MoM March ‘09 – Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Lasagna with Meatballs

This post has been a looong time coming.  Because at first I was waiting to get the pictures of my wife’s camera and on to her laptop so she can email them to me (it’s a Vista thing, don’t ask) but then her laptop ended up at the shop so we hooked her external hard drive to my computer so I could finally get the pictures but then it turned out they were gone.  So I had to take some liberties with the pictures, I appreciate you coming with me on this one.

Now as this is a Cooks Illustrated recipe, I can’t give you the actual recipe.  But the real jewel in this dish is the meatballs.  At first I was wondering why put meatballs in lasagna, but then when I ate it and said “ooh meatball” every few minutes that became rather obvious.  So you take your 85% lean ground beef, some bread crumbs, 2 eggs, some fresh basil and some Parmesan cheese and roll it up into little balls.  I used SarVecchio which is a Wisconsin Parmesan cheese because Chef Torysays so.  Nice video of him on the SarVecchio link too!  So put them on a baking sheet and throw them in the oven and they will look like this..


uhm yeah.  After that it’s your basic tomato sauce, using crushed tomatoes and garlic and olive oil.  Actually this recipe is a little scant on the sauce, which is on purpose but it works.  Boil your lasagna noodles and then do the assembly thing, noodles, sauce (and meatballs in the bottom layer), mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, noodles, rinse and repeat until it looks like this:


no, wait


The finished product looks like this:



So if you can still grab the magazine, please do so.  It’s well worth your time.  And if somebody wants to make the lasagna and send me some pictures, that would be great.


~Citizen Chef

News Flash: Free Copy of Cook’s Illustrated Entertaining

AwK alert!

Cook's Illustrated - Entertaining

You know how much we love Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen. Cook’s Illustrated is offering a free copy of their spring “Entertaining” issue, which is now available on magazine racks. I’ve already requested my copy, and I have a feeling that this will come up soon for a Magazine of the Month segment, so sign up for your free copy now.

To receive one, go to the Cook’s Illustrated website – the link to sign up is in the left hand margin.

On the Side: Apple & Poppy Seed Slaw

Spring has finally arrived. Depending on where you live, it may or may not be there in full force yet, but we can at least hope that the warmer months are coming. For those that live in a warm climate all year round, we hate you.

Just kidding.

Where I live, it’s not yet warm enough to BBQ, but I can at least try out a few things that I might want to bring to an outdoor gathering later so, this weekend, I put together a cole slaw that comprised of tart Granny Smith apples and poppy seeds. I really loved the crispness and sweetness of the apples. On a hot day, this will be a very refreshing side dish. I don’t really know what the poppy seeds brought to this other than a bit of texture and to make it look pretty. If you’re looking for something incredibly simple, quick, and cold to put alongside an outdoor meal, this is a great option.

I don’t really have much to say about this, except that the recipe makes a ton. I halved this and still had enough as side dishes for about five or six people, so plan accordingly. I didn’t take pictures other than the final, because there’s not much to do other than to chop up the vegetables and stir the dressing into it. Other than a near accident where I almost dumped a spoonful of bad mayonnaise in there (yoinks!) it was easy and self-explanatory.

Apple & Poppy Seed Slaw

Apple & Poppy Seed Slaw
Courtesy of Bon Appetit

8 cups shredded green cabbage (about 1 small head)
3 medium carrots, peeled, coarsely grated (about 2 1/2 cups)
3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, coarsely grated
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Mix cabbage, carrots, apples, and green onions in large bowl. Add vinegar and toss to coat.

Whisk sour cream, mayonnaise, apple juice concentrate and poppy seeds in medium bowl to blend. Add to cabbage mixture and toss to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated. Toss to blend before serving.)

I served this alongside the Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Burger, and some onion rings.

MoM March ’09 – Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Jucy Lucy Burgers

Ok, first off I’m aware that “Jucy” is not how you spell “juicy”.  I would have preferred “Juicy Luicy” if they had to be clever, but it’s not my magazine.  But misspellings aside, this was a great recipe, and one that I will make again soon. 

The deal here is that it’s a burger with cheese.  But wait, it’s gets better.  It’s a burger with the cheese on the inside!!!  Plus they want it well done and still juicy!!  What kind of laboratory wizardry will the America’s Test Kitchen scientists bring to bear on this conundrum?  Particle physics?  Will there be cyclotron useage??  What?   Oh.. they used bread and milk mashed together with garlic powder to add to the meat so it would stay juicy at a temperature high enough to melt the cheese?  Ok, that’s one way to go I guess.


