Last fall, I headed up to northern Wisconsin with My brother and some friends. During that trip, two of the bunch proposed a monthly cook-off. The original theme was simply ‘make Your s*** fancy.’ What can I say, it was a weekend of drinking, shooting and dirt bikes. The feast idea changed slightly after that and starting this past January, Fancy Feast had begun. Instead of making it a competition, it is a slightly less intense meal making endeavor. Four courses minimum, guests bring a bottle of decent booze as tribute, or declare themselves the next host/cook for the feast.
First up was My friend Keith, who made some beet and cheese appetizers that were quite good. Followed by a lobster and shrimp torta with lima beans, avacodo topped with seasoned cream cheese and an encrusted herby salmon bake. Then, He banged out a lovely candied bacon, puffed cream and brownie desert.
February went to My brother, Chris. Churning out seven dishes and various drinks. I did however neglect to catch a picture of the fresh pumpkin bread desert. Pictured are His mushroom soup, with leeks. Egg cooked in swirling water and hash, a topper variety plate, cold soba and soy sauce, what I think was a chorizo dish and meatballs cooked forever in a pho soup stock.
I called March’s meal. My theme was simply to do something different. So, no stir-fry. No grill, or smoker. No cajun spices, chili blends, sherry, or even soy sauce. I struggled a bit, making multi-course meals that come round after round doesn’t mesh particularly well with My laid back, ‘just throw some stuff together and hope it’s good’ cooking tendencies. I produced the minimum of four dishes. Bacon and baby lima bean soup, spicy sweet potato mash with roasted brocolli and pistachios on toast, fruit stuffed pork tenderloin roll and finished with citrus gratin. The desert was kind of odd honestly, but it had much potential to be delicious. Something to ponder on how to go about improving.
It doesn’t get much easier than this. The first time I made this, I roasted it in the oven. I made it again last weekend and opted to grill instead. Both times, it was quite delicious. Port wine and garlic provide the core of the flavor, with salt and honey accentuating the experience. Making for a solid base to add other ingredients to, which I shall venture in to soon. So long as You have time to let it marinate and take the time to baste as it is cooking, the meat should be very tasty!
Supplies Needed: Large zip-lock style bag, or a large bowl and a roasting pan, or baking sheet, with a raised edge to hold a bit of liquid.
6 Chicken Thighs, with bone
3-5 large Garlic cloves, minced
3/4 Cup Tawny Port Wine
1/2 Cup of Water
2 or so tablespoons of Sea Salt
As much Honey as it takes to thinly coat the top of Your chicken, roughly 1.5 tbsp per piece of meat.
Prep and Cooking:
In Your bag or bowl, disolve the salt in the water. Warm water makes this go faster. Then pour in the garlic and port wine. Mix or shake it up to Your liking and put the chicken in. Let it sit in the marinade for 4+ hours for the best results, but You can rush it by going no less than an hour. Once You have let the meat soak in the flavors and are ready to cook, You will want to keep all the liquids in Your marinating bowl, or bag and lay the chicken out on a baking sheet. Pre-heat Your oven to 400(f), but when You put the chicken in, turn the tempurature down to 325 degrees. Let the meat cook for 25-30 minutes and then start basting. Spreading the marinade evenly over the top of the meat every 5-10 minutes, layer by layer making a nice glaze. While cooking, any time You open the oven You should be spooning a layer of marinade over the top of things. Even if You just want to peak, always baste as well, it will help to add more power to the impact of the flavor. Once the chicken is just about fully cooked, You will be adding the honey. Try to evenly coat the top side of the chicken and place back into the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the honey has thickened to a nice dark hue over the red-ish color of the marinade. Remove from the oven, let it rest/sit for a minute or 3 and serve.
Just about any port should work with this recipe.
This would go very well with various herbs, citrus, or chilis. Thyme stands out to Me as a natural fit. I can think of plenty of other things too.
It doesn’t hurt to use a larger amount of salt, 4-8 tbsp, to create more of a brine. You will need to have an additional cup of port wine and 2 large garlic cloves, minced, for basting. Once You’ve removed the meat from the salty marinade, You would want to toss it out and baste with the extra wine and garlic. In this case, You may also want to baste fewer times, so it doesn’t just taste like wine.
