Pork Tenderloin with Burnt Brown Sugar, Orange Confit, and Thyme: French Chefs never burn anything, they caramelize!

I wanted to get this in ASAP since I believe MM cooked this over the weekend too, and I want to beat her to the punch.  The recipe is from Peter Kaminski by way of Ruhlman’s blog.  The witty French chef comment is from me by way of Chef Tory.  This is going to turn out looking burned, but trust me, that’s the good stuff.  I will also say that making the orange confit is not the easiest thing in the world, or rather getting all the pith (and I mean ALL of it) off the oranges is a pain in the ass.  I also took out some insurance and finished the pork in a 350 degree oven for about 10 mins.  And cooking it outside is the way to go, ’cause it smokes like a mofo.

Pork Tenderloin with Burnt Brown Sugar, Orange Confit, and Thyme
Courtesy of Peter Kaminsky, and Michael Ruhlman

2 boneless pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each
6 pieces orange confit, about 2 inches each
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon coarse salt (or to taste)
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons oil from the orange confit

Lay the pork tenderloins on a work surface. Flatten with the palm of your hand. Tear the orange confit into 1/2 inch pieces and distribute over the top surface of the meat. Sprinkle with the fresh thyme and half the salt. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top and pat it down firmly with your hand. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil from the orange confit.

Preheat the chapa or a large square cast iron griddle over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles.

Using a wide spatula, lift the pork tenderloins one by one and invert them sugar side down onto the griddle. Do not move them for 5 minutes. If the sugar begins to smell unpleasantly burned, adjust the heat by moving the griddle and lowering the flame. When the sugar side is well browned, turn the tenderloins. Cook on all sides for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until done to taste. The internal temperature should be 135 degrees for a rosy pink. Remove the meat to a carving board and allow to rest, tented with foil, for 10 minutes before slicing.

Orange Confit

4 oranges
3 bay leaves
12 whole black peppercorns
2 cups plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup white wine
2 teaspoons coarse salt

Cut the oranges in half. Squeeze the juice and reserve for another use.

Place the squeezed orange halves in a 3 quart saucepan. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, 3 tablespoons olive oil, white wine and water to cover. Add salt and bring to the boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook until the orange peel is tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the liquid.

When cool enough to handle, drain the oranges. Tear the peel into rough strips about 1 inch wide. Place a strip of orange peel skin side down on a work surface and, using a very sharp paring knife, scrape away every bit of the white pith.

Place the strips of orange zest in a bowl and cover completely with extra virgin olive oil. This will keep, covered tightly in the refrigerator, for at least a week.

I kept my orange confit in a Gladware container, because Padma told me to.  This is what mine turned out like, with wilted spinach (again) and a Devil’s Tower of Mashed Potatoes with Bleu Cheese and Garlic Scapes.

Word count before Chef Tory reference:  48.

~Citizen Chef

MoM June 2009 La Cucina Italiana: Oven-Baked Risotto

I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting side dishes, preferrably something that will give me a nice, healthy dosage of vegetables.

La Cucina Italiana's Oven Baked Risotto
Photo courtesy of La Cucina Italiana

When I saw this feature of Oven Baked Risotto in our latest Magazine of the Month, La Cucina Italiana, I was skeptical. Risotto is often heavy and laden with cream and cheese, so I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out as a side dish. However, because it’s our Magazine of the Month I’m obligated to make this stuff without even reading the recipe instructions. Whether this is for your amusement or delight I have no idea, but since I picked out the magazine, I have to cook this stuff.

As it turned out, I had no reason to fear. This risotto and vegetable combination was finger-lickin’ good.

Oven Baked Risotto

Vegetables are sauteed separately from the risotto, and the two don’t come together until the end when they’re baked. Buttered ramekins are filled with some of the risotto and a well is made in the center. Sauteed vegetables are then spooned into the center, more risotto is placed on top and packed down, to cover the vegetables tightly, then they’re baked in the oven for 15 minutes.

If you’ve never been sold on risotto before, this one will make you a believer. It was hearty, but not overwhelmingly so like with other risottos. Keeping the vegetables separate, rather than mixing them up with the rice, keeps the clean flavors from becoming muddled. Every bite was a delicious treat and the crisp-tender vegetables keep a rich risotto from becoming too heavy. This was absolutely outstanding and is going into my keeper stack.

