Wednesday, June 17, 2009
My uncle Do (my father’s younger brother) is an incredible cook. I know I use the word ‘incredible’ a lot, but I do really mean it. Whenever I think of him, I picture him in the kitchen, smiling, stirring (and tasting!) the day away. As clichéd as this might sound, I can state with certainty that his principal culinary “secret” is cooking with love.
About a year ago, Do and Jan renovated their kitchen. Simply stated, it’s a cook’s dream. I sure am envious! (I have a lot of quesadilla’s to sell before I can afford a kitchen like that!)
We all get excited when we know that Do is cooking (and when Jan is baking – I will definitely be writing a column on her baking one day). Some of his “signatures” include: seafood linguine; mussels; roasted meats (following the mussels, Dorian served a herb-crusted rack of lamb with his famous curried apple-cranberry rice and asparagus); chicken cacciatore; glazed ham and scalloped potatoes; and “hot pot” (it’s an English thing, you’ll need to watch Corrie St. to fully comprehend…).
Dorian’s “signature” dish is Pork Calvados – pork tenderloin simmered in a silky, rich apple brandy cream sauce. My Aunt Jan is one of those people who “forgets to eat” but even Jan adores this dish. Uncle Do serves it with steamed rice and asparagus – delish.
I hope my Dad doesn’t mind me writing this, but he isn’t much of a cook (aside from breakfast). It’s not that Dad’s a bad cook per se, it’s just that he doesn’t have time for it with his busy schedule.
However, the stars must have been aligned the night of my 13th birthday, because for some reason, my Dad found some inspiration, called his brother Do and got the recipe for Pork Calvados. He prepared this for my birthday dinner, and it is such a special memory for me (especially considering that this was the last time Dad cooked dinner – honestly – and I’m turning thirty-two this August!) I hate to say it, but if my dad, Dave Shortt, can do it, anyone can! (no offence, Dad).
Uncle Do’s Pork Calvados
serves 4, but this recipe doubles or triples well
note: Calvados (French Apple Brandy) is an expensive investment considering you only need three tablespoons for this recipe. You can substitute regular brandy if desired or, if you’re on good terms with your Hungarian neighbour, ask to borrow some of their alma palinka.
I suggest that you serve the pork with sauteed apples for an extra kick of apple flavour, especially if you use regular brandy.
ingredients for pork
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 3/4 inch slices
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
ingredients for sauce
1 tablespoon butter 6 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy) or regular brandy
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup, 35 per cent whipping cream
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/3 tablespoon toasted coarsely chopped hazelnuts, optional
1-2 teaspoons each chopped fresh thyme and parsley
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Sprinkle pork slices with salt and pepper.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add pork slices.
Saute until lightly browned.
Transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish.
For sauce, add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet.
Add mushrooms, saute gently for 2-3 minutes.
Add Calvados, chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste.
Boil mixture 2 minutes.
Pour sauce mixture onto pork.
Cover casserole with lid or foil.
Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes or until pork is cooked and tender.
In a small bowl, combine the cream and cornstarch.
Stir cornstarch mixture into hot casserole.
Bake 5 or 10 minutes until sauce is thickened.
Combine hazelnuts with herbs and sprinkle over top of casserole.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
We recently returned from a wonderful two-week trip to Italy (stay tuned for the details in an upcoming article). As you can imagine, coming home was tough – it was such a pleasurable, educational and delicious experience. However, being greeted by the abundant rhubarb patch (in my backyard behind the garage), softened the blow a bit.
I love rhubarb – whether in muffins, cakes, pies, fools, custards, crisps, or jams… In the past couple of years I’ve also started to incorporate rhubarb into savoury dishes such as rhubarb compote with braised pork or duck.
After washing and chopping the stalks my husband “harvested” for me as he was tidying up the garden, I found myself with an astonishing amount. The first thing I made was “award winning rhubarb orange pecan muffins”, a recipe that Mom had clipped out of The Record many years ago. You can find the recipe on my website: www.danashortt.ca (in the new “recipes” section: www.danashortt.ca/recipes.htm). I love muffins, especially homemade ones. I find they aren’t as greasy as store-bought ones and are almost always much healthier. After many mornings of café lattes and various Italian dolce (sweets), I needed something like a muffin to ease the transition back to my standard probiotic yogurt, kashi cereal and fruit!
I made (and shared) these muffins all week (John loved them), but I also made several of my Mom’s “signature” rhubarb sour cream pies. Mom thinks that the original recipe came from the Toronto Telegram (I think it folded in the early 70’s?) many years ago, but she isn’t 100 percent sure.
Mom makes awesome pastry and pies, and this is one of my favourites. I think it’s probably my all-time favourite, but then I re-consider when I try her wild blueberry, peach, sour cherry or pumpkin with cream cheese icing. I just asked my husband David for his top pick and he said that his favourite rotates with the seasons, but he’s most partial to the pumpkin (however I feel compelled to tell you that he ate TWO whole rhubarb pies in three days so I’m not so sure I believe him). Anyway, it’s a great pie (and super duper easy – especially if you “cheat” and buy a premade crust. Mom never cheats but I’m not ashamed to admit that I sometimes do!).
Rosslynn’s Rhubarb Sour Cream Pie
ingredients (corrections to newspaper edition in red)
- pastry for a 10-inch pie
- 4 (four) cups rhubarb, cubed/diced
- 1/3 (one-third) cup flour (for filling)
- 1½ (one-and-one-half) cups sugar
- 1 (one) cup sour cream
- ½ (one-half) cup flour (for topping)
- ½ (one-half) cup brown sugar
- ¼ (one-quarter) cup butter, softened
- Preheat oven to 450º F.
- Arrange rhubarb in uncooked pie shell.
- Mix 1/3 cup flour, sugar and sour cream together and pour evenly over rhubarb.
- Combine ½ cup flour, brown sugar and butter together until crumbly and sprinkle over the top of pie.
- Bake in 450º F degree oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350º F and continue baking another 30 minutes or until fruit is tender, filling is set and crumbs are golden brown.