What’s for Christmas Dinner? Pork Loin w/Apples!

Tonight, we’re making a pork loin roast for Christmas dinner – using one of our old favorite recipes but tweaked just a bit for this year’s event. (Isn’t recipe tweaking what fun cooking is all about?)

We’re trying dry brining the pork loin for a few hours in advance of cooking. The advocates of dry brining suggest that a day or so is the ideal timing for it – but I didn’t decide to try it until just a few hours before we need to serve dinner! So, it will be an abbreviated version.

To do the dry brining, I covered the pork loin (a 3.3 lb roast this year) with salt and put it into the refrigerator uncovered. When it’s time to cook, I’ll rinse the salt off the roast and then season it with salt, pepper and Penzey’s Bavarian Seasoning. From there, it’s back to our original recipe!

This pork loin roast turned out REALLY GREAT! Even though the dry brining was abbreviated, the roast came out great – moist, not dry at all – and a perfect compliment to the apple/cream/mustard topping. To add a bit more complexity to the topping, I also included a couple of rosemary springs and a layer of sliced red onion. This combination added beautiful flavor and complexity to the topping.

We’ve cooked this recipe many times over the years – although not much if ever during 2012. Today’s treatment makes us want to come back to it again soon. Try it for your family – it’s a huge favorite with ours!

A Perfect July 4th Tri-Tip BBQ

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Are you planning a July 4th BBQ get together with family and friends this year? If so, the perfect BBQ treat is a tasty, well seasoned tri-tip roast – and you’ll find the preparation and cooking to be super easy:

Either way, you’ll end up with a perfect BBQ treat that your friends and family will really enjoy. Be sure to season the tri-tip well an hour or so in advance. I prefer just kosher salt, coarse ground pepper and a bit of Montreal steak seasoning.

Mix in a few burgers, sausages and hot dogs on the grill for the kids and you’ve got everybody covered!

Have a wonderful 4th of July!

How to Cook: Easy Tri-Tip Roast on the Gas Grill

Here’s last night’s Tri-Tip finishing grilling on the gas grill. So simple to do!

This was a 2 lb tri-tip roast (smallish as they go) that we cooked on a gas grill last night.

Seasoned ahead of time with lots of kosher salt, lots of ground pepper, and a touch of Montreal steak seasoning

Fired up the grill to preheat for 15 minutes, then 7 minutes per side over the direct burners followed by 20 minutes with the fatty side up.

Let rest for 5-10 minutes wrapped in foil before slicing against the grain Turned out perfect!

This would be perfect for your 4th of July BBQ!

Easy Oven Roasted Tri-Tips for Super Bowl Sunday

Scott’s Lazy-S Oven Roasted Tri-Tip

Looking for a super easy but delicious treat for your Super Bowl Sunday get together? One of my all-time favorites is my ‘Lazy-S’ Easy Oven-Roasted Tri-Tips recipe first posted here back in 2005.

Whenever we’re having a group get together, this is one of my favorite meats to serve. It’s easy to prepare and cook – less than an hour – and tastes great warm and cool. It’s perfect to put out on a buffet table where guests can come back for me – and they will!

The recipe includes a seasoning step the day before – but that’s optional. If you don’t have that much advance time, just season the tri-tip when you bring it home from the store on Super Bowl Sunday and you’ll be good to go.

Enjoy your Super Bowl – and I hope you share a great tri-tip this year to go along with it!

What’s for Dinner this Christmas Eve?

This afternoon, we’re hosting our extended family for Christmas Eve. We’ll be serving a Niman Ranch uncured smoked ham along with broccoli, garlic mashed potatoes, and other goodies.

For wine, we’ll be trying a couple of whites that come highly recommended: Eroica’s 2010 Riesling from Washington state and a Sauvignon Blanc from J. For the red wine, we’ve got a couple of great Pinot Noirs from the Duckhorn Wine Company – a Migration Anderson Valley and Decoy Sonoma County.

Hope you’re having a wonderful Christmas weekend 2011 wherever you may be!

What’s for Dinner Tonight? – Sunday, November 13, 2011

Earlier this week, I stumbled across this recipe for Slow Roasted Beef in Tomato Sauce by Joanne Wilson which I promptly bookmarked as something we might want to make as we move into fall, etc.

Yesterday, I was out shopping and ended up buying a 2 lb boneless chuck roast – knowing that I had this recipe in my head. This afternoon we cooked it – and it was just great.

This is one of those lazy Sunday afternoon recipes. There’s a flurry of activity around 1:30 PM as you sear the beef, sauté the veggies, open the wine, prepare the beef stock, etc. Perhaps 20 minutes of serious cooking and preparation – and then you’re in monitoring mode for the rest of the afternoon.

Our approach was a bit different from Joanne’s. Specifically, we had a two pound boneless chuck roast from our local Safeway. After browning it in a bit of olive oil, we sautéed a container of Mirepoix from our local Trader Joe’s before tossing the chuck back on top and then adding the red wine, beef stock, and seasonings. We brought the mixture up to a boil and then backed it back down to the lowest setting on our stove – and just let it simmer for a bit over 3 hours. Along the way, we poked at it every hour or so – getting more aggressive in the last hour.

The result was just perfect. Falling apart tender, superb flavor from the tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, etc.. We served it simply – with sautéed haricot vert and garlic mashed potatoes. Wonderful.

