What’s a girl to do? Eat caprese-everything and roast never-ending jalapenos? I guess, but it’s no where near as fun.
I’ve had my eye on this beauty of a recipe from Tide & Thyme for ages but after 2 parts poor planning and 1 part just not caring, I found myself with fewer figs and a different cut of meat than the recipe called for. But I didn’t let that stop me.
And with more madeira than we’d ever care to drink and no more figs to pair it with, I went all in and started the meat off in a madeira brine the night before to make the pork loin extra juicy.
It turned out to be one of those cook-once-and-eat-all-week meals. And not a single person complained. Especially when leftovers were served up with some brie in the form of a quesadilla.
If you absolutely must eat this for dinner tonight, skip the brine and go with the 1-hour marinade. There are no losers here.
Pork Loin with Madeira-Fig Sauce
An overnight rest in a madeira brine makes for an extra flavorful, juicy pork loin topped with a fresh fig and madeira sauce.
For the brine:
1 cup madeira
2 minced cloves garlic
1/3 cup salt
~3 lb pork loin
For the sauce:
1 tsp + 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 Tbsp butter
2 shallots, finely diced (~1/3 cup)
1 tsp flour
1 lb figs, trimmed and quartered*
1 cup madeira
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
*I didn't have a full pound. We all survived. Also, I reserved a few quarters for tossing with the cooked sauce at the end.
The night before, dissolve the salt in 4 cups of water in a deep dish (I used my dutch oven).
Add the madiera, garlic, and a generous amount of pepper.
Add the pork loin and then add enough water to just cover the meat, if necessary.
Cover and refrigerate until the next evening.
Preheat oven to 425.
Discard the brine and transfer the pork to a place, patting them dry with a paper towel.
Brush the meat with oil and season with black pepper and 1 tsp of salt.
In a large pot or dutch oven (bonus points of it's oven-safe, it will cut down on a dirty dish - consider cutting the pork loin in half if size is a problem - I did), heat the oil over medium-high heat.
Sear the meat, turning every 2 minutes or so, until nicely browned all over.
Transfer the meat to a plate and add butter and shallots to the pan.
Stir in the remaining salt and flour and cook until the shallots have softened, ~3 minutes.
Add the figs, madeira, red wine vinegar, and garlic to the pan, bringing to a simmer.
Return the pork loin to the pot and transfer to the oven (or transfer everything to a large baking dish if you didn't have an oven-safe pot large enough).
Bake to an internal temperature of 140 degrees, remove from the oven, and loosely tent with foil, letting the pork loin rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the pan sauce.
I’m ready for 2013. Like ready ready. I stepped onto the bathroom scale this morning and it said “error.” It’s such a jerk sometimes. Like when it randomly tells me I weigh 10lbs less than I did the day before… and then 6lbs more 8 seconds later. But it does have a point.
So all of those wonderful Trade Joe’s goodies that Santa left in our stocking have an “Eat before Monday or get hidden on the top shelf that you can’t reach without getting a chair from the dining room – and we both know you’re far too lazy to go get a chair from the dining room” label on them and the pages of my new Cooking Light Cookbook are littered with post it tab bookmarks.
Our post-holiday detox starts Tuesday. But until then, there’s bacon. And biscuits.
And Trader Joe’s Sweet-Salty-Nutty Trek Mix that is like crack. Certifiable crack.
On a quiet Saturday morning when the not-so-little-anymore one is at Gia & PaPaw’s house for the weekend, we sat down to a quick & simple breakfast of peppery Maple Bacon Biscuits, eggs, and some grapefruit juice.
Crumbly, airy biscuits made with bacon grease and sweetened with maple syrup. And it was the first recipe I made from my new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Flipping through it for the first time, I spotted them on page 28. And then I ran to the kitchen to make them immediately.
And then I immediately ate two straight out of the oven, mostly in celebration that the first recipe from a new cookbook turned out to be such a huge homerun. And partly because it was 4:30pm and that’s when I kick myself every single day for not having a snack an hour earlier.
I added a healthy dose of black pepper to help balance the sweet & savory just enough to almost make them a meal in itself. (“Almost,” like eating 2 biscuits wasn’t all of the calories I had left for dinner the other day.) I also made a double batch to be able to make the biscuits bigger than the 2-inch originals. And just a note – the dough was softer than expected for the double batch and I ended up kneading in a bit more flour after cutting the first few biscuits and realizing that they would spread quite a bit (and they did). The “extra flour” biscuits baked up nicely.
Maple Bacon Biscuits
Make breakfast really count with these sweet, crumbly biscuits studded with crispy bacon and black pepper.
5 slices thick-cut bacon
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 1/4 cups flour, plus more for work surface
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
~8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter (see note below)
1/2 cup buttermilk (I whisked 1/4 cup 2% milk with 1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt)
You want 12 Tbsp total between the butter and the grease reserved from cooking the bacon. If you end up with more bacon grease than 4 Tbsp, you can reduce the butter accordingly. And if you end up with less bacon grease, you can use more butter. Make sense? Good. Let's get started.
Preheat the oven to 425.
Fry the bacon until crisp and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.
Turn off the heat and add several generous dashes/grinds of black pepper to the pan and stir, letting the pepper cook for ~10 seconds.
Pour the rendered bacon grease and pepper (scrape the peppery bits out if necessary) into a heat-safe measuring cup and stick it in the freezer to solidify.
Chop the bacon into chunks and transfer to a small bowl, pouring the maple syrup over top.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and add the butter chunks and the bacon grease (use a spoon to scrape out the measuring cup).
Using a pastry cutter or your hands, cut the butter and bacon grease into the dry ingredients until well mixed (no large chunks) and the mixture is mealy.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk and maple-bacon mixture and stir/fold until your dough forms.
Turn your dough onto a generously floured surfaced and give it a few kneads to come together and then pat it to 1-inch thick .
Using a floured round cutter, cut as many rounds as you can and then pat the dough back together and repeat until the dough is gone - I got 10 biscuits using a 2.75-inch cutter.
Place biscuits on a lined baking sheet (sides just barely touching) and bake 12-14 minutes or until the tops are golden.
Serve warm. Leftovers reheated nicely for the 2-3 days they stuck around.
Yields: 10 biscuits
Slightly adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Instead, I’m watching a disappointing football game (spoil it and tell me it gets better – I’m an entire half behind), trying to relax after hitting 6 or 7 stores in what will forever be known as the Great Cranberry Clusterdebacle of 2012, and wearing a shirt that smells like I burned 4 pieces of bacon at breakfast.
And that’s because I burned the bacon at breakfast.
But I didn’t burn the bacon at lunch. And that was important because it was the last of the bacon in the house and there’s no way I’m stepping foot into another grocery store until December 26th. At least.
Bacon and Pea Macaroni & Cheese
Dress up homemade macaroni and cheese with crispy bacon and green peas.
8 oz penne or macaroni pasta (I use Dreamfields)
8 oz frozen peas
4 thick slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I use fat-free Greek)
Dash of hot sauce
4 oz cheddar, shredded
4 oz fontina, shredded (or other melt-friendly cheese - not more cheddar)
In a medium saute pan, cook the bacon to a crisp and then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions, until al dente.
Add the peas to the pasta water in the last minute of cooking.
Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining the pasta and peas.
Return the pasta and peas to pot.
Add 1/4 cup pasta water (it must be hot), the yogurt, a few dashes of hot sauce, and 1/3 of the grated cheese and stir until the cheese has melted.
Stir in remaining cheese, one small handful at a time to prevent clumping.
Add additional pasta water as necessary to thin and melt the cheese sauce.
*Your nutritional count may vary based on the brands you’ve used. I use Dreamfields Pasta (because my dad is diabetic and can eat it without too much of a noticeable spike) and it has reduced impact on digestible carbs and might account for larger discrepancies in fiber and carbs per serving.