It was early on Saturday afternoon and I was at my son’s Full Ice Cross Ice Hockey Game watching a slightly more spread out version of little kid soccer (they fall down on skates) when my blackberry buzzed. It was my wife and she wanted me to know that it was snowing and she wanted to know what I wanted to do for dinner. She was out, it had just started snowing and she was going to go to the grocery store. I told her that I was happy with anything and despite the snow, I would be more than happy to go get Thai Takeout if she wanted. (Actually, I wanted the Thai Takeout but I wanted her to say she wanted it). She said she would think about it and that she was headed into the grocery store anyway since she was already in the same shopping center. That’s when I said to myself, let’s have some fun and I offered to have her hit me up with a CHOPPED. Anyone who has read my blogs before know that this is not an unusual occurrence in my house. At least this time I knew if she said yes, that I wouldn’t have to take on my ultracompetitive daughters since one of them was gone for the night at a sleepover. Surprise, surprise, my wife said YES in all CAPS.
Now over the past few times we have played, my wife & kids have come to understand that as “judges”, they have to eat what I prepare so unlike the TV show, I knew I wasn’t going to get Lamb Fries or Rose Water Syrup or some other strange fruit or vegetable that I had never heard of or seen before. Then again, I had no idea what kind of mood my wife was in since she had been out clothes shopping with our tweenage fashionista of a middle child. Would she be irritable ? Would she be playful ? Would she actually want something good to eat ? All of these questions bounced around in my head as my son and his teammates bounced up and down the ice. When we finally got home through the ever increasing snowfall I got my answer.
My wife & tweenage fashionista daughter were waiting for me with a bag from the grocery store and their best Ted Allen impersonations. They told me that I could have as much time as I wanted but that dinner was to be served at 7:00pm. They also told me that I had to use all the ingredients in the bag in one form or another and that I could make use of any & all of the items in the pantry & fridge. (And as is always the case, I discovered after we started that the pantry & fridge were woefully understocked.) Then they proceeded to pull the ingredients out of the bag and they were Pork Loin (A big one hence the no time limit), Parsnips, Proscuitto, Goat Cheese & Blueberries. Certainly not a killer basket by any means but it was a basket full of potential. I figured I had about an hour and a half to think things through before I started cooking so I headed outside in the snow to play with wayward Christmas lights and to haul up firewood for a fire we could toss the lousy dishes into if I failed. Once I had somewhat of an idea as to what I was going to do, I posted the challenge on the Buzz & Facebook and got some wonderful ideas – that I couldn’t use. To be honest, I am glad that there weren’t three more chefs standing next to me at that point because based on what I read, I would have been going home in the first round.
The first thing I did was turn the oven on and head over to my spice rack for a rub for the Pork Roast. I had thought of braising it in a blueberry something but that didn’t quite click with me so I wanted something that could stand on its own without being overpowering. I saw the Chef Paul’s Magic Seasoning Salt that had been given to my wife by the hostess at his restaurant when we went there for her birthday a few years back and decided I should rub that all over the pork. It had a great color and smelled fantastic so into a 300 degree oven it went in a roasting pan with a little water in the pan for basting.
Next I turned to the Parsnips which are essentially starchy white carrots that I knew I was going to puree with the Goat Cheese. Having watched countless episodes of CHOPPED during my early early early morning workouts, I knew that the puree would have an “unctuous” quality when done. (On a side not, isn’t “unctuous” such a pretentious & CHOPPED judge worthy word ?)
While those two items were roasting away I watched some football and pretended to know what I was doing while I figured out the rest of the ingredients. The Proscuitto was going to be easy. I would fry that up in place of bacon in a pan and then wilt some spinach with some Honey Wine Vinegar (yes – I used it again) and salt & pepper. It’s an easy side dish to prepare and one that I also make with Brussel Sprouts. It was almost like cheating. Now what to do with the Blueberries ?
I have cherry balsamic vinegar in my pantry and I also have a pomegranate one as well so I figured that I could probably make a blueberry balsamic glaze or sauce. One problem, that idea somewhat bored me so I had to think outside the bottle and that was when it hit me. I went over to the underutilized booze cabinet (I quit drinking 24 years ago) to see what if anything we had that could possibly go with blueberries to make a sauce. Sitting there on the shelf, glaring at me the same way it did in college, was a bottle of Tequila. Now “Ta-kill-ya” may have made me 6’ 4”, handsome & brave in college but with some blueberries, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, orange & lemon peel and salt & pepper I felt I had the makings of a half decent sauce so I set to slowly simmering that mixture on back burner.
As the clock continued to countdown to 7:00pm, I took the temperature of the pork and at 125 degrees, I raised the oven to 325 degrees. At 145 degrees I raised the temp one more time to 350 degrees and at 165 degrees I pulled it out of the oven and set it to rest on a cutting board. Not to pat myself on the back too hard because I have a bum shoulder but it looked good. I also pulled out the parsnips and tossed them into a food processor with some chunks of butter (about 4tbs), 8oz of Goat Cheese and some salt & pepper. Pureed it smooth and it was “unctuous” but it was missing something.
I then turned my attention to the Proscuitto. The whole package went into a large sauté pan and as I started to crisp it up, I realized I had way too much for the spinach dish I had mapped out in my mind so I scooped out half of it, chopped it up and mixed it in with the parsnips. The spinach went into the pan with a healthy dose of honey wine vinegar and the meal was almost done. That was when I noticed the blueberry tequila lime sauce had slowly cooked to the consistency of jam. It was missing something too. It really needed a hint of sweetness so I tossed in a little brown sugar and deglazed the pan with a splash of orange juice and I was back in the game.
The picture you see below was the final dish as served to the judges. I think my presentation was a little weak and that the sauce was a little thick but overall I thought I did alright. My wife loved it, my tweenage fashionista daughter said it was fine and my son said, “”It tastes like pork Daddy”. At least he didn’t ask me for some applesauce.
Come back next time when my son and I go at it over a dessert basket and yes, at 7 years old, I am worried that he may beat me.