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Cooked Computer; Book for Cooks; Tarot Fun; & Wine and Pork

My computer has had issues AGAIN! The hard drive I got in December failed, so we had to warrantee it and it is still not back to me after 2 weeks. ARG! The story is long and I am sure you don’t want to know about it, though I felt I should explain my long absence. I am back now!

During my absence I won a cookbook! I regularly read Shauna James Ahearn’s blog called Gluten Free Girl. It is a great foodie spot and very educational! Shauna has enabled us to make our restaurant safer for those who suffer from Celiac Disease, and she has educated me abundantly in this area. It was on another of her blogs, Gluten Free Girl Recommendsthat I won the cookbook called The Flavor Bible. I do not have a huge history in winning things, so when I do it is a BIG deal to me! I am so thrilled to get this cookbook! I can’t wait for it to arrive and I will share some of the entries with you when it gets here.

Last week I did a fabulously fun thing and had my tarot cards read. My friends Tami and Loren brought me along and we hopped on the ferry to Seattle and had an absolutely lovely evening together. The tarot card lady had alot to say about the cafe and according to her we have a great future, so I don’t need to worry at all. Sounds great to me! It is only the second time I have ever had that done and it is really some of the best fun you can have for 20 bucks! While we were in Seattle we stopped at The Tasting Room in Post Alley and I only wish we had more time to hang out there. It is a co-op owned by seven Washington wineries and you can taste any of their wines. You can do single tastes, half pours, full pours, flights, or any other combination of tasting that you can think of. They have a wine club and you get 20% off bottle prices if you belong to it. They have daily deals and specials and if you find yourself in Post Alley (the part up by Sur la Table) you will have a great time when you stop in there.

This past Saturday we put on a wine dinner for the Kitsap Wine Society and I have to tell you about the food. Leslie and Erin did a great job at helping with what was their first big dinner event, and since Lori is back in town she helped me with everything, too. What a great team we made! The guests arrived to family style hors deuvres on the tables: crostini made from our rustic Italian bread topped with gorgonzola and honey, and melted in the oven, along with a mélange of olives, and some peppery cheese. We did this dinner all on one plate (except dessert) which is different from our usual multi-courses, and it worked out really well. The main courses were pork tenderloin encrusted with a sort of paste that I made out of bacon, fresh herbs, honey and olive oil, OR butternut squash ravioli in sage brown butter sauce. A few folks opted to pay extra and have both mains and I know they were full! The ravioli were freshly made for us last week and so were very fresh and tender; the pork was fork tender and the crust tasted almost sausage-y-it was nothing less than fabulous!

We accompanied those mains with our mascarpone mashed potatoes (we put caramelized onions in and they are soooo good); roasted veggies (green beans, portabellas and carrots) tossed with goat cheese and roasted garlic, then sprinkled with pine nuts; and to top it all off a parmesan-black pepper scone. Nearly every plate was licked clean and that is always a good sign. For dessert Mark made an apple galette, which we served warm and drizzled in toffee sauce. Those plates were all licked clean! Leslie and I were exceedingly happy that Erin is vegan and Lori is vegetarian, so we only had to fight each other for the ends of the pork loin that we cut off. It was a super easy thing to do and it will be this week’s recipe because you can encrust any cut of pork, or chicken, or even wild game with this paste and it will make it awesome. I might even venture so far as to say you could encrust a steak with it, thought I MIGHT be tempted to add butter to it for a steak.

You will want to cook whatever you encrust in the oven or on the bbq with the lid closed (that might be awesome!), as opposed to a slow cooker or in a frying pan. That way the crust gets crispy and renders out nicely rather than soaking back in and making everything mushy. This is a fantastic recipe to impress people you are feeding and it really simple to make, so you will have to feign hard work and sweat. You do need a food processor to make it work, and you should encrust the meat a day before you are going to cook it. The night before, or even the morning of if it will be a later meal, is just fine.

Bacon-herb crust for encasing other cuts of meat:
(These measurements are based on your average 4 lb pork loin or chicken. My loin was 7 lbs and I had 2 of them, so these measurements are my best estimate off of what I did)

1/2 package of raw bacon
1 tsp fresh garlic or 1 clove chopped rough
1 tsp honey
1/4 C fresh flat leaf parsley
2 TBS fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper to taste (remember, both pork and chicken LOVE salt and it is hard to over do it, though the bacon will add a bit of saltiness on it’s own)
Olive oil to drizzle in

Put everything except the olive oil into the food processor, with the chopping blade. pulse it a few times and then add in a couple of glugs of olive oil. begin processing and drizzling in the olive oil at the same time… you will know when it is enough when the mixture has no trouble whirring around in the machine. Up to that point it will be a bit choppy and awkward due to the stickiness of the mixture.

Lay out your choice of meat on a piece of parchment paper, on a rimmed sheet pan or roasting pan. Schmear the paste all over the meat and try to keep it as even as possible. Rock the meat off of the paper so that you can shove some of the paste underneath to get it on all sides. Once you are satisfied with distribution of the crust on all sides, cover the whole thing with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

Take the meat out 1-2 hours before cooking so that it can come up to room temperature. This is important as it helps to relax the protein and will help it remain tender. Preheat your oven and cook it away (for the pork I would say 350 degrees–give it at least 15 minutes per lb. You want to pull it when the internal temperature is about 150 degrees, especially at the fattest part of the loin. (I promise this is ok! There may be some pinkness but most people way overcook their pork.) Cover the meat with some foil and let it stand for at least 15 minutes before carving. You will want to cut nice fat slices so everyone can really taste the crust. You will be so pleased with this!

And yes, of course you can do a cheaper cut such as a pork butt/shoulder, even with the bone in. The cooking time will be longer and if the crust seems like it is getting too crisp and dark, simply cover the crust with foil (form fitted to the meat, not the pan) until done cooking. That will stop the browning process.

Try it and tell me what you think!!