It puts the cheese in one patty and encases it in the meat and then it puts the other half of the patty around it to make a double seal or it gets the hose again, uhm I mean the cheese will burst out.

These then cook for a long time burger-speaking, 6 to 8 mins on a side.  And it turned out well done and still juicy with the cheese all gooey.  I originally questioned what the point of putting cheese inside the meat was, but it did give it that oozing all over the place kinda feel.  Here’s the money shot:



And there you have it.  A post.  From me.  About food.  … I thank you.


~Citizen Chef

Rescuing Baked Ziti

Last night, it happened. It’s not often that I make a new dish and, two bites into the meal, I am told, “This is awesome. You have to make this again.” All at once, I was thrilled and surprised. My experiences with homemade baked ziti have been poor, bastardized versions of a dish, resulting in dry pasta with plasticized cheese, so I didn’t have high hopes. And, when I saw the recipe I was looking at preferred cottage cheese over ricotta, my expectations were lowered even more — in my experience, substituting with cottage cheese meant “diet,” and diet meant giving up a great taste for healthier fare.

Then again, it was a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen.

Baked Ziti

I’ve been so impressed with ATK that I got a subscription for Cook’s Illustrated. So far my only complaint is that they don’t run like normal subscriptions; to keep you from receiving magazines without paying, they send the previous month’s edition and not the current. We did send a check, but receiving the current edition was very slow. I had to call and ask what the deal was, which is something I’d prefer not to do. However, the customer service rep I spoke with was very apologetic and sent a complimentary copy of their Soups & Stews booklet.

Unfortunately I had already purchased that from my local grocery store, but it was a nice gesture.

So far, this has been the most valuable magazine subscription I’ve ever had. Maybe that’s because they aren’t really magazines. Unlike typical magazines that are articles of fluff and the occasional recipe that you can’t find unless you dig through the advertisements, Cook’s Illustrated cuts straight to the point. They don’t even have advertisements. The magazine actually reads like a little instructional booklet. Each recipe takes up one or two pages, and the commentary includes history of the dish (if applicable) and the steps they took to come up with the final recipe. I love reading about each different and odd thing the Test Kitchen tried and the reason they picked certain ingredients. Before they even start a dish, they identify what they absolutely do not want. I love it.

CI - Baked Ziti Gone Bad

Baked Ziti
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated March/April 2009

1 pound whole milk cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 cups)
Table salt
1 pound ziti or other short, round tubular pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 5 teaspoons)
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
Ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)

The measurements above will serve between 8 – 10, so I cut mine in half and had enough to serve 3 adults.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Baked Ziti - Cottage Cheese, Eggs, Parmesan

Basically what they’ve done is taken a traditional tomato sauce with a variant of an alfredo sauce, and combined them with cubed mozzarella. As it turns out, they tried all kinds of ricotta and different milks and creams, and determined cottage cheese, though still a little weird to me, holds up best when heat is applied to it. I used small curd since I didn’t want to be weirded out by seeing little balls of cottage cheese in my food.

Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot over high heat. The Test Kitchen calls for using a Dutch oven, but I didn’t have one. Instead, I went with ye olde pot, and it worked just fine. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Cook the pasta for half the amount of time that is reflected in the instructions. The whole key to this is remembering the pasta is still going to cook and absorb liquid after everything is combined and thrown into the oven. Boiling the pasta for half the time will result in perfect pasta when the dish is done. I used Penne, and cooked mine for 6 minutes. Drain the pasta and leave in colander. Do not wash the pot because you will be using it for something else in a few minutes.

Heat oil and garlic in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes.

Ziti - Sauteeing Garlic

Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in fresh basil leaves and sugar, then season with pepper.

The original recipe calls for seasoning with salt and pepper, but I found that when I did that, there ended up being a bit too much salt for my taste. Between the salted pasta and the Parmesan, there really didn’t need to be any additional.

Ziti - Simmering Sauce

Stir cornstarch into heavy cream in a small bowl; transfer mixture to now-empty spaghetti pot and set over medium heat. Bring to simmer and cook until thickened, about 3 – 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup of the tomato sauce mixture and 3/4 cup mozzarella. Stir to combine. Add pasta and stir thoroughly to coat with sauce.

