EDIT* I know the picture does not do justice to this dish. I was in a hurry to get dinner on the table since my sister and the friend were starving*
Jamie Oliver is my hero! For our anniversary last year, my husband bought me Jamie's cookbook, Jamie at Home. It's all about growing your own fruits and veg and then using it in your cooking. Beautiful pictures with lots of helpful hints makes me one happy cook! I still haven't gotten up the nerve to start my own garden (I live on the second floor with nothing but a tiny balcony to call my own, and I just don't have the space to grow everything that I want; I made a list because of this book though). Let's put it this way, if he and I both weren't married, I'd marry him just for his garden. It's that fantastic!
The reason I bring this up is because of Daniel. Daniel is one of my husband's best friends. When C was deployed the second time, we had literally gotten married the month before, I was still in college, and we were living in two separate cities. After I graduated, I lived with my parents for the summer and found my own place just before he came home on leave (that is always the most bittersweet two weeks of the year). Daniel promised my husband that he would keep an eye out for me and come over to keep me company from time to time (he helped move me in and crashed on my couch the entire first weekend of living on my own for the first time).
Daniel's birthday was last month, and I missed it (I was my own worst enemy for being such a flake). To make it up to him, I offered him dinner and beer. I'd make dinner and buy beer and let him crash on my couch afterwards since we always end up drinking too much beer for me to feel comfortable with him driving home (this always ends up with us out on the balcony discussing religion and politics like we're great geniuses when we really have no idea what we're talking about, and I almost always end up crying because I start missing the hubbs).
Jamie Oliver's cookbook comes into play here. I decided to try out one of his recipes, a pork loin roast with potatoes and onions. With my sister being present, I had to modify the spices a bit (she and my mom hate rosemary; I have no idea where this comes from). Basil and thyme for rosemary ought to do it (I'm not losing the onions just because she doesn't like them; they're only quartered so it wasn't like she couldn't eat around them). I think it came out pretty damn good. What say you?
Daniel is not a cake man (thankfully I didn’t make a cake beforehand or I would have been out of luck). So I asked him, “What kind of man are you?” Turns out, he’s a pie man. No flavor preference, just told me to surprise him, and surprise I did.
One of my absolute favorite shows is Pushing Daisies. Although it’s no longer on the air, I own season one and am anticipating the release of season two. Anyway, one of the characters makes her cheese-loving aunts an apple pie with gruyere cheese baked into the crust. PERFECT! I pulled out my recipe cards and found Nana’s recipe for apple pie. I must say, the addition of cheese to the crust is genius. I may have to try the other cheese pie mentioned in the show later (pear with brie…could be interesting).
Happy belated birthday, Daniel! I hope you enjoyed dinner as much as I enjoyed cooking it!
Balsamic-baked Onions and Potatoes with Roast Pork
Recipe from Jamie at Home, adapted by me
For the potatoes and onions
3 ½ lbs medium sized potatoes, peeled and quartered lengthwise (I used red potatoes and did not peel)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 oz butter, cubed
A bunch of fresh rosemary leaves picked and chopped (I substituted basil and thyme)
1 whole bulb of garlic, quartered or smashed
5 medium red onions, peeled and quartered
1 ½ cups balsamic vinegar
For the pork
A small bunch of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped (substituted basil again)
2 Tbl freshly ground fennel seeds (substituted thyme)
1 x 3 ½ pound boneless rolled pork loin
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped
4 bay leaves
2 wineglasses of white wine (about ¾ of the bottle)
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Boil the potatoes in salted water for about 8 minutes. Drain and return to the pan. Chuff them up a bit by shaking the pan.
To prepare the meat, scatter the herbs over a large chopping board. Roll the pork across the board, pressing down hard so all the flavorings stick.
Get a large roasting pan that the pork will fit snugly in, and place it on a burner over medium-high heat. Pour in a little olive oil and place the pork in, fat side down, sprinkling with any remaining flavorings on the board. After a few minutes, when the pork is lightly golden, turn it over and ass the garlic, onion, celery, and bay leaves to the pan. Place on the bottom shelf of your preheated oven for an hour, basting halfway through.
Get another roasting pan, into which the potatoes can fit in a single layer, and heat it on the stove. When hot, pour a glug of olive oil into it and add the butter, rosemary, and garlic. Add the potatoes and toss them in all the flavors. Add the onions and all the balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes on the burner to reduce the vinegar a little. Place the pan on the top shelf and cook for around 50 minutes, until the potatoes and onions are dark, sticky and crispy – removing the pan to toss the onions and potatoes halfway through.
After an hour, the meat should be cooked. Prick it with a sharp knife – if the juices run clear, it’s done; if not, pop it back in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes, keeping the potatoes warm. Remove from the oven and let it rest on a plate for 10 minutes. Pour away most of the fat from the pan and mash up the onions and garlic. Place the pan over the burner and add the wine. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, scraping all the meaty, marmitey goodness off the bottom to make a tasty little sauce. Season if necessary. Pass through a sieve. Slice the pork and serve with the potatoes and onions, drizzled with the sauce. Can be served with a salad.
Nana’s Apple Pie with Gruyere Cheese
For the pastry
1 ½ cups sifted flour
½ tsp salt
½ cup shortening (I would use butter or lard)
¼ cup Gruyere, shredded
4-5 Tbl cold water
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in shortening using a pastry blender. Add the cheese,
Add water one tablespoon at a time, pushing mixture to side until all flour is moist.
Form into two balls. Roll out into a circle one inch larger than the pan.
Put one crust in bottom of pan; bring up sides to the edge.
For the filling
5-7 tart apples (I used Granny Smith, my mom uses Red Delicious)
¾-1 cup sugar
2 Tbl flour
Dash of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
Dash each ground clove, ground allspice, ground cardamom (don’t tell Nana I added these)
2 Tbl butter, chopped
Pare and slice apples into wedges and place in medium-sized bowl.
Mix dry ingredients together and pour over apples. Stir to coat.
Place filling into prepared pie pan and top with butter pieces. Place top crust on top and pinch edges of crust together. Flute edges.
Bake for 50 minutes. Can be served with ice cream.