December 24, 2006

In the Nick of TIme

The baking is finished. Whew!

Cranberry squares. I don't get to make these as often as I would like, since I'm the only person in the house that can eat cranberries. I love them, though, and my mother used to make them, so they're a Christmastime favourite, and if we're having company, I get to make them. They're essentially date squares (or, if you prefer, matrimonial cake) with cranberry filling instead of dates. Less sweet, very festive.

Ginger snaps are a little more festive with red sugar on them...

I've said it before, but there must be shortbread!

I'm ready. Hang the stockings.

December 20, 2006

How I Spent My Evening: A Story in Pictures

I love making these tiny French butter cookies at Christmas. They are not difficult, but a tad laborious. I realize I skipped photographing a step - the slicing of the dough. Such is the case, late at night, when one's hands are awfully sticky. My apologies...
Step one: Hurl partially formed dough onto a parchment sheet.
Step two: Try to persuade dough to conform to the sized paper under the parchment.
Step three: Try harder... use rolling pin "persuasion."
Step four Cut dough into strips, and alternate.
Step five: repeat, using eggwash "glue" and reverse the colour scheme. Repeat again, reversing colours once more for the final layer.

Step six: chill and thinly slice the completed cookie logs. (You can wrap them well in waxed paper or parchment, and freeze them for several months. Defrost slightly before slicing, or they will be shattery.)

Step seven: bake for 8 minutes.

December 06, 2006

Versatility (Roasted Pork Tenderloin)

One of my favourite cuts of meat is pork tenderloin - one that I have only become familiar with in the last couple of years. Until I was inspired by a photograph I saw online, the only use I had for pork tenderloin was Porc Normandy - a braised, creamy dish from northern France. I just didn't know what else to do with the stuff. It seemed kind of expensive for stir fry, and I thought that the oven would dry it out.

I was wrong on both counts, as it turns out. Even a small-ish, on-sale piece of tenderloin goes surprisingly far in a stir fry (I'm planning a double ginger stir fry as I type this), and as for the oven - roasting a tenderloin is easy, low-stress, and has an unbelievable flavour payoff for even the most minimalist treatment. Roasting, therefore, is the method that I have turned to the most since I started regularly adding pork tenderloin to my shopping cart.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Trim the roast of any silverskin, being careful not to remove too much of the actual meat. If there's a skinny end on your roast, tuck it under and tie it with a piece of butcher's string to create an even thickness for the length of the roast.

Line a large baking dish with tin foil, and spritz with a little oil. If you like, put down a layer of sliced onions or fennel, and use that as a bed for the pork. Spritz the pork with a little canola oil, and season generously with coarse salt and pepper. If you're feeling feisty, add any other seasoning that comes to mind - cumin is good, as is powdered chipotle pepper.

Roast, uncovered, for about 50 minutes per pound. Allow to rest out of the oven for five minutes before slicing on the bias, and serving. A sauce is nice, but totally optional.

If you should (mysteriously) have any leftovers, or had the good sense to roast more than you needed, slice them thinly or thickly for sandwiches the next day, or use them as part of a burrito filling. Tasty. Dead easy.

December 02, 2006

More Possiblities, or, Eggs, Again

It has been years, literally years, since I made an omelette. I suppose I fell for the siren charms of the fritatta, which involves less crucial timing and is more forgiving of somewhat random fillings. Perhaps I am afraid that my omelette will break or over-brown, and I will feel the bitter sting of failure in the kitchen. At least, an ugly omelette is still quite edible - even tasty - so one can consume the evidence and start anew each time. I certainly eat breakfast out often enough on the weekends that, if I want a good omelette, I certainly know where to get one, but there is something to be said for making it oneself.

Perhaps it is our North American culture that seems to broadly consider the omelette an individual portion, unlike the family-feeding monsters you can find in the farmhouses of France. Making omelettes for breakfast has always been something that I made when I was alone, so I wouldn't be eating in relay at the table, or allowing one to grow cool before the other one was finished. Happily, the Food Network provided something of a little jab to the frontal lobe, reminding me that an omelette can be a perfect meal for two, no waiting, if one is willing to divide a single, larger omelette into portions.

I am happy to report that I have not entirely lost my touch. Breakfast was a delightfully pale, gold-tinged omelette of mushroom, shallot, bacon and Tintern cheese, and it caused no embarassment whatsoever. In fact, it is inspiring me to flex my newly-fixed wrists over many omelettes to come.

I'm just getting warmed up.