November 2, 2017

Yes, pork again. In the space of a week I made carnitas, breaded and pounded pork cutlets and pan-grilled pork chops. Now I’m sharing a recipe I developed last week for a spectacular rolled pork loin stuffed with cornbread and apples in a cider cream sauce.

The pork fest has been delicious but I’ll lay off now that I’ve whittled my whole pork loin down to nothing. The thing must have been 3 feet long.  I couldn’t freeze it because it had already been frozen once. For two years, every time I opened the basement freezer, it was a humongous, ungainly reminder that I had been too lazy to portion the meat before freezing.

But that turned out for the best. Without that slight edge of desperation, I probably wouldn’t have combined apples, cornbread and cider in a dish that not only is delicious, but screams “fall.” This is the kind of entree you gather friends and family to share. It is a celebration.

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CORNBREAD AND APPLE-STUFFED PORK LOIN
WITH CIDER CREAM SAUCE

  • 1 boneless pork loin, 3 1/2 to 4 lbs.
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp. crumbled dry sage leaves or to taste
  • 2 cups crumbled cornbread
  • 1 3/4 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 cup cream
Place pork loin on a cutting board fat side down. Butterfly the pork loin by slitting lengthwise halfway through the thickness of the meat. Spread open along the slit. With knife blade flat against the meat, make a horizontal cut near the center slit, lengthwise through the thickest part of the meat on one side, stopping an inch from an outer long edge. Repeat on other side.
Open meat by folding back along cuts. With a blunt meat pounder, pound meat to achieve a fairly even thickness. The meat doesn’t have to be thin, just evenly thick. You should now have a flat, oblong piece of meat. Season cut surface with salt and pepper.

Melt oil and butter in a large, hot skillet. Add onion and apples, sage, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Scrape into a large bowl. Add cornbread and stir well. Stir while drizzling in 3/4 cup of the cider.

Evenly spread cornbread stuffing over cut side of pork loin. You may not need all of the stuffing. Press to condense stuffing. Starting at one long edge, roll pork cigar-fashion to encase stuffing. Tie at intervals with kitchen twine.

Place stuffed pork loin in a baking or roasting pan with fairly low sides (a 9-by-14-inch pan works well).  Pour remaining 1 cup cider around loin. Roast in a preheated, 325-degree oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until an instant-read thermometer registers 155 degrees in the center of the meat. Remove from pan, cover loosely with foil and let rest 15 to 20 minutes before cutting into 3/4-inch slices.

While meat rests, scoop any loose stuffing from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving behind all of the cooking liquid. Place pan over a burner and bring to a simmer, scraping up browned bits from the bottom.  Stir in cream and return to a simmer. Cook until liquid reduces slightly and flavors blend. Fan slices of meat on a platter or place a slice on each plate and top with a spoonful of sauce. Makes about 8 servings.

SPEEDY MICROWAVE MUG DESSERT

 

This is the second installment from my almost-book of 5-minute cakes, custards, cheesecakes, bread puddings, pies and crisps. This flourless chocolate cake is one of my favorite recipes in the collection.

“How soon can I get the recipe for this?” asked a friend who was persuaded to try just a bite before breakfast one morning and ended up eating the whole thing.

The ultra-smooth texture and deep, dark flavor of this chocolate decadence-style cake is just about perfect. You could serve it at a dinner party with creme anglaise and chocolate curls and no one would believe it came from a microwave.

 

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE

  • 6 tbsp semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp. butter, cut in small pieces
  • 2 tsp. sugar, preferably superfine (see note)
  • 3/4 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 whole egg
  • Pinch of salt

Place chocolate and butter in a 12-ounce ceramic mug. Microwave on high power until butter is melted and chocolate is soft, 20 to 40 seconds. Stir until smooth. Chocolate retains its shape when melted in the microwave so stir very well before increasing cooking time.

Add sugar and stir well. Add cornstarch, egg and salt and beat vigorously with a fork for 50 strokes or until the egg is completely incorporated.

Microwave at 50 percent power for 2 1/2 minutes in a 1000-watt oven or 1 1/2 minutes in an 1100- or 1200-watt oven, adjusting the time up or down for lower or higher wattage ovens.

The batter will rise and fall in the oven. The top of the cake will feel firm but look wet when done. Let stand a few minutes before eating. Any moist batter will set as the cake stands. If desired, immediately run a knife around edge of cake an invert onto a plate.

