Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Recipe's I Love: Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloin

Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloin
This past Fall I made the big (and long overdue) move out from under my moms roof, and into a lovely, downtown condo with my boyfriend Chris.  The move sparked many wonderful changes in my life, but perhaps the most unexpected one was how it affected some of my favourite recipes. 

You know that exhilarating feeling that you get when a recipe turns out fantastic, knowing that you have a new killer dish to add to your repertoire? Anyone who has experienced that feeling, must also know how quickly that feeling can diminish the more that dish gets repeated. It becomes apart of your routine, making that first bite a little less special each time it's made. It's disappointing when you can become so disinterested in something that you used to enjoy and appreciate so much. 

Like I said, moving in with Chris has ignited a lot of change in my life, but what surprised me the most was how it breathed new life into those old stand-by recipes, reminding me why I still find myself turning to them time and time again. Watching someone else get to experience those first bites of a great dish made me remember what made them so special in the first place. Suddenly the smells became more fragrant, the juices flowed more freely, and my tastebuds were more alert. It was like that first bite all over again! 
Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloin
Though recently I had declared that I wanted my blog to primarily focus on recipes that I have personally developed myself, getting to revisit these old third-party-sourced recipes with new eyes made me want to start a new series on my blog entitled 'Recipes I Love.' With so many recipes on the Internet, it's easy to get overwhelmed and not now where to begin. It can be incredibly discouraging when you put the time, money, and effort into making a dish, only to have it fail, wasting all of those ingredients, and your precious time! This is exactly why I want to start sharing my favourites with you, so you can learn which resources to trust, and which recipes you can turn to when you're in a bind.

This brings me to the second dish in this series (the first being Ina Garten's Aglio E Olio), which also just happens to be from the lovely Ina, Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloin. Firstly, what I adore about this recipe is just how simple the marinade is to prepare, filled with ingredients that I always like to keep in my kitchen. I also love that I can quickly prepare the marinade in the morning, and leave the raw pork tenderizing and soaking up all that flavour while bathing in it all day. Doing that little bit of work in advance means simply searing and roasting the pork come time for dinner, allowing you to relax and enjoy your night off. This dish always comes out perfect, with a great herbaceous and tangy crust, and a vibrant pink centre that will have you and your loved ones salivating! I love everything about this simple recipe and know that you will too! Give the recipe a try here and let me know if you have added it to your favourite-recipe-repertoire as well! 

Listening To:
Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell (full album!)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Beginners Guide to Arancini AKA Fried Rice Balls

So you've mastered the art of making risotto, and despite it's delicious results, you've followed my advice and have left yourself some leftovers for the following day...Now what? There's not a chance that anyone could get you to revive the goopy, gluey mess you have in front of you by simply re-heating. Although some of the best leftovers are merely reheated to achieve the same level of flavour from when they were first served, reviving risotto requires completely transforming the rice into an entirely new dish, largely unrecognizable from the creamy risotto it once was. Yes friends, I am talking about the miraculous transformation of renovating risotto into arancini! 

Arancini are also known as fried rice balls (or 'little oranges', referring to their appearance), and are made by forming the sticky leftover risotto into a ball, stuffing with cheese or other fillings like meat, and rolling in a breadcrumb mixture, to be fried into crisp and creamy balls. I had previously made arancini once before last year using leftover risotto from my culinary class at George Brown. Although my results were tasty, they were nowhere near the crispy on the outside, and outrageously creamy on the inside arancini that I had gone gaga over at Italian restaurants and events. I knew a big issue was my not-so-successful attempt at deep frying over the stove for the first time (something that pretty much scared the pants off of me!), but I knew that there was more that could be tweaked. The cheese inside hadn't melted quite as much as I had hoped, and I found the arancini a little on the dry side. What was I doing wrong?

For my second attempt at making arancini just a few weeks ago, after enjoying a delicious asparagus and green pea risotto, I decided to take matters into my own hands and tuck into some arancini research online. The hands-down best resource I found was from Serious Eats, where the chef had gone through some serious recipe testing to perfect the little fried balls. Although this method for making arancini was not meant for using leftover risotto (this recipe skips the risotto all together and goes straight to perfecting arancini), I was still able to take my arancini to a whole new level and gain amazing results using this resource as a guide. 