Ziti - Adding Pasta

This is the step that started to make me nervous because that pot of mixed ziti and cottage cheese looked exactly what I originally feared the dish would taste like: cheap knockoff Baked Ziti. But it doesn’t end up looking like that, so don’t be turned off by that weird concoction you’re seeing in the picture.

Transfer pasta mixture to 13×9 inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over the pasta. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan over top. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Ziti - Cubed Mozzarella

Remove foil and continue to cook until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. The recipe called for cooling for 20 minutes before serving, but we dug right in.

Baked Ziti Bowl

I wanted to get a better shot, but I didn’t realize our web admin was going to dig in with an actual ladle and then start mangling the dish from one end to the other. I’m afraid the best shot is the one I provided above with the forkful and underneath, lovely little melted cubes of mozzarella embedded in the tomato sauce.

When the dish came out, the two layers of the pasta had come together quite beautifully. A punch of bright tomato and basil was delicious and their unconventional alfredo delivered. Most importantly, I didn’t distinctly taste the cottage cheese, though it lent to a light and fluffy overall dish that I loved. Not only was this the first Baked Ziti that delivered, it was the first pasta dish that involved cottage cheese that I actually enjoyed.

In terms of an overall dish, I’d be proud to serve this to guests and take to potlucks. In fact, this would be great in a crockpot. Be sure to pour the layers into a flat crockpot dish, then bake the dish in the oven. When it’s done, place in the crockpot to keep warm.

In terms of a weeknight dish, it’s good and bad depending on your school of thought. Making this dish used: 1 pot + 1 pan + 2 bowls + 1 baking dish = a little more mess and clean up than I’d like on a weeknight.

Cooking time and active time is also a factor. I spent about 25 active minutes preparing the dish, then it takes another 50 – 60 minutes to bake. While the baking time gives you room to clean up the mess and finish whatever household chores you need to do before dinner, that’s a long time before dinner even gets to the table. The argument for that is you’ll have a lot of really delicious leftovers that will reheat well, so cooking time for a couple of days later or whenever you decide to serve it again is very short. So it depends on your school of thought. I personally must ding it for the hour and a half, though the sheer and utter deliciousness of the dish brings the score back.

Overall Dish: A
Weeknight Cooking: B

MoM March ‘09 – Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Chili Con Carne & Broiled Steak

No word yet from SlackerCitizen Chef on the MoM dishes he’s been cooking up, so I’m going to steal his thunder and give you a quick update on a couple more that I’ve tried from Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2009.

Best of America's Test Kitchen

Two more weeks of this publication and we’ll be moving on. If you have any suggestions about what magazine you’d like us to dive into next, drop us an email through the contact link or post below!

So let’s talk about some of the beef listed in the mag. As I’ve said in the past, I primarily work with chicken and the broiler scares the hell out of me, but for the sake of trying out new things, I went for it this time around. That’s how much I trust America’s Test Kitchen.

First up, I tried the Easy Chili Con Carne. This is more of a Tex-Mex dish — no beans, just meat and some sauce. I had never eaten a Tex-Mex chili before; my experiences were all with beans and ground beef and all kinds of diced vegetables in it. This was just a really simple tomato sauce that the beef had been simmering in for hours. Though I was compelled to keep eating it, I had a really hard time associating this with chili. I think that’s more my problem than the recipe though.

Basically, you just create a really simple sauce from tomatoes, chipotles in adobo, bacon (oooh yeah), onion, jalapenos and some spices, and you let boneless beef chuck-eye roast sit in it for a couple of hours.

Chuck Eye Roast

What you’re seeing in the photo is the recipe halved. It calls for 3 1/2 – 4 pounds of boneless beef chuck-eye roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces. I grabbed a piece that was about 2 pounds, and was a little dismayed at the price – it was about $6. Though the Test Kitchen prefers chuck because it’s more affordable than other cuts of beef, it’s still more expensive than chicken.

Chuck Eye Roast 2

The beef is cooked in some bacon fat, then removed from the pot. More bacon fat is added back in, and then the other ingredients are added – some spices along with the onion and jalapeno, and cooked until softened.

Sauteeing Vegetables in Bacon Fat

A pureed mixture of chipotle and diced tomatoes are also added in with some water, the beef goes back in, and everything simmers for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Then an unexpected ingredient is added — a couple tablespoons of boxed corn muffin mix for a sweet, corn taste. Odd, but good. I used the rest of the mix to make corn muffins and served them on the side.

