Note to self: When you plan a dinner party with relatives and the baking element on your oven burns out three days prior, change the menu. It sure made cooking this last Saturday quite a challenge.
In any case, this was the main dish (cobbled together from about 4 different recipes):
Spiced Brined Porkloin
8 cups water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 pound boneless pork loin (or two 2 pound loins)
Bring 1/2 of the water to a boil and stir in salt, sugar, and maple syrup until dissolved. Remove from heat and add remaining volume in cold water. Bring back to room temperature. Sumberge pork in brine and refrigerate 18-24 hours.
Spices to add in equal amounts (1 tsp or 1 TBSP): ground bay leaf, cloves, mace, nutmeg, paprika, thyme. Spices to add in equal amounts (1/2 tsp or 1/2 TBSP): allspice, cinnamon, savory. Spice in double amount (2 tsp or 2 TSBP): ground white pepper.
Remove pork from brine and pat dry. Rub 1 TBSP Julia's Special Spice Blend into each side of the meat, and return to refrigerator for at least 4 hours for greater flavor.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 1 TBSP vegetable oil and 2 TBSP butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Brown the pork on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Place in roasting dish (fat side down) and roast for about 1 hour or until internal temperature of meat reaches about 150 degrees. Let rest 10 minutes, carve and serve.
Comments: My dad did a great job carving, and everyone was really patient with the fact that my oven took almost twice as long to cook the pork through as it should have. The pork was exceedingly tender and very tasty. I was very pleased with how it came out.
I can't believe it's taken me nearly a month to finally finish commenting on the restaurants of note visited during ACN. This one should do it though and perhaps next year, since I'll be likely revisiting a few favorites, there will be less of an inventory.
Ethiopian House is located at 4 Irwin Ave (just north of Wellesley off Yonge St.). It's another place that we only go when we have sufficient time as the service is slow, but pleasant. The food, though, is incredibly good and we invariably enjoy scooping up the spicy Ethiopian mixes with tasty injera. If you're up for a leisurely dinner with delicious food, I recommend stopping off here.
On Sunday, Mike and Allison came down for dinner. When they arrived, their surprise at finding furniture in the living room and bathrooms that were finished (and working!) except for a coat of paint, revealed just how long it had been since their last visit. Anyway, here's what was served:
Grilled Marinated London Broil
from Gourmet (May 1994)
4 large garlic cloves, minced
4 TBSP balsamic vinegar
4 TBSP lemon juice
3 TBSP dijon mustard
1 1/2 TBSP Worcestshire sauce
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
1 tsp dried basil, crumbled
1 tsp dried thyme, crummbled
1/2 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
2/3 cup olive oil
a 2 to 2 1/2 pound London broil
Whisk marinade ingredients until combined. Put meat in large resealable plastic bag and pour marinade over it. Seal bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Let marinate, chilled, turning bag once or twice, overnight.
Grill meat, marinade discarded, on oiled rack about 4 inches over coals, 9 to 10 minutes on each side. Transfer to cutting board and let stand 10 minutes. Cut diagonally into thin slices.
Notes: I opted to broil since it was an unfavorable day for outdoor cooking. Meat themometer should reach around 135 degrees for medium-rare. Make sure to turn it at least once. I would've liked the marinade to have a little more kick so next time I might up the spices since the garlic seemed to overpower the other flavors.
Served with roasted garlic bread and roasted tomatoes (with garlic, fresh parmesan and basil). So, a very garlic-y night!
My first time cooking duck and as I hunted around for a recipe to try, I ended up taking bits and pieces from several and ultimately experimenting on my own. Nothing like the deep end....
Duck Breast with Raspberry Wine Sauce
a Jennifer Original
2 duck breast halves
1/8 cup diced shallot
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup red wine
1 TBSP butter
1/2 TBSP dijon
1 TBSP seedless raspberry preserves
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a very sharp knife and being careful not to cut into the meat, score the skin of the duck breasts in a crossmark pattern. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a saucepan over medium high heat. Place duck breasts in pan, skin side down, and cook about 3 minutes. Turn and cook 3 additional minutes. Place breasts in a baking dish and put in oven for 8 minutes. Remove, tent with aluminum foil, and allow to rest.
Pour off duck fat. Deglaze the sauce pan with 1/2 TBSP of the butter. Add shallots and cook about 1 minute. Add stock and red wine, then dijon and preserves. Bring to a boil and reduce until thickened. Whisk in remaining 1/2 TBSP of butter, and serve sauce over duck.
Notes: This came out really well for my first attempt at cooking duck, and I was pretty darn pleased with it. As a point of self-indulgence I poured off the duck fat and refrigerated it to eat on crackers with lunch today. Yum.
Last night's dinner....
Pork Chops with Mango-Basil Sauce
from Bon Appetit (June 1997)
1 small mango, peeled and pitted
1 TBSP plus 2 tsp vegetable oil
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 jalapeno chili, seeded and minced
1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP soy sauce
4 6-8 oz center-cut pork chops
Puree mango in food processor. Set aside 1/2 cup puree.
