Mustard-and-Garlic Pork Tenderloin and Mashed Cauliflower

When I was in college, I used to make pork tenderloin all the time. It was cheap as hell and came pre-marinated in plastic shrinkwrap, but you had to put it in the oven to make it, so you were really cooking—and it always came out tender and delicious. It totally impressed all my ramen-microwaving friends.

But then for some reason, I stopped buying the stuff. Call it my pretensions to fine cooking, but pork tenderloin started to seem…pedestrian. The boneless, skinless chicken breast of the pig world. And I was a real cook, someone who’d make hot dogs from scratch just to say he’d done it.

Nonsense! Pork tenderloin is great, and it’s still cheap as hell, and you should be making it more often. I did, however, move beyond the pre-marinated packaged version and made my own marinade. Four ingredients (one’s water), and it takes just a couple hours. Plus, you get to make a delicious pan sauce with the leftover marinade.

Mustard-garlic Marinated Pork Tenderloin

You’ll notice my tenderloin is just a little bit rosy inside. This is perfectly safe, and totally desirable: Especially with a low-fat cut like the tenderloin, keeping your pork medium-well ensures that it will be juicy and not dry. Also important to avoid dryness: Rest it when it comes out of the oven for a good 10 minutes before slicing.

To go with this, garlicky mashed potatoes would be delicious, but I didn’t have any potatoes; I had a head of cauliflower. Well, you can “mash” (OK, fine, puree) roasted cauliflower into a tasty facsimile of mashed potatoes, and either dish goes real well with that pan sauce. Enjoy!

Mustard-and-Garlic Pork Tenderloin

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
1 pork tenderloin (12-14 oz.)
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp. butter

In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, water, mustard and garlic. Pour into a gallon zip-top bag and add the pork. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Heat a pan over high heat.  Remove the tenderloin from the marinade (reserve the remaining liquid) and season it on all sides with salt and pepper. Sear in the pan until all sides are well-browned, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.

While the pork cooks, make a pan sauce. Reduce the heat under the pan to medium, and add the chicken stock and about 1/4 cup of the reserved marinade. Cook until reduced and somewhat thickened. Turn off the heat, add the butter, and swirl the pan until it melts completely. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the pork from the oven and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice about 1/4 inch thick and serve drizzled with the pan sauce. (The pork will be slightly rosy—this is totally fine and makes for juicier meat. But if you’re really terrified of any hint of red in your pork, cook for a few minutes longer, measuring the internal temperature with a probe thermometer until it hits 150° or 155° F.)

Mashed Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, chopped into rough chunks
Olive oil
2 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup chicken stock, plus more if needed
Fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil or chives, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Place the cauliflower on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and add the garlic and butter. Process until completely pulverized, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and add 1/4 cup of chicken stock. Process until combined. Add more chicken stock a few tablespoons at a time until the mixture is slightly loose in texture but still holds together, like thick mashed potatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs.

I’m Back—and I’m in LA!

I’ve been a terrible blogger. My last post was almost 14 months ago!

As you might expect, many things have happened since last February, chief among them that I’ve moved to Los Angeles!

LA-skyline-cropped

Yes, for the past 10 months, I’ve been an Angeleno, exploring this enormous city’s incomprehensibly gigantic list of choices for food and drink. Birmingham will always be close to my heart (and I’ll be visiting at least once a year: I’m still running FoodBlogSouth, and it’s not going anywhere), but The Messy Epicure is now officially a Southern Californian.

I promise not to let this site go for another year, so keep an eye out for updates on what I’m cooking, eating and drinking, but in the meantime, here are a few of my favorite spots so far in the City of Angels:

  • Starry Kitchen (you have to call ahead to request it,  but get the chili crab)
  • Jasmine Market (the most unassuming hole-in-the-wall with the greatest Burmese and Indian food)
  • Bestia (there’s nothing served here—food or cocktail—that isn’t delicious)
  • The Spare Room (the most fun you can have in Hollywood—craft cocktails, bowling and a closet full of board games)
  • Rivera (in a town full of awesome cheap Mexican, awesome expensive Mexican; also mezcal)
  • Hide (best sushi value in town—try the mackerel)
  • Slicetruck (LA’s supposed best Chicago pizza ain’t all that, but this thin-crust is)
  • The Flintridge Proper (a bar in a strip mall in the suburbs just happens to have the best gin selection in America)
  • Bigfoot West (good whiskey selection, great happy hour, fantastic bar trivia and close to where I live!)
  • POT (Korean food like someone’s grandma cooked it [only the grandma is Roy Choi] plus ’90s hip-hop blasting on the speakers, and weird/delicious drinks to boot)

One thing I haven’t yet found in LA: good Deep South barbecue. The kings of SoCal ‘cue, Bludso’s and Baby Blues, are both Texas-style, which means no smoked chicken and sure as hell no Alabama white sauce.

