Indonesian Pork Tenderloin

This pork tenderloin recipe has a sweet glaze with the tang of chili pepper. It is very easy to make and only takes 40 minutes in the oven. The next time I make this I will increase the chili pepper to two teaspoons to give it more bite to play against the sweetness in the peanut butter and mango chutney.

1 one-pound pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and silver
2 tablespoons all natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons crushed chili pepper (to taste)
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
Cooking spray
1/4 cup mango chutney

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Prepare a baking tray by spraying it with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, chili pepper and garlic. Use a teaspoon to spread all over the tenderloin. Place in the prepared baking tray and put in the oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop up the mango chutney to get a chunky appearance without any large pieces of mango. Spoon on the top and sides of the tenderloin and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160˚F.

Remove the pork from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. I served it with barley,  sautéed kale, and pan-roasted asparagus with tomatoes, ripe olives, and garlic. If you wish, serve with mango chutney on the side.

Irish Bannock (Soda Bread)

There is some confusion, in my mind, as to what to call this delicious quick bread. According to Wikipedia, bannock is barely kneaded and it is cooked on a griddle. However, soda bread has a cross in it and it is either baked or cooked on a griddle. Whatever you want to call it, I’ve decided it’s a matter of preference. I found this recipe on and made it right away. It really was easy.

2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, chilled and diced
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Then grease a cake pan or a baking tray. Measure and prepare ingredients. I used large golden raisins, chopping them into coarse pieces. Instead of buttermilk, I used sour milk. Put 1 tablespoon white vinegar into a glass one-cup measure then top with milk to the one-cup level.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is the size of small peas. Stir in the milk. Add the chopped raisins and stir until all the flour is just moistened. The dough will be very sticky.

Now, the original recipe said to “turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for 5 minutes.” I found this impossible to do because the dough was so sticky. I simply skipped this step and scraped the dough into the prepared pan. I used a spatula to pat it into a round shape. Just for interest, I sprinkled some fennel on top. At this point, the dough was too soft and sticky to do anything else, like cut a cross in the top.

Then I popped the pan in the preheated oven. After 15 minutes, I used a sharp thin blade to cut a cross about 1/2 inch deep in the middle of the dough. Then I let it continue baking for 13-15 additional minutes until a tester inserted in the center came out clean.

I let it cool about 5 minutes on a cooling rack, and because I couldn’t wait any longer, I sliced it and ate a piece right away. Bannock/Soda Bread is best eaten on the day it is made. Its texture is so soft; it’s very much like a cake.

Krapow Gai (Thai-Style Basil Chicken)

This dish comes from Thailand via America’s Test Chicken who took a solemn look at what is considered Thai street food, unlocked its mysterious ingredients then made it fool-proof for those of us who aren’t Thai. It is traditionally served in Thailand with kai dao, literally an “egg star”–a fried egg perched on top of the rice. It is not usually served with a vegetable accompaniment except for garnishes like sliced fresh tomato and cucumber and chopped scallion and cilantro. These counteract the heat of the chili pepper in the mouth. For a cooked vegetable side, baby Chinese kale in oyster sauce would also be an excellent complement. I’ve made some adjustments to the ingredients by adding ranges. This recipe makes enough for 4 people.

2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
3-4 large garlic cloves, peeled
3-6 Thai red or green chilies, stemmed, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons fish sauce, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon oyster sauce (I used soy-ginger sauce)
1 teaspoon white vinegar, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon sugar, plus more for serving
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breast cut into 2-inch cubes
3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
red pepper flakes, for serving

Garnishes (optional)
Slices of tomato and cucumber
Chopped scallion and cilantro
Fried egg

Prepare ingredients. Have all ingredients cut and chopped and ready for assembly. I recommend seeding the chilies if you want a less spicy dish. To my taste, three large chilies with seeds would be medium heat.

Prepare the base. In a food processor, combine 1 cup basil, garlic, and chilies. Pulse 3-5 one-second pulses then stop to scrape down the sides and pulse another 3-5 times. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the basil mixture with 1 tablespoon fish sauce, the oyster sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Set aside.  Scrape the remaining basil mixture out of the bowl into a 12-inch skillet. Do not wash out the food processor work bowl.

Prepare the chicken. Put the chicken in the food processor work bowl with 1 tablespoon fish sauce. Pulse until meat is chopped into 1/4 inch pieces, about 6-8 one-second pulses. Scrape into a small bowl and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Cook the vegetables. Add shallots and 1-2 tablespoons oil to the skillet. Cook on medium-low heat. The garlic and shallots will start to sizzle in 1 1/2 minutes. It truly does! If it doesn’t turn up the heat slightly. Cook, stirring constantly 5-8 minutes, or until the garlic and shallots are golden brown.

Cook the chicken. Add the chicken to the cooked vegetables. Turn the heat up to medium. Then stir constantly, taking care the break up the chicken with a spatula to ensure even cooking and no pink remains, about 2-4 minutes. Add reserved basil-fish sauce mixture and continue to cook about 1 minute. Stir in remaining cup of basil leaves and cook until the leaves are wilted, about 30-60 seconds.