What’s for Dinner Tonight? – Saturday Oct 22, 2011

Tonight, we’re making a pork loin roast using this old recipe from Scott’s Kitchen. This was one of our regular favorites back in the day – but it’s been a few years since we’ve made it. The feel of fall in the air today tempted us to upgrade to this pork loin roast from a quick pork tenderloin recipe we were considering for tonight’s dinner.

I made one addition to tonight’s recipe – adding a hearty coating Penzey’s Bavarian Seasoning and a bit of lime juice as a rub before searing the roast in the French Oven. Sure smelled wonderful when I seared it just a few minutes ago!

After taking the roast out of the oven and wrapping it in aluminum foil, it’s time to remove the apples and then deglaze the French Oven with a bit of wine.

After deglazing, simply put the apples back into the pot, add in the cream and the mustard and you’ve got the perfect sweet/tart side dish to compliment the pork. This is a wonderful combination – love those Granny Smith apples!

Perhaps add a green salad like we did tonight and you’re done. A great hearty weekend meal!

It’s Time for Minimalist Roast Chicken

Roast chicken

It’s starting to feel a bit like fall here in Menlo Park – which always brings to mind cooking roast chicken in the oven. We’re mostly wintertime roast chicken people – not wanting to bother with it during the summer. But as we get into the fall season, and the days cool off, roast chicken comes to mind as one of our weekend dinners.

I recently came across this simple roast chicken recipe from Mark Bittman. Click through for the recipe and also a link to one of his Minimalist videos where he shows the technique.

It’s a really simple recipe. His key breakthrough was discovering that the use of a cast iron skillet for roasting the chicken helped balance having the white/dark meat cooking appropriately. He recommends putting the skillet into the oven when you first turn it on – and use a high heat (he suggests 500 degrees which our oven won’t quite reach!). As the oven warms, the skillet warms up with it – so that when the chicken is put into the skillet to cook, the warm skillet will help the thighs and dark meat cook a bit faster while letting the breast meat cook normally. It’s this orchestrated imbalance that provides the magic to his recipe.

Give it a try for one of your weekend dinners!

Photo by Rosie 55.

Scott’s Easy Skillet Pork Chop Dinner with Lemon-Mustard Sauce

Yesterday, I picked up some boneless pork chops from Trader Joe’s – each about 3/4 of an inch thick. These chops are perfect for a quick (25 minutes or so) meals when cooked in a skilled on the stove. They’re also low fat!

This technique involves first searing the pork chops on high heat for 2 minutes/side to get a nice flavor on the outside – and then slowing down the cooking with some liquid that helps keep them moist and flavorful on the inside. The mustard and lemon juice used for the finishing sauce adds a very nice sweet/sour taste to the chops – they’re delicious.

Here’s my recipe – modified from Mark Bittman’s recipe.

  • An hour or two before I cook the the chops – or at the last minute if I forgot (!), I first coat them liberally on both sides with my favorite pork seasoning rub – Penzey’s Galena Street. This rub is an absolute must have for grilling thick pork chops on the Weber BBQ – and its equally good for these pan-fried chops. Trust me, Penzey’s Galena Street Rub is just the best for pork chops!
  • Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat in the skillet until it’s shimmering. Add the chops to the skillet and turn the heat up to high. Cook on high for 2 minutes per side.
  • Add 1/2 cup white wine, 1 Tbsp minced garlic and 1 Tbsp minced shallots (we love both of these from Penzey’s – we’re fortunate to have a local Penzey’s outlet here in Menlo Park!). Turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. Set a timer for 10 minutes. While you’re waiting, you can toss a quick salad or sauté some fresh veggies to accompany the chops.
  • When the timer is up, check the chops for doneness – firm to the touch – and, if done, remove them to a platter. You should still have some liquid left in the pan – if not add a touch of water. Then add 1 Tbsp lemon juice plus 2 Tbsp coarse mustard. Reduce this a bit over medium-high heat and then pour a bit over the chops. Put the rest into a small bowl or pitcher to accompany the chops to the dinner table. You’ll want to add more of the sauce to the chops – and maybe the veggies – during the meal!

That’s it – about 25 minutes start to finish – not counting the 5 minutes it takes to rub the chops in advance. Hope you enjoy!

Easy Oven Roasted Salmon

We’ve made this recipe twice this week – and it’s a hit in our house! It’s another one of Mark Bittman’s simple and easy recipes that just tastes so great! I happened to find it on his iPhone app – How to Cook Everything.

I won’t bother with the usual ingredients box – it’s such a simple recipe. Pick up a salmon fillet from your local fishmonger on your way home from the office (our favorite here in Menlo Park is Cook’s Seafood on El Camino). Cooks sells wild king salmon fillets roughly .75 lb in size – a perfect size for a dinner for two.

Put a couple of tablespoons of butter into a glass baking dish large enough to hold the fillet. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees – with the baking dish inside, melting the butter.

While the oven is coming up to temperature (and the butter is melting), season the salmon with salt and pepper.

When the butter has melted into the baking dish, pull it out and put the salmon fillet in – skin side down. It should only be a few more minutes until the oven is at full temperature. At that point, in goes the salmon in the baking dish.

Cook it skin side down for 6 minutes then take it out, flip it and cook for another 4-5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve – with whatever you’ve made as a side dish (our favorite is sauteed mushrooms with cherry tomatoes, shallots, a bit of garlic, white wine, and anything else we feel like throwing into the mix!). Slice the salmon in half and serve.

You’ll love it – and it doesn’t smell up the kitchen! Total time start to finish is about 20 minutes.