Dress it up: Chill the cake and dust with sifted confectioners’ sugar.

Even better: Garnish with fresh raspberries.

NOTE: To make superfine sugar, process 1 cup of regular granulated sugar in a food processor for 30 seconds without stopping. Measure after processing.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Locally made bratwurst and fried onions in Orlando brat rolls; sausage, potato and green chile soup; Japanese tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets over rice with onions in a dashi-soy-based sauce), sugar-free strawberry Jell-O.

What I ate in restaurants lasts week:
One egg over easy, bacon and a biscuit at Bob Evans (Tony’s favorite restaurant); red pepper and mozzarella pizza at Pizza Fire in Montrose; corn and potato soup and a fabulous crispy kale salad with focaccia bread at The Courtyard Inn & Cafe in Lisbon; ribs and hush puppies from Old Carolina Barbecue in Fairlawn; baked crab and a Jane Roll (a California roll with caviar and both shrimp and crab) at Sushi Katsu in Akron.

TIDBITS

Dining at The Courtyard in Lisbon is like eating inside a jewel box. Surfaces are encrusted with tiny mirrors. Overhead lights glitter. The tabletops and the entire undulating bar are sheathed in gleaming copper. Interesting artwork surprises you around every corner.

In most hands such a decor would be too much, but in the hands of internationally known jewelry designer Renee Lewis, the entire restaurant comes off as a work of art.

Lewis noticed the old brick building — the oldest brick structure in Ohio — on trips to her hometown from Manhattan, where she lives now. It had been empty for years and was in danger of demolition. Lewis rescued it in grand fashion. She spent 11 years restoring the exterior as well as the interior, in the process fitting out four bedrooms for guests and installing a top-flight staff in the kitchen.

Lewis chose a vegetarian menu so she would have someplace to eat on trips home, but the menu is so interesting and the dishes I tried so delicious that it should appeal to anyone. The lush crispy kale salad, for example, featured big pieces of oven-dried kale tossed with a mixture of greens, creamy strands of mozzarella and candied nuts. Dinner entrees are familiar, upscale items such as risotto, Thai peanut stir fry, and stuffed shells puttanesca over Sicilian olive-tomato stew.   Ingredients are carefully and locally sourced, and everything including the breads is scratch-made.

I can’t wait to return for another meal and to maybe one day stay in a room upstairs where three presidents, including Lincoln, have been guests. Information and directions are at thecourthouseinnandrestaurant.com. Reservations are recommended.

THE MAILBAG

From Michele, Akron:
I recently bought an Instant Pot and, like you, made carnitas as my first dish. Since then I have made a beef roast and a salsa chicken recipe, which was speedy because I had forgotten to thaw the chicken. Today I cooked artichokes in it. They were tender after 12 minutes and then resting while the pressure released for 10 minutes on its own, and then I manually released the pressure.

I suggest watching some You Tube videos on the Instant Pot. I was afraid of pressure cookers for over 40 years thanks to the story involving a pressure cooker, potatoes, an explosion and third-degree burns told by my mom. I watched several videos — many very short — and they helped me to adequately understand so I could begin experimenting. I plan to make homemade yogurt in the near future. Going to try your pickled onions with carnitas for my next venture!

Dear Michele: I’m excited to hear you can cook food from its frozen state in an Instant Pot. That would come in handy. Otherwise, I think I’d rather cook food the old-fashioned way.

From Linda C.:
Re: Your pressure cooker article — how timely! I was looking at an Instant Pot last week. Many of my vegetarian and vegan friends are addicted. Thanks for the Melissa Clark reference article.

Dear Linda: Go for it. Katherine’s recipe (below) would be a good place to start.

From Katherine:
Try the Instant Pot spaghetti from skinnytaste.com. It’s really delicious, and because of the pressure cooking, the whole wheat pasta better absorbs the sauce and it has a more pleasant consistency than usual. My whole family loves this recipe, and I’m going to make three batches in a row in a couple of weeks when I cook dinner for the homeless.
 
Dear Katherine: Thanks for bringing this recipe to my attention. It sounds a lot like the classic Mexican homestyle dish, fideo, where broken pasta is stir-fried in a skillet to toast it, then stirred some more in sauce. The pressure cooker would eliminate the need for 20 minutes of stirring.

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