine pan sauce became brandied apples with butter, shallots, and spices.
Basically, it’s baklava but with pork instead of phyllo dough, and savory-sweet instead of only sweet.
And if you’re wondering why the blog is titled “Winter Stuffed Pork,” I’ll give you a hint: cranberries are for autumn, spinach is for summer, and spring remains to be determined.
pork loin roulade with apples and walnuts
Learn from my mistakes: pork loin and pork tenderloin are not at all the same thing. They both go by many names, but what you’re looking for in this recipe is pork loin, pork roast, or center loin. It’s a big chunk of meat, shaped like a block, with a nice layer of white fat on top. If it looks kind of like a certain genital thing, it’s a pork tenderloin and will turn out completely differently in this recipe (so don’t use that one.)
Also, get yourself a good digital meat thermometer. When roasting meat, it’s easy to overcook the meat, and with pork more than anything else, it’s easy to dry out the meat too much. Anything you cook will continue cooking after you remove it from its heat source, so you can consider removing the pork from the oven when it registers between 140 – 145* degrees Fahrenheit. Adding brandy and cider to the roasting pan/Dutch oven will help, and if you think your pork dried out just a bit too much, then go heavy on the brandied apples on top.
*For anyone who doesn’t have a lot of experience cooking meat, make sure you cook pork all the way through (it’s not the same as beef, which has a wider range of safe temperatures.)
for the pork roulade
8 garlic cloves
1/2 c walnuts (2 oz)
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp fennel seeds, divided
1 tsp anise seeds or ground anise
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 c honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
1/2 of one large granny smith apple, or any other red apple (save the other half for the brandied apple topping)
1 2-pound boneless pork loin or tenderloin
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c apple brandy
for the brandied apples
1 shallot, cut in half and sliced
1/2 of one large granny smith apple, or any other red apple
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c apple brandy
1/2 c apple cider
1/2 c honey
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp orange zest (zest from 1/4 of a large orange)
make the pork roulade
Preheat oven to 400°.
In a small food processor, pulse together the garlic cloves, walnuts, 1 Tbsp of the fennel seeds, a hefty pinch of salt, the spices, a splash of olive oil, and the honey, until coarse and chunky but not too pasty. Set aside until the pork is ready.
Place pork, fat side down, on a cutting board with the short end toward you. Holding a sharp knife parallel to board and about 1/2 inch up side of loin, make an incision along entire length of one side. Continue cutting, lifting meat with your free hand as you go, until loin is open and flat. Alternately, stand the pork up on one of the long sides so you’re cutting vertically, if that’s easier. This process is called butterflying.
Cover the butterflied pork with a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper, and using a meat mallet, pound out the meat until it becomes a little thinner and more even.
Spread garlic mixture over inside of loin and season with salt and pepper. Chop the half of the apple into small chunks, about 1 centimeter or 1/2″ wide. Place the apple bits evenly around the pork on top of the garlic mixture.
Roll pork tightly; using kitchen twine, tie at 1 inch intervals. Rub the outside of the roulade with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and the remaining 1 tsp of fennel seeds.
Place the pork, fat side up, in a large cast iron pot, skillet, or roasting pan. Add the apple brandy; roast pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of loin registers 140 – 145*, about 1 hour (the pork will continue to cook a bit after you take it out of the oven.) *Start checking after about 40-45 minutes.
When the pork is done, remove it from the pot and set aside to rest. Pour the liquid and fat from the pot into a large measuring cup and scrape out any brown bits. If needed, bring the liquid and fat to a simmer before you pour it off so that you can deglaze the pot and scrape out any stubborn browned bits. Keep the mixture for the topping.
make the brandied apples
Place the emptied pot or a clean sauce pan on medium heat and add a splash of olive oil.
Chop the other half of the apple into small chunks just like the first half.
When the oil is heated, add the shallot slices and apple chunks and saute for 3-5 minutes until both start to brown a bit.
Add the minced garlic and saute for about a minute until you can smell the garlic.
Add the apple brandy and bring to a simmer, deglazing the pot again and reducing the liquid by half. Pour the roasting liquid and fat back into the pot and add the apple cider, then bring everything to a simmer. Add the honey, bring to a simmer/boil, and let it cook until it thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
Add the butter and orange zest, and whisk until the butter melts. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Slice the roulade evenly (slices about 1″-2″ thick), and serve with the apple brandy sauce.