…and a big huzzah to those who got the Grinch reference.
Every Christmas it is my privilege to spend a week with my slightly crazy family in California. It’s not just the (welcome) climate change that makes it a privilege, but the opportunity to pin down exactly how inevitable it was that I turned out as batty as I did!
This Christmas marked the first time that I was able to go to a family gathering feeling 100% confident that I am moving in the exact right direction with my life. I may not be galloping out of the gates, but I know I must be doing something right when upon hearing of my new proposed vocation, the family assigned me to cook for all of them. You know you’re on the right path in life when being forced to feed over a dozen hungry family members actually sounds like the best way to spend your days. It’s also encouraging that I get paid to document every triumphant success or epic failure of the process.
I love everything about food, especially being able to be in proximity to those who are truly gifted at preparing it. It seems only natural that I put in my time writing about those who do it so much better than me. I have big plans [top secret, sorry] of ultimately selling the entirety of my soul to this fickle industry, but until I do, I might as well enjoy experiencing others’ great food while I have the time.
But today it’s time to document one of my own feasts, prepared over the holidays:
Pork loin with pear and shallot, roasted fennel bulbs and Thomas Keller’s savory bread pudding with leeks.
I figured apples with pork is getting a little tired… so I decided to use pears (slow down, crazed adventurer!) I know, I know, it’s not the biggest departure. It turns out that they compliment pork nicely AND since their meat is a little more delicate and pulpy than that of an apple, browning them in the sauté pan yields a lot more fresh pear juice for your pan sauce.
I seasoned the gargantuan piece of meat with a lot of salt and pepper about 45 minutes before I intended on getting back around to messing with it. The pork loin was so gigantic that I had to cut it in half to be able to sear its sides in a pan before putting it in the oven.
Then in a bowl, I mixed enough olive oil to coat the meat with fresh thyme and minced garlic. Simple. DONE. I trussed the loin and smeared the mixture of oil, garlic and thyme on the beast and then seared each side of the loin until achieving that pretty brown quality you want to see. To borrow a word from my dad, the “grumph” will fall off the meat. (If you haven’t gleaned from the context… grumph refers to the non essential though tasty bits of garlic and thyme that you lose to the pan).
I chose not to clean the pan before I sautéed the pears and shallots in it. After transferring those elements to the platter (which I served “as is” to accompany the pork) you’re left with a wonderful assortment of juices and flavors swimming around in the pan. I added a few cups of pear nectar and a bit of chicken stock for saltiness. I sprinkled in some flour to get a more dense consistency, oh and a (rather large) slab of butter.
With that, I leave you with the idea of roasted fennel bulbs (halved) which we brushed with oil and dashed with salt as the final touch on a meal that turned out to be deceptively easy to pull together!
Behold the bulbs: