Archive for the apples Category

Sunday Dinner Parts III & IV – Apple & Pear Dumplings

Posted in apples, dessert, pears on 12 October 2009 by restaurant refugee

The big lessons from the third course of the Sunday dinner I have been chronicling are related to instincts.  Not following my instincts led me to over-cook a lovely beef tenderloin.  I hewed to instructions from another party rather than what I knew to be true.  Besides my error, I also assume that everyone reading this has a solid recipe for grilling a tenderloin and lobster too.  IMG00034

So here is a picture of the least over cooked plate – Surf & Turf: Grilled Beef Tenderloin, Lobster Tails, Asparagus, and Garlic Smashed Potatoes.

Now let’s jump to the Sweet Course.

I normally favor cheese versus confections but this is Fall and apples and pears should not be ignored.  These Dumplings are rather easy, can be made several hours in advance of final cooking, fry quickly, and there was an implied promise DC Striving that I would post this recipe.  This is my kind of dessert.

Apple & Pear Dumplings with Warm Caramel Sauce

  • One medium Apple (I used a Golden Delicious, but any in season apple that bakes well will do)
  • One Ripe Pear
  • Two Tablespoons of Honey
  • One teaspoon of fresh ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of Corn Starch
  • Sugar
  • Powdered Sugar
  • One Egg
  • Wonton Wrappers
  • Caramel Sauce (There is a very helpful recipe here, but I place caramel sauce on the list of things that make more sense to purchase than make and I purchase the one from Whole Foods)

Peel and core the apple and the pear.  Brunoise the fruit – the extra small dice allows the dumplings to cook faster.  Heat a pat of unsalted butter in a large sauté pan, add the apples and pears.  Pour the honey over the fruit, add one teaspoon of the cinnamon.  Toss until evenly coated and taste.  That’s enough cinnamon for me but some may wish to have even more.  Stir in a pinch or two of corn starch (it will act as adhesive and absorb excess moisture) and set the mixture aside to cool.

IMG00029Once the fruit mixture has cooled to room temperature or thereabouts, beat the egg in a bowl.  Using two spoons, fill each wonton and seal with the egg wash.  Using the back of a fork to further seal them isn’t a bad idea either.  Sprinkle them with a sugar and let them sit at least thirty minutes at room temperature.  If making dumplings well in advance of frying them, refrigerate them after the initial thirty minutes room temperature period.  Remove them from the refrigerator at least twenty minutes before frying.

Heat fresh vegetable oil in a frying pan to 350 degrees.  Once hot place the dumplings in the oil until golden brown on each side – about two minutes per side.  Place on a paper towel to drain excess oil.  Using a strainer, top with powdered sugar and serve with the caramel in a bowl (get’s pleasantly but not dangerously hot with 30 seconds in the microwave.)



Sunday Dinner Part I – Avocado & Tomato Salad with Crispy Pancetta

Posted in apples, Avocado, pancetta, salad, salads, tomatoes on 23 September 2009 by restaurant refugee

Sunday Funday is a blast that usually begins with brunch and continues late into the afternoon and often early into the evening.  It usually crowds out one of my other cherished Sabbath rituals: Sunday Dinner.  This most recent Sunday allowed the opportunity to gather a few friends for supper, conversation, some wine, and a little football.  I had only a rough idea what I was planning to serve and decided that I would allow the available ingredients and relative quality dictate the menu.

This plan violated one of my cardinal rules of cooking – I didn’t have a plan.  I did, however, have a ride which made things a good deal easier, and thus proceeded on the schedule of the person driving.  I spun my wheels around the protein sections of Harris Teeter a good three times, and spent at least as much time in the produce area.  Eventually, a plan started to take shape: salad course, pasta, Surf & Turf (lobster was on a deep sale,) and sweet courses.  The salad that I made was as much about blending of textures as it was flavors.


Avocado & Tomato Salad with Crispy Pancetta

Serves Six

One Pint of Grape Tomatoes

One ripe Avocado

Two ¼ – 1/3 inch thick slices of Pancetta

One Tablespoon Garlic Infused Olive Oil

Two Teaspoons Aged Balsamic

¼ Cup Diced Spring Onions

One “Finger” of Basil Leaves

One Tablespoon of Shallot Confit

Sea Salt to taste

Fresh Pepper to Taste

IMG00032Halve the grape tomatoes and place in a salad bowl.  Roll several fresh basil leaves into a cylinder about the size of your pinkie finger and slice into thin strips; add to the bowl.  Dice the spring onions and add to the bowl.

The Shallot Confit was something that I had sitting in my refrigerator; it was a byproduct of making some infused shallot oil that I gave to a couple of friends for housewarming and host gifts.  It adds terrific flavor and texture but don’t let it be an impediment to making this dish.  I will write about the instructions for the shallot confit/infused oil soon, but in between time feel free to use some shallots caramelized in butter.  Add them to the salad bowl.

The garlic infused olive oil is also a nice to have and something that I recently made for myself and friends.  In lieu of the flavored olive oil, use extra virgin and add two pinches of garlic powder to the mix.  Add the balsamic to the bowl.  While tossing all the ingredients add the salt and pepper and continue to toss until all ingredients are evenly coated.

Grill the pancetta slices (only if you’re doing something else on the grill or have an indoor grill pan, if not grilling, then cook in a non-stick pan with just a touch of butter) for three minutes on each side.  Once the pancetta has been cooked, halve the avocados and slice them into strips (actually the next time I make this dish I will probably slice straight across the halves such that there will be a whole pear shaped slice of avocado; this will increase the number of avocados required to two; but will make the dishes prettier.) Lay two strips across each plate.

Dice the pancetta and add to the salad while it is still relatively hot but not so hot that it will cook other ingredients.  Toss the salad again and scoop onto the avocado slices.

IMG00033The result is an exercise in creamy, salty, chewy, acidic and fatty balance.  I decided to grate some parmesan atop before serving, but upon tasting it, I don’t think it adds enough to merit inclusion.


The rest of the meal was:

Slow Cooked Pork Ragu with a Tomato Cream Sauce of Tagliatelle Pasta – Friday Post, hopefully

Grilled Lobster Tails & Petite Beef Tenderloin in Peppercorn Marinade with “Smashed” Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus

Petite Apple & Pear Turnovers with hot Caramel dipping sauce – Monday Post

Slow Roasted Pork Cigars with a Warm Apple and Spinach Salad and Reduction of Braising Jus

Posted in apples, pork, slow cooking, spinach on 17 August 2009 by restaurant refugee

Slow Roasted Pork Cigars with a Warm Apple and Spinach Salad and Reduction of Braising Jus

There are few flavor combinations as natural as pork and apples, and this dish brings together some of my favorite elements of those flavors.  Total cooking time is 10-11 hours, but only requires about 2 hours worth of active work, assuming you use a slow cooker.  This can be done in a regular oven using a small dutch oven, but a slow cooker is easier. Makes 10-12 cigars.


1 Small Pork Picnic (aka Pork Shoulder, aka Boston Butt) bone in is always better but boneless is fine too

1 medium shallot thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic thinly sliced, or run though a garlic press

¼ of a red onion thinly sliced

¼ cup of carrots thinly sliced

32 oz of booze for braising (I have made this with sherry, brandy, and full bodied red wines.)

2 apples peeled and diced (whatever is in season will be fine)

1 bunch of fresh spinach cleaned and dried

2 tablespoons of pine nuts

2 tablespoons of wildflower honey

Salt and pepper

One package of wonton wrappers

1 egg

1 stick of butter

A splash of half and half


Medium to Large cast iron skillet (any large pan that is shallow and conducts heat very well)

Slow Cooker (if you don’t have one, go buy one.  The number of things you can do with a slow cooker are too varied to list and they’re cheap.  My travel slow cooker was less than $20, and the one that I use at home was less than $75)

A mandoline will save you time but is not required

A good set of tongs

The Pork

If your pork picnic comes with the skin (a good thing,) score the skin (make deep cuts in the skin down to the meat and one inch apart.)  Liberally coat the skin and other surfaces in coarse salt and fresh pepper.

Place half a stick of butter in the cast iron skillet and melt over medium–high heat, but do not reach the flash point.  Once fully hot, sear the picnic on each side – the thicker the crust the better.  You will need the tongs to hold the picnic to sear all sides of the pork.  Once fully seared place the pork in the Slow Cooker and cover, but do not turn on the heat.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the garlic, onions, shallots, and carrots to the cast iron pan, and deglaze with Sherry.  Let the vegetables simmer until the onions and shallots become translucent.

Add the vegetables and the liquid to the slow cooker and add enough Sherry to cover the picnic at least two thirds.  Turn the slow cooker to low and cook for ten hours, turning once anytime after the third hour.

Once the shoulder has finished cooking remove from the slow cooker and let cool a bit.  Remove the skin and bone if applicable and use a fork to shred the meat into strips. Set the meat aside and let cool further.

Using a ladle, remove about 1 ½ cups of the braising liquid and add to a small sauce pan.  Over low heat, add a healthy pat of butter, and whisk in some half and half. Let simmer until slightly reduced, and add salt and pepper to taste (probably not necessary.)

With the pork no hotter than warm to the touch, spread out the wonton wrappers on a cool dry surface – I prefer wax paper.  Add enough pork to one end of the wonton wrapper for the “cigar to have the diameter of a $1 coin.  Spread room temperature mascarpone cheese on the wonton, roll it, and brush the end with egg-wash to bind the wrapper.  If you have a sushi rolling pad, feel free to use it to get your cigars perfectly round.

In a sauté pan, melt a healthy pat of butter over low to medium heat.  Place the cigars seam side down in the pan and cook on each side until golden brown.

Spinach and Apple Salad

In a large sauté pan, warm a healthy pat of butter, and add the diced apples with a dusting of cinnamon and a tablespoon of honey.  Before the apples are completely cooked, add the spinach, pine nuts, and more honey and salt to taste.

Putting It All Together

One cigar per plate with a drizzle of the braising reduction over each and a small mound of salad on the side