Although one of the very first things I learned from that resource was the success of using sushi rice as opposed to the traditional Italian short-grain Arborio rice, I stuck with the arborio rice because, well, that's what I had made my risotto with the night before! The recipe also encouraged making a bechamel sauce from chicken stock and milk to stir into the sushi rice to achieve a molten, not dry, interior. Once again, because I was using leftover risotto, I omitted this step, though it did give me a great idea for next time! The next time I make arancini I would love to mimic the method of making croqueta filling, by making a thick roux-like bechamel, cooling it down so it's pliable, and rolling it into balls so it can be stuffed inside the leftover risotto rice, along with cheese. This would ensure that, once heated, the bechamel would become liquid once again, achieving that molten filling that is so desirable. 

Though there were a few steps that I had to stray from in the Serious Eats method, there was certainly lots that I did take away. The first thing was the breadcrumbs. Although the chef found the best results by using homemade breadcrumbs, he stated that crushed panko breadcrumbs were a close contender. I didn't have any homemade breadcrumbs (nor any bread to make them with) but I did have plenty of panko! I pulsed it in the food processor as recommended in order to make the crumbs finer, so that the final result would still have the appearance of looking like little oranges. 

More than just the breadcrumbs, the way in which you adhere the breadcrumbs to the rice will also aid in achieving the ultimate crisp exterior. This method recommended making a 'slurry' out of water and flour to result in a "shatteringly crisp" exterior. To get the creamy and gooey cheesy interior that was lacking on my last arancini attempt, I cut the mozzarella cheese into small cubes, adding several to each ball, so that they would melt at a faster rate. 

The final step to getting the arancini I had dreamt of was learning to control the oil. First off, I used far less oil than I had last time. There's no need to actually deep fry risotto, you can simply add a few inches of oil (about 4-inches) to your deep pot, allowing you to turn the balls as needed to evenly crisp. By adding less oil you will have so much more control over the heat. Have a thermometer handy to keep testing the temperature of the oil so that it stays around 375ºF, and adjust your stovetop as needed. Use a slotted spoon or spider to remove the balls, allowing any excess oil to drain off, and place on a paper towel-lined wire rack. While the arancini are still nice and hot, serve them with some good tomato sauce and you're good to tuck in and enjoy all that hard work! 

Yes, making arancini sounds a little complicated, especially when it takes me this long to accurately explain my process, but I promise you after that first attempt, it will all feel like play! It's actually so incredibly simple to make delicious arancini, it just takes a little research (which I've already done for you!) and a bit of practice. I was able to make my arancini in about 30-minutes on a weeknight, along with a main course, meaning it really can't be that difficult at all! If you're concerned about timing, form your arancini in advance, and pop them in the freezer until you're ready to fry. I love this idea for last-minute entertaining! 

Big thanks to Serious Eats for providing me with so much helpful information! I definitely encourage you all to check out the page and see what you can take away from it! Let me know how your attempt at making arancini went and share your results with me on Twitter: @thisgingerrose! 

Listening To:
Alt-J - The Gospel Of John Hurt

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Risotto Myth

Homemade Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto with Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Garnish
It was only October of 2013 that I was nervously preparing for my evening class at George Brown Chef College, my stomach in knots over the thought of making risotto from scratch for the first time ever. I remember feeling sick with worry over making the notoriously difficult-to-prepare dish. I had heard how difficult it was to achieve the loose, yet not soupy, creamy, yet not mushy texture of the starchy rice, as well as the dedication involved to the preparation, leaving the cook handcuffed to the stove for the duration of the cooking process. Now look at me! Just over a year later, I feel like a risotto-making pro! It turns out that risottos reputation as being a difficult-to-prepare dish is actually nothing more than a myth! In fact, I even find making risotto relaxing, and simple enough to whip up mid-week when I feel like I have a fridge full of nothing! 

The trick to making risotto is patience and practice. Yes, it's true, you do need to man the stove for the duration of the cooking process, but that doesn't mean that you can't step away to begin setting the table, or prepare an accompanying dish. The trick is to allow yourself to control the product, as opposed to the product controlling you, which comes with practice. It takes practice to know when to add another ladle of broth and when to season, and when you start to trust your instincts and understand how your product and your equipment (pan, stove, etc.) works, everything becomes second nature. Of course much of what you learn about making risotto will come from physically making risotto, but I do have some helpful tips to offer you before you dive into your first successful risotto-making experience. 

