I celebrated my 77th birthday the other day. For some reason it seemed momentous even though it wasn’t one of those that we all remember – 21st, 30th, 40th, and 65th. I guess by this time, I’m just glad to be celebrating yet another. Susan came up with some nice gifts: cooking classes the next time we get to the Bay Area and pickles from our local Barrio Brinery (I wonder if she was trying to tell me something about my disposition?) All of the children gave me a telephone call, so it was a complete and special day.
But after a big breakfast at one of our favorite French bistros, Clafoutis, an outing in town, and shopping for the fixings, including duck fat, for a birthday dinner, we didn’t feel like eating.
We – I – finally got around to cooking the other night and had a great menu of roasted pork tenderloin, oven-roasted potatoes, asparagus, and Hollandaise sauce. It was all fairly easy, and it wound up being tasty.
Pork tenderloin ready for duck fat, rosemary, salt and pepper
Pork roast sliced and ready to serve
A birthday dinner
Rosemary-Crusted Roast Pork Tenderloin
It is getting harder and harder to find a traditional bone-in pork roast or a boneless pork roast. Most commonly one finds pre-packaged pork tenderloins. They have several advantages: they cook quickly and they are very tender. The main disadvantage is that they have little or no fat, so if you want to make pork gravy, you have to add some extra fat. I chose to use duck fat, which you can often buy frozen in a little bucket at a well supplied butcher shop, but you can use your favorite.
- whole pork tenderloin (about 2½ pounds)
- duck fat
- salt and pepper
- rosemary powder
- 3 stalks celery, cut in half with half diced
- large carrot, diced
- ½ large onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- chicken stock
- dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- Dry the tenderloin and tie it with several lengths of butcher’s twine so that it holds its shape
- With a basting brush, coat the tenderloin with duck fat and sprinkle it generously with salt, pepper, and rosemary powder
- Arrange the three halved celery stocks as a sort of rack in the bottom of a roasting pan just large enough to hold the tenderloin without crowding
- Combine the remaining diced celery, carrot, onion, and minced garlic as a mirepoix. Set aside.
- Place the tenderloin on the roasting pan in the middle of the oven pre-heated to 425°F.
- Roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the mirepoix and enough chicken stock to fill the bottom of the roasting pan to about ½ inches. At this point you may also wish to baste the tenderloin with more duck fat. Lower the temperature of the oven to 350°F and return the roasting pan to the oven for about 40 minutes. Put the potatoes (see below) in the oven at the same time. .
- When the tenderloin is roasted (145°F with an instant-read thermometer), remove from the oven. Transfer to a cutting board. Cover with aluminum foil, and let rest while you complete the rest of the meal. The temperature will continue to rise a few degrees while the meat rests.
- Remove the vegetables from the roasting pan with a slotted spoon. Deglaze the pan over a medium flame with the white wine.
- Combine the corn starch with about 2 cups of chicken stock and add to the pan, stirring constantly until you bring it to the boil and the sauce begins to thicken. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and keep warm until ready to serve.
You can use any oil or fat that you prefer to roast the potatoes. A flavorless cooking oil with high smoke point, like canola would work , as would clarified butter. But duck fat gives a very nice flavor.
- 3-4 3-inch Yukon gold potatoes for each diner
- salt and pepper
- duck fat
- Wash and dry the potatoes.
- Heat about 3 tablespoons of duck fat in a cast iron frying pan just large enough to hold the potatoes. Add the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour more duck fat over the potatoes, and place in the oven with the pork roast for the last 40 minutes of cooking. During roasting, shake the pan from time to time to keep the potatoes coated with fat.
- After about 40 minutes, test the potatoes for doneness with a kitchen fork. When they are cooked, remove from the oven and from the cast iron pan. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Grilled Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce
Probably everyone has a recipe for fool-proof, quick Hollandaise made in a blender. There are a couple of pointers that get left out of most recipes. First, the butter is very important. It should be unsalted rather than salted, and you should take your time in clarifying it. Most recipes just tell you to melt the butter and skim off the foam and pour off the liquid at the bottom. Remember that the foam is actually milk solids and the liquid at the bottom is water (fat is lighter than water, so water and stuff dissolved in the water sink to the bottom). If you heat the melted butter over a very low heat for an hour or so, the foamy milk solids will become firmer and more granular so that it is easy to skim them off, in contrast to the foam that has not yet become denatured.. Second, the sauce will be thicker if you make the emulsion with egg yolks and clarified butter and then add the lemon juice, rather than adding the lemon juice at the beginning.
- 1 bunch fresh asparagus
- olive oil
- 3 large egg yolks
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 stick (¼ cup) unsalted butter, melted over very low heat for 1 hour or until the milk solids have firmed up and can be removed with a small spoon
- juice of ½ lemon
- Wash the asparagus and remove the woody ends
- Sauté for about 5 minutes in a hot pan drizzled with olive oil. Turn frequently to make sure that all spears cook. Be careful not to overcook
- In the meantime, place the egg yolks, salt to taste, and cayenne in the bowl of a blender. Blend. Then, with the blender still running, gradually pour in the warm – not hot – clarified butter, being careful not to pour in the water at the bottom. Add the butter through the smaller stopper in the lid rather without the lid, as the butter will splatter.
- Blend in the lemon juice. Adjust the seasoning if you wish.
- Slice the pork roast in half-inch slices. Arrange on the serving plates and top with a tablespoon or so of the gravy.
- Add the potatoes to the plate.
- Place asparagus spears on the plate. Nap with Hollandaise, and serve immediately.