Monday, September 29, 2008

kitchen nightmares

Unfortunately, I am not referring to the TV show.

Rule #1,205 of throwing a dinner party: Only invite people you really, really like. That way, when your crappy little oven suddenly stops working and throws your entire roasting-based menu for a loop, they'll still stick around, cheer you on, and eat whatever you end up cobbling together.

Last week was the first official day of fall, and it's definitely here in our neck of the woods. The weather's more grey and rainy than crisp and autumnal, but I'm already craving apples and pumpkin and roasted pork. Things that typically get roasted or baked in an oven. Which inspired this menu:

Autumnal dinner:
Sparkling ginger cocktails
Assorted sliced apples and cheese
Roasted pork loin with mustard breadcrumbs and haricots verts
Roasted gremolata potatoes
Pumpkin custard

Sounds good, right? At around 5 PM on Saturday, I whipped up the pumpkin custard (so easy--I'll post the recipe later) into my preheated oven, thinking I was such a pro and so on top of things, making dessert a whole HOUR before everyone was supposed to come over.

Except the oven wasn't hot. Or even warm. And the oh-so-scary smell of gas was starting to fill the apartment. [Commence freaking out, Googling appliance repair shops, searching for the landlord downstairs, more freaking out.]

After cursing the oven, our apartment, the poor, blameless pork loins marinating in the fridge, my menu, and the lack of appliance repair-people who will come out on a Saturday night, Dan slapped me across the face (not really, he started playing Salt-N-Pepa and dancing around the apartment, which cheered me up) and I pulled myself together. Deep breath. Plan B. I considered throwing in the towel and ordering pizza, but that wouldn't give me anything worth writing about here. So I reached for the grill pans.

I can't say that grilling individual slices of potatoes (when I should have been cleaning myself up and putting on a decent shirt) was exactly fun, but it got the job done. The grill pan gave the potatoes some char as if I had roasted them, as the recipe called for. Before dinner, I just reheated the potatoes in the microwave and tossed them with the delicious gremolata marinade (see below for recipe) I had made earlier.

The pork tenderloin was a bit of a conundrum. The original recipe called for searing the meat in a pan on the stovetop, then roasting it in the oven for about thirty minutes. The tenderloins were fairly thick and I was afraid that grilling would burn the meat on the outside and leave it raw in the center. I had to figure out a faster way to cook them, so I sliced all three tenderloins down the center, length-wise, making them thin enough to cook evenly. This produced nine strips of meat, so I used both of my grill pans (which barely fit on my sad little stovetop) to cook them all at once. This, of course, produced so much smoke, mainly from the burning bits of garlic from the marinade, that I had to strategically position fans away from the kitchen to air out the room. I heard several people coughing in the living room, so I plied them with more wine.

Somehow, miraculously, my plan worked and the pork ended up being perfectly cooked. Nice char on the outside from the grill, and slightly pink and juicy on the inside. I followed the recipe and served the pork sliced on top of some blanched green beans and showered with mustard breadcrumbs. The smoke cleared and we all dug in. The pumpkin custard could not be saved, but the Chris Rock HBO special and copious amounts of dessert brought by my thoughtful, kind, non-judgmental friends helped.

Roasted pork loin with mustard breadcrumbs and haricots verts
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin. The original recipe calls for spring onions with the haricot verts but I skipped them. This recipe looked much more labor-intensive than anything I've made lately. But the Interwebs have been all a-twitter about how good it is, and I really enjoyed eating at A.O.C., one of Suzanne Goin's restaurants in LA, so I figured I'd give it a shot. And really, it wasn't so complicated--even without an oven. It's just steps, people. You make a few simple mini recipes, then put all the components together to make one impressive dish.
(Serves 6 to 8 people)

For the pork marinade:
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. thyme, plus 3 whole sprigs
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 cloves garlic, smashed

For the roasted pork:
3 lbs. pork loin, center cut
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 sprigs rosemary, broken into 3-inch pieces
10 sage leaves, plus 3 sprigs
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the haricots verts:
1 1/2 lbs. haricots verts, topped but not tailed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. thyme
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
10 small sage leaves
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the mustard breadcrumbs:
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. chopped parsley

Marinate the pork:
Whisk together the mustard, parsley, thyme, and 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a shallow baking dish. Stir in the garlic and slather the pork with the mustard mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

While the pork is marinating, make the breadcrumbs:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place the breadcrumbs in a medium bowl. Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the butter and when it foams, whisk in the mustard, thyme, and parsley. Remove from heat, let the mixture cool a few minutes, then toss with the breadcrumbs, coating them well. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a baking sheet (or in a toaster oven) and toast them for 10-12 minutes, until they're golden brown and crispy. Set aside.