Serve. I suggest serving the Krapow Gai over white or brown rice topped with a fried egg, with cooked or raw vegetables on the side. It is traditional to offer extra fish sauce, sugar, vinegar with sliced chilies in it, and pepper flakes so that the diner can adjust the seasonings to taste.  AJ, who misses Thai food greatly, enjoyed this dish very much. It was a little bit of home!

A Chicken Soup for the Timid Soul

It was not quite spring today, that transition period where you’re not sure whether it’s warm enough. To hedge my bets, I went out in full winter regalia–down coat, cap, and gloves–then unzipped the throat, took off the hat, and the gloves. Tonight’s dinner was something like that. A delicate chicken soup for a stomach that’s still tender, for getting over the stomach flu.

The “stock pot” as I call it, came with the teeny tiny apartment (2 rooms and a bathroom) and it is really a saucepan. At 11 this morning, I set the chicken stock to simmer–not boil–because I want to avoid that awful scum. I threw in what I had on hand: chicken scraps, half an onion, celery pieces, and a few frozen string beans. Then I waited.

At about 5 pm I strained the broth and wiped out the pot and poured the broth back in again. This time I set the heat on medium-low. I diced a carrot and two celery stalks and threw those into the broth to cook. I tasted and seasoned the resulting soup.  I thin-sliced a chicken breast and set it aside. Then I boiled a pot of water and put in a package of fresh noodles to cook until al dente. I put some chopped scallion and a handful of chicken pieces in a soup bowl, then ladled some hot soup over it. Using a spoon, I braised the chicken in the broth until it was no longer pink. I added more soup, noodles, and garnished it with cilantro.

I was so pleased with myself for making something light and nourishing. I was feeling quite virtuous until an hour later when AJ complained, I’m still hungry.  Chicken soup is indeed good for the soul but doesn’t satisfy the hungry man.

Sunday Dinner, March 13, 2011

Today’s main course is my take on America’s Test Kitchen’s take on the French recipe for stuffed chicken breast roll. I served it with  green beans amandine, and for dessert, strawberry cream pie. That’s my take on Diane Mott Davidson’s recipe called Strawberry Super Pie. I also made sure I had all ingredients prepped before I started cooking and assembling. Taking the time to prep everything is a good idea because sometimes you combine ingredients quickly!

Stuffed Chicken Roulade
I’ve got men in my house who eschew chicken breast. So I adapted this recipe by using boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

4 boneless,skinless chicken breasts (I used 1 breast and 4 boneless, skinless thighs)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 ounces white mushrooms,trimmed,wiped clean,and sliced thin (1 cup)
1 small leek,white part halved lengthwise, washed, and chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium garlic cloves,minced or pressed through garlic press (Use large, more garlic is better!)
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (Be generous and use a teaspoon)
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Chinese Rice Cooking Wine)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves (I used cilantro and minced it fine)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (I used vegetable broth)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the chicken. Butterfly the chicken breast. Put one hand over the hump of the breast and lift your fingers. Slice the chicken breast horizontally in half, so that the breast opens up like a book. Put the chicken breast in a zipper lock bag or between two sheets of plastic. Pound it to 1/4 inch thickness. Remove from the plastic and trim until the breast is approximately 8×5 inches. Set aside the trimmings. Repeat for the boneless, skinless thighs. Trim any excess meat or fat from the thighs. Discard fat and set aside the trimmings. You should get about 1/2 cup of trimmings. Put the trimmings in a food processor bowl and puree for 20 seconds. Remove the meat to a medium bowl. Do not rinse the workbowl of the food processor.

Prepare the stuffing. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12 inch skillet. When the oil shimmers, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until they brown, about 8-11 minutes. Add the 1 tablespoon oil and the leeks. I used chopped onion because I couldn’t find leeks at the supermarket. Cook about 2-4 minutes or until the onions turns transparent. Add the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice to the mushroom mixture and cook until all moisture has evaporated, about 30 seconds.

Transfer mixture to the bowl of the food processor. Return the empty skillet to heat and add the wine, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom. Remove from heat. Pour wine into a small bowl and set aside. Rinse and dry skillet with paper toweling.

Pulse the mushroom mixture 5 times in 1-second bursts. Scrape contents into the reserved pureed meat and add 1 1/2 teaspoons minced parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix well.

Assemble and cook the roulades. Cut 12 pieces of twine, each about 12 inches long. With the short end of each fillet away from you, put about 2 tablespoons of the stuffing in the center of the thigh fillet, leaving a border. I did the breast last and used up the remaining stuffing. Roll away from you. Tie each roll; twice for the thighs and three times for the breast. Trim excess string.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil and fry each roll 2 minutes on each side for a total of 8 minutes. Add the broth and the white wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer 12-18 minutes. I turned each roll about halfway through the cooking time. Remove the rolls to a plate and tent with foil. The internal temperature should be 163˚F.

