Sunday, March 29, 2009

College Reunion Dinner

My friend George, who was a principal partner in crime throughout college, was in town visiting this week. This was his first time in New York so needless to say he could not wait to go out and explore the city. I tried to show him the sites that were off the beaten tourist path, granting him an insider view of my favorite parts of the city. I of course privileged food for the week he was visiting. As it turns out his trip revolved largely around the delicious restaurants and bars we wanted to hit. We took a couple huge walks through Central Park and the Financial District and caught a few too many happy hours around town. Between eating and drinking our faces off out and about I decided to cook dinner a couple of nights. George has been eating my food for a long time dating back to our Santa Cruz days so I looked forward to showing him some new tricks I have picked up in the kitchen. George and I were joined by our other college friend Mike, marking a reunion of sorts with plenty of good food and wine. I started us off with a classic French salad of endive, Roquefort, and sherry vinaigrette. This is one of my all-time favorite salads, super simple to prepare and mighty good.

I have been on a pork kick recently so I went with a main course of ancho chile crusted pork tenderloin. Ancho chilies are dried poblanos, a very mild chile pepper originating in the State of Puebla, Mexico. This national pepper is the most popular and features heavily in Mexican cuisine. After being peeled and roasted or dried poblanos become ancho chiles. The ancho I used is very special indeed. It comes courtesy of my very good friend Hope in California. About a month ago I received a gift basket from her full of tasty treats from her farm in Northern California. In addition to the Meyer Lemon relish I have referenced in past posts, I scored a large bag of ancho chilies organically grown and dried at Riverhill Farm. The hand-written translucent bag was tide with a little ribbon and the contents were listed with a cooking tip: “Great ground up in sauces and meat rubs.” I took Hope’s suggestion to heart and prepared a succulent pork dish. I ground three anchos to a fine powder and liberally seasoned a pork tenderloin with kosher salt rubbed well into the meat. I recommend seasoning the meat and letting it sit at room temperature, or in the refrigerator if you must, for about a half hour before cooking. I simply seared the loin on a smoking hot cast iron for about 3 minutes a side and then threw it in a 375-degree oven for 15-20 minutes. The meat was moist and brilliantly spiced; all it needed was a couple of side dishes.

The first of which was inspired by Valerie’s recent trip to Chicago where she ate at a few delectable restaurants including Graham Elliot. I recently picked up the menu she brought back and skimmed through it. Some things sounded better than others but there were a few dishes and flavor combinations that blew me away. One was a striped bass or some other mild fish with creamed watercress. That sounded fantastic and I set to work formulating a recipe to pull it off at home. I sautéed a pound of watercress over medium heat with some garlic and chili flakes then tossed in a splash of heavy cream, a pad of sweet butter, and a handful of Asiago cheese. All in all it worked out pretty well, a creamy dish reminiscent of braising greens like kale or chard with a pepperycrunch. The second side dish was a simple one; steamed Russian banana potatoes with sweet butter and herbs. I used Kerry Gold Irish butter, my preferred butter at the moment, melted with chopped tarragon, parsley, and chives. This tasty potato dish is perfect to welcome spring and goes excellently with lamb, pork, or beef. My dinner with George and Mike was a total success and George could understand why I throw so many dinner parties. This meal was truly delicious and I was proud to have served it. I also welcomed the company and the opportunity to sit and eat with some good friends. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

1 comment:

George said...

probably the best tasting pork I had out there