Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Falling for Fall

It just takes one cool, crisp day to stir up my craving for the tastes of Fall.  Our kickoff meal of choice - cinnamon apple pork tenderloin with Parmesan mashed potatoes.  This dish is delicious, uncomplicated, and totally doable on a weeknight.  To me, a successful dish requires balanced flavors and must appeal to all the senses.  This pork recipe accomplishes this with its pleasantly sweet start, middle note of acidity, and satisfyingly savory finish. 

I don't really follow a recipe here, and I've made this using several different approaches.  So I can tell you honestly that it's not fussy!  The only key is just to not overcook the pork.  If you've got a meat thermometer, you're good to go!  I'll do my best to provide the notes of what I do, but please take liberties and make this your own.  This can be easily doubled for a crowd.

Apple Cinnamon Pork Tenderloin

Sear a 1-1.5 lb pork tenderloin in an oven-proof skillet in 1-2 Tbsp olive oil until browned on each side. 

Meanwhile, combine 2 Tbsp corn starch, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (apple juice or apple cider work great too, but you might miss vinegar's tang), 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, at least 4 Tbsp brown sugar, and a handful of dried cranberries with 2 Golden Delicious apples that have been peeled, cored and sliced in a small bowl.

You can either dump this mixture on top of the pork on its way to the oven and let it cook that way, or saute it stove-top in a separate pan.  While I like the way the former option minimizes clean-up, I find the caramelized result of the latter method to be superior!  After the pork has browned on all sides, transfer the skillet to a 400 degree oven and roast for about 25 minutes.  You're looking for an internal temperature (in the thickest part of the loin) of about 145 degrees. 

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

Again, I don't use a recipe for this; it's all about tasting and adjusting.  We all know how to peel, cube, boil and mash potatoes.  How you treat them is a matter of what you like!  I like them, well, naughty....there's just no match for butter and salt in my book.  I heat butter and milk in the microwave and add them warm to the potatoes to help prevent a gummy texture.  Then I just grate lots of fresh Parm on top, season and taste until it's yummy.  If I had to approximate my quantities, I'd say I used about 1/3 cup of skim milk, 1/4 cup of grated Parm, 2 tsp of salt and (GASP) a half stick of butter for about 4-5 large potatoes.  This is comfort food to me.  I'd rather save some calories earlier in the day to enjoy this dish than choke down a bland version.  By the way, sour cream is a lovely mix-in as well.

I'm sure there will be lots more fall recipes to come! 


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