Thursday, May 17, 2018

Recipe Notes: Pan-seared Pork Tenderloin Steaks

2 May 2018

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, March 2018

One of our favorite cuts of pork is the tenderloin. Looking back in the blog I find several posts about pork tenderloin dinners and several different recipes, all enjoyed. Pork tenderloin is readily available and can be prepared relatively quickly. This recipe, from a recent edition of Cook's Illustrated magazine, emulates sous vide cooking which leads to perfectly cooked, tender, juicy steaks. Can it be done in an oven rather than a constant temperature water bath?

Using the "for two" version of the recipe from the web site, I started with one pork tenderloin. As it weighed almost 1.5 pounds, and the recipe specified 1 pound, I cut it into three steaks rather than two. These were pounded into 1-inch thick steaks, seasoned, and placed in a 275° oven until the internal temperature was around 140°, about 45 minutes. They were removed from the oven, rested on paper towels for ten minutes to dry the surface, then seared in a hot skillet. After a 5 minute rest they were sliced and served. Total preparation time for dinner was 70 minutes.

The steaks were very good! They were juicy, tender, and well seasoned. We got three dinners out of the one tenderloin. To prepare the leftovers the steaks were reheated in a low oven, about 200°. They were still tender and juicy, especially the largest piece which was a little under done to start with. This is a simple way to prepare a favorite cut of meat, another winner!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Recipe Notes: Coffee Cake with Pecan-Cinnamon Streusel

25 April 2018

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, January 2018

I don't recall ever making a coffee cake, perhaps because I don't drink coffee? Nonetheless, I do enjoy having baked goods for breakfast and I didn't see why a coffee cake couldn't be eaten after dinner as a dessert as well as for breakfast.

The streusel topping and batter for this cake each came together quickly in a food processor. First the streusel was made with toasted pecans, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, butter, and water. I toasted the pecans in a small skillet on the stove and, unfortunately, over-toasted (a.k.a. burnt) them. The topping was set aside and the batter was made from flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, butter, milk, egg, and vanilla extract. Note these were not all just dumped together in the processor but rather added following a sequence described in the recipe. In particular, the butter was added to the flour before adding the wet ingredients to help ensure tenderness. The batter was poured into a greased and floured springform pan, the streusel was sprinkled on top, and the cake baked in a 350° oven. From starting to removing the cake from the oven was 1 hour, 40 minutes.

I took the cake to a meeting with friends for dessert and received generally positive feedback. I personally thought it was a little bland for a dessert cake. It had a good, firm but tender texture, was not too sweet, and had a gentle cinnamon flavor. I had feared the burnt pecans would add bitter notes to the cake but these were not apparent. I had the leftover cake for breakfast where I thought it worked better and I enjoyed it more than I had when it was served for dessert.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Recipe Notes: Potato-Dill Sandwich Bread

23 April 2018

Recipe from Bread Illustrated, America's Test Kitchen, 2016, p. 102

I generally have a sandwich for lunch so I have been trying different sandwich bread recipes from Bread Illustrated. I have found some recipes that I will use regularly (e.g. Japanese milk bread, anadama bread, light rye) and others that I will probably not return to (e.g. no knead brioche, American sandwich bread). Continuing this journey, I tried a recipe for potato-dill sandwich bread with hopes that the dill flavor would complement some of my favorite sandwich fillings.

The method for making this bread was reminiscent of the potato burger bun recipe that I use regularly for slider and hot dog buns. A russet potato was boiled, processed through a ricer, and mixed with butter. Once it had cooled it was added to a mixture of flour, yeast, and salt by hand, literally, you use your hand to mix the mashed potato with the flour mixture. Using a stand mixer, some of the potato cooking liquid was slowly added to the flour mixture then kneaded. Finally, minced fresh dill was added to the dough. This was left to rise until doubled, formed into a loaf, left to rise again, and then baked. The total time was four hours, much of it hands off.

The resulting bread is good, good for all sorts of sandwiches, though the crumb was a little chewy. I found the dill flavor to be very subtle and easily masked by the stronger flavors of the sandwich filling. Thus while this is a good bread I don't think it has a particular purpose or a unique character which would fill a niche in my sandwich universe.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Recipe Notes: Indoor Pulled Chicken with Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce

22 April 2018

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, March 2018

When I have made pulled chicken sandwiches I enjoyed them greatly. Looking back at my blog post describing the preparation reveals the amount of work and time involved in this recipe. Bone-in chicken leg quarters were smoked on the grill for several hours. After it cooled the meat was pulled off of the bones by hand and then shredded with a combination of forks and the food processor before being mixed with a flavorful barbecue sauce. I was happy to see an indoor version that promised to be faster and easier, but would it taste good?

A braising liquid—consisting of chicken broth, molasses, sugar, liquid smoke, unflavored gelatin, and salt—was heated to boiling in a Dutch oven on the stove. Two pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs were added and simmered until the chicken was tender, about 35 minutes. The recipe recommended using tongs to shred the chicken, an improvement over the fork method. However, I found this to be clumsy, too, so I tried something I had read about. The cooked chicken was put into the stand mixer with the beater attachment. Mixing for 1-2 minutes on low did a great job of shredding the chicken! A no-cook barbecue sauce was made with ketchup, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, Sriracha, salt, and pepper. The meat was heated with some of the sauce and some of the reserved cooking liquid and served on slider-sized potato buns. Preparation time: 75 minutes.

So, it was much easier and faster to make the pulled chicken indoors, but was it as good? I don't remember the previous recipe well enough to compare, but the indoor pulled chicken sandwiches were excellent! They had a great texture and flavor. The sauce had just the right amount of heat along with the smoky/sweet flavors. I can't see going back to the outdoor method to make pulled chicken. Recipes for two other sauces were included ("Lexington Vinegar" and "South Carolina Mustard") and these might be worth trying some time. The leftovers were excellent, too, prepared by mixing some of the barbecue sauce with the chicken and re-heating it in the microwave.