Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mungo Jerry Pork Loin with Toasty Nuts

I've been up to my eyeballs in the backend of production for "That Night in the Garden", with all the associated pain which comes from independently producing a CD and then sending our baby off to the finishing school known as "Mastering and Artwork" at our production facility. So, I'm indulging in a little thumb-sucking and doing only creative things in the shop and kitchen. We've got peppers, lettuce and tomatoes coming in- plus an early pumpkin from the compost bin.

Today's Cooking With Mister C was inspired by what was in my fruit and veggie cooler, and it's been damned hot the past week, so I've been revisiting "In the Summertime" by Mungo Jerry. It was the first album my uncle ever gave me, but I've always been inspired by the line "just do what you feel" so I found Bing cherries and a mango that were languishing beneath a bunch of carrots and lettuce. Chopped in the blender with some ginger paste and it makes for a tart and interesting combination of fruity layers. Mango:Mungo/Cherry:Jerry and so you will know where my mind is of late. Nuts are the new good thing for men my age, so I added a couple of tablespoons of crushed cashews and pine nuts browned in olive oil as a crunchy topping for the pork loin I was going to grill. It's pretty, dark red and thick with plenty of sweet tang and the final punch of the ginger enhances the cherry and mango.

Served with my trademark Bossa Nova Salad, with fresh peppers and green beans from the garden and white rice.

Here's the recipe:

Mister C's Mungo Jerry Pork Loin with Toasty Nuts

Lean Pork Loin 3-5lbs
1 Cup Sweet Bing Cherries (Stoned, and as ripe as you can stand)
1 Medium Mango
1 Tbsp Ginger Paste (or chopped for the blender)
2 Tbsp Chopped Cashews
2 Tbsp Pine Nuts
1 Tbsp Olive Oil

Pit the cherries but don't skin them, peel and slice the mango into large chunks and add these with the ginger to the blender or food processor. Chop only long enough to break up the cherries and mango, but don't puree- it needs to be thick and chunky, almost like salsa.

Set the sauce aside to do its thing, and heat up the olive oil in a small pan on medium heat. When it starts to smell like hot olive oil, add the nuts and begin toasting them in the pan; you have to be vigilant in keeping the nuts turned so they won't scorch. When your nuts begin to smell toasty and turn golden brown take them off the heat and let them sit in the remnants of the oil for a bit.

Turn the grill to medium heat or preheat to 400F in the oven with the baking rack set high in the oven, and use about 1/3 of the sauce to make a thick baste on the pork loin, concentrating on the top of the roast. Take the nuts and add to the sauce on top of the pork loin, pressing them in a bit as you go. Close it up and cook for 1 to 1.5 hours, no more basting needed. When the loin comes to 165F through the center it's ready. Let the loin set for 5 minutes, then slice. Add the remaining sauce to the slices and get ready for the compliments.

Monday, August 3, 2009

On Goat Cheese and Geodes

A couple of weeks ago we visited Victoria in her college town of Huntsville, Alabama. We're geeks, and so instead of doing the regular parents-visiting-their-kid-at-college stuff like taking all her roommates grocery shopping and cleaning their I-really-don't-know-how-long-that's-been-there apartment (hey, look at it as an immune-system builder), we left our Pug to be doted over by beautiful college girls and their buff-but-polite guys-in-waiting and headed for SciQuest at Calhoun College. It's a hands-on science museum, literally in the shadow of the Space Shuttle and Saturn V as it's across the road from Marshall Space Center. There's a little shop inside the museum, and it took me all of 2 minutes to find the geode bin. Walnut-sized whole geodes. A dollar each. Hmmm, I have rock saws. So we took the geodes home, and discovered one was partially hollow and one had a beautiful heart-shaped pattern when sawed and polished. We're mad for geodes, some of my most prized possesions are geodes which contain ancient water that's anywhere between 40 million and 300 million years old. And they're translucent, so you can actually see the water that most likely was contemporary with the dinosaurs. That's near the top of my Cool List...

Who? Oh, Vic. She had a great time with Pugsley, and it's nice to finally be able to have a cocktail with my oldest daughter while talking about things adults talk about (True Blood, Dragon*Con- you know the drill). We took her out to dinner at Bonefish Grill where we saw the inspiration entree for today's Cookin' With Mister C. No one ordered it, but it was billed as "Lily's Chicken", grilled with lemon and basil and served with goat cheese, sauteed spinach and artichoke hearts. Not being one to simply rip off a signature dish of a nationwide chain of fine restaurants, I thought about how it might be prepared and then changed the parts I thought could be done differently. It's significantly different from the Bonefish recipe as I really wanted to make a goat cheese sauce with a bit of color and tang:

This was served with mushrooms sauteed with oilve oil and pine nuts, over whole grains with roasted garlic and pecans. It came out so much better than I expected, even Conor wanted seconds; in retrospect I'd double the goat cheese sauce recipe and juice a fresh lime to add more tart to the recipe. The only downturn is that it comes out distinctly purple instead of red, looking a bit like baba ganoush but a true knockout for the taste buds. Take a Lactaid or two, this is rich.

Mister C's Lemon Basil Chicken with Red Wine Goat Cheese Sauce

Six Boneless Chicken Breast Halves (2lbs or so)
4 Tbsp Butter
A Handful of Fresh Basil (or 2 Tbsp Dried Basil)
1 Lemon, Juiced
1 Cup Chicken Broth
4 oz. Goat Cheese
1 Tsp Mediterranean Seasoning (or 1/4 tsp each: grated lemon peel, salt, pepper, parsley, garlic)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Tbsp Red Wine (or 1/4 cup for less thick sauce and more tang)

Melt the butter, chop the basil finely (save a pinch for the sauce) and mix with the lemon juice into the butter. Keep this at room temperature or warmer for at least 20 minutes to allow the oils and acids to mix and mingle. While you're waiting, preheat the grill and begin the sauce:

Red Wine Goat Cheese Sauce

Add the chicken broth, olive oil and wine to a saucepan and simmer until reduced by about half. Add the Goat Cheese and Mediterranean Seasoning, simmering and stirring until it thickens.

Grill the chicken, turning and brushing with the lemon basil mixture frequently until done. Add the Goat Cheese sauce in a healthy portion to the sliced chicken breasts, and serve with the sides and a salad. I'm one of those people who believe that red wine goes with everything except a Baby Ruth, but a cold crisp white would also do nicely.

Spend some time over this meal, it's worth it.