Anyway, watch this space.  And be sure to read my stories for LA Weekly—I’ll be writing about food, drink and cooking for the mag’s Squid Ink blog.

 

Apple-Goat Cheese King Cake, sliced

Apple-Goat Cheese King Cake

Apple-Goat Cheese King Cake

New Orleans is home to lots and lots of awesome food, and plenty of it is stuff most tourists never get to enjoy. Take Cake Cafe, a wonderful bakery and breakfast spot in the Marigny neighborhood. When I lived in the city pre-Katrina, I hadn’t even heard of this place; it was only on a trip a few years ago that a friend who lives nearby took me there.

So I was surprised to see the place mentioned on Serious Eats, in a post about its apple-and-goat-cheese-filled king cake. This thing is pretty decadent: cream cheese filling, goat cheese, brown sugar and cinnamon, and apples—it’s like four king cakes in one!

Too bad Serious Eats didn’t score an actual recipe. So I had to come up with one myself. I started with the dough from CHOW with a few adjustments (mine’s a bit sweeter, and theirs doesn’t measure the flour by weight, plus I went with a mix of almond and vanilla extract), and then kinda winged it based on Serious Eats’ photos.

The result was a pretty huge success, if I do say so myself. The tangy cheese and tart apples combine beautifully in the filling, whose richness provides a nice counterpoint to the bready cake. (Don’t take this as a knock; king cake is supposed to be bready.) Continue reading

Holiday Classes: Cocktails and Bread-Making

Come learn with me! I’m teaching two classes this weekend, and I want you to sign up!

On Saturday, December 15, I’m running a holiday mixology workshop at Painted Shovel Mercantile in Avondale. For $25, you’ll learn three seasonal classics: Mulled Wine, Eggnog, and the French 75—plus a Painted Shovel Holiday Margarita I’ve created just for the class. (And yes, you get to try all the drinks!) To enroll, please call 205-593-2083 or email paintedshovel@gmail.com.

And on Sunday, December 16, my bread and rolls class returns to Freshfully. This lesson sold out last time, so make sure to grab your spot now. It’s just $15, and you’ll learn my foolproof bread-from-scratch recipe, sample some delicious bread and rolls, and go home with a batch of dough all ready to bake immediately (or to freeze and bake later). Enroll online here.

See you this weekend in Avondale!

Bistro Two Eighteen's crawfish and leek crepes

First Taste: Bistro Two Eighteen

Bistro Two Eighteen's crawfish and leek crepes

When I read the Birmingham News report about Bistro Two Eighteen, I have to admit, my feelings were mixed.

It’s a new restaurant downtown (yay!) in a historic building (yay!) from a Birmingham-born, culinary-school-educated chef (yay!) with a that’s only open for lunch and during the week (boo!) and has a weird confusion of a “French” menu that includes classics like quiche Lorraine as well as burgers and gumbo (boo!).

I stopped by for lunch last week (the restaurant’s second in business), and I’m glad to say the food is better than expected! The place is similar in feel to Chez Fon Fon and Chez Lulu but with lower prices than the former and larger portions than the latter.

The food is mostly French, though there’s gumbo on the menu and they were playing New Orleans jazz, so maybe they’re going for a little Creole influence too. And for some strange reason, they have shrimp and grits available as an appetizer. I understand you’re in the South, but if you’re going to be a French restaurant, be a French restaurant.

Bistro Two Eighteen's steak frites

The specialty of the house seems to be steak frites—you can’t go wrong with meat and fries. It’s a pretty good portion of flatiron steak, with two options of sauce: horseradish cream or chausseur (a mushroom, tomato and tarragon combo). I ordered mine medium, and it came out exactly right, paired with a simple salad. And those fries are excellent: skinny and super-crunchy, and they stay that way even after they cool off. The whole deal is $12, a bit steep for an everyday lunch but a very good price for what you get.

Continue reading

Food, cooking, and recipes—you'll clean up later.