Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pork with balsamic reduction

Last night's dinner was so delicious I really couldn't believe it. It was all an accident. I started making greens so my mom could have some leftovers today - she's babysitting and loves them. Then I decided pork goes well with greens and that turned into a mini-masterpiece. It was a complicated dinner for a weeknight but since Dave and the kids were out and I got home kind of early I was able to pull it off.
  • Sautéed greens with yellow peppers, onions. Finished with a little truffle oil.
  • Pork with a balsamic reduction.
  • Whole wheat rigatoni, just drizzled olive oil and salt on top. 
The greens are a standard dish of mine - sauteed peppers, onions and garlic, put aside, greens also sauteed, and simmereed in chicken broth. Everything added back together at the end. Sometimes I finish with truffle oil. Sometimes I add pork or beans or even a can of tomatoes.

The pork was the standout. For some reason I decided to pan-fry the meat instead of roasting it, mainly due to time issues - I decided to add it to the greens at the last minute. So I drizzled a little olive oil, browned it on both sides, then turned it down and kept generously adding chicken broth to the pot. I left it medium rare, which is now safe, and results in an entirely different pork eating experience than the traditional well-done tough version. Then looking at my pan of pork drippings and chicken broth I decided to make a proper sauce, and added 1 tbs (only!) of butter. I really should have doubled the recipe but didn't realize how uch a person needs on his or her plate. Anyway, butter in, pan deglazed and then since we had no wine I squirted in a tbs or so of a balsamic reduction I've had forever. It's nothing fancy, from Trader Joe's. But the combination of those 4 ingredients was simply sublime. I really couldn't believe how professional it tasted. I highly recommend!

At any rate, I've watched a lot of cooking shows in my day and I remember learning "how to cook like a restaurant" and the answer is real stock (I even heard on The Splendid Table that veal stock is life-changing but I don't eat veal, let alone make stock). I used boxed stock but the Trader Joe's stock is very opaque and full of stuff. Other tips were use real butter, brown meat first, don't overcook, deglaze pans and salt generously. I did all of those things and sure enough it tasted like a restaurant.

I ate first, unable to wait for my delinquent family to arrive home from karate. As soon as Dave got home I started chasing him around the house.


But he was busy changing, putting things away, taking out the trash for this morning. He was getting more and more irritated at his chores until eventually he finished and I set the beautiful plate before him seen above. One bite and he really was instantly madly in love with me all over again I swear....

As well he should have been!

Side note 1: What did I eat? The above is Dave's plate. I didn't eat the greasy pasta, but saved my calories for the buttery sauce (2 tbs?), which in reality wasn't even that buttery, and about 4 oz of the really superior pork (maybe 5 with picking?). I also consumed an enormous portion of greens (2 cups). While I always eat a lot of grain at breakfast and 1 serving at lunch I do sometimes skip the rice/pasta option at dinner. This is mainly because I don't prepare rice/pasta in a particularly interesting manner. Often times it's the sauce that is really the compelling taste so I focus on  sauce for veggies and meat. By the time I realize I need to make a grain for the kids I'm creatively all tapped out and the grain ends up boring.

Side note 2: Is this a diet meal? So the meal was relatively healthy - It could have been lower fat - but it could have been a LOT higher fat too. I could have used slightly less olive oil and butter, but I actually didn't use all that much - perhaps 3 tbs olive oil and 1 tbs butter for 5-6 servings of food. Just enough to sauté the various veggies. It all adds up, but food needs to taste good, and veggies need some fat for mineral absorption. But you don't need 6 tbs oil for that. I would add that when a meal tastes extra good it's even more important to be able to control your own portion size. I can do that pretty easily now, but it took a lot of practice/evenings of tortured restraint to get to that point.

Side note 3: What did the kids eat? It was Alex's night to "choose" which he LOVES so he had asked for my home made macaroni and cheese with broccoli chopped up in there (recipe will come later). He actually requested a vegetable on his special night! We MADE them taste the pork in the sauce and they rejected it, purely on principal I'm sure. We kind of had a "your loss, more for us" attitude but next time I'll insist that they eat some.


  1. What does it mean to "deglaze" a pan?

  2. You are amazing and the recipe sounds delicious! Congratulations on achieving such a fantastic personal accomplishment in 2009! Love from your cousin in NJ :)