5 Shades of Apples Part IV: That Salty Sweet Thing

Welcome back to Day 4 of my apple series! After taking it easy yesterday and letting the slow cooker do all the work, I’m back in the kitchen putting my skills to the test by making something completely new using nothing but apples and my wits. The last two recipes were on the sweet side which is what I’ve come to expect from using apples in the past. On today’s special edition of My Pretty Apron, I decided to up the ante and show you how you can use apple in a meat dish.

For those who’ve been following My Pretty Apron, you’ll note that I haven’t made many meat dishes, the only exception being these homemade empanadas last month. This was unintentional since I don’t consider myself a vegetarian or vegan, but I have noticed a significant decrease in my meat intake since I switched to a cleaner diet. This may have more to do with a desire to cook with leaner meats that are organic and grass-fed if I can get my hands on it, and convenience.  The problem, of course, is cost and time. Living in New York is not cheap, and trying to maintain a clean diet doesn’t make it any cheaper. It’s a whole lot easier for me to buy a pack of chicken breasts on sale and cook it a dozen different ways to keep things interesting. And that’s all well and good, but I wanted to do something special tonight because I need the variety. And also the challenge. Gotta have the challenge.

Tonight’s recipe is for the carnivores and the skeptics who don’t believe fruit should touch their meat ever. Have faith in the apple and follow me.

NUMERO QUATTRO: SPICED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH SAUTEED APPLES

I’ve made plenty of meat dishes in the past, but aside from bacon, my experience with larger cuts of pork is pretty nonexistent.  Any kind of pork roast (or pernil for you Latinos out there) was usually taken care of by the experts, ie my parents. Needless to say, I’ve now got ‘roasts’ as an entry in my epicurean bucket list that I mentioned yesterday. I’ll consider myself a proper cook when I can actually roast an entire piece of meat to perfection in the oven. Anyway, I digress.

I chose a pork tenderloin dish as an easier weeknight meal option, as opposed to some of the fancier roulade dishes I’ve seen in my research. Roulades are pretty but that sounds like more of a weekend project. Pork and apple are a popular combination and I’ve seen a number that include pork chops. If you’re looking to save a few bucks, I’d check the recipes using chops or just switch the tenderloin out here. Tenderloin is considerably more expensive than pork chops or other cuts however my focus is on the nutritional merits of a leaner cut, as well as the ease of cooking time. This particular recipe covers all those bases nicely and so I thought I’d give it a try tonight.

A bit of science and then we’ll get to tonight’s featured apple.

FOOD4THOUGHTNYC’s NUTRITION FACTOIDS

 Pork Tenderloin (3oz serving)

  • Protein: The most significant benefit would have to be the protein.  A 3oz serving has 13g of protein, 26% of your RDA
  • Fat and Cholesterol: This leaner cut only has about 3g of fat per serving, but note that this is saturated fat (15% of your RDA). Also, this serving size has about 56mg of cholesterol (19% of your RDA). Watch the servings and ensure that the rest of your diet is also low in saturated fats and cholesterol.
  • Minerals
    • Iron: You won’t get as much iron as in beef or other foods, but this serving size has approximately 4% of your RDA.
    • Zinc: Tenderloin does have a significant amount of zinc, accounting for 10% of your RDA with this serving. Zinc plays a role in immune function, development of our sense of taste and smell, protein synthesis, and wound healing. This mineral also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence. Our bodies don’t produce this mineral naturally nor do we have a specialized storage system for zinc so we must have a steady intake from our diets to maintain a balanced state. Other sources of zinc include oysters, crab, beef, beans, yogurt, and oatmeal.
  • B Vitamins
    • Thiamine/Vitamin B1: One serving of pork has approximately 49% of your daily needs.  Thiamine has a role in nervous system and muscle functioning, metabolism, and the production of hydrochloric acid which aids proper digestion. There is very little storage of thiamine in our bodies and depletion can occur quickly. Regular intake via our food is highly recommended.
    • Niacin/Vitamin B3: One serving of pork has 28% of your RDA. Niacin increases levels of HDL (High-density lipoprotein) which helps cholesterol to be transported within the bloodstream. These proteins are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
    • Vitamin B6: One serving of tenderloin has 32% of your daily needs, this vitamin is one o. Vitamin B6 plays a big role in metabolism by breaking down fats, carbs, and amino acids. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels, maintains our immune system, and when coupled with magnesium, it can aid in the prevention of kidney stones. Along with niacin and thiamine, vitamin B6 is part of the Vitamin B complex which all work together to help us metabolize foods healthily and increase energy output, helping us stay active throughout the day.

