Apple Dijon Pork Tenderloin: My new "holy smokes, company is coming over and I have NO TIME" go-to

Apple Dijon Pork Tenderloin

Apple Dijon Pork Tenderloin

Want to look fancy in a flash?

Well, look no further! This right here is your new secret weapon.

Just a couple of days ago, I busted this little baby out when unexpected but oh-so-welcome guests popped by for a late lunch and it was a hit! I just threw together a big kale salad to serve on the side and, voila! A culinary masterpiece in no time!

Apple Dijon Pork Tenderloin

 Serves 4 to 6

2 pork tenderloins
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 small onions, trimmed, peeled, and sliced into 12 wedges
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Gala apples*, cored and sliced into 10 to 12 wedges
½ cup dry hard cider, dry white wine, or just regular apple cider
½ cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 425ºF and set a large cast iron skillet over medium/medium-high heat.

Pat the pork tenderloin dry with paper towel and coat each with vegetable oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper and sear the pork tenderloins until evenly browned all over. Transfer the pork to a plate and add the butter to the pan. Add in the onions, season with a pinch of salt, and allow them to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the Dijon, grainy Dijon, thyme, sage, and cinnamon and brush this mixture all over the pork tenderloins.

Add the apples to the onions and continue to cook for about 5 to 7 minutes just to give them a little colour. Carefully deglaze the pan with the cider or white wine and nestle in the pork.

Roast the pork for 15 to 17 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 145ºF.

When cooked, transfer the pork to a cutting board, cover it with foil, and allow it to rest for 5 to 8 minutes. Place the onions and apples back onto medium heat and add in the chicken stock. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits off of the bottom of the pan and allow it to bubble away until the pork has rested.

Slice the pork and serve it alongside those lovely golden brown onions and apples.

*Any other firm, crisp, and sweet apple will work well here. Gala’s are my go-to but Red Princes are also scrumptious in this recipe!

Date Night In: Brown Butter Lobster Tortellini

Brown Butter Lobster Tortellini

Brown Butter Lobster Tortellini

Valentine’s Day.

To be honest, Aaron and I aren’t really all that into it. It’s mushy and romantic, two words that don’t really describe our relationship. It’s also a day where you know that everyone around you in a restaurant is on a date and

For us, Valentine’s is usually just a night in with a home cooked meal that seems much fancier than a normal night’s feast but, in reality, is just as easy to whip up.

I mean, any excuse to open a bottle of wine and dig into a big plate of brown butter lobster tortellini mid-week is reason enough for to celebrate, right?

Brown Butter Lobster Tortellini

Serves 2

 1 batch Basic Pasta Dough or 25–30 wonton wrappers
2 fresh (or frozen and thawed) 175g lobster tails
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1–2 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ lemon, zested and juiced
Pinch red chili flakes
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
2/3 cup smooth ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce and serving
3–4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
½ lemon, zested and juiced
Kosher salt
Fresh tarragon and parsley, finely chopped
Pecorino Romano cheese

Prepare a batch of Basic Pasta Dough, cover, and set aside (or set out your wonton wrappers, cover, and set aside).

Remove the lobster meat from the shells by cutting down the centre of each tail with a pair of kitchen shears, splitting the shell open, and extracting all of the meat. Chop the meat into small pieces and set aside.

In a medium non-stick skillet, melt the butter and cook until it starts to turn lightly golden brown. Add in the chopped lobster meat as well as the finely minced garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the lobster meat is just cooked through. Add in the lemon zest, lemon juice, chili flakes, and herbs and transfer the meat to a bowl. Set aside to cool slightly.

When cooled, stir in the ricotta cheese and egg yolk and season well with salt and pepper.

To form the tortellini, roll out the pasta dough into very thin sheets.  Using a 4-inch round cutter, cut out as many circles as possible (you can also use a knife to cut 4-inch squares).  Place a rounded teaspoon of the lobster filling into the middle of each pasta shape.  Dip your finger in a bowl of water and run it along the edge to moisten.  Fold the dough over to form a half moon (or triangles) around the filling, press well to seal, then draw the two corners of the half moon together to form a little tortellini shape.  Press tightly to join the two corners together and place your formed tortellini onto a flour dusted baking sheet, leaving room between each shape. 

For the brown butter sauce, add the butter to a large stainless steel sauté pan and set it over medium heat. Allow the butter to melt and brown, stirring occasionally. As soon as the butter is golden, add in the black pepper and halved cherry tomatoes and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or just until the tomatoes start to soften up. Add in the lemon zest and juice and remove the pan from the heat.

Cook the tortellini in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes for fresh pasta or 2 minutes for wonton wrappers or until the tortellini bob up to the surface and is cooked to your liking.

When the tortellini is cooked, transfer them directly to the brown butter and toss to combine. Add in a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking liquid and give the tortellini a toss so that it is thoroughly coated with the brown butter sauce. Season with a pinch of kosher salt, toss in some fresh herbs and serve, topped with a scattering of Pecorino Romano.

The Sauce Fiend Chronicles: kinda classic Pesto

Basil, Parsley, & Arugula Pesto

Basil, Parsley, & Arugula Pesto

Pesto is one of those things I make when I’m feeling rather Bilbo Baggins-esque.  You know that scene, in the book and the movie, where Bilbo is running about trying to find snacks for Gandalf?  A zillion things on his mind, from birthday parties to food to, you know, Isildur’s Bane aka the One Ring?

 …I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean:
like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.

 Ok, ok, maybe not everyone has pretty much all of LOTR memorized but you get it, right?!  When you’re so busy that your brain is pretty much constantly out to lunch and your to-do list seems insurmountable?  It’s those days that I reach for the food processor and whip up a batch of pesto.

The wonderful thing about this sauce is that it takes about 5 minutes to throw together and every bite is as fresh as summer giving you an extra pep in your step that is so needed in those oh-so busy times.

Basil, Parsley & Arugula Pesto

Serves 4, with some leftover for lunch

2 cups loosely packed basil
1 cup loosely packed parsley
2 cups loosely packed arugula
½ cup grated pecorino cheese
3 tablespoons walnuts
1 - 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
500g dry pasta

Place all of the ingredients other than the dry pasta in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender and pulse until well combined.  Set this aside and cook the pasta in heavily salted boiling water until al dente.

When the pasta is cooked, scoop about a cup of the starchy water from the pot and drain the rest.  Transfer the pasta back into the pot and pour on the pesto.  Stir until everything is evenly coated, adding about ½ cup or more of the reserved cooking liquid to thin the pesto out as needed.

Serve topped with a few shavings of pecorino, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and a squidge of lemon juice to brighten everything up.

Mushroom Risotto: Dinner with a real Fungi

Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto

First, let me just apologize for that horrendous pun.  Usually I am the first to roll my eyes when the hubs chimes in with a doofy little quip but mushroom-based humour in all of its forms always gets my number.

Mention the word ‘risotto’ to anyone who does not find refuge in the kitchen and I guarantee you their eyes will gloss over.  Yes, they may love that creamy, satisfying dish, but the idea of standing by a stove for 45 minutes constantly tending to what really amounts to be a pan of oddly cooked rice would make most roll their eyes, pick up the phone, and order a pizza.

But I am here to banish this myth that risotto is a tricky, time consuming dish to make!  It is truly a simple little one-pot meal that is much less finicky than many recipes would have you believe.

This rich and dreamy mushroom risotto only takes a bit of chopping, some heating, and an occasional stir or two upon the addition of some stock.  Finished with a little bit of vinegar to banish the stodginess that mushrooms sometimes bring and topped with a scattering of pecorino cheese, parsley, and tarragon, this little number will have you popping back into the kitchen for a second (read: third) helping.

Mushroom Risotto

Serves 4 as a main, more as a side

4 – 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, preferably low/no sodium
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tsp butter
½ medium cooking onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
12 cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 cluster oyster mushrooms, about the size of a softball, roughly torn
1 portobello mushroom, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups arborio rice
2 tbsp + ½ cup dry white wine, divided
2 tsp balsamic, red wine, or white wine vinegar
½ cup finely grated pecorino cheese, plus more for serving
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon, plus more for serving
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet or frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.

Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan and keep warm on the back burner over low heat.  If you’d prefer, feel free to heat the stock in your microwave.  You’ll just want to make sure that it is very warm when you go to add it to the risotto so you might need to zap it a few times throughout the process.  If you are a lazy one today as I often am, don’t fret about heating the stock up at all.  The recipe still works perfectly fine.  It just might take a bit longer and be a bit more porridge-y which is an a-ok quality in my books.

When the oil is heated, add the chopped onion and season with some salt and pepper.  Cook for about 3-5 minutes or just until the onions start to become tender.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and add another tablespoon of oil to the pan along with the butter, garlic, and quartered cremini mushrooms.  Season with a bit of salt and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add the oyster mushrooms and thinly sliced portobello and cook until all the mushrooms have taken on a lovely golden colour.  When the mushrooms are done, deglaze the pan with 2 tablespoons of wine and cook until evaporated.  This will happen in the blink of an eye so stay with it.  Once all of the wine has evaporated, transfer the mushrooms onto a plate and spread into a single layer.  Set aside.

Place the pan back on the burner and reduce the heat to medium.  Pour in the final tablespoon of olive oil and stir in the arborio rice.  Continue stirring for about 1-2 minutes or until the rice begins to crackle a little and look a bit translucent around the edges.  At this point, stir in ½ cup of white wine and cook until it has all evaporated.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and stir in the stock 1 - 1½ cups at a time, allowing it to bubble away and evaporate before the next addition.  No need to worry about stirring constantly.  Just give it a good whirl after each new addition and allow the stock to bubble away.

Continue adding the stock until the risotto is al dente or cooked to your liking.  You’re aiming for a balance between tender and toothy but feel free to err on the textural side you prefer.

When the risotto is perfectly cooked, stir in the vinegar and about ½ cup more stock to loosen everything up, then add the mushrooms, pecorino, and your fresh herbs.  Taste the risotto and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Serve in shallow bowls topped with pecorino, herbs, and a good dusting of freshly cracked black pepper.