Heat 1 TBSP oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and jalapeno, then basil; saute just until basil wilts, about 1 minute. Add broth, brown sugar and soy sauce. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in 1/2 cup mango puree. Simmer until sauce thickens and coats spoon, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, brush pork chops with oil. Sprinkle with pepper and salt. Grill or broil pork chops until just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
If necessary, rewarm sauce over low heat, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over pork.
Notes: Very complex flavor. This was very different from anything else I tried. In fact, my first time putting a mango in anything. I really liked how it came out.
9/23/05 - edited to add picture from another try at this recipe by request
This excellent restaurant at 578 Yonge Street is always, always, always on my list when I visit Toronto. This time I made it there twice during the week of ACN. The first time was for a dim sum lunch. I definitely have a weak spot for shiu-mai and steamed BBQ pork buns. I also tried out the crispy seaweed rolls, and added them to my list of favorites.
Later that week, we went back with a whole gang of people for dinner. Naturally, we ordered at least one dish of crispy spicy baby octopus. It's been on the specials list at Garlic Pepper for years, and it deserves to stay. Several other people tried it out too. For our experimental dish, we tried "funny-tasting" shrimp (exactly how it's titled on the menu). It was hot and unique. Definitely interesting. Can't wait to go back next year!
Located at 7 Balmuto Street, and lauded by The Globe and Mail as "a plain-Jane little place with divine Indian food," Mr. Maharaja was chosen as one of the top 10 Taste Adventures in 2001. In 2003, the food was still incredible. We ordered "lamb with spinach" (lamb cooked in onion, ginger, garlic, and tomato sauce with spinach) and "daal curry" (lentils cooked with tomato and seasoned with spices in the Hyderabdii style). There were a number of other thngs we were interested in trying, and we may return there. But only when we have sufficient time to spend. While the food was simply amazing, the service was, well, atrocious. Another couple of people sitting nearby had similar difficulty getting the attention of the waiter at any time, so we, at least, didn't feel singled out. I'm used to eating in NYC often - where the waiters seem to take pride in being difficult - but this place left them looking like amateurs. At least, the food was good.
Okay....I really need to push through these reviews of all the yummy food I ate in Toronto, because now I have two places in New York City to go on about from a business trip last week. I'm beginning to think I'm traveling too much and not giving myself enough time to experiment in my own kitchen, even if I did manage to fit in a trip to Wright's Orchard to pick apples and make the first pie of the season yesterday!
In any case... a wonderful place to grab lunch is the Pita Break at 565 Yonge Street. The first year I stopped there, I remember returning to the hotel and going into a game session where I noticed the huge number of fast food wrappers and bags. Considering how affordable Pita Break is and how utterly delish their fresh baked and warm pitas full of stuff (one gets to choose the meat, sauce, veggies, etc.) are, it seemed a shame to me that anyone should be eating McLunch. In any case, this year I had a warm falafel pita with tahini sauce and lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts. It was ever so satisfying. And I got baklava for dessert too!
Wednesday night's dinner....
Which perhaps should rather be titled.... green beans with pork stir-fry. The whole time I was slicing and dicing for this one I thought it was quite a lot of green beans to be putting in proportionally. But it turned out nicely, so I'm glad I didn't short the servings on them.
Pork Stir-fry with Green Beans and Peanuts
from Bon Appetit (August 2003)
12 oz. pork tenderloin, trimmed, cut into strips
4 TBSP soy sauce
1 1/2 TBSP honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1 pound green beans, cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths
1 cup matchstick-size strips peeled carrots
2 TBSP canola oil
1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 TBSP minced peeled fresh ginger
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped dry-roasted peanuts
Mix pork, 1 TBSP soy sauce, 1 TBSP honey, half of garlic and crushed red pepper in medium bowl. Mix remaining 3 TBSP soy sauce and remaining 1/2 TBSP honey in small bowl. Set aside.
Cook green beans in large saucepan of boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add carrots to green beans; cook 1 minute. Drain. Heat 1 TBSP oil in wok over high heat. Add pork mixture, stir-fry one minute. Transfer pork to dish. Add remaining 1 TBSP oil to wok. Add bell peppers; stir-fry 1 minute. Add green beans, carrots, ginger, and remaining garlic; stir-fry 1 minute. Return pork to wok along with reserved soy sauce-honey misture; stir until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with green onions and peanuts.
Note: I cut out the bell peppers because we're not that fond of them, and the flavors were still nicely balanced. Also, I had the leftovers today for lunch and just ate them cold straight out of the bowl, and found it quite tasty.
Tuesday night's dinner....
Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks with Cucumber Relish
from Gourmet (September 1994)
1 1/2 cups diced seeded cucumber
3 TBSP chopped red onion
1/2 tsp finely chopped jalapeno
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp lemon juice
2 1-inch thick ribe eye steaks
freshly ground black pepper
Prepare grill. Mix all relish ingredients in bowl with salt to taste. Season steaks with salt and generously with pepper. Grill on an oiled rack about 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest 5 minutes. Serve with relish.
Note: I used chuck eye steaks and they came out perfect. I didn't expect to like this as I'm not a big fan of onions and these weren't even being cooked. But the flavors mingled together nicely in the relish, and I quite enjoyed it. This was the first relish I've made and the dish as a whole had a clean, crisp, summer-just-past taste.