Friday, October 9, 2009

Breaking Out Of My Shell

I'm not the most adventurous cook. I don't trust myself not to completely mess up a dish, so I usually follow a recipe to the letter, or at least pretty dang close. When I see an ingredient that I want to use, I'll search for hours online for a recipe that looks good rather than just make up my own. But several things have happened over the last few weeks that have empowered me to break out of my shell.

First, Husband and I went running around a local lake. It's exactly 5 miles around (I had my runkeeper app open to keep 'em honest), and I ran it in 40:44. I ran five miles in forty minutes and forty four seconds!!! That's an average of an 8 minute mile. This is kind of momentous for me. I think it took me over 14 minutes to "run" the mile in high school. And that was just one, not five. Sure, I wanted to roll over and die afterwards (it was in the 80s and I was a wee bit dehydrated), but I was too busy being proud of myself to do that. Did I feel empowered after I left everyone else running around that lake in the dust? HELL YES!

Second, I made two recipes that were from/inspired by my new Martha Stewart cookbook, courtesy of the most thoughtful sister on the planet. One turned out pretty darned good considering I messed it up, and the other turned out down right delicious! And I wasn't even really following a recipe, per se. It was more like a set of instructions for technique. But more on that later. Look at me, I'm learning to cook! Thanks Martha and thanks Sis! Hello empowerment!

Third, last night I used a banana bread recipe to make pumpkin bread. Yeah, pumpkin/banana bread is probably laughably easy to make, but I still took a recipe and modified it quite a bit to make something else. It might be easy, but not something I would have dreamt of attempting just 3 months ago.

My shell is so far behind me I can't even see it!

Oh, and in other good news, I was un-laid off. As in, I'm not fired. For now... I'm sure I'll be laid off again in a few months, but hopefully that won't be until after Christmas, and I'll have the year ahead and me to figure something out. I'm feeling a bit like super woman this week, so I'm taking this a great news!

Thankfully the little bars of crack were safely deposited with friends and co-workers so by Monday night they were gone. Another reason I was glad to be un-laid off? I was completely unwilling to feed people who were firing me, no matter what it did to my waistline. This was a little reminder of why they should keep me around for a little longer. Ok, not really because I don't work directly with the big wigs in charge of those decisions. But let's just go with it. Here's what else I stuffed my face with this week:
  • Prosciutto wrapped pork tenderloin with pear and current chutney, courtesy of Martha Stewart. I'll start with the chutney. I decided I wanted a little sauce of some kind with the pork (because I'm a sauce girl), and I had pears. Armed with the interwebs my fingers did the rest. I ended up using currant instead of raisins because I'm apparently out of raisins. Who knew? I used regular ol' onion instead of shallots because I never have shallots on hand (I rarely use 'em). Also, the only balsamic I had was the cheapy cheapy stuff I bought years and years ago before Alton Brown educated me on the importance of buying quality vinegars (for the same reason you don't use cooking wine, because if it tastes nasty going in, it'll taste nasty coming out!). So not surprisingly, the flavor was a bit...potent on first taste. But I cleared that right up with a little red wine. It added a bit of sweetness that was missing without completely changing the chutney. It was good!
The pork tenderloin, which I unfortunately didn't manage to get a picture of, was good. In fact, considering I way over-cooked it, it was fantastic! Basically you take pork tenderloin (the recipes actually called for just loin, which led to the overcooking because the tenderloin was like half the amount of meat), and sear it in a pan with some oil until brown on all sides. Then let it rest for about 10 minutes. Then chop up a tablespoon of rosemary and rub it all over the meat. Wrap the meat in prosciutto (a 6oz package was perfect for me), and use butcher's twine to tie it in place (who the heck carries butcher's twine? They don't carry it at any of my grocery stores. Bed Bath and Beyond maybe? It seems kinda silly they don't just sell spools of it at the store). Put the pork back in the pan and roast in a 400 degree oven for...well that's the part I messed up on. I think I did 40 minutes, which was way too long, so I'd probably go with 20 and check it every 5 minutes after that. I forget what the target temperature was, maybe 140 degrees? Mine was like 175. Oops! I'd definitely make this again (correctly, of course).

But as I said, it's a testament to the recipe that even though it was completely overcooked, it wasn't actually dry or tough. With the chutney it was still really tasty! And of course, the crispy prosciutto on the outside was delicious!
  • I paired the pork with some roasted root vegetables because I always have to have a veggie, and because fall is here! I chopped up some yukon gold potatoes, fennel bulbs, rutabagas, and carrots, tossed them with some olive oil, chopped rosemary, salt, and pepper, and through them in a roasting pan in the oven for the 40 minutes that the pork was in the oven (so 400 degrees). They were mighty tasty, though I wasn't wild about this preparation for the fennel. I like fennel, it's just a bit much taste and texture-wise so plain.
  • Potato and leek mini gratins, courtesy of The Kitchn. Simple and light. Just layer some sliced potatoes and leeks with Gruy√®re cheese, which I think tastes like a cross between Parmesan and swiss, so maybe try mixing the two if you can't find it. Heh. Then just add some milk (I used 1%), and bake away. Easy! I'm kind of loving leeks right now. I didn't love this dish, but really, what's not to like? You could always try a higher fat milk for a creamier flavor. Erm, you might notice there's no link to the recipe. That's because apparently the webpage with it doesn't exist anymore. Don't know what happened there. Poop.
  • Lamb stout stew, courtesy of me! As I said, I used my new cookbook to learn the stew-making technique, then added my own ingredients. I'll post the recipe next, along with the pumpkin bread.
I hope I can keep it up!


Diana Mo' said...

i actually have butcher's twine. trying to remember where i got it. probably the grocery store. but maybe target? i think it was my grocery store though.

JuLo said...

Lucky. I've asked at two different grocery stores and each time after much deliberation and talking with managers, they always just give me some of their butchers twine. Which is fine in a pinch, but I'd rather not have to go through that every single time.