Oven-Baked Risotto
Adapted from La Cucina Italiana
Serves 4

4 large porcini mushrooms or whatever you’ve got (about 7 ounces)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for ramekins
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/4 -inch dice
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4 -inch dice
1/2 small zucchini, cut into 1 ⁄4 -inch dice
1 medium tomato, cored and cut into 1/4 -inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, heated to a simmer
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese


The recipe comes from an interesting article on porcini mushrooms, so it’s too bad I couldn’t find any at the grocery store. Instead I went with baby bellas and they were delicious. Anything you like will do, though as you can see in the top picture, porcinis are the most glamorous on top… which really didn’t matter in my house, since it was inhaled in minutes.


Our MoM, La Cucina Italiana, isn’t just Italian in the name. It’s flavors are all authentically Italian. I thought I knew what Italian flavors were and in many ways, I was wrong. That’s partly why I wanted to pick this magazine — I like that it challenges my palette and stretches me a little bit. The adventure is good, even if I don’t end up liking everything.

One thing in this dish that I automatically knew my Americanized palette wasn’t going to like was the addition of mint in the vegetable saute. I omitted that, and kept just the fresh sage and parsley. My ingredients listing above also omits the mint, but you can click the link for the original recipe and check it out if you’d like.

Risotto & Veggies

I didn’t use ramekins. I went bigger. Like a dummy, I served up doubled portions of the risotto alongside sauteed boneless, skinless chicken breasts. This was way too much food and the risotto was such a big hit, we scarfed up the risotto and the chicken was an afterthought (leftovers tonight). I know small ramekins sound like tiny portions, but risotto really sticks to your ribs. If you’re serving this as a side dish, the small ramekins are probably best.

Oven Baked Risotto

The fifteen minutes it spends in the oven is where the risotto absorbs a little more of the liquid and solidifies just enough that you can pop the whole thing out of the ramekins and serve them on a plate, like upside down pineapple cakes. But not. They’re risotto cakes… of deliciousness.


Trim mushrooms and cut stems from caps. Separately cut caps into 1/4-inch-thick slices and stems into 1/4-inch dice. In a large skillet melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. In a single layer, add mushroom caps and cook until softened, about 1 1/2 minutes per side; transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper.

Add 2 tablespoons oil to skillet and return to medium-high heat. Add mushroom stems, celery, carrot and zucchini. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Add tomato and cook until any liquid from tomato has evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove from heat and toss with parsley, sage, mint and pinch salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 400º.

In a large saucepan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot and cook until lightly golden then add rice, stir to coat with oil and cook for 1 minute more. Add wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to release any bits. Cook until wine is mostly evaporated, then add 1 cup broth and reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring, until broth is mostly absorbed, 5 to 7 minutes. In 1/2 cupfuls, add remaining broth, stirring until each addition is mostly absorbed before adding the next, until rice is tender yet still slightly firm to the bite (you may have broth left over). Remove from heat and stir in cheese and remaining tablespoon butter.

Generously butter ramekins. Line bottoms with a single layer of mushroom tops (chop any leftover tops and add to vegetable mixture). Put 1/4 cup risotto into each ramekin, then press risotto into the bottom and up the sides of the ramekins to create cavities. Fill each cavity with 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable mixture, then top with remaining risotto, packing tightly. Place remaining vegetable mixture in a small baking dish. Place ramekins and baking dish with vegetables on a baking sheet; bake for 15 minutes.

Remove risotto and vegetables from oven. Run a paring knife around edges of ramekins. Invert risotto onto serving plates and sprinkle with pepper. Serve warm with vegetables.

Bobby Flay’s Beef Burgers with Peanut-Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Prior to my trip to Las Vegas, I knew two things about Bobby Flay: He’s the barbecue guy and he makes a million different sauces. My ideas of grilling is fairly basic, so I could only assume that all you needed to do to get on Iron Chef America is just pop out a bunch of hamburgers with interesting sauces. How hard is a freaking hamburger? Not very, I’m thinkin’.

Beef Burgers with Peanut-Chipotle BBQ Sauce

So when my spouse and I crossed paths with his Southwestern style restaurant, Mesa Grill, I was surprised. I was even more surprised when my spouse said he wanted to try it out. He takes a bit of time to warm up to certain kinds of food and I was pretty darn sure he had never eaten Southwestern style, so I was leery.

