Monday, January 16, 2006

Lunch for 10!

This weekend was Bea's (my Mom's) 75th Birthday and for once, I insisted that she not cook which is like asking Lance Armstrong to take a break from the bike. But she did it. She didn't lift a finger. Instead I handled the cooking — for 10! Not only did I have to live up to my Mom's great cooking but I had to make sure it served and satisfied 10 mouths. I didn't really think about how many people I was cooking for until I arrived at my mother's house and saw the table set. Uh oh. Hope I've got enough food, I thought. Luckily, there was plenty for everyone with even a bit to spare. Whew. The even more amazing thing was that everyone liked what I made. Not an easy task making 10 people happy with one entree choice. Double whew. So if you have a large group to cook for, chances are this is a good bet to please the masses.

I have to thank Celebrity Chef Ming Tsai for his delicious recipes which he recommended combining. These three items work so well together, one layered over the next. Flavors of sweet and salty tickling the ole palette. Creamy sweet potatoes and apples with just a little crunch are great textures that complement the pork. And let me tell you, brining is the way to go. It keeps the pork so moist and tender. Really no risk of drying this out. Here's what I made (recipes featured below):

• Gingered Sweet Potatoes (bottom layer)
• Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin (middle layer, cut nice 1 - 1/2 inch slice per person)
• Five-Spice Apples (top off dish)

These recipes are from Ming Tsai's cookbook, "Blue Ginger, East Meets West Cooking with Ming Tsai" which is available on his website and of course at Amazon. Everything I've made in this cookbook is delicious. I highly recommend picking up a copy if you don't have it. Also, if you get a chance, go to Ming's restaurant, Blue Ginger. It's in Wellesley, Massachusetts and is wonderful. I'm a lobster snob and prefer not to mess with it - just boil it, crack it open and dip it in butter. However, Ming changed my mind about this. Blue Ginger features a wonderful dish called Garlic Black-Pepper Lobster with Lemongrass Fried Rice and Pea Tendrils. Oh yeah. You must try this!

What worked out best with this recipe is that 80% of the work can be done the day before. I was able to package everything up in tupperware, load it in the car and drive it down the highway and through the woods to Bea's. You can prepare the Five-Spice Apples and the Gingered Sweet Potatoes and then either microwave them or re-heat them in the oven as you're baking the pork. In terms of the pork, you "brine" the tenderloin overnight. The only thing you need to do the next day is rinse the pork, salt and pepper it, brown it on the stove and bake it for around 35 minutes. I baked it longer than the recipe called for because I stuck a meat thermometer in it and it wasn't quite done. Best to do that since all ovens are different.

So luckily the meal was a success. And now Bea can expand her already amazing recipe repertoire by hunting down recipes online with her new iBook, her birthday present we all chipped in to get her! Hey, she's 75. She deserves it. Happy Birthday Mom! Many happy returns!!

Asian-Marinted Pork Tenderloin

4 cups water
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted Szechwan peppercorns
1 tablespoon toasted black peppercorns, plus freshly ground black pepper
4 1/4-inch-thick slices fresh ginger
2 star anise
2 bay leaves
1 4-pound pork loin
2 tablespoons canola oil
Gingered Sweet Potatoes (recipe follows)
Five-Spice Apples (recipe follows)
1/4 cup chives cut into 1-inch lengths, for garnish

How to:
One day in advance, combine the water, salt, sugar, soy sauce, peppercorns, ginger, anise, and bay leaves in a deep baking dish large enough to hold the pork and stir to mix. Add the pork; if it is not covered, add more water. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Rinse the pork thoroughly with cold water, pat dry, and season with the ground pepper to taste. Heat a large skillet over high heat, add the oil, and swirl to caot the bottom of the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the pork and brown on all sides. Transfer the pork to a roasting pan and roast just until the pork is hot through to the center (about 125 degrees F internal temperature), 25 to 30 minutes. The interior of the pork will remain pink.

Allow the pork to rest for 10 minutes and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Divide the gingered sweet potatoes among 4 plates, surround with the pork, and add the five-spice apples. Garnish with the chives, drizzle with the chile oil, and serve.

Gingered Sweet Potatoes

6 tablespoons butter
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

How to:
Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and ginger and saute, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cream and reduce by one-third over low heat, about 10 minutes. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, combine the sweet potatoes in a large saucepan with enough water to cover them completely. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until they can be pierced easily with the tip of a knife, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and trasnfer to a food processor. Add the cream and process until well blended. Add the remaining butter, season with salt and pepper, and puree until smooth. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl, correct the seasonings, and serve.

Five-Spice Apples

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup apple juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter

How to:
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and saute, stirring, until brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the five-spice powder, brown sugar, apples, and juice. Stir, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 12 minutes. The apples should retain their shape and some liquid should remain in the pan; do not overcook. Stir in the butter and correct the seasonings. Serve warm.


Anonymous Cookin' in Cali said...

If Bea liked it, it must be great! I am going to try this out on my book club next week. I'll let you know how it goes.

7:12 PM  

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