Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pork Tenderloin with Coffee Spiced Rub and Red Cabbage Slaw

Pork tenderloin is sometimes challenging to purchase and harder to prepare. For such a tender piece of meat you would think it would be easier.

Julian's Pork Tenderloin with Coffee Spiced Rub
on a bed of Red Cabbage Wild Rice Slaw
First, you often find packages of what in the store appears to be a single, pre-marinated, vacuum packed very large pork tenderloin. When you open the package you find you have two pork tenderloins that were packed together. I'm not sure why they package them this way, other than they appear more like a pork loin roast. The meat is often not as tender and it is sometimes rubbery from the marination inside the package. For this recipe, I recommend you get a single, fresh pork tenderloin from the butcher's meat case, not vacuum packed. This will be more fresh and tender.

Pork tenderloin with the coffee rub.
Second, when preparing pork tenderloin it can be challenging to get it cooked to the right temperature throughout. A tenderloin is by nature thicker at one then than the other. It is also quite small and overcooks easily. It is for this reason I prefer the sous vide technique which I'm using here today. This isn't required, as you can roast it in the oven, but you must use a good thermometer to make sure it is done correctly.

I found this recipe in the Sous Vide at Home cookbook by Lisa Fetterman. Highly recommended if you are doing sous vide style cooking.

Pork Tenderloin with Coffee Spiced Rub
Sous Vide Technique

(serves 2-3 adults)
1 teaspoon course salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground coffee, preferably fresh
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin
  not more than 2 inches in diameter
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

Preheat the sous vide water to 60C or 140F degrees for a medium pink doneness.

In a small bowl stir together the first set of ingredients (from salt to cayenne pepper) to make a rub. Rub the dry mixure onto the pork coating it evenly. Drizzle with the oil spreading it all over the tenderloin. Place the pork in a gallon sized zip locked bag and remove the air. When the water reaches the set temperature, lower the bag into the bottom of the water and cook for 1 hour. While the pork is cooking make the slaw below.

When the pork is ready remove the bag from the water bath and transfer it to a tray. Discard any cooking liquid and the bag. Gently pat the tenderloin dry with a paper towel. Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron preferred) over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the pork and sear on all sides about minute per side until well browned, about 4-5 minutes in all.

Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 3-4 minutes before carving. Place the warm pieces of cut pork tenderloin on top of a bed of the slaw below.

Red Cabbage Slaw

1/2 small head red cabbage, shredded
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground caraway or dill
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
salt and fresh pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 package Seeds of Change Brown & Red Rice
    or 1 cup cooked wild rice

Heat the rice according to package directions or until it is warmed through. In a large bowl, add the shredded cabbage and toss with the lemon juice, caraway/dill, shallot, cranberries and salt/pepper. Let sit for 5-10 minutes tossing occasionally. Add the oil and the rice and toss to combine.  Plate with pork tenderloin on top.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Lemon Meringue Pie - Meringue Topping Tips

A bright, slightly tart lemon meringue pie is as refreshing as can be after dinner. They never feel heavy or too rich, and are not overly sweet. The combination of sweet and tart simply makes this a perfect pie choice all year long.

Julian's Lemon Meringue Pie
Lemon meringue was my mother's favorite pie and she made them regularly. This however, is not her recipe as I don't think she actually had one written down. She used a cast iron skillet and said it was essential for her recipe. I however just use a standard pot and it comes out great. My recipe is based on that of Cooks Illustrated, but I have made several small changes over time.

Here are my key meringue tips:

  • Make meringue toppings on dry, low-humidity days, or in the house when the air-conditioning is removing humidity. Humidity causes the meringue to weep (small droplets of moisture form on the top and under the meringue), as does refrigeration. 
  • Undissolved sugar in the egg whites can also cause weeping. Don't add the sugar before a coarse foam appears, and then add it very slowly to insure it dissolves. To make sure the sugar gets dissolved, mix the egg whites and sugar at a low speed until the mixture feels perfectly smooth with no graininess when you rub a little between your thumb and finger. Using superfine sugar is preferable to regular table sugar, as it dissolves more quickly.  
  • Use the corn-starch mixture in the recipe below in your meringue, as it also traps moisture and reduces weeping. The cream of tartar reduces shrinkage.
  • Don't over bake your meringue. Finish browning with a blow torch or under the broiler if needed for extra browning. Over baking causes the egg whites to shrink and squeeze out small droplets of moisture called weeping. Always make sure to check on your pie at the minimum baking time. 
  • Keep the pie filling warm and covered with plastic on the surface as you prepare the meringue. When meringue is ready, pour the still hot filling into the pre-baked crust and spread. The heat from the filling will help set the meringue and the steam will pass up through the meringue, rather than being trapped underneath, making it less likely to weep.
  • Make sure to seal the meringue completely to the edge of the pie first, before filling the center of the pie. It must be sealed to the crust edge to prevent shrinking.  
  • Allow to cool on a rack or trivet for 3-4 hours before serving. Do not refrigerate before serving. Pie should be served the same day as baked.

Julian's Meringue Topped Lemon Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie


 Lemon Custard:

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
6 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 2 pieces


1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup (3½ oz) granulated (superfine) sugar

Pie crust:

1 recipe single-crust pie dough, fully baked and cooled


Pre-bake the pie crust per the instructions on that recipe.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Zest the lemons and then finely chop the zest. Cover and set aside.

Divide eggs, noting that you will need six yolks and four whites. Use another small bowl for the extra two whites.

For the Lemon Custard:

In a heavy medium-sized pan, mix together the sugar and cornstarch and salt. Whisk in water and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. When mixture starts to turn translucent, whisk vigorously while adding in two egg yolks at a time. Whisk in lemon zest, juice and butter. Return mixture to simmer, whisking constantly, then remove from heat. Lay sheet of plastic wrap directly on surface of filling to keep warm and prevent skin from forming.

For the Meringue:

In a small pan, add the tablespoon of cornstarch, then whisk in 1/3 cup water. Bring to a bare simmer in small saucepan and cook, whisking until it just becomes thickened and translucent looking, 1 to 2 minutes at most. Remove from heat and let cool slightly while you prepare the egg whites or trasnfer to a small bowl to stop the cooking process. The mixture should remain of a glue-like consistently that you can easy spoon into the egg whites.

Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and vanilla at medium low-speed until foamy and very frothy. Mix together the cream of tarter and sugar, turn the speed up to medium high and add very slowly pouring about a tablespoon at a time until all incorporated. Test between your fingers to ensure it is not grainy. The mixture should now form soft peaks. Continue to whip and add the cornstarch mixture, about a tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 2-4 minutes longer on high speed.


If filling is no longer hot, during the last minutes of beating the egg whites, remove plastic and return to very low heat for just a moment or two to warm. I rarely find this necessary.

Pour warm filling into cooled pre-baked pie crust. Working quickly, use a large spatula to place the meringue around the edge of the pie crust, while slowly turning the pie. Seal the meringue to the edge all around before filling the center. Fill the center and spread the meringue to cover the top. Using the back of spoon, create attractive swirls and peaks in meringue. Bake until meringue is light golden brown, about 15 minutes and finish with a blow torch or quickly under a pre-heated broiler if necessary for extra browning.

Cool to room temperature on a rack for 3 hours before serving. Do not refrigerate.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Pie Pastry- The Right Technique for the Best Pie Crust

Pie is among my favorite desserts. A fresh berry pie in spring, fruit in the summer/fall and the cream varieties throughout the winter always hit the spot. Pie also seems to impress in ways that cakes do not. But as my mother used to say, making great pie pastry is something that comes best from experience, which means making pies regularly. She baked pie every week, and didn't have a food processor, yet her crusts were perfection!

Julian's Apple Pie with Lattice Pastry
This recipe is for pie dough, pie crust or pie pastry... all the names used for pie making. Don't confuse it with classic tart doughs, often just called 'pastry dough'. When people say pastry dough, they are likely talking about what the French call pâte sucrée and pâte sablée. While these are similar to a finished pie crust (what the French call (pâte brisée), pastry dough contains more sugar and incorporates eggs into the recipe. The mixing method and addition of egg to the batter makes this dough more forgiving than pie crust dough. When making pie crust dough, there is a delicate balance of fat, moisture and mixing method that must be followed in order to achieve optimal results, which is more time consuming than a pastry dough.

Like much in baking, practice and sticking to a strict recipe is required for pie crust success. After you make the pie pastry several times you get a feel for exactly the right consistency. You know when it's got just the right amount of water. And you know not to over-handle it. Pie fillings are relatively simple and have some wiggle room in making. Pie crust does not. You want a flaky, light crust and that doesn't happen by accident.

A good option if you don't make pies regularly.
You can purchase a perfectly good pie dough at the store. If you don't plan to make pies regularly, this may be your best choice.

Below I provide you with my preferred pie crust recipe and technique, which is largely that of the good chefs at Cook's Illustrated. It contains the 'secret ingredient'; vodka. This is not my mother's recipe. There’s a whole science to pie crust and the secret to making a good one lies in achieving the right ratio of flour, liquid and fat. Of course blending water and flour creates gluten, which toughens the dough. So, accordingly to Cook's Illustrated, using a hard liquor such as vodka--since 80 proof vodka is only 60% water, combines the dough but doesn’t contribute as much to gluten formation while leaving no unwanted flavor. It seems to work.

Choose The Type of Crust:  Determine the type of crust you want based on the filling of the pie. Flaky crusts are best for fruit pies. For cream or custard pies, a more dense crust is best (it won’t get moist as the pie sits). Flaky crusts are made by leaving larger pieces of fat in the crust – the size of macadamia nuts or smaller. These large pieces of fat begin to evaporate moisture when the pie goes into the oven, creating steam which forms pockets in the crust making it flaky.  More dense crusts are made by mixing the fat into smaller pieces -- the size of peas or smaller.

Butter vs. Shortening: The texture and flavor of your pie crust depends on the fat you use. Using butter (some or all) in your crust provides the most flavorful crust. However, butter melts easily when handling and makes your crust a bit more tough than if you use just shortening. In my go-to recipe below, I use a combination of vegetable shortening and butter. Most store bought crusts and likely those your mother made in the 50's or 60's use only vegetable shortening, as it provides the ultimate flaky almost cracker like crust. However, if you mother was from the 'old country', she knew that lard (fat from the abdomen of a pig that is rendered and clarified) makes an incredible pastry crust. It chills nicely and doesn’t break down under heat as quickly as butter and makes for a relatively flaky crust, more flavorful than vegetable shortening, but still not as good as butter.

Julian's Cherry Pie with Full Top Crust
Let me also give you a couple tips on baking the pie, which are just as important.

Baking Tips: Place your prepared crusts (homemade or store bought) in a stainless steel or glass Pyrex pie plate or a Williams Sonoma Goldtouch® Nonstick Pie Dish. Ceramic pie plates, lovely as they may be, do not give you the best results. Pre-heat your oven with a baking steel, ceramic pizza stone or heavy cookie sheet on the bottom shelf. This is where you will bake your pie. The heat of the surface will help to brown and cook your crust through so it comes out flaky on the bottom; not moist and gummy.  If you need to finish the pie in the broiler, move it up to the top shelf when you are ready for browning the top. Also, don't over-handle the dough. Your warm hands will melt the pockets of fat, which will take away from the flakiness. Refrigerate frequently if necessary to keep the dough cool. In the recipe below you'll note everything is marked as 'cold'. This does not mean room temperature. It means, refrigerated thoroughly before use.

Pie Pastry


2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

In your food processor, pulse 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until dough just starts to collect in clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble large cottage cheese curds and there should be no un-coated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl. (Note if making crust for a cream or custard pie, process dough for 30 seconds to reduce the size of the clumps to not more than pea sized.)

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Do not use your warm hands. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days. You can not rush this step. The dough must rest and chill, the longer the better up to 2 days.

When ready to make your pie, remove from refrigerator and generously sprinkle a work area with flour (I work directly on the cold marble counter top) and roll the dough out into discs. Roll from center to edges to make a 9-inch disk, rotating a quarter turn after each stroke, sprinkling additional flour underneath and on top as necessary to stop from sticking. Work quickly. Flip dough over and continue to roll, but not rotate, to form a 13-inch disk just under 1/8-inch thick. Fold into quarters, place the dough point in the center of your Pyrex pie plate and unfold to cover the entire plate or roll it onto your rolling pin and transfer to pie plate and unroll. 

To fit the dough, lift the edge of the dough with one (cool) hand and press dough into pan bottom with the other (cool) hand. Repeat around circumference until dough is fitted but not stretched. Trim excess overhanging dough about 1/2-inch past the lip of the pie plate.

For fruit and berry pies, which are baked with a filled, raw crust, tuck 1/2-inch of overhanging dough under so folded edge is flush with the edge of the pie plate.  Make a decorative edge by pinching together to make a ruffled edge.

For cream and custard pies, tuck 1/2-inch of overhanging dough under so folded edge is flush with the edge of the pie plate and use a flour coated fork pressing down along the rim to make a decorative edge. The fork edge helps stop it from sliding down during baking.

Refrigerate pie crust in the pie pan until firm, about another 30 minutes.

For double crust pies, unroll the second crust over the filling.  Moisten the bottom outside edge of the crust and pinch together the edges of the two crusts, folding any excess top crust under the edge of the bottom crust (to seal in the filling).  Make a decorative boarder by pinching it together with your fingers.

For pre-baking pie shells for cream/custard pies, prick the bottom and sides of the dough with a floured fork to allow steam to escape. Place parchment paper into the pricked raw crust and fill with ceramic pie weights or dry beans. This will help to insure the crust does not slide down the sides while baking. Pre-bake at 425F for 10 minutes, remove the weights and parchment and finish browning for 2-3 minutes more.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Eggs Benedict - Sous Vide Technique

Today I made the classic Eggs Benedict but not using the classic technique. I thought I'd try using the sous vide device and they came out great.  I would suggest just using the recipe on the Joule website, as it worked perfectly. We only eat one egg per person, as they are pretty rich. But of course that's up to you and your guests. Most restaurants serve them as a pair of two eggs.

Julian's Eggs Benedict - Sous Vide Technique
I broke the yolk open in the photo above so you can see that it was indeed the proper consistency.

I didn't follow the instructions and just put the eggs right into the container without a bag. It worked fine but I'll go back to using a plain zippered storage bag in the future. Easier to remove.

I had some leftover ham, so I just fried that up in butter. Then I quickly pan fried the English muffins and placed both in a 200F oven to stay warm.

The hollandaise sauce was also cooked in a bag in the sous vide right along with the eggs. Even though it doesn't look right when you are done cooking it, it does become perfectly creamy and clings to a spoon when processed. 

Above I'm starting to assemble the breakfast. Only thing left is a bit of sauce spooned over the top. 

If you fear making Eggs Benedict for a group, this recipe and technique will ensure you can do it for a brunch for 8 as easy as you can for an intimate breakfast for 2. And you won't spend your entire morning in the kitchen or worried about poaching those eggs.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Glazed Burgundy Pepper Lamb Tips - Easter Dinner

Lamb is a wonderful spring dish and particularly good to serve on Easter. I've done many types of lamb for Easter and this year I'm making lamb tips marinaded in a red wine, with mushrooms and onions.

Julian's Easter Dinner - Burgundy Pepper Lamp Tips
I've marinaded my own and I've also tried the Trader Joe's pre-marinaded version. They came out quite good and if you are in a hurry, this is a perfectly fine substitute for doing it yourself.

Trader Joe's Lamb Tips - Very Good
If your store doesn't sell 'lamb tips' you can purchase a larger piece and cut your own. However, you are looking for a tender cut of meat. I've used lamb cuts labeled both "top round" and "sirloin chop" with good success.

Glazed Burgundy Pepper Lamb Tips


1-2 lbs grass-fed lamb tips
Or purchase the Trader Joe's marinated version.

To Marinade Your Own:
Ready to Saute
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup burgundy or dry red wine
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons molasses

Ingredients for Saute:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, roughly cut
8 ounces whole white button mushrooms
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chicken stock (or water)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup red wine


To Marinade Your Own:
Whisk all ingredients for the lamb marinade. Make sure all tips are similar in size. Add lamb tips, cover and refrigerate overnight. Drain marinade.

Cooking Instructions:
Over medium heat, add the olive oil to your saute pan. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the onions and stir to coat. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes more. Remove the pan and set aside.

Whisk together the corn starch and chicken stock. Set aside

Increase heat to high and add the lamb to the hot skillet, adding a little more oil if necessary. Sear tips 1-2 minutes without stirring. Add the red wine and stir as it reduces, about 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add the mushrooms/onions back to the pan and stir to combine. Add the corn starch mixture and stir another 2 minutes until thickened and the lamb tips are medium rare, about 145 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Times may vary depending on size and thickness of your tips. Do not overcook.