Make Extra - First off before you even begin, ask yourself what you're having for dinner tomorrow. If you don't know the answer to that, or don't have a side dish, make extra risotto! Trust me, you will be thanking yourself the next day when you are turning that leftover gummy risotto into beautiful crispy on the outside, and creamy and cheesy on the inside arancini (AKA fried rice balls). 

Mince Your Onions - Whether you use onions or shallots, make sure that you mince your onion as finely as humanly possible. This will take a little extra time and effort, but the results will be worth it. Think of it this way, you want the pieces of onion to simply flavour the dish, but otherwise go unnoticed. You want them to melt right into the dish. This means cutting a very fine julienne, and then cutting a just-as-fine cross-section of that. 

Cook But Don't Colour - When cooking your onions you just want to soften them, and get them translucent. You do not want to colour your onions in any way. 

Season From Start To Finish - Just like any dish, risotto wants to be seasoned throughout the cooking process, allowing the flavours to marry and develop. I tend to season my risotto with salt and white pepper at every addition of broth. Every time I stir a new ladle of broth in, I immediately follow with a pinch of both salt and pepper.  

You Can Add But You Can't Take Away - As much as you want a well-seasoned dish, you must remember the golden rule "you can always add, but you can never take away." I find at the beginning of the cooking process I begin with very generous pinches of salt and white pepper. Because I've made risotto before and know how bland it is to start, I feel confident with a bit of a heavy hand at the start, knowing that I will not over-season. About ten or so minutes into the cooking process, begin tasting for seasoning. This will allow you to know if you should continue with generous pinches of salt and pepper, or whether you should transition to more delicate pinches. Continue tasting and seasoning, going lighter on the seasoning as the rice begins to soften.

It's near the end of the cooking process that you need to be careful. This is where you must remind yourself of that golden rule. It's always better to err on the side of caution and add too little salt and pepper (you can always add more!) than too much. You can look up every trick in the book for how to fix an over-salted or over-peppered dish, but you're pretty much stuck. Also remember that you will be adding grated parmigiano reggiano to your risotto as the final step, meaning that the natural saltiness of the parm will season your risotto as well. I like to leave my risotto slightly under-salted before adding the parm to ensure I don't over salt once the cheese is added. 

The Wooden Spoon Trick - One of the best tricks for knowing when to add another ladle of broth is the wooden spoon trick. The trick is to drag your wooden spoon (I use a flat-ended wooden spatula) down the centre of the pan and watch how the product reacts. If the spoon left an empty trail behind it and the risotto mixture isn't swimming to cover it, you are ready for another ladle. If the risotto mixture quickly pools to cover the trail, you may wait before adding the next ladle. The more you practice making risotto, the less you have to rely on this. 

Soupy Is Better Than Gluey - This is one of the most vital steps to making risotto. When you are removing your risotto from the stove to serve, you want it to be loose, but not soupy, BUT soupy is better than gluey. Am I confusing you yet? The optimal texture for risotto should be loose enough so that when you put your mound of risotto on a plate, and shake the plate side to side, the risotto should expand to the sides of the plate. If the risotto stays in the mound on the plate and doesn't expand, it needs another ladle of broth to become looser. I say that soupy is better than gluey because even soupy risotto will begin to congeal as it cools, which means that a soupy risotto may reach that perfect texture a few minutes after it is removed from the stove. An even slightly gluey risotto will begin to congeal as it cools as well, meaning that your initial gluey risotto, will become even gluier in a matter of minutes. Again, finding that optimal texture will take practice. 

Serve Immediately - As I stated above, risotto begins to congeal and become gluey the moment it is taken off the heat (this doesn't mean you can just leave the pan of risotto on the heat either, when it's done it's done!), so the moment that risotto hits the plate, it must be served immediately if you want all that patience while cooking to be worth it. 

I hope all those tips haven't scared you away from making risotto, and instead have you amped up to try your hand at making it yourself! Please give risotto a try in your own kitchen and let me know how it goes! If you should find yourself the middle of making your risotto and scared that you're doing something wrong, shoot me a tweet @thisgingerrose and I may be able to jump in and give your my two cents! 

Listening To: