Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Trusting my instincts

Mushroom Pork Scallopini
Taste of Home Celebrations Cookbook Copyright 2005

3 to 4 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each), cut into 1-inch slices I also pounded the slices
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup butter
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup white wine or chicken broth I used chicken broth
½ cup water
1 large onion, chopped
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon each dried thyme, oregano, and rosemary, crushed
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
hot cooked fettuccine I used whole-wheat egg noodles

Dredge pork slices in flour. In a large skillet, heat butter and oil. Brown pork on both sides in batches; remove and keep warm. Stir wine or broth, water, onion, garlic and seasonings into drippings. Return pork to skillet, layering if necessary. Top with mushrooms. Cover and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes or until meat juices run clear. Serve over fettuccine.

I did things a bit differently. After I browned the meat, I removed it from the pan and sautéed the onions, garlic and mushrooms for several minutes. Then I added the broth and seasonings and cooked that for a few minutes, to reduce the broth a bit. Then I added the pork back and heated it through.

Yield 8-10 servings.

After a recent disaster, I decided that I would start listening to my instincts more often. After a year of (usually) following recipes as closely as I could, I've learned a few things or I least I think I have. I selected this recipe based on the ingredient list. My perception was that the pork slices would be pounded thin, since when I see 'scallopini', I think thin. Even though there was a picture, I missed that the pork was supposed to be kept thicker until I went to make this. I decided to pound it anyway.

And I didn't like the instructions to throw the onions, garlic and liquid straight together with no sautéeing and then add the meat and mushrooms. The veggies would end up boiled or steamed and my thin meat would have turned to rubber long before the mushrooms cooked so I couldn't possibly use that method. So I did it my way, the more conventional way. I thought it turned out great.

So, about the disaster. It really pains me to talk about it. I haven't have many true 'throw-it-right-in-the-trash' disasters since starting this blog. What really hurts is that it was my first Barefoot Contessa recipe, from her Family Style cookbook. It was a recipe for Brown Rice, Tomatoes and Basil, a room temperature salad. First of all, I should have boiled the rice since I knew that I don't have the gift to cook rice by the traditional absorption method. Then there was no mention of cooling the rice before adding the dressing and tomatoes (and it doesn't say to seed the tomatoes). I was left with a pink, soupy, mushy mess. If I had only boiled and rinsed my rice, I believe the result would have been entirely different but we'll never know. I'll try another recipe from that book but I'm not giving this one another chance.

Mixed Salad Annie recently tagged me for a meme, 5 Things You've Eaten and Think that Everyone Should Eat at least Once Before They Die. I won't force my culinary opinions on anyone so my take on this is:

Five Things I'd Like To Eat Again (It's too morbid to bring death into this)

1. A good porketta sandwich. Roasted, seasoned pork on a good kaiser roll.
2. Key Lime Pie from Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. I think this was actually a square, not a wedge of pie. If anyone takes an RC cruise, please take a picture of this and send it to me. My memory has faded over the years. I just remember loving this but the details of the dessert itself have faded.
3. Pizza from Lorenzo's on South Street in Philly. Most people miss the cheesesteaks when they leave Philly - I miss the pizza.
4. Bassett's banana ice cream. The other Philly-centric food I still long for, almost ten (ten?!) years after I left.
5. A really good crabcake. There's nothing like a great broiled crabcake, loaded with lump crab meat.

Blast From The Past: Meatballs Stroganoff from November of 2005. The sauce was great but I think I'll add some breadcrumbs and liquid to the meatballs to make them a bit more tender next time I make them.

Question Of The Day: Do you cook by-the-book or trust your instincts?


Randi said...

I totally use my instincts. I use a recipe as a guide. I barely ever measure anything anymore( unless I'm baking of course). I'm trying to teach the community kitchen ppl that too, that you dont have to measure half a tsp of something. As Rachel Ray says " Just eyeball it".

DancesInGarden said...

I use cookbooks and recipes as inspiration, but rarely actually follow a recipe. Most call for ingredients I don't use or DH and DD won't eat. Even when baking, there are certain subs that I know I can make and suit me better, so I do that. DH asked me once if it was genetically impossible for me to follow a recipe or something. My answer, simply - I don't take direction well ;).

Heather said...

I do a little of both. I think you have to do that a bit when you are as picky as I am. In not liking mayo, sour cream or mustard, I have to use my instincts to really gauge whether or not recipes can be made without those ingredients.

Anonymous said...

I start with a recipe often and tweak it to my liking somewhat. I am more comfortable with general "what goes well together" and "what flavors do I really like" than I used to be so I do just throw stuff together on occasion now.

Unknown said... depends on what I'm cooking. I guess I use a pretty good combination of both. I don't usually measure salt or vanilla.

Red Dirt Mummy said...

Generally I just trust my instincts. I don't really measure unless I'm baking although if I'm trying a new recipe I do try to stick with what it says (unless I really don't agree with something!)

Annie said...

As you have probably noticed I always seem to change something. I don't know if it's about control or not, but I like to make a few changes that I think will make the recipe better.

Good list by the way!

Annie said...

As you have probably noticed I always seem to change something. I don't know if it's about control or not, but I like to make a few changes that I think will make the recipe better.

Good list by the way!

Nancy Murphree Davis said...

I found your blog while searching for a pork scallopini recipe. I agree with your approach to the recipe.
I also can't cook rice and I'm a good cook in almost every other area.
I don't follow recipes exactly unless I am using my Best Recipe cookbook.