The menu was blown up quite proudly outside, so I quickly skimmed it over. At first I was surprised that it wasn’t a low-class hamburger joint as I had expected, but something so much more.

The food looked dangerous — racy with spice and lots of ingredients we had never tried before. There wasn’t even a single burger on the dinner menu. I was always up for an adventure, but I didn’t want to get in there and watch my spouse get served up something he didn’t like, because then I’d just be bummed out. So I decided for the both of us that we weren’t going.

Instead, we went a couple of restaurants down to a hibachi/sushi place — that absolutely sucked. The grilled asparagus starter was so over-salted that the tips were inedible. I got a beef teriyaki that was grilled to the consistency of shoe leather. Tom’s sushi was apparently not that great, either. Chalking it up to food karma for snubbing Bobby Flay, we left a poor tip and made plans to visit Mesa Grill the next night.

Bobby Flay Burgers - Assembly

We had an amazing dinner. I can’t find our appetizer on the menu now, but it was small, homemade tortillas with grilled chicken on skewers, caramelized onion and fresh cilantro served as a tiny, build-your-own-fajita type of deal. They were amazing and simple and I could have eaten an entire plate of them. Next, we shared an entree. (By the time we got in to eat it was 12:30am Eastern time, and I was too tired to eat much, which is why we shared.) We had the Spice Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. If you want to see a photo of the dish, I found one here, taken by another happy diner. You’ll have to scroll down the page just a little bit to see it.

The pork came to us medium rare, as ordered, with one savory sauce and a second sauce that brought a little bit of heat. We scarfed this down and walked out of there with our eyes opened to a whole new style of cuisine.

When I got home, I was chatting with Citizen Chef about my Vegas trip, and the one thing I kept coming back to was our dinner at Mesa Grill. Sure, Bouchon was amazing, but I had expected it to be. Mesa Grill, on the other hand, was eye opening and gave me a whole new respect for Bobby Flay and his style of food. CC made a comment that I thought was appropriate: “It’s nice to know that at the heart of (the fame, the hype, the television, etc.) is a real chef.”

He’s right. I picked up the Mesa Grill cookbook and started making some of Bobby Flay’s food. So far I’ve totally mangled everything I’ve touched (LOL) but I’m not giving up. I’m very interested in this whole new world of Southwestern flavors and I’m determined to get good at it.

My new Food and Wine magazine hit my mailbox this week (and their freaking website) and I was thrilled to see they had a feature on Bobby Flay, who provided them with a few of his recipes…

…for hamburgers.

Okay, I’ve learned that it’s a lot harder making Bobby Flay’s food than I originally thought, but I can definitely make a hamburger. 😉

Bobby Flay’s Beef Burgers with Peanut-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Adapted from Food & Wine

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons pure ancho chile powder
1 canned chipotle in adobo, minced
1/2 cup water
3 1/2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 hamburger buns, split
1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
1/2 cup shredded cheddar (3 ounces)
1 scallion, finely chopped
Lettuce and tomato slices, for serving

In a medium saucepan, heat the 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the tomato puree, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, honey, molasses, ancho chile powder, chipotle and water. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a blender. Add the peanut butter and puree until smooth. Season the barbecue sauce with salt and pepper.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the cut sides of the buns with oil and grill until toasted, about 30 seconds. Spread some of the barbecue sauce on the buns.

Form the meat into four 1-inch-thick patties and brush with oil. Season with salt and pepper and grill over high heat, turning once, until nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes. Brush the burgers with some of the sauce and grill until lightly glazed, about 2 minutes. Top with the cheddar and scallion, close the grill and cook just until the cheese is completely melted, about 1 minute. Set the burgers on the buns, top with lettuce and tomato and serve right away.

Make Ahead
The barbecue sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 months.

My only real beef (get it?) is the amount of barbecue sauce this makes. Even halving the ingredient list gives you enough for dozens of burgers. I think the thought process behind it is that because it can be kept for up to 2 months, you’ll be bringing it out and using it on other meats for the rest of the summer. In defense of this thought process, the sauce is quite delicious. I could best imagine it going on grilled chicken. By itself it is incredibly spicy, but spread only on the buns and the burgers, mounded with cheese, vine ripened tomatoes and crisp lettuce, an overbearing spiciness wasn’t a factor. In fact, I didn’t really even get the spiciness when eating it. It also wasn’t overbearingly barbecue-y — okay, not a word. What I mean by that is, with any other barbecue sauce, especially jarred, I’m always railroaded by an overbearing tangy zing that dominates the meat. In the case of store-bought sauces, the sauce becomes the star and the meat is sort of an afterthought. With this little bit of added sauce, everything is complimented and the flavors of the meat and vegetables really shine through.