To the liquid in the pan, add the Dijon mustard, whisking it in. Increase heat to high and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits. Reduce liquid to about 1/2 cup, about 7-10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add butter, remaining parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Because I had used Chinese wine, it was a little too sour so I added a teaspoon of sugar.

Slice into rounds and pour sauce on top. Serve with my version of

Green Beans Amandine
1 pound fresh green beans, washed, ends trimmed
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blanche the green beans in boiling salted water. After about 4 minutes they turn bright green. Drain and rinse in cold water to set the color. This means you’ll have to heat up the green beans before serving but it looks so pretty and won’t change to that putrid olive green color once it cools.

In a 10-inch skillet, melt the butter and add the almonds. Fry until golden brown. Heat up the green beans in the microwave–about 60 seconds. Scrape the almonds on top. Sprinkle with lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Simple and delicious!

Strawberry Cream Pie
I should have been warned; beginning with that graceless name “Strawberry Super Pie” this recipe was going to be a problem. I should always be suspicious when a cook resorts to hyperbole.  The problem was the crust. Though the dough spread fine in the pie dish, it puffed up and shrank on baking, and became a hard almond cookie.

12 tablespoons (3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup chopped almonds, optional (pecans in original recipe)

2 pounds strawberries, divided
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 pound (1/2 cup) cream cheese, softened
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven 375˚F. One 10-inch glass pie plate, buttered.

Make the crust. Mix melted butter with flour, confectioners’ sugar, and nuts. Press into the prepared pie plate. Bake 25 minutes or until light brown. Allow to cool completely. [Notes: I should have pressed the dough up the sides and onto the rim. I was too conservative with the bottom and was afraid it would have holes in it. Thinner would have been better.]

Make the topping. Mash enough strawberries to make 1 cup. Cut tops off the rest of the strawberries and set aside. Place mashed berries in a saucepan and add water. Mix sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to crushed berry mixture and bring to a boil on top of the stove, stirring. Boil about 1 minute or until clear and thickened. Set aside to cool.

Make the filling. Whip cream until stiff. In another bowl, beat cream cheese with vanilla and confectioners’ sugar. Carefully fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture. Spread in cooled crust and refrigerate. [Notes: Refrigerate how long? I put it in the freezer for ½ hour to firm up the cream cheese filling. It could have used at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, I think. ]

Assemble pie. When crushed berry mixture is cool, pie can be assembled. Stand whole (or halved, if you prefer) strawberries on top of cream filling, cut side down. When entire filling is covered with whole berries, carefully spoon cooled crushed berry mixture over all. Cream filling should not be seen between whole berries. Once the crevices have been filled, do not overload the pie with the crushed berry mixture, as it will just drip over the sides. Any leftover crushed berry mixture can be served on toast or scones. [Notes: The filling came up to the top of the rim because the crust was thick. I sliced the berries thinly and layered them on top of the filling then poured the topping on top of the berry layers.]

You Call This Yakisoba? Monkey Bread Too!

It’s not easy if you’re an omnivore to suddenly give up meat, and even if you’re an observant Catholic. AJ wasn’t too keen on this aspect of Lent although he was perfectly willing to give up riding the bus, indeed any public transportation, as a form of penance. To him, a walk was good exercise and he would do it anyway. But meatless Fridays were sure to be boring and tasteless. To make tonight’s menu more appealing, I did a variation on yakisoba and made a special dessert.

You Call This Yakisoba? (With Brown Bean Chili Sauce)
1 package fresh Japanese style noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 leaves kale, chopped
1/2 cup edamame
1/2 cup carrots, sliced
1/2 cup green peas
1/4 cabbage, roughly chopped
1/4 cup scallions, sliced thin
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown bean sauce (recipe follows)

Boil the carrots in a saucepan for about a minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the peas and edamame and cook for 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.Bring the water to a boil again and add the fresh noodles. Cook for about two minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Fry the cabbage. When the edges are brown, add 2 tablespoons of water, cover and simmer 2 minutes. Add the kale, carrots, garlic, and scallion. Cook 2 minutes until the kale is wilted. Combine the peas and edamame with the vegetable mixture. Add the cooked noodles and the remaining tablespoon of oil. Lift and separate the noodles with a pair of tongs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with brown bean chili sauce.

Brown Bean Chili Sauce
4-6 fresh red chilies, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar or lime juice
1/4 cup bean sauce, mashed
dash soy sauce, if more saltiness is desired

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. This is a pungent sauce that is perfect for boiled chicken.

Monkey Bread Too
2 cups biscuits, shredded into 1 inch pieces
2 large bananas sliced into rounds
cinnamon and sugar to taste
1/4 cup chocolate chips (white or semi-sweet)
2 tablespoons half and half

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

In a large bowl, combine the biscuits and bananas. Add cinnamon and sugar to taste. Toss to coat thoroughly.

Spray an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Pour the biscuit mixture evenly into the pan. Bake 20 minutes.

In the microwave, melt the chocolate chips in 10 second increments. Add up to 2 tablespoons half and half until the chocolate is the desired consistency for pouring.

Spoon some of the bread and bananas into a small bowl and drizzle the sauce on top. Delicious!