Easy Chili Con Carne

I’m really undecided as to how I felt about this chili, only because I am having a hard time associating it with the word “chili”. The taste was simple, light and smoky, but the beef… oh my God. Even if I had been undecided on the taste of the tomato broth, the texture of the beef was so addictive that I couldn’t stop eating it. If you like Texas Chili and you’re a fan of the beef taking the spotlight, then this is the chili for you.

Next up, I tried the broiled steaks. You know how much I hate the broiler and, coupled with my fear of making steak, it was quite an event.

Seasoning Steaks

The interesting thing about these steaks is that Test Kitchen chef loves the texture of the quintessential outdoor grilled steak, and endeavored to create a method of cooking them that would make the crisp edges just as good, if not better, than what is produced on the grill.


A disposable aluminum tray is used and salt is poured into the bottom to keep the grease from splattering. The steaks are then placed on a wire rack on top of the aluminum tray and baked. After a few minutes, they come out to be patted down dry, then they rest. Then they get the broiler and a bit of herbed butter.

I’ve never been able to make steaks better than this, and they came out beautifully. Everyone in the house was pleased, and you will be, too!

Broiled Steak with Herbed Butter

Okay, that last sentence was a little cheesy but you get the idea — these steaks are damn tasty! Bon appetit!

What We’re Watching: The Chopping Block

Tonight, NBC premieres The Chopping Block, a show that many are hailing as the Hell’s Kitchen Ripoff.


Chef Marco Pierre White is definitely Ramsay-esque, but not. He’s the original Gordon Ramsay, the guy who made Ramsay himself cry. White also took over hosting the UK version of Hell’s Kitchen, so I can see why people would get the idea that this is where the show hails from.

But unless I miss my guess, it’s not.

I’ve posted before about a show I’ve been watching on BBC America, called Last Restaurant Standing. Acclaimed French chef Raymond Blanc gives a few couples keys to their own restaurants and puts them through challenges as they attempt, for the first time ever, to run their own restaurant. Each week, Raymond Blanc closes one restaurant and, in the end, the last restaurant standing will go into a partnership with Blanc to open their own establishment.

And here’s the premise of The Chopping Block, courtesy of NBC:

Marco Pierre White is the star of the upcoming cooking competition series on NBC titled “The Chopping Block,” featuring two teams of four couples running neighboring restaurants in Manhattan, with one couple being removed each week based on White’s decision. The final remaining couple will be given a large cash prize to be used to purchase a restaurant of their own.

So it’s almost the premise of Last Restaurant Standing, but with a guy who is the equivalent to Gordon Ramsay on crack. In the end they won’t go into a partnership with White (probably because the couples would slit their own wrists after the first year) but they’ll get a cash prize that goes toward… um, buying a restaurant? From the way the above reads I’m guessing they’ll purchase the one they were running while competing on the show? I don’t know, I’m guessing because I can’t figure out why a chef wouldn’t want to open their own, brand new baby. I’m just speculating here; there’s always some sort of catch with reality shows.

Video profiles of the contestants can be found here:

Chad & Mikey
Michael & Panya
Anapol & Lisa
Zan & Than
Angie & Samantha
Vanessa & Kelsey
Dean & Shari
Khoa & Denise

For more on Chef White, Eat Me Daily has a great article you can check out called “Who the Hell is Marco Pierre White?” and here’s a clip of his interview this morning from The Today Show. {font-size:11px; font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; color: #999; margin-top: 5px; background: transparent; text-align: center; width: 425px;} .msnbcLinks a {text-decoration:none !important; border-bottom: 1px dotted #999 !important; font-weight:normal !important; height: 13px;} .msnbcLinks a:link, .msnbcLinks a:visited {color: #5799db !important;} .msnbcLinks a:hover, .msnbcLinks a:active {color:#CC0000 !important;}

Weeknight Cooking: Rigatoni with Spicy Italian Salami, Cherry Tomatoes, Olives and Capers

Before the latest copy of Food & Wine magazine even hit my mailbox, all of the recipes were already on their website. Why am I paying for this? As soon as my subscription runs out, that’s it — I’m not paying for another.

There was, however, one shining star in the publication that I didn’t find on the website. Chef Curtis Stone, the host of TLC’s hit show “Take Home Chef” is releasing a book, called Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone.

