Thursday, December 9, 2010


So tonight, PID and I had planned on heading out to a new restaurant in the city to review.  However, I am sick as a dog. I've been plugging and chugging all week, but today I just felt out of it. So I wasn't up for a trip out to eat.

So I thought about it and figured I'd try something new and different.  Cooking for myself!

Now I should mention that I work late and take the bus. So PID usually gets home a good 1-2 hours before me. And because I'm blessed with the greatest boyfriend who ever lived, he typically cooks a delicious dinner (which is great since I'm a pretty lousy cook).

But today, after napping for about six straight hours, I had some time so I decided to surprise him by giving dinner a go.

Now I know TOP is not a recipe blog, but that's not to say I can't toss in a home-cooking experience or two from time to time!  And tonight, amidst the coughs and sniffles (don't worry I used a tissue or two...) I somehow managed to make a delicious meal!  So I figured it was a good place to start.

I perused a few (dozen) recipe books until I found something that fit my criteria:  1.) PID and I would both enjoy it equally, 2.) It was novice cook-friendly and 3.) I had the ingredients in the house because I sure as heck wasn't goin' anywhere.  So I went with the Crispy Apricot Pork Loin and Mango/Palm Salad with a Lime Vinaigrette.

So let's start with what my meals were SUPPOSED to look like:

Because the salad took 15 minutes of prep time and the pork was 15 minutes of cook time, I started with prepping the pork.

I started by preheating the oven to 425 degrees as Step 1

Then I gathered my ingredients.  Everything you need for (my version of) this recipe is right here! It was all already in my kitchen:

2 Pork Loin Chops (bone-in if you have it...I just happened to)
2 slices Multi grain bread
2 cups Honey bunches of oats or your favorite whole grain cereal
4 tps apricot jam or preserves
1 tps EVOO (and non-stick spray or another tsp for the baking pan)
Salt and pepper

So for step 2 you'll want to crumb the bread.  My recipe called for me to tear the bread in to large pieces and then put it in the food processor and then place it in the food processor, pulsing until large crumbs form. But, small problem, I don't have a food processor (it's on my Christmas list, though!).  So I used the old chop and smoosh method where I chopped it up in to little crust-less bits and then rubbed my hands together rigorously with the bits inside until they crumbled.

So that was all my recipe called for, but I was looking for a bit more flavor.  So I grabbed my box of Honey Bunches of Oats and crushed about two cups in to crumbs in a ziplock bag.

Now the recipe called for a drizzle of olive oil amidst processor pulses, so I just drizzled it in and shook the bag. Set the bag aside.

Step three brings you  back to the pork.  First, season your meat generously with salt and pepper (I like to always use sea salt and ground peppercorns to bring it up that extra notch. After the meat is seasoned, spread one teaspoon of apricot jam on each side of the pork chop.

Then, bring back your bag of crumbs and evenly coat the top of each loin. (I coated the bottom even though the recipe didn't specify and all that happened was a gooey mess that didn't crisp -- so don't worry about it).

Step 4 is to simply place in the preheated oven and cook 14-16 minutes until the crust reaches a golden crisp and the pork is cooked through (should register about 150 degrees if you have a meat thermometer...which I do not). I ALWAYS use aluminum foil on top of baking pans. It eliminates the mess, cuts back on the dishes, and it's non-stick feature is quite fabulous.  Still, I'd prep it with a bit of non-stick spray just in case.

Now...I had a bit of apricot jam leftover and didn't want to waste it, so I decided to invent a sauce (not featured in the recipe).  I simply took the extra (it was about 1 teaspoons), squeezed in about 1-2 teaspoons of honey dijon mustard, and mixed in about 1 teaspoon of sour cream.  Voila!  Delicious pork dipping sauce :)

So now that the meat was-a-cookin', I got to work on the salad.

Again, all of the ingredients were already in my pantry (luckily, because I'd recently purchased a few cans of Hearts of Palm after my great experience at Mallorca).

1 can (14-15 oz.) Hearts of Palm
2 leaves of fresh lettuce
1/2 a small red onion
1 ripe mango
4 tsps dijon (or honey dijon) mustard
1/4 cup of lime juice

For step 1, just whisk the lime juice and dijon mustard in a small bowl and set aside.

Step 2 was kinda rough for me.  Chopping the hearts of palm in half longways and then in to 1 inch pieces was a cinch.

But have you ever peeled and chopped a mango!?  Cuz uh...I certainly have it.  Originally I figured it was something like a pear. But let me tell you it's not.  First of all I'd never peeled a pear. Secondly the pit is ENORMOUS and I had no idea where it started and stopped. So this was quite a task for me.  But I managed to slice it in to 1/2 inch cubes just fine...eventually.

Then it was on to finely chopping the red onion.  Here's where I REALLY struggled.  Me + onions does NOT = love. My eyes cannot take it.  I had to remove myself from the kitchen four separate times.  Looks like I'm more cut out to be a restaurant reviewer than I am master chef.  But I powered through it...

So next you toss them all in a medium bowl with half of the vinaigrette mixture and salt and pepper to taste.

Finally, gently lay an entire leaf of lettuce inside each bowl and pour the mixture in.  You can add the remainder of the vinaigrette as a sort of dressing on top (or not!) and finally, sprinkle a bit more salt and pepper to taste on top.

So after 15 minutes, check on your pork chops.  If they're not golden brown and crispy looking, leave them in for another minute or so.  Mine were just right!

So now that you have your chops and your salad, you're ready to eat!  I paired mine with a few fresh plum tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt and crumbed feta over a bed of fresh baby spinach.  But it seemed like asparagus would be another great veggie to pair well with this dish!  So here's what I thought:

The pork was excellent!  PID seemed to agree (he swelled my head with compliments) so I will make this again in a heartbeat! It was juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside with a great sweet/savory kick to it.  Personally, I was pretty proud of my invented sauce and thought it really helped make the dish.

In terms of the Mango Palm salad, It was REALLY tasty, but if I ever make it again I'll use a little less than a 1/4 cup of lime.  It felt really lime-y to me.  I might also add fresh chopped cilantro -- I feel like it could really help.

Overall I loved these recipes! I felt like a real live chef like the ones I watch on Wednesday night on BRAVO! (Go, Spike, go!)

Ya know.... I might try this cooking thing again! (that is, if I ever find the time).

If you try one of these recipes let me know how it went for you in the comment box below!  I'd love to hear it!

Bon Appetit!

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