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Monday, April 28, 2008

Tonight's Menu

In what seems to be a recurring theme...

Recently, McCormick started selling lavender. It's a really lovely herb (floral?) that has a sweet, mild, flavor with just a hint of tarragon or anise. My jar of lavender has been sitting on my microwave, waiting for a use, and tonight I worked it into a basic dish I do a fair amount of. Balsamic vinegar is another fantastic ingredient, with its deep, wine-like flavor. If you reduce balsamic vinegar down to a syrup, it will complement almost anything from chicken to beef to vegetables to ice cream. Something fun to do is cook meat, then deglaze with balsamic vinegar and herbs. Can't go wrong.

Pork Medallions with Orange-Lavender Balsamic Reduction

Small pork tenderloin*, cut into eight inch-thick medallions. (I had just enough to fit nicely in the bottom of my saucepan)
olive oil
salt and pepper to season the pork
1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/8 - 1/4 cup Gran Marnier
healthy tbsp of dried lavender
dash of gin. really this is just a dash. maybe a teaspoon if you really have to.

Mix together the vinegar, Gran Marnier, lavender, and gin, which will form the base for the sauce. Get your pork medallions on a plate. Rub them down with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, throw the medallions on there and rub them around a little to make sure they don't stick. Let them get deep golden brown on one side, then turn them all. Cook them until they're tender, but golden brown on the other side.

Dump in the sauce and let it all come to a simmer. Cook the pork for another five or so minutes, to let the vinegar get into the meat (it'll color the meat and make it more tender.) Then turn the meat one last time, and cook the color into the meat on the other side. Remove the meat to someplace warm.

By now, the sauce should still be pretty liquid, so all you have to do is reduce it down to a nice syrup. Don't forget to scrape up all the brown glaze from the bottom of the pan - it'll make the sauce better. Technically you're supposed to do that as soon as you add the liquid, but whatever. I haven't found it to matter. Reduce your sauce down as much as you want it. Some people say, till it coats the back of a wooden spoon, or, reduce by 3/4, or, ten minutes on medium-high heat. I don't know how to do any of that, really. But I do know that hot reduced vinegar is more liquid than cool reduced vinegar - several times, I've made this nice thick syrup in the pan that turned to caramel when I took it off the heat. So just keep that in mind. Really all you need is a liquid that won't get everywhere when you pour it back on the meat.

And that's all you really need to do. Once it's ready, drizzle the sauce on your meat. And eat. The wine-like vinegar, the orange, the juniper, and the mild, elegant flavor of lavender work together on sweet, tender pork.

You could pair this with almost any good starch. I sautéed some cabbage in butter for us, and that worked just fine. But I've put similar meats over pasta, with mashed potatoes. Maybe not rice, though. Moreover, a lot of different herbs go well with balsamic vinegar. Chicken breasts are good with a sauce of rosemary and garlic, for instance - which would go doubly well with beef. Mushrooms might be complemented with tarragon, or sage and thyme. Pretty much wherever you want to go is good with balsamic vinegar.

*I started off with a pork tenderloin that was mostly thawed, but partially frozen. I think this would have a lot of impact on cooking time.

1 comment:

More Sawdust said...

Hmmm... a discerning cook would never admit to using McCormick anything. Stick to Sauer's and Spice Hunter... and if you have to go off the reservation (like for lavender), for Heaven's sake, don't tell anyone where you got it.

You can only throw your reputation away, and you can never get it back.