Monday, May 7, 2012

springing forward

In spite of tormenting tree pollen, in spite of the warm-cold-freezing-warm-cold weather, in spite of April showers, I love spring. I can't help it. The leaves on the trees outside of our apartment came back this week and I can't stop looking at the bright tangle of yellow-green filling our front windows. When Dan and I walk Mabel around the neighborhood, I routinely force him to stop and admire a particular patch of tulips that are so deep purple they almost look black. (He humors me.) And at the vegetable market near my office, I squealed over baby artichokes and tiny little carrots as if they were a bin full of puppies. I bought them and a dinner party menu started to take shape.
The artichokes and carrots would be roasted with some sort of protein. Chicken? No. Pork tenderloin? Yes. We'll need some sort of starch -- oh, maybe those cool-looking potatoes I bookmarked forever ago? Rhubarb! We need some sort of rhubarb for dessert -- a crumble? A Buckle? A slump? (Heh, slump.) Stewed and spooned over vanilla ice cream? Maybe. Or layered on the bottom of a cake -- a rhubarb upside down cake. Ding, ding, ding. More on that cake later.

And so, last weekend, we sat down with our friends Colin and Anne and had a little spring feast. And it was good.

The star of the meal was a pork tenderloin slathered in a mustard-herb paste and roasted with baby artichokes and carrots and shallots. I served it with those funny ruffled Hasselback potatoes, and because potatoes need gravy, a little jus from the tenderloin. The whole thing was rustic and satisfying and reminded me of how perfect pork tenderloin is for dinner parties. Yeah, it's a little dated, I suppose but it's easier than roasting a chicken (which is pretty damn easy) and the perfect blank canvas for all sorts of flavors.
The tenderloin weighed a pound and a half and disappeared pretty quickly, so if you're serving more people double the recipe. Or if you want leftovers, which I wish I had the next day, plan accordingly and thank yourself later.

Spring is a time for new beginnings and this dinner party felt like a renewal of sorts. I will make more time for my friends, I will buy fresh flowers for the house more often, I will remember to throw open the windows and take a big breath of spring air. After the pollen subsides, anyway.

First spring dinner
Radishes and asparagus with basil aioli
Fried chickpeas with paprika
Herb and mustard pork tenderloin with baby artichokes, shallots and baby carrots
Hasselback potatoes
Rhubarb upside down cake with whipped cream

Herb and mustard pork tenderloin with baby artichokes, shallots and baby carrots and jusSlightly adapted from Bon Appetit via Epicurious. Less garlic, less meat, more carrots. I recommend making the artichokes the day before or well in advance of dinnertime to cut down on prep.
(Serves 4 people)

2 lemons
10 garlic cloves; 4 peeled, 6 unpeeled
1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. whole grain Dijon mustard
18 fresh baby artichokes (about 1 3/4 pounds)
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1 1/2 lb. boneless pork tenderloin
10 baby carrots, peeled and trimmed
10 small shallots, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup low-salt chicken broth

To make the mustard-herb rub:
Grate enough lemon peel (yellow part only) from 1 lemon to measure 1 teaspoon. Grind lemon peel and 4 peeled garlic cloves, rosemary, thyme salt, and pepper in mortar with pestle or in mini processor until paste forms. Add mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper; mix until blended. Set aside in the refrigerator.

To prep and cook the artichokes:
Cut peeled lemon in half. Fill large saucepan 2/3 full of water. Squeeze 1 lemon half into water; add squeezed lemon half to saucepan. Sprinkle water with salt and bring to boil.

Working with 1 artichoke at a time, use a sharp paring knife to cut off the top 1/3 of each artichoke. Break off dark outer leaves until only pale green-yellow leaves remain. Using a vegetable peeler (or paring knife), trim stem and any uneven parts around heart. Rub cut edges with second peeled lemon half. 

Place the artichokes in a saucepan of boiling salted water with lemon. Cook until artichokes are tender when pierced with knife, about 8 minutes. Drain, pat dry and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.  

To make the pork:
Coat a large cast iron skillet (or large roasting pan) with nonstick spray or a little canola oil. Place the pork in the pan and  rub the mustard paste all over it. Let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. 

Place the cooked artichokes, 6 unpeeled garlic cloves, shallots, carrots and oil in medium bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Roast pork until crust begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F. Arrange vegetable mixture around pork. Roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of roast registers 145°F and vegetables are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer pork to a platter or cutting board; tent with foil to keep warm and let rest 15 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a bowl; cover to keep warm. Place the skillet (or roasting pan) directly on stovetop over medium-high heat. Add wine and bring to simmer, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon. Simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth; simmer until reduced to scant 1/2 cup jus, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Cut pork into 3/4-inch-thick slices; arrange on platter with the vegetables. Spoon the jus on the pork and serve at the table for people to pass.


trishie said...

That looks awesome. I'm saving this recipe for when i throw a dinner party

Daniel said...

Is the Hasselback potato the token conservative of the tuber family?

Beth said...

Hahaha -- I totally appreciate the above comment. I need to resolve to make those potatoes too!


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