Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"Cooking with Love by Carla Hall (Top Chef/The Chew) and "The Big Chocolate Book" - Valentine's Day 2015

Date I made these recipes:  February 14, 2015 – Valentine's Day!

Cooking with Love – Comfort Food that Hugs You by Carla Hall with Genevieve Ko
Published by:  Free Press
ISBN:  978-1-4516-6220-7
Recipe:  Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Root Vegetable Ragout – p. 196-170 for the pork and 99 for the ragout

The Big Chocolate Cookbook by Gertrude Parke
Published by:  Funk & Wagnalls
© 1968
Purchased at Talk Story Book Store, Hanapepe, (Kauai) Hawaii  (Talk Story is "The Western-Most Bookstore in the United States)
Recipe:  Cocoa Cream Cake – p. 56-57

And now time for a quiz:  When I say "Hootie Hoo!" you say:
a)     Did you just swear at me?
b)     Is this a new secret ingredient on Chopped?
c)      Carla Hall

If you chose c) Carla Hall, give yourself a pat on the back.

Those of you who are fans of Top Chef should remember Season 5 when Carla Hall competed as a cheftestant on that show.  She won me over with her sunny personality and southern-based comfort foods and came "this close" to winning Season 5 only to be beat out by that year's Top Chef, Hosea Rosenberg.  Poor Carla—had she stuck to cooking what she knew instead of going off in a different direction, she would have nailed it.

Not to be deterred, Carla came back for more kitchen fun and frolic on Season 8 – All Stars – but was eliminated in episode 13 of 16.  Dammit!  Seems to me though that she won "Fan Favorite" somewhere along the line and although it's not the same as winning the big show, it will do. She was certainly one of my favorites from both seasons.

It was on Season 5 that we learned that Carla's catchphrase, Hootie Hoo!, was created as a way that Carla and her husband could locate each other more easily when out in public.  It probably beats the heck out of yelling "Matthew!  Hey Matthew" (her husband's name) in a store filled most likely with several other Matthews.  I may have to try that with my husband, Andy.

And perhaps capitalizing on her newfound popularity, she became one of five co-hosts on ABC's TV show, The Chew, that premiered in 2011.  Carla, along with fellow chefs Mario Batali and Michael Symon, natural food foodist and author Daphne Oz and host Clinton Kelly (he of What Not To Wear Fame), chat about food and entertaining and decorating and everything in between, Monday through Friday, much to the delight of their collective fans. 

No doubt these same fans – like me – were giddy when Carla published her first cookbook, Cooking with Love (how appropriate for our theme, right?) and then her follow up, Carla's Comfort Foods:  Favorite Dishes from Around the World.  I must confess that I do not yet own the comfort food book, but no worries, I will undoubtedly acquire it soon.  Maybe as early as this afternoon? 

So many of Carla's recipes sounded so good that it was hard to settle but ultimately, I decided on Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Root Vegetable Ragout.  What Andy and I both loved about this dish is that it tasted great plus made us feel somewhat heart-healthy.  The pork was marinated in orange juice and you can't go wrong with roasted root vegetables tossed with healthy herbs.  The fact that I also made a chocolate cake for dessert from another cookbook is beside the point.  It's Valentine's Day people.  Time to indulge!

Compared to selecting Carla's pork and vegetable ragout, selecting just the right chocolate dessert for Valentine's Day was an exercise in torture.  I have several chocolate books and went through each of them very carefully but my eyes started to glaze over and I was in danger of becoming overwhelmed.  I mean, one recipe was for a Sachertorte and damn, while this is one good dessert (made famous in Austria), the assembly made this a no go.  Same with a few other recipes.

At then at long last, I came across this easy but delicious recipe for Cocoa Cream Cake from the cookbook The Big Chocolate Cookbook, published in 1968.  Baked in a loaf pan, this cake is similar to a pound cake except it contains cream instead of butter making it much lighter and therefore healthier, right?  Exactly.

And so after slicing and dicing and sifting and folding, Andy and I ended up with one lovely dinner for our Valentine's Day repast.  And the bonus is that we have leftovers.  Yum!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Root Vegetable Ragout – Serves 6
Note:  You will need to marinate the pork for at least 2 hours.

