Saturday, January 3, 2009

Two years down, a lifetime to go...

I got the new Ina Garten cookbook, Back to Basics, for Christmas this year. A few short days later it was my second wedding anniversary, and I knew that was the perfect occasion to test it out. We had initially planned a pretty posh dinner out for this anniversary (Blackbird in Chicago), but the state of the economy has hit close to home and we decided to be a little more financially responsible this year. There will be a dinner at Blackbird in the future, but for now we decided a nice night at home was the best way to celebrate.

There are tons of recipes in Back to Basics that sounded perfect to me, and I settled on Roasted Potato Leek Soup and Herb Marinated Loin of Pork. It sounded classy, romantic, and cozy on a freezing cold Chicago night. And since our anniversary was on a Monday, the meal I chose was also one that could be mostly prepared the night before. The soup was made almost entirely the night before, and then the last few ingredients were added when I reheated it on Monday night. I also did the marinade the night before, so I only had to throw the meat on the grill when it was almost dinner time. I did simple roasted broccoli as a side, and the meal ended up simple yet nice enough to feel special.

The soup was good, but not the most amazing thing ever. I ended up roasting the veggies for about half the time, then boiling them in the broth until the potatoes were soft. It might be my cheap pan, but the potatoes and leeks were browning way too much for my tastes. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the end result, because while I was cooking I really worried this dish might be a waste of time.

The pork, however, was FANTASTIC! It was so moist and flavorful, and grilling it was so much easier than the baking or broiling methods we've used in the past. Even a few days later, the pork was great left over. It was elegant on its own, and would also be delicious served on rolls as mini sandwiches for a party. And since the tenderloins were sold with two in a package, I froze the second one and get to make this again in the near future.

Roasted Potato Leek Soup with Crispy Shallots

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
4 cups chopped leeks (4 leeks), white and light-green parts, cleaned of all sand
1/4 cup good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups baby arugula, lightly packed
1/2 cup dry white wine, plus extra for serving
6 to 7 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces crème fraiche
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish (see note)
Crispy shallots, optional (recipe follows) ** I didn't make these, but it sounds like a tasty addition**

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the potatoes and leeks on a sheet pan in a single layer. Add the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, turning them with a spatula a few times during cooking, until very tender. Add the arugula and toss to combine. Roast for 4 to 5 more minutes, until the arugula is wilted.
Remove the pan from the oven and place over two burners. Stir in the wine and 1 cup of the
chicken stock and cook over low heat, scraping up any crispy roasted bits sticking to the pan.

(I did things a bit different here. I roasted the potatoes and leeks about 20 minutes, and when they seemed to be browning way more than softening I decided to change things up. I moved them to a saucepan, and added the broth to that. I simmered it until the potatoes were soft, then added things in and pureed it. I did scrape the brown bits from the pan as described above.)

In batches, transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor fitted with the steel blade, adding the pan liquid and about 5 cups of the chicken stock to make a puree. Pour the purée into a large pot or Dutch oven. Continue to purée the vegetables in batches until they're all done and combined in the large pot. Add enough of the remaining 1 to 2 cups of stock to make a thick soup. Add the cream, crème fraiche, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and check the seasoning.
When ready to serve, reheat the soup gently and whisk in 2 tablespoons white wine and the Parmesan cheese. Serve hot with an extra grating of Parmesan cheese and crispy shallots, if using.

Crispy Shallots

1 1/2 cups of olive oil or vegetable oil
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
5 to 6 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings

Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Reduce heat to low, add shallots slowly to make sure they brown evenly. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, drain well and spread out to cool on paper towels. Once they have dried and crisped, they can be stored at room temperature, covered, for several days.

Herb Marinated Loin of Pork

grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4-6 lemons)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Kosher salt
2-3 pork tenderloins, 1 lb each
freshly ground black pepper
(I did a half recipe of the marinade, and one pork tenderloin)

Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard, and 2 tsp salt in a 1 gallon resealable plastic bag. Add the pork tenderloins and turn to coat with the marinade. Squeeze the air out of the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 3 hours. (I like to put the bag in a bowl, just in case).

When you're ready to cook, preheat the grill. Be sure to brush the grill with some oil to prevent the pork from sticking. Remove the tenderloins from the marinade and discard the marinade.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then grill, turning a few times to brown on all sides, for 20 minutes--until the meat registers 137 degrees at the thickest part. **Use your meat thermometer, or you will do what I used to and overcook it!**
Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Let the pork rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting.

Thanks to The Food of Love for typing this shorter version of the recipe for me to use!


suze said...

happy 2nd anniversary! that pork looked awesome. we rely a bit much on chicken and beef as our food staples, but i'd like to incorporate pork more. i'll have to try it out! :)

Joelen said...

Happy 2nd Anniversary Erin! Your dinner looks wonderful and here's wishing you a lifetime of happiness together!

Nicole said...

That soup looks amazing as does the pork. It looks like I have been missing a lot of good posts and recipes.