27 September 2007

Road Food: Pasties

I love business travel. I enjoy checking into a hotel room, unpacking my things, which always include a good book, bubble bath and the other acouterments of pampering, and a local newspaper.

My husband says he enjoys it, too.

“There are no demands on your time,” he says. “At home, you feel as if you should be doing something constructive.”

Once I am checked into a hotel room, I am usually not interested in leaving. I relax almost immediately and want to get further acclimated to my temporary environment. But I do leave, mainly to search for a local deli. I seldom eat alone in restaurants, and I do not like take-out food.

In Marquette, Mich., there are some very nice locally owned sandwich shops and delis. But the other night, strapped for time and weary from a long drive, I opted for a local supermarket, expecting to find the usual selection of rotisserie chicken, cole slaw, potato salad and baked beans.

Instead - being in Yooper country - I found pasties, those meat-and-potato stuffed pastry pockets that Cornish workers took into the iron mines with them. They are a staple here, where the mines have long dominated the local economy.

My husband, having Cornish genes, loves them. I find them a bit too carb laden. But after more than three hours of driving on an empty stomach, a pasty looked pretty darned good.

(By the way, that’s a soft A, not a long one. Paa-stee, not pay-stee. The two uses are not interchangeable, either.)

I bought a pasty, adding some cheese and nuts, and enjoying an apple (courtesy of a friend at the Italian market back home) for dessert.

As pasties go, it was not the best or the worst I’ve eaten. Doesn’t really matter. I was ravenous, and it was hearty and satisfying.

What I was really tasting here was a night of freedom. I missed my husband, but had a long phone conversation with my sister-in-law, a warm bubble bath and a good book to sooteh my road weariness.

When you travel, what do you do? Eat out? Splurge? Choose takeout? I’m curious. My new job will involve more travel, and I may just broaden my horizons at mealtime, too.

I'll be on the road again Monday.

23 September 2007

Pork Tenderloin with Apples, Cider and Calvados

We awoke Sunday to the sound of gunshots, coming from either across the river or the swampy area to the west of our neighborhood. It is ruffed grouse and wild turkey season, and there are some of the former and plenty of the latter around wooded areas here, in and out of the city.

The day was warm and sunny, but when the chill set in at dusk I closed the doors against it. I could smell the smoke from my neighbor’s wood fire and hear honking from the Canada geese down by the river.

These are good nights to hunker down at home with a seasonal meal and a hearty wine.

Tonight, we continued the apple theme, preparing Pork with Apples, Cider and Calvados, a recipe adapted from Epicurious.

  • 1 pound pork tenderloin

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 4 Golden Delicious apples, cored
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup Calvados
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • ¼ cup apple cider

Slice pork into ½ inch thick slices. Place between wax paper and flatten with a mallet. Wrap or cover and refrigerate.

Melt twp tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add apples and sugar. Brown apples lightly, for about 5-6 minutes. Remove from skillet, and set aside.

Melt two more teaspoons of butter over high heat. Add the pork. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until cooked gthrough and lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Set aside, keeping the pork warm.

Melt one teaspoon butter in the same skillet. Brown shallots, adding the fresh thyme. Add Calvados and boil until reduced to glaze. Blend in half-and-half and cider and boil until entire mixture thickens. Season with salt and pepper.

Reheat apples and pork. Serve with sauce.

To round out the meal, I roasted red potatoes and Brussels sprouts in olive oil and salt and pepper. I paired the meal with a simple but robust red table wine. For dessert, there were pumpkin bars.

When I make this again, I will experiment with other tart apples, red ones this time to give the dish some color. I will likely add more shallots, too.

16 September 2007

Chicken with Cider and Calvados

In college, I devoured young women's magazines, and somewhere along the way clipped an extensive article about Normandy. The accompanying photos of lace curtained windows, baskets of apples and bottles of Calvados formed my ideas of what a French kitchen should be, and I saved them for years.

I also saved a handful of recipes from the same feature article. Tonight, for the first time, I made a chicken recipe I've saved for more than 20 years. This is the first time I've prepared it.

It seemed the perfect time for apples and chicken: A sunny but coolish Sunday with heavy overtones of autumn all around, from the honking of geese overhead to the red-tinged leaves on the many maples in our neighborhood.

Chicken with Cider
  • 1 3-to-4-pound chicken, cut up
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1 Tablespoon cooking oil
  • 2 dashes fleur de sel
  • dash freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup Calvados or brandy
  • 1 3/4 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon parsley

Coat chicken with flour and brown in large skillet containing oil and butter. Place skin side down, and turn as needed to brown both sides. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour in Calvados and ignite, using a long match. Allow the liquid to burn until the flame extinguishes itself. Add cider and herbs. Bring to a simmer. Cover and allow to simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes.

Check breasts with a meat thermometer, remove if hot enough. Legs and wings will need to cook longer. Remove the chicken from the skillet, add a bit of flour to the remaining sauce and use a whisk. Pour over the chicken.

The chicken was moist and tender. The sauce had enough apple flavor to hold my interest. But I think I will add onions and shallots to the skillet next time. The flavor was way too subtle.

I served this with green beans amandine and herbed potatoes. Wine Pairing: A white merlot.

09 September 2007

Sausage Stuffed Red Peppers

Brr. It is downright chilly here tonight. Out come the winter pajamas!

At any given time, you will likely find red peppers, sweet Italian sausage and a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in my larder. Onions, garlic and cheese are givens, as important as milk and coffee. So when I found inspiration in The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, I did not have to venture out for provisions.

The magazine features yellow bell peppers stuffed with ground beef and cheese. I used red peppers, sausage and olives. The recipe below is an adaptation.

Sweet Italian Sausage-Stuffed Red Peppers

  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes from a jar, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green and/or black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce
  • 4-6 red bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon each rosemary and thyme, chopped

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil; set aside. In same skillet, brown sausage, using a wooden spatula to cut into small pieces. Add herbs and, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and spaghetti sauce and allow to simmer about 20 minutes over low heat.

Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the tops and stem off the peppers. Set peppers on their sides and cut away roughly 1/4 of the pepper and remove seeds and membrane. Place peppers in a greased baking pan. Set aside.

Add cheese to sausage mixture. Add beaten egg to serve as a binder. Finally, add rosemary and thyme. Spoon sausage mixture into peppers and bake at in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and top with Parmesan or other cheese (I used a mild cheddar infused with basil and tomato).

Allow peppers to cool 5-10 minutes before serving. This mild herby and very sweet dish would be perfect paired with a rosé table wine, perhaps something from Provence.