Roast the pork:
Take the pork out of the refrigerator one hour before cooking to bring it to room temperature. After 30 minutes, season the pork generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 3 minutes. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil and wait a minute or two, until the pan is very hot and almost smoking. Place the pork loin in the pan and sear it on all sides until well-browned and caramelized.

Transfer the pork loin to a roasting rack. Slice the butter and place it on top of the pork. Arrange the rosemary, sage, and thyme sprigs on top. Roast the pork, basting often with the melted butter, herbs, and natural juices, 45 minutes to an hour, until a thermometer inserted into the center reads 130°F to 135°F. Remove the pork from the oven and rest at least 10 minutes.

As the pork is roasting, make your beans:
Blanch the haricots verts in a large pot of salted boiling water 2-3 minutes until tender, but still al dente. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl in 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 tsp. thyme, and the haricots verts. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring to combine and then add the butter and sage leaves. Cook a few more minutes, tossing to glaze the beans. Taste for seasoning and cover until serving so they stay warm.

How to serve it forth:
Arrange the haricots verts on a large warm platter. Thinly slice the pork about 1/4 inch thick (a serrated knife helps with this) and layer it it over the beans. Spoon some of the juices and herbs over the meat and sprinkle the mustard breadcrumbs over the top. Ta da!

Roasted gremolata potatoes
I was just going to roast some potatoes with rosemary, salt, and olive oil, but I am so glad I found this recipe instead. Adapted from Zoe restaurant via Luisa, the lovely and talented Wednesday Chef, the addition of parsley, citrus zest, thyme, garlic, and red pepper flakes elevates roasted rosemary potatoes to a whole other fragrant, savory, utterly delicious level. You could probably spread that marinade over an old shoe and it would taste divine.
(Serves 4 people, I doubled it to serve 8)

1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 medium Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), rinsed and dried
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Whisk together the olive oil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, zests, garlic and red pepper. Set aside for at least a half hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. (Or heat up your grill pan and grill each individual slice. On second thought, don't bother.) Cut each potato into 6 to 8 wedges. Toss the potatoes with the gremolata, and add salt to taste. Spread the wedges out on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes. Pull out the sheet, flip the potatoes with a spatula, and then continue roasting them for another 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot.


The Italian Dish said...

I am so impressed with how you saved that dinner party! Can't believe your oven conked out on you, just as you were having people over. Isn't that the way it always goes?

Daniel said...

I think the role my dancing played in this triumph over adversity can't be overstated.

Big ups to Salt 'N' Pepa. And Spinderella, of course.

Anonymous said...

This stove failure thing is another one of my recurring food nightmares especially when I have a photo shoot to do. Congrats on pulling it off.

My latest pork tenderloin thing is called "twice cooked pork tenderloin". Probably something I saw in the NYT. You brown the outside and then slice it horizontally, about a half inch thick, and saute on both sides. Serve with sauce of your choosing. It's never dry, always delicious.

Vanessa said...

Wow that sounds like a rough but eventually rewarding experience! It looks like you pulled off an awesome dinner without a major appliance! All those people living in studios with just a hot plate should take note.

Judy and Lisa, you're both making me hungry for pork on Rosh Hashanah! Who am I kidding I guess, I'm always hungry for pork.

Lisa said...

Aw, thanks guys!

Mr. Dee said...

Hi Lisa,

I have to hand it to people l ike you AND my wife.

Guests, Family and a dead stove!

Allow me to set the scene: An August Friday and a surprise BBQ is being planned for my birthdaay. This is a week after we ordered a new oven and a week before it was scheduled to be delivered. No biggie, it's a BBQ, right?
... It rained.

So, the entire thing had to shift indoors to a small 3 room Brooklyn Apartment where the oven stopped keeping accurate temps 6 weeks earlier and ON A GOOD DAY the stove-top would have 2 working burners. It wasn't a good day - ONLY 1 burner was working.

Great Friends, Wonderful Wife - Good Times were had by all!

Glad you were able to pull it off, too - Good For You!

LOL - I'd love for you to meet my wife so you can share kitchen war stories!

Lisa said...

Ha! That's funny. Your wife seems very composed. I think I'd cry if someone spilled a drink on a cake I made.


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