Of course there are plenty of other foods that can satisfy these nutritional requirements without the risk of saturated fats or cholesterol, but there are benefits to obtaining proteins from animals than vegetable sources. Plant-based foods contain mostly incomplete proteins and it takes a whole lot of produce to ensure that we can get all of our dietary needs satisfied. That said, I get why people choose to go vegetarian especially for non-health reasons. It’s really up to each of you to decide what’s best for you and to develop an eating plan that can meet what your body needs to function well.  🙂

Let’s put the science to the side and get to the food. Drum roll, please……introducing the……..

Gala. Gala? Didn’t we do that already? Yes, I used galas for the apple muffins on Tuesday and I’m using them again today. Sometimes things don’t happen the way we plan, especially when cooking is involved. Although this recipe calls for Gala (or Braeburn), I decided to try the Red Roma instead. I went to the market today totally confident that I’d find some Romas, and literally did maybe five circles before I realized that I was completely out of luck. No Braeburns either. I didn’t think honeycrisps  or fujis would work either so I resigned myself to use the leftover galas instead. It’s fate! Sometimes I’m forced to follow a recipe even if I really don’t want to! So, gala it is.

These are the ingredients:

I stuck pretty closely to the recipe for the ingredients this time because I had almost all of it on hand. I even stepped up and got fresh thyme and rosemary, both herbs I normally don’t have in my apartment. I wanted to have a bit of fun with the sides as well, so I opted for roasted potatoes with fresh rosemary and sautéed broccoli with minced garlic. I’ll leave the sides up to you, the chef! Try to stick to produce that’s in season and keep in mind the sweet bite you’ll have with the pork. I almost went for sweet potato here but decided that was a bit too much considering the main course. As much as I enjoy being healthy, sometimes flavor wins out.

Since I didn’t fulfill my dreams of being the ultimate domestic goddess by making my own cider and applesauce yesterday, I bought premade apple cider. But it was locally produced and unsweetened so that counts!

Let me point out that despite the fact that I’m cooking a meal that has a main and two sides, this took less than an hour to put together. The lean pork tenderloin cut into medallions takes a total of 8-10 minutes to cook and the apple and shallot sauce another 5-7 minutes. The potatoes take the longest since they’re roasting, but I specifically chose small creamers so that it would take less time. We’ll start there.

I originally planned on making fingerling potatoes because the taste is unbeatable, but as with the roma apples, I came up empty. Then I saw these beautiful creamer potatoes in purple, red, and yellow and I had to have them. The colors remind me of fall and they have a delicious buttery texture. Make sure to preheat your oven at 400 degrees F.

Cut the potatoes in half and set them on a jelly roll pan or rimmed baking sheet. This is where I let loose and decided to drizzle some black truffle oil that I have laying around. What the heck? It’s truffle oil. It makes anything taste better. Next sprinkle some kosher salt and several cracks of fresh black pepper over the top.  Chop up about 2tsps of fresh rosemary and pour over the top. Now here’s my fancy cooking tip: take the sheet and shake it back and forth to distribute the oil and seasonings.  It should look something like this. If you’re there, then put it in the oven and let it cook for about 20-25 minutes.

Continue the prep by chopping up your veggies, but save the apples for the last minute because they’ll brown up superquick once exposed to the air. You have a green light to slice up the shallots and mince the garlic for the broccoli. Also, chop up the broccoli if you’re not already using precut veggies like I am here.

An important note about chopping fresh herbs: Herbs like rosemary and thyme are on the stem which you don’t want to include in your food. They not only hard to chew, they’re extremely bitter and can leave a bad aftertaste. The easiest way to remove those tiny thyme leaves is to hold the stem vertically with the leaves pointing upwards, and to slide your fingernails down from top to bottom. This will scrape off all the leaves in one move. Once you have all that you need, throw the stems away, and chop up the remaining leaves. Easy right? Okay, let’s keep moving.

I pre-measured the spices and put them in a small prep bowl to make it easier to season the pork once I got to this stage. I was only feeding two people with this meal so I bought about ¾ lb of pork tenderloin which would be more than enough.  When you buy your meat just be sure to trim any extra fat and then cut in even sized medallions.  Once the pork is cut and ready, just sprinkle on the spice mixture on each side making sure to coat evenly.