Other than a short bio in the magazine that talks about his experience working in Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, and his show, where he basically goes around preying on women in grocery stores and badgering them until they take him home (despite how it sounds, the show is G-rated), I don’t know much about him. Well, as they say, the best way to get to know a chef is by getting to know their food.

Rigatoni with Soppressata

And so, I got down to business with Chef Stone in a fully clothed and family-friendly way, with a featured recipe that’s also making an appearance in his upcoming book. The dish is simple and light: Rigatoni with Soppressata, Cherry Tomatoes, Olives and Capers. Inspired by antipasti and combined with pasta, this looked delicious and different enough from my normal cooking fare to warrant a test drive.

So here we go.

Rigatoni with Spicy Italian Salami, Cherry Tomatoes, Olives and Capers
Adapted from Food & Wine

20 cherry or grape tomatoes
5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound spicy soppressata, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1/4 cup drained capers
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 pound rigatoni

Note: My photos all reflect a halved version of this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a small baking dish, toss the tomatoes with two teaspoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes for about 10 – 15 minutes, until their skins begin to split.

Grape Tomatoes
Note: Grape tomatoes are being used in the above photo

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 3 teaspoons of oil. Add the soppressata and cook over moderately high heat for about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the soppressata to paper towels to drain.

Frying Soppressata

I cooked my soppressata for about 5 minutes, and they ended up being slightly crispy and tasting a bit like bacon. There was no complaint around the table about the bacon taste.

Turn the burner down to medium heat and remove the pan from the burner. Let cool for 30 – 60 seconds. Add the garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Place the pan back on the burner and add roasted tomatoes. Lightly smash roasted tomatoes with the back of a spoon so they burst. Add the wine to the skillet and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.

Garlic & Roasted Tomatoes

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the soppressata, olives, capers and parsley. Meanwhile, cook the rigatoni in the boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Adding Soppressata, Olives, Capers, and Parsley

Add the rigatoni and cooking water to the sauce and toss over moderate heat until the pasta is thoroughly coated, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve in shallow bowls.


For anyone who is looking for something slightly different, this is a nice one to put on the table. It’s quick and light, though my household was not ready for the overwhelming power of calamata olives. If you are a person who does enjoy calamata olives and capers, you’ll love this. If not, the salt and brine will probably be off putting.

I enjoyed this. It was quick and light, and the brightness of the parsley was a wonderful offset. Quick and easy to clean up, and goes well with a side salad and a small loaf of garlic bread. If the rest of Curtis Stone’s book is anything like this dish, it would be well worth picking up. In fact, I think I will.

Weeknight Dinner: A
Overall Meal: A-

MoM March ‘09 – Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Camembert, Bacon, & Potato Tart

We’re in week six of the mag-style booklet Best of America’s Test Kitchen, available on newsstands through the end of April ’09. This is so far the only publication we’ve extended to a second month — what can I say, it’s just that good.

So far we’ve covered the following dishes in Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2009:

Restaurant Style Hummus
Crispy Garlic Chicken Cutlets
General Tsos Chicken
Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce & Simple Italian-Style Meat Sauce
Tunnel of Fudge Cake

I have three more sitting in the hopper, and I know CC has a few to review once he gets off his rear end and posts them.

We’re looking for others who want to participate in the Magazine of the Month, so if you’re interested, send us an email through the contact link. Whether you have your own blog and prefer that we link to you, or want to participate here directly… whatever. We’re an easy going group, but we do request that you can actually write coherently. Drop us a note if you’re interested!

Brie, Bacon, & Potato Tart

So let’s talk about the Camembert, Bacon, and Potato Tart. First thing to note is my photo above — those lovely little triangles are not Camembert. My grocery store had somehow run out, so they suggested I work with Brie. I like Brie and they are similar, so I went with that instead.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the number one issue that deters chefs from making a tart: The dough.

Processor - Tart Dough

Dough is often laborious and messy, involving rolling pins and fussiness, and flinging tiny, wet chunks of dough on the floor and dropping them through the crack between the oven and the counter. The test kitchen, once again, provides a fantastic method: The dough is created solely in the food processor, then balled up into walnut-sized pieces and placed in the pan. Then they’re pressed down flat, thusly:

Pressing Dough into the Tart Pan

The dough is covered and frozen for 30 minutes, and then we get to the good stuff: the tart guts.

Sounds appetizing, no?

