Howard was away all week, which worked out well because anything savory with fruit sauce wasn’t going to go over with him anyway. In his absence, a couple of my friends came over to watch a movie, and I made this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe to share with them for dinner first.
I could not find lychees. I looked really hard, but was unsuccessful. I was really hoping I could find them because I have a story about lychees that I wanted to share. I was thinking that if I left out the lychees, I couldn’t tell you the story. However, the more I thought it over, I decided I’d tell the story anyway.
Many years ago, maybe twenty, I worked for a man named Tudor who was from Romania. A real mad scientist type. Our work was in the software field, but he was a physicist by training, and quite brilliant. At the time, my job involved a lot of travel, mostly to Michigan. To be fair, I don’t know what it’s like now, but twenty years ago in the Detroit area, most of the restaurant food on offer was horribly dull. I did a systematic study of side salads, and the uniform result was a wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with one green pepper ring, one wedge of an ice-cold tomato and maybe one slice of cucumber, with dressing on the side.
One of these trips, Tudor was there too. After a long day at the office, we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant near the hotel. I’ll admit that the meal itself was not memorable. As we were finishing up, Tudor starting talking about leeches. He was nostalgically recalling eating them and telling me how delicious they were. He was going on and on. I was confused. I had a hard time imagining that anyone would be excited about eating leeches, especially if they knew what they were. He couldn’t believe my disbelief and that I’d never tried them before. In retrospect, it was a comical exchange. All was revealed when, along with the fortune cookies, the waiter brought a small bowl of fruit that I didn’t recognize. Tudor was thrilled because they had served us none other than his beloved leeches. It turns out that, he had been talking about lychees all along.
I opted to make a pork tenderloin instead of a pork loin. I know that loin and tenderloin are not the same cut of meat and that the cooking technique best for each cut is quite different. Slightly fattier pork loin can handle a slow braise while the lean tenderloin shines with a quick and hot roast. So I changed things up a bit for, hopefully, a similar result.
Rather than braising the pork loin in the sauce, I roasted the pork tenderloin in a hot oven while I made the sauce on the stovetop. The sauce was a tangy sweet-and-sour sauce. The vinegar and lime juice gave it the tang while the honey added sweet and the soy sauce and white wine worked to blend it all together. As I said, I couldn’t find lychees. I only vaguely remember what they were like on that one occasion when I’d had them before. I substituted a can of sliced water chestnuts and a diced Asian pear, plus the called-for sliced mango . I let the sauce simmer while the pork finished cooking.
I served slices of pork topped with the sauce, accompanied by basmati rice and roasted broccoli. One of my friends put sauce on the rice too. Reviews were thumbs up all around. The leftovers made a nice rice bowl: leftover rice topped with pork and sauce and garnished with a few stalks for the roasted broccoli.
If you’d like to know whether the other Doristas liked the pork, check out their links here. The recipe is over on the WBUR website (my local NPR station). Of course, it’s also in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.
The calendar says it’s spring. Outside, not quite, but I remain optimistic. Actually, it’s a little better than that. Howard planted peas in the vegetable garden last night, and this morning, I noticed the tarragon and chives have started to emerged from the ground.
Waiting for warmer weather means that I no longer crave the hearty comfort food of winter. There still aren’t any local vegetables available, but lighter meals are what appeal. This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie gets a big check mark on that count. The challenge this week is Salmon Tartare, a savory parfait, where the presentation is almost as satisfying as the taste.
To start, three complementary “salads” are prepared. The first is sliced grape tomatoes tossed with oil and herbs. The second is diced raw salmon tossed with olive oil, more herbs, lime zest, scallion, and Tabasco. Finally, diced avocado is tossed with lime juice and zest, herbs and Tabasco. The final touch is the addition of supremed lime segments to the salmon mixture along with some more lime juice. (And, if you don’t mind supreming that citrus, try my mother’s famous Fruit Salad!)
The herbs called for were mint and chives, but because of the tomatoes and avocado, this dish screamed “Cilantro!” to me, so that’s what I used.
To serve, the layers can be formed in a ring that gets removed or a ramekin that gets flipped over. I chose to serve this in extra-large martini glasses. When I bought them, I didn’t realize that these festive glasses are larger than any cocktail that I can drink responsibly, so I was glad to have an opportunity to pull them out of the cabinet.
I served the salmon tartare for dinner. We both really enjoyed it. I made half the recipe, and the portions seemed generous for a meal, at least for us. In smaller glasses, this would make a fun appetizer alongside cocktails also served in smaller glasses than these.