I prefer using a heavy cast-iron skillet for these scenarios, but if you don’t have one that’s alright. As long as you’re using a non-stick skillet, it’s fine. Why non-stick? When you’re searing meat in a pan, all sorts of goodness gets stuck to the bottom.  When you get to the sauce stage of your recipe, you get a major flavor boost by scraping off those bits and pieces. Keep that in mind!

Whatever pan you’re using, set it on the stove over a medium-high heat. Once hot, coat with a cooking spray. Place the pork around the pan making sure they don’t overlap. You should hear that beautiful sizzling sound when the meat hits the pan. That’s how you know it’s hot enough to give it that lovely color on the outside. Since we’re cooking a very lean cut of meat and they’re in small sizes, you don’t want to let them go too long. It’ll dry out the pork and you’ll risk burning it which is not what we’re going for here. 3-4 minutes on each side should be good enough for medium to medium-well done.

Once done, place the pork on a plate and keep warm. At this point I placed the chopped broccoli in a steamer one burner over to get it going before I start the sauce.  Then I quickly chopped up my gala into thin slices. Multi-tasking isn’t easy but it’s key! Time to get dexterous. 🙂

Going back to my cast-iron, I added about a 1 ½ tbsp of unsalted butter to the pan and spread it around.  Immediately add the shallots and apple slices into the pan and using a wooden spoon, stir them around while scraping up the aforementioned bits and pieces to pick up all those tasty morsels that include the spice mixture that seasoned the pork. Stir for about 3-4 minutes or until the apple starts to turn brown.  In the meantime, check on your potatoes and broccoli! The potatoes should be nearly done at this point, and the broccoli will be on its way there as well. I don’t like saggy limp veggies (who does? Gross!) so after giving the broccoli another minute, I shut off the heat and set out a smaller sauté pan to heat up for the garlic.

Once the apples and shallots have browned up, add ¼ cup of apple cider and stir around for several minutes. Once it’s reduced slightly, add the chopped up thyme and stir before turning it off. The sauce is done and done. But let’s not forget our veggies! Once that second pan is hot, add a ½ tbsp of olive oil, let it heat for about 30 seconds, and then add your broccoli and garlic. Sprinkle ½ tsp of kosher salt and ¼ tsp of fresh black pepper and sauté for about 2-3 minutes. Then, that’s it! Done.

Potatoes? Check. Broccoli? Check. Now the final flourish. Take the pan with the apple and shallot sauce over to the serving plate with the pork medallions. Pour the sauce right over the pork along with all the seasonings in the pan. Like this.

Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sauteed Apples? Big big check. Here’s my happy plate.

The meat was tender and delicious. Expensive for sure, but well worth it for a quality piece of healthy grass-fed pork. The spices were unexpected but subtle with little hints of the nutmeg and cinnamon coming out in each bite.  I didn’t have the romas but that turned out to be great, because the gala stepped up to the plate and did an excellent job here.  I was nervous the apple slices would completely fall apart or get mushy, but they held their shape extremely well. Also the sauce wasn’t as sweet as I expected which was a nice surprise. Everything balanced together and I was very satisfied by the end. This was the first big dinner I’ve had in weeks and I’m glad I got to throw in some apples- they can be savory too!

You might want to enjoy a nice cold beverage with this dinner. Who doesn’t  This came to me as afterthought (of course), but might I suggest you enjoy this meal with a frosty hard apple cider. I think we are all familiar with the “hard cider” apple drinks, especially in the fall and winter, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention this during apple week. Need a recommendation? I’d go with Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider. It’s the best by far, and my absolute favorite.  Crisp, delicious, and refreshing, you’ll agree too. Also, it’s made in New York. It’s always good to support local business especially when they make top-quality products like this one. Enjoy!

Did you know…?

Apples are a member of the rose family. Try giving your significant other a dozen apples instead of roses next Valentine’s Day. Don’t tell them I made the suggestion though.

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3 thoughts on “5 Shades of Apples Part IV: That Salty Sweet Thing

Add yours

  1. Wonderful combo with apples! I love the apple cider idea and I have yet to try this one..I tried a pumpkin beer a week ago and it was delicious! Thanks for all the recipes 🙂

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    1. I know! Me either! The pork and apples was SO goooood! I’m going to try a roulade at some point because I’ve seen some great recipes for that. Hope you get to try it out sometime!

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