For grilling, I would push the coals over to one side and place the chicken on the opposite side, using indirect heat, You can layer on the marinade and later the honey, without it burning so easily. Adding a chunk of hickory or Your favorite hard wood to the coals will only make things better.
A sweet and savory meat dish. It’s a recipe I stumbled upon while sifting through a stack of old family cook books a couple years ago. No idea why I didn’t attempt to make it sooner. Far more delicious than I anticipated after reading the ingredient list. If you use the right amount of apple juice in the roasting pan, you end up with 2 sweet sauces to accompany your meal. I drizzled the apple/dripping sauce atop some spinach and cooked down the last of the basting sauce to use for dipping. Loins cooked in this fashion would go well with some wild rice and steamed, buttered asparagus, or brussel sprouts, or as pictured, with fresh greens. Serves 8 to 12 depending on the size of your tenderloin.
Supplies Needed: Sauce Pan, Roasting Pan or Baking Sheet with high sides, Mixing Bowl, Cook’s String, and a Large Sheet or cutting board for prep. If Your tenderloin did not come in a vacuum sealed, leak-proof packaging, You shall also need something large enough to soak the meat in.
1 Pork Tenderloin
1 Large Onion, chopped
3/4 of a cup of Bread Crumbs
half a cup of Dried Cranberries
half a cup of Dried Apricots, chopped
half a cup of Golden Raisins
half a cup of Apricot Preserves
1 cup of Apple Juice, possibly more.
1.5 cups of Port Wine
2 tbsp of Thyme
1 tsp or so of Cinnamon
1 cup of water
2 tsp or so of sea salt
Salt and Pepper to taste
Prep and Cooking:
First, mix a cup of the port wine, a cup of water and 2 teaspoons or so of sea salt. Mix until the salt has dissolved. Put Your tenderloin into the mixture and store in the fridge for at least 6 hours, rotating the meat as needed to get it soaking in from all sides.
In a mixing bowl, combine the onions, bread crumbs, dried fruit and a quarter cup of the port. Next, You must butterfly the tenderloin. Lay it out length-wise on a sheet or cutting board and slice down the side, half way up like a hot dog bun. Do try to make the top and bottom even in thickness, or it will cook un-evenly. After it’s cut open, salt and pepper all sides to Your liking. Lay it with the inside facing up and rub/sprinkle on the thyme and cinnamon, then spread the dried fruit and bread crumb mixture evenly over the meat, fold the tenderloin back up and tie it shut. Pre-heat Your oven to 350 degrees. Place the loin in the roasting pan, pouring the apple juice into the bottom of the pan. Roast for 35 minutes.
In a small sauce pan, bring the preserves and remaining port(1/4c) to a boil, stir until it starts to thicken up a bit. I started this sauce 25 minutes into the roasting on medium-low heat and it was a nice semi-thickened sauce, perfect for basting when I checked the loin at 35 minutes. Use this sauce to spread upon the tenderloin. You will want 3 to 5 layers for a nice sweet glaze. Continue to roast, basting every 5-10 minutes until the tenderloin is cooked fully, a meat thermometer should read at 160 degrees(F) or more. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5-10 minutes, slice and serve!
This recipe is very sweet. The dried fruit and the port have a fair amount of sweetness to them, then You add the apricot preserves into the mix as well. If You can aquire some ‘less sugar added’ preserves, I would do so.
If You’re buying a tenderloin that comes in vacuum sealed plastic, You can make the brine/marinade with half of the quantity listed above. Cut a slit at one end of the packaging, drain the extra liquids and pour in the salted wine marinade, tying the end shut again with string, or twist ties. This is the most effective method for spreading the flavor, as well as using the least amount of wine/water/salt. On the other hand, those buying from a butcher, hunter or farmer will likely have to use a large bowl or cooking pot/pan of some variety. Which will require much more of the marinade to be made. If You have a ‘food saver’ or vacuum sealer, this might be a nice time to get some use out of it..