Diced bacon is fried and removed, then onion and sliced Yukon Golds are placed in a pan with the bacon grease and a bit of butter. Eventually, after the fresh thyme is added in with some salt and pepper, the bacon rejoins the party.

Bacon & Potatoes

The mixture is then placed inside of the tart shell, which baked while you were making the tasty tart guts. Everything is then baked altogether with the sliced Camembert on top or, as in my case, Brie.

Brie, Bacon & Potato Tart

I wish I had put more cheese on this; that’s pretty much the only thing that could have made it even better. The tart dough held a hint of sweetness, which was a nice trade off for the salty bacon.

Potatoes and bacon are great together anyway, and the combination of having it in one tight little package made it that much better. Here’s a side view:

Tart - Side View

The next night we had it as leftovers, and found that it actually reheated quite nicely in the microwave — a definite plus. I don’t know if it was magnificent enough to put in a weekly rotation, but I wouldn’t be against making this for a casual potluck. I liked it because it was different than the usual one-pot meal and a flaky pie crust always puts a smile on my face. This is something I would definitely recommend making — as long as more cheese is involved. If I had put at least two more slices of Brie on top, then it would have been perfect.


Best of America's Test Kitchen

Weeknight Cooking: Fennel-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Fennel Wedges

Expanding my culinary repertoire brings a fear of wasted ingredients. The first time I made Fennel & Sausage Risotto, it was the only thing I had really cooked that used fennel. Because I only cook for two, I used half of a fennel bulb, but didn’t want the other half of the fennel to go to waste, nor did I want to keep making the risotto over and over before the veg went bad. Since then, I’ve been searching for another way to use up extra fennel so I can continue to make the risotto without the waste.

Found one.

Fennel Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Photo courtesy of Gourmet Magazine

This is another one of the recipe of the day features. Those things are sort of famine or feast for me, and these past few weeks have been really good.

Fennel-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Fennel Wedges
Courtesy of Gourmet

1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 pound pork tenderloin
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, reserving fronds
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. The recipe instructs: “crush fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle or wrap in a kitchen towel and crush with bottom of a heavy skillet.” Instead, I opted for the convenience of my electric coffee grinder.

Ground Fennel Seeds

The ground fennel are then rubbed all over the pork tenderloin, along with some salt and pepper. Here’s a shot of my not at all phallic pork tenderloin.

Seasoned Pork Tenderloin

Heat oil in a 12-inch oven-proof heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown pork on all sides, about six minutes total, then transfer to a plate.

Browning Pork Tenderloin

It wasn’t tricky in the slightest. For those who just aren’t very good about managing your time or have a tendency to forget about the food that’s in the pan, feel free to use the microwave timer. I did.

Here it is after it’s browned.

Browned Pork Tenderloin

As you can see, it’s still raw in the middle.

Browned Pork Tenderloin - Side View

Sauté garlic and fennel wedges in skillet until fennel is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add wine, stirring and scraping up brown bits, then stir in broth and butter.

Browning Fennel 1

Browning Fennel 2

Browning Fennel 3

The smell of this was amazing.

Put pork on top of fennel and transfer skillet to oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 145 to 150°F, about 15 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes.

Here it is going in:

Pork & Fennel Going into the Oven

And coming out:

Pork Tenderloin in Oven

Meanwhile, transfer skillet to stovetop (handle will be hot) and boil, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid has evaporated. Stir in lemon juice and 1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds. Thinly slice pork and serve over fennel with sauce.

Plated Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Fennel

My oven tends to take a little longer, so my pork took longer to cook. Then, in a totally amateur maneuver (hence the website name), I got nervous and pulled it out after a total of 25 minutes. It was still a little too pink in the middle so, after letting it rest, I sliced it up and stuck it into the pan where the broth was cooking. Those sat in there for about 30 seconds each and came out. Not ideal, but I was panicked over raw pork. Next time I’ll know not to mess with it and just wait until the thermometer says it’s done.

I plated this with a side of simply roasted cauliflower that was prepared in a toaster oven, since my oven was occupied. The cauliflower was delicious, too. I love cauliflower.

Roasted Cauliflower in Toaster Oven

The pork was easy, delicious and relatively quick. It gets my vote. With the tender, mild fennel, it was quite nice and, as worried as I was about an overpowering taste of crusted fennel on my pork, it was just right.

Weeknight Cooking: B+
Overall Dish: B+