It’s a twofer sort of day, folks! Two recipes (try at your own risk) for the low low price of free! And, even better, you get a personally shameful story to go with it!
Allow me to set the stage: It’s a recent Thursday *cough, yesterday, cough*, and my darling husband isn’t feeling so good. Not so bad as to stay home from work, but bad enough that I want him to come home to a nice meal and a comfortable evening. I am at home, feeling not-so-fabulous due largely to the fact that I haven’t gotten myself together for the day, even though it’s now 4 PM. I happen to have a pork roast and a recipe I’ve never tried (well, three recipes I’ve never tried, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves). To make a nice meat-full meal on a day prior to a Lenten Friday, I decide that I’ll make the pork roast, buttered peas with shallots (because I have a few shallots around) and fresh homemade egg noodles (with the pasta maker given to me as a birthday gift by husband). Sounds idyllic, actually. A balanced, flavorful meal highlighting a large chunk of meat (the best kind, in my man’s estimation). How could I go wrong?
Well, I must have been feeling optimistic because there are a few key elements that might have made this meal a bad choice, even in the planning phases: 1) I do not like pork, generally speaking, 2) I have not made pasta successfully (one unsuccessful attempt under my belt); and 3) all the kids are home, crabby, and not acting particularly helpful.
Despite my reservations, I manage to get the roast in the oven at 475, propped on skewers in a casserole dish since I don’t have a proper roasting pan. I even remember to use the digital thermometer to alert me when the proper temperature is reached. I’m feeling amazingly domestic and fabulous. Husband is going to be impressed. I mix up the pasta dough in my KitchenAid mixer and get it resting for the requisite 30 minutes. I’m on a roll. I turn down the oven temp to 425, as required for the roast. Baby wakes up from his nap and I begin combining ingredients for the peas when the phone rings. Husband tells me he’s not going to be home as early as planned. OK. Not a problem. He then, however, goes on to tell me that a contractor friend is coming over, in about 5 minutes, to have a look at a sliding door that needs help. Hmm.
I quickly consider the situation. Me = unshowered & feeling gross = unpresentable. I agree it’s sad that I would have been OK with my husband coming home to see me that way, but my pride wasn’t prepared to deal with the unknowing eyes of a stranger. So… I get baby into the highchair and give him a snack. I bribe the 4 year old to watch out the window for the contractor. I run upstairs to try to not look like zombie-mom in 2 minutes or less. I run back downstairs. I hear knocking but fully believe it to be the 4 year old playing a joke on me. Then…
SMOKE. I notice that there is smoke wafting around the living room. And kitchen. And dining room. Not dear-God-my-house-is-on-fire sort of smoke, but super-hot-oven-meets-fatty-pork sort of smoke. Hmm. I run to open the bathroom door and start the fan to draw the smoke out, and open the basement door to block the family room fire alarm from going off. Fire alarm goes off anyway. I try to silence the family room alarm only to realize that it’s the one above the basement stairs. Hmm. I mute it. 4 year old is now screaming, “The guy is here! The guy is here!” Oh boy, he hadn’t been joking. I’ll bet “the guy” can hear everything. What must he be thinking seeing lots of small people peering out at him from a living room full of smoke?
I answer the door. I try to be polite and downplay the urgency of the domestic scene into which he is entering. The smoke alarm goes off again. Completely embarrassed, I remove the battery. I show the contractor out to the sliding door and excuse myself to deal with the baby and the “burning thing.” The 4 year old sticks around to watch the contractor, so I feel less awkward leaving a stranger (albeit a nice one) in my messy sunroom. Turns out the roast is not burning, just splattering grease everywhere in my oven. I put a piece of aluminum foil over it to contain it a bit, and let it keep going rationalizing that I have very little dignity to salvage if it does start on fire. I start some water boiling for the pasta.
I roll out the pasta, with the 5 year old deciding it looks like fun to help. Truthfully, she was helpful in keeping the pasta from folding up on itself, and I get 2/3 of it cut into wide flat noodles before the roast thermometer beeps. I open the oven door, releasing a giant cloud of greasy smoke into my face, just as the contractor comes back in. I am mortified, and also coughing. He politely waits for me to set down the mess before we discuss the the door situation. Ten minutes later he leaves, mercifully, and I can inspect the no-longer-sizzling roast. It actually looks good, but clearly I should have soaked the skewers since they are almost charcoal, and the drippings are a dark caramelized brown. The 7 year old wanders past and inquires about the good smell. Hmm. I let the roast rest, finish rolling the pasta and toss it into the pot (I have to re-roll about 1/4 of it because it got stuck together whilst waiting for me to get it in the water), and start sautéing the peas. My husband comes in the door. I can tell he notices the smoke immediately but graciously doesn’t mention it. Did I mention that he is dreamy and wonderful, and especially thoughtful?
Kids set the table (well, about 80% of it), and we finally sit down as a family to eat this highly questionable meal. I slice the roast into large slabs and, to my surprise, it looks positively amazing. I taste. Slight crunch to the herbed outside, deliciously moist and tender on the inside. Not like any encounter I’ve ever had with pork chops. I’m dumb-founded. It is absolutely the best pork I’ve ever cooked, and right up there with the best I’ve ever eaten. Nothing like pork chops. It’s like… eating pork-chop-shaped sausage. The herbs! The melt-in-your-mouth texture! It is JUST. SO. GOOD. The whole family loves it, including the baby. Husband takes seconds. The 4 year old asks for this meal for his birthday, including “those noodley things”. The peas are very good, in my pea-loving opinion, but clearly I am the one enjoying them the most. A success! A horrible, ugly, embarrassing success!! I decide that I need to snap pictures so I grab a clean small plate and pile on the food. I take photos to blog about. Then I eat the food on the plate. Then I lick the plate…
OK, I didn’t actually lick the plate. But every other detail is completely true. So… I now have a sneaking suspicion that high heat equals smoke, and also flavor. My house smelled like a restaurant after a brief interval with the windows open and the attic fan sucking fresh 45-degree air through the kitchen. I have never understood Anthony Bourdain’s obsession with pork as a food group, but now, I think I might be getting it. My eyes have been opened.
Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin
(Paula Deen for Food Network)
1 (4-pound) boneless pork loin, with fat left on
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried rosemary or 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
Place the pork loin on a rack in a roasting pan. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. With your fingers, massage the mixture onto the pork loin, covering all of the meat and fat.
Roast the pork for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 425 degrees F and roast for an additional hour. Test for doneness using an instant-read thermometer. When the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees F, remove the roast from the oven. Allow it to sit for about 20 minutes before carving. It will continue to cook while it rests.
Sautéed Buttery Peas with Shallots
(Cook’s Illustrated Best Make Ahead Recipe)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot , minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 clove garlic , minced
1 pound frozen peas (3 cups) – do not thaw
2 teaspoons sugar
Melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, thyme, and garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the peas and sugar. Cover and cook until the peas are heated through, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
I’ll blog about the pasta at some point, but I think it deserves its own post. Three recipes in one day would be a little much for this sometime blogger to keep up with. Happy Friday!