Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My Favorite Pork Gravy

Rich tasting but not high calorie, this pairs beautifully with pork loin, tenderloin, and chops. It doesn't matter how they're cooked: on the barbeque, stove top, or oven, it all works. You'll pour the juices from the plate the cooked pork has rested on into the gravy. Lots of fresh thyme, parsley, white wine, and a squeeze of lemon brighten it up. Allow 30 minutes from start to finish, so the prunes have time to thoroughly steep. That's about the same time for a tenderloin to roast in the oven and then rest, so it times out perfectly. This makes plenty of gravy for 4 chops or one average size tenderloin.

3/4 c dry white wine
3/4 c chicken stock
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 rounded TB fresh thyme, lightly chopped
6-8 pitted prunes, halved
1 large shallot, finely chopped
Big handful fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp arrowroot (in the spices aisle of the grocery store)

Pour the wine, chicken stock and thyme in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add a few pinches of salt and about 8-10 grinds of pepper. Remove from heat, add the prunes, cover and let steep for a good 20 minutes. If I'm roasting a tenderloin, I do this step as the oven is pre-heating. That way I know it's steeped at least as long as the pork is cooking.

Cook your pork. This time it was pork chops. For the two of us, I just took one boneless, butterflied chop, cut it in two, trimmed off all the fat, pressed salt, pepper, and lots of chopped fresh sage into both sides.

I used a 10" black iron skillet, heated a scant 1 TB EVOO over medium-high, cooked the chops 5 minutes on one side, 2 minutes on the other side. Removed them from the heat to a plate and tented with foil to rest. See the juices that were released? Going in the gravy.

If you are roasting a tenderloin in the oven, I recommend you still use a black iron skillet so you can scrape up the little bits of fond into the gravy. Just be careful when you take it from the oven and don't accidentally grab the handle with your bare hand once it's on the stove!!

Back to the gravy:  in your skillet, over medium heat on the stove, add a drizzle of EVOO, just enough to cook the shallots. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any fond if you cooked the meat in the skillet. Add the shallots and a bit of salt and pepper, stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the prune-stock-wine liquid, the juices from the resting meat, and bring to a simmer. Add a squeeze of lemon, 1 or 2 tsp. You should taste a bit of acid but not be able to tell that it's lemon. Add salt & pepper if needed. Stir in the parsley.

In a small teacup or bowl, make a slurry of 2 tsp arrowroot and 4 tsp cold water. Stir briskly till smooth. Remove gravy from the heat and pour in the slurry, stirring gravy constantly for about a minute until it thickens up to your liking. Pour into a gravy boat and serve.

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Note: My friends and I recently had a conversation about gravy thickeners. If you are on the GARD diet, you should not use cornstarch. It's made from corn, which is a big no-no for us. Consider, too, that even though "it's just a little bit", it is the very concentrated dried starch from the corn. Not good. And, unless otherwise stated on the package, it's from GMO corn. You may not get sick, but it is still silently doing damage to your gut :-(.

You could also use oil and potato starch to make a roux, but I find it's more unpredictable: sometimes  the potato starch binds up too quickly and tends to "break" before it's fully thickened the sauce or gravy. It could be my lack of cooking skill, but it drives me crazy and this is easy and quick and guaranteed to work every time.

You could also use oil and tapioca starch to make a roux.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Turkey or Chicken Saltimbocca

I know this isn't an authentic Italian recipe, especially when I adapted it to GARD and Paleo rules. It should probably be called Sort Of Saltimbocca. It's definitely quick and easy (45 minutes start to finish for me). If you are looking for a new way to serve poultry, try this one. I bet you'll like it. Serves 3-4

1 lb* boneless, skinless turkey or chicken breast: you want to end up with 5 or 6 cutlets
3 slices Prosciutto di Parma
10-12 fresh sage leaves, divided
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Spice Islands brand poultry seasoning
Round, sturdy toothpicks, like Diamond brand
1-1/2 c chicken stock
1/2 c dry white wine
Arrowroot (in the spices aisle of the grocery store)

Stack the equivalent of 5 or 6 large sage leaves and roll into a cigar shape. Cut thin slices (chiffonade) and then cut them crosswise, chopping into smallish pieces. Set aside.

Using a very, very sharp boning knife, put the flat of your hand across the top of the breast to hold it in place, and cut it horizontally in thirds, or even fourths if it's thick enough. Here is my first slice on the left, remainder of breast on the right. You can click on any of the pictures for a closer look:

When you cut them this thinly, you get the right size *and* you don't have to pound them all out with a meat mallet to the necessary thinness. I cut my second exactly the same way. You'll see a thin white tendon running down the center. I cut it out, sliced off another cutlet, and then cut the last piece in half lengthwise to make two narrower cutlets. You can also see my chopped sage leaves, whole sage leaves, and ground black pepper. The nutmeg was for wilted spinach, our side dish for the night but not part of this recipe.

I did have to lightly pound out the last cutlet just to even it out.

Take one half of a piece of prosciutto, fold it as needed to match the cutlet size, and lay it across the cutlet. Top with a big sage leaf. Roll each one up and secure with a strong, round toothpick as shown.

My smallest one was pretty teeny, and I used 2 toothpicks, one in each direction, just to make sure it was secure. Rub both sides of the "birds" with EVOO, and sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning.

Drizzle 1.5 TB EVOO in a large, nonstick skillet and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot and rippling, use tongs to place each bird in the oil, seam side down. Cook for 6 minutes on the first side. When you turn them, you'll be able to get two more "angles" on the top side, for more browning surface, so cook for 3 minutes at the first angle, and 3 minutes at the second angle. You may need to turn the heat down a tad to make sure you don't burn the poultry seasoning. Use tongs to gently remove them to a plate. They should look nice and brown like this.

But, they won't be fully cooked inside yet. Ladle off and discard any excess EVOO, and pour in the white wine. Use a whisk to pick up all the browned bits.  Add the chicken stock,, stir to blend, and bring to a high simmer. Season with salt and pepper, and add all the chopped sage. Put the birds back in and cook another 5 minutes for the smaller ones, 6 minutes for the bigger ones. Remove them again to a serving plate. Pull out the toothpicks, or leave them in for everyone to remove themselves. Just make sure you take them out before you start cutting into them.

In a teacup or small, shallow bowl, mix 1 tsp arrowroot with 2 tsp cold water, stirring briskly with a fork to make a slurry. Don't cheat and dump the arrowroot directly into the simmering stock, it will clump up and be a sad, lumpy, watery mess. Remove the skillet from the heat and whisk in the arrowroot slurry. Keep stirring (you don't have to beat it, just stir it) about a minute, till it thickens. It happens pretty quickly, and will continue to thicken as it cools. If it is not thick enough to suit you, make another slurry and stir in.

Ladle half the gravy around the birds, and pour the rest into a gravy boat. I am a gravy hound, and unapologetic about it. I slice up my birds into bite size coins with a steak knife and liberally pour gravy over them.

>>You can not continue to cook or re-heat the gravy once the arrowroot has been added: it will break down, and the gravy or sauce will thin out again. If you're going to warm this up the next day, you'll need to make a new slurry as well.

*I used a 3/4 lb turkey breast for the two of us and got 5 cutlets out of it, 4 horizontal pieces.  I cut those suckers thin, and you need a really sharp knife to be able to pull this off; otherwise the knife will just chew up and tear the meat. The bottom piece was the largest and widest, and I cut it in half lengthwise to make 2, for a total of 5.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Halibut Baked in Parchment

For those of you who didn't instantly turn away from the parchment idea, and are open to trying this, thank you!

I'll admit it's not the easiest dish in the world the first time you try it, but it's very forgiving, it doesn't have to be perfect, and after a couple of times, you'll be a regular Julia Child. If you absolutely freak over using parchment, you can use aluminum foil, but I don't think it tastes as good, or is as fun. Plus, you'll get faster and faster at working with the parchment, and this cleanup couldn't be easier.

This isn't an exact recipe, it's more a method. You can use any mild white fish, and just about any summer vegetable you have on hand, as long as they're all sliced very thinly and of a similar size, for quick, even cooking. Before I got sick, we'd use haricot verts (small, French green beans) and sliced tomatoes. If you're using carrot, choose one that is fairly evenly sized all the way down and doesn't taper off a lot, it will be easier to julienne. I wrote this up for 3 people because I had 3 pieces of fish in the package tonight. Just adjust the quantities if you have more mouths to feed.

Halibut or haddock, or any wild-caught mild white fish, fresh or frozen and thawed to room temp, cut into filets, and no more than 3/4" thick. Allow 3 oz per person*
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly on a mandoline or with a sharp knife
1 large carrot, julienned (cut into matchstick size)
1 medium red bell pepper, julienned
1 large clove garlic, smashed and minced finely
1 rounded tsp fresh thyme leaves
Large pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 very thin slices lemon
Dry un-oaked white wine, like Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, allow 1/4 c per person
3 sheets parchment paper**, cut into large, fat, heart shapes

Preheat oven to 425*F
Position rack in the center of the oven

Fold each sheet of parchment paper in half and cut into a big heart shape. I used to make circles, but I find with this shape, you end up with a "tail" that you can use as a funnel to pour in the wine, and then double-fold it to close the end off more snugly. Don't make the heart too narrow, and don't cut in deeply at the top, or you won't have enough room to fold it over all the food.

Big, fat, happy hearts

Drizzle a little bit of EVOO on the center of each piece of parchment. Use your fingers to spread it out in a super thin coating, leaving a 1" perimeter dry. Put the papers on one or two half sheet pans that have edges.

Put the onion, carrot, bell pepper, garlic and thyme in a big mixing bowl. Drizzle in about 1 to 1.5 TB EVOO. Add a couple of big pinches of red pepper flakes, maybe 1/4 tsp, and about 1/2 tsp salt. Use tongs to toss and combine everything, and then divide evenly onto each parchment heart.

Drizzle a little bit of EVOO on both sides of each fish piece, and sprinkle one side with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put the fish on the veggies and top each one with 2 slices of lemon.

Starting at the fat end of the heart, aligning the top and bottom pieces of paper, fold the corner IN and UP about 1/2", and work your way along the perimeter, continually making small upward, overlapping folds so that you are forming a collar. Stop right before you get to the end of the thin end so you have a funnel shape. Pour 1/4 cup wine in a measuring glass, hold up your "funnel" with one hand, and pour the wine in with your other hand. Fold the funnel tip up and around so it's tightly closed. Do the same with the rest of the packages.

>> If you did not fold up the edges tightly enough and a little of the wine spills out, it's ok, it's not the end of the world. Just tighten up your folds again before you pop them in the oven. You want it tightly sealed so the steam doesn't escape.

Bake about 10-12 minutes, less for thinner filets and longer for thicker ones.

Slide a big spatula under the package and grasp one corner of the paper with your other hand to help guide each one to its dinner plate. It's more fun for everyone to cut into their own paper "surprise", and they won't have to try to wrangle them off of a serving dish. Remember, there'll be over 1/4 cup of juices in each one. Be sure to give everyone a spoon so they can scoop all the juices out. I like them so much I swear I'd drink them straight out of a glass, LOL.

*Yes, many U.S. recipes these days allow for as much as 5 or 6 oz of meat per person, but we don't eat that much. If you want more fish per serving, don't use bigger filets: instead, make extra packages so people can have seconds.

**I buy pre-cut parchment paper at the restaurant supply store because it's convenient, doesn't curl up,  and is waaaay cheaper than at the grocery store. The sheets fit perfectly into a half-sheet pan. If you are using a roll, tear off sheets at least 10" long.