Nice work, Chef.

As if you had any doubts as to my cooking method, I made this on my George Foreman and it came out beautifully. The grill was set to high heat and I toasted the buns first, then I put a bit of vegetable oil on the grilling plates before adding the patties.

Flay - Burger Patties

During the cooking process, I kept the Foreman open, not closed. This meant a longer cooking time, but I was fine with that. I actually think it came out better this way, because compacting your hamburger can often lead to poor results.

Flay Patties with BBQ Sauce

Cooking these on an open Foreman actually worked out well. I used a beef with 20% fat, which both Bobby Flay and America’s Test Kitchen recommends.

Of course, off the top of my head I can’t remember why, but I’m pretty sure it’s a good reason. It ended up being one delicious burger, so they’re definitely on to something.

Flay - Patties with Cheddar and Scallions

I served my burgers with a glass of red wine from Francis Coppola’s vineyard and baked onion rings by Alexis, which are typically found in the organic section.

Beef Burgers with Peanut-Chipotle BBQ Sauce

MoM: June ’09 La Cucina Italiana: Sauteed Veal with Yogurt-Chive Sauce

Kicking off our new Magazine of the Month, the June 2009 edition of La Cucina Italiana, I dove right in with a simple dish that combined sauteed veal and steamed broccoli with something I had never eaten before: turnips.

Sauteed Veal with Yogurt Chive Sauce

And it turns out I don’t like turnips, but the dish was really good anyway.

What pulls everything together is a simple sauce made of plain yogurt, fresh chives, salt and pepper. I thought I was going to hate the sauce but when I tasted it against the vegetables and veal, it reminded me of the food you’d order in any Greek-style restaurant. The trick to making the sauce come together is making sure you put it together first. As you prepare the remainder of the dish, the flavors of the sauce meld together, eliminating the yogurt taste and leaving you with a mouth-watering, peppery sauce.

After that, it’s all about the ingredients. The onions and turnips are prepared two ways, steamed and sauteed, creating diversity of taste and texture. At my grocery store I found a tiny selection of veal (stew chunks and cutlets – that’s it) so I chose cutlets, sliced them into 1 1/2-inch strips, and only sauteed them for 90 seconds. I also couldn’t find fresh pearl onions, only frozen, but they came out fine and I didn’t have to change the cooking time. As for the turnips, I thought they were bitter. I guess they just aren’t my thing. Everything else was, though. Despite how little you see on the plate, I thought it was a pretty filling dish. I don’t know if I would make it again, but it was pretty delicious, and an encouraging start for our latest MoM considering we’re cooking out of it almost solely for the next month.

Bianchetto di Vitello allo Yogurt
aka Sauteed Veal with Yogurt-Chive Sauce
Courtesy La Cucina Italiana, June 2009

1 cup plain nonfat or low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into eighths
3/4 pound pearl onions, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds veal top round, cut into 1-inch cubes

Stir together yogurt and chives; season with salt and pepper.

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Add broccoli and simmer until crisp tender, about 4 minutes. Reserving water, transfer broccoli to a plate. Return water to boil, add turnips and onion and simmer until crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Drain vegetables and pat dry.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add veal in batches and cook, stirring, until browned and cooked to medium, about 4 minutes; transfer to a plate. Reduce heat to medium, add remaining
1/2 tablespoon oil, turnips and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Season veal and vegetables with salt and pepper.

Divide yogurt sauce onto plates and top with veal, sautéed vegetables and broccoli. Serve warm.

Sauteed Veal with Yogurt-Chive Sauce

June & July 2009 Magazine of the Month

I fell off the Magazine of the Month bandwagon for this reason: Everything I saw was either way too intimidating or dreadfully uninspiring. I also live in a small, depressed city, so our off-the-rack magazine selection often leaves me wanting. I thought maybe we could switch to a book for something a little different, so I went to the bookstore and started searching through the cooking section…

Again with the intimidation.