For the pork:
*2 whole pork tenderloins (each about ¾ pound)
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon honey
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
For the ragout:
2 medium carrots
2 medium parsnips
1 small rutabaga
1 medium turnip
1 medium Yukon gold potato
2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 small yellow onion cut into ¼-inch dice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup Chicken Stock (page 54) or store-bought unsalted chicken broth
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon

*And now a word from Ann about the pork tenderloins:  I am not a fan of pre-wrapped tenderloins that are injected with up to 12% saline solution.  Sure, it makes the pork last longer but in my opinion, it screws with the flavor.  Unfortunately, the number of grocery stores that carry non-treated pork products (even chops) is shrinking.  Luckily, Target carries "au naturel" pork and I used that and you should too, if you have the chance.

Back to our directions, start by marinating the pork for at least two hours.  If the pork still has silverskin (the thin silvery white membrane on the meat), trim it off.  Rinse the pork well, then pat dry with paper towels.  Cut each tenderloin crosswise into 2-inch-thick medallions.

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the juice, garlic, mustard, honey and Worcestershire. Add the pork, seal the bag, and turn to coat well.  Seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Remove the pork from the marinade and wipe off any excess; discard the marinade.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Heat half of the oil.  Add half the pork and cook, turning once, until well browned, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a half sheet pan.  Repeat with the remaining oil and pork.

Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the pork is medium in the center, 140F, about 13 minutes.  Serve over the Root Vegetable Ragout and drizzle with the pan juices.

Ann's Notes:  I could have sworn that we had a jar of Gulden's (spicy mustard) in the fridge but we did not.  Gulden's was my dad's favorite mustard but when I was growing up, we could only get it when we visited my grandma in New Jersey.  Naturally, we stocked up on that and everything else my hometown grocery stores didn't carry.  I tell you what, I still chuckle every time I think about how low to the ground the back of that car was on the way home!  Anyway, without Gulden's, I was forced to use Grey Poupon which was fine even if it wasn't quite correct.

Also, in the perfect culinary world, I would have either roasted the vegetables first at 425F before turning down the oven to 350F to make the cake and the tenderloins or vice versa.  Note that I said "perfect world."  In reality, I wanted to get the cake out of the way first so I did and then turned the oven up to 425F to roast the veggies since they took a while and then turned down the oven to make the tenderloins.  And this is why Carla Hall is on TV and I am not!

As to the vegetables, leave ample time to slice and dice your way to a ½-inch dice, making them as even as possible to ensure consistent roasting. 

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Peel the carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, turnip, and potato and cut them into ½-inch dice.  Combine them on a half sheet pan, toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and season with salt.  Spread the vegetables in a single layer.

Roast, stirring and rotating the pan occasionally, until tender and golden, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Heat the remaining ½ tablespoon oil.  Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the butter until it melts, then stir in the roasted vegetables.  Add the chicken stock and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer until the stock thickens and coats the vegetables, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the parsley, thyme, and lemon zest.  Serve hot or warm.

Ann's Note:  My grocery store moved a lot of the produce section around (when I wasn't looking) and so I had to work hard to find the rutabagas.  And although I am no expert, I have cooked with this vegetable enough that what I bought didn't look like a rutabaga but it was under the "Rutabaga" sign so I brought it home.  And then I cut it and was definitely puzzled as the texture was nothing like a regular rutabaga.  So I used it sparingly and that was probably best because it tasted kind of crunchy—sort of like jicama only not.  So I don't know what it was but it was actually pretty good!  Meanwhile, Carla says to use one and only one Yukon gold potato and that is one potato too few so I made up for the lack of rutabaga by adding another potato.  So sue me!

Cocoa Cream Cake – makes a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan)
1 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
½ cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Butter a loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3 inches) and dust with cocoa.

Whip the cream until it is stiff.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together.  Sift gradually over the batter, folding as you sift.  Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake in a 350F over for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch and shrinks from the side of the pan.  Remove to a cake rack, and after 10 minutes turn the cake out to cool. 

Serve this with sherbet or ice cream or use it as a base for any dessert, preferably one topped with chocolate sauce.

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