A couple of weeks ago, I went on vacation to Las Vegas. If you’re anything like me and not into activities that involve paying cash for naked strangers, then all that’s left to see in Vegas is shopping and the food.

Oh, the delicious food

Yes, I’ll be covering my trip to Bouchon as soon as I can. Embarrassingly enough, it involves my waiter catching me sending a flurry of text messages to Citizen Chef, gloating that I was sitting in Bouchon! I even got a menu as a souvenir — I swear I didn’t steal it. The waiter gave it to me… though I would have considered sneaking one out in my purse if it had come down to that.

Anyway, after my trip to Vegas, eating in some truly great restaurants from some inspiring (and surprising) chefs, I was ready to come home and challenge myself. Magazine of the Month is back on! I’ve selected one that I’ve been purchasing on and off for over ten years, but have been way too intimidated to cook anything out of. No more.

Through June and July, we will be investigating La Cucina Italiana.

La Cucina Italiana June 2009

My first experience with this magazine was oh, so long ago when I thought all there was to Italian cuisine was spaghetti and lasagna. I brought it home and boy was I ever confused. I don’t think there was a single spaghetti recipe in that edition. Since that first encounter, I’ve found myself wanting to try their dishes out, yet nervous about the unfamiliar ingredients, processes, and the time sink it may take to make their food. I’ve continued to purchase these magazines off and on, but I confess I’ve yet to make anything.

This edition contains information and recipes to make pasta from farro (which includes that delicious “little lasagna with tomato, burrata and pesto” on the cover), an assortment of strawberry desserts, and a really delicious spread on paninis that even has me salivating — and I’m not big on paninis.

Grab a magazine, sharpen your knives, and get your seatbelts on. It’s time for some delicious Italian cuisine.

Buon appetito!

Cocoa-Banana Bread

I know, I know, I said I was on a hunt for healthy breakfasts I could take to work in the morning. In my defense, this has bananas and eggs and flour. That’s three out of the four food groups, right?

Chocolate Banana Loaf

I had bananas and wanted to make a little bread with it. Over the years, a lot of the banana breads I’ve tried have ended up very dry. The only one that didn’t called for an 8-ounce block of cream cheese and I didn’t have that on hand. So, I went searching for something new.

This loaf is surprisingly moist and incredibly dense. At first I was a little disappointed because I used an extra-dark chocolate which made the first few bites ultra-chocolatey.

It’s okay, though. I got over it.

Next time, though, I’ll use regular cocoa. Also, for anyone who usually puts in baking shortcuts like me, I wrote this with my methodology that skips sifting all of the dry ingredients except for the cocoa, which I dumped into a strainer and shook out. I prefer strainers over sifters because they’re a lot easier to clean. (Hello, Mr. Dishwasher!)

After the batter came together, I was very worried because it’s a lot of batter for a small baking dish. My fear was the dough was going to rise and double. But it doesn’t, which is where the moistness and denseness comes in. On the back end of your bite, the banana flavor kicks in, creating a subtle, tasty treat. Maybe you won’t feel good about eating this for breakfast, but maybe later with a small cup of coffee…

Me? Oh, I had no qualms eating this and licking it off my fingers when I was done.

Sliced Chocolate Banana Loaf

Cocoa-Nana Bread
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan, Baking – From My Home to Yours

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or 1/2 cup store-bought chocolate chips

Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9×5 inch loaf pan and place it on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked on top of one another. This extra insulation will keep the bottom of the bread from overbaking.

In a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for one minute, until softened. (My butter had been sitting out overnight, so I skipped this.) Add the sugars and beat for 2 minutes more. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. Reduce the mixer to low speed and mix in the mashed bananas.

Sift the cocoa powder into the bowl, and add the salt and baking soda. Mix on low speed until just combined. Add each cup of flour one at a time, mixing until just combined. Add the buttermilk, mixing on low speed until incorporated. Stir in the chopped chocolate and scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes. Cover the bread loosely with a foil tent to keep the top from getting too dark and continue to bake for another 40 – 45 minutes or until a thin knife in the center comes out clean.

(Note: My loaf pan was 8.5×4.5, so my loaf of bread required another 10 – 12 minutes of baking.)

Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for at least 20 minutes before running a knife around the edges of the bread and unmolding it. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.