sardines escabeche {ffwd}

First Layer

I think the anticipation of making this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie, Sardines Escabeche, was one of the most-dreaded in the book. While I sympathize with others’ trepidation, I wasn’t bothered by it, because I like fish, even oily fish, and even sardines, In fact, I had a little trouble finding fresh sardines this week and was disappointed to think I wouldn’t get to try it.

sardines

The stars aligned and I found sardines at the largest Whole Foods in my area. And, I remembered to ask for them to be cleaned. Last time I bought fresh sardines, I didn’t realize they were whole, guts and all, so had to quickly teach myself to clean them out. Yuck… I hadn’t read the recipe through and didn’t realize they needed to be filleted, so this time around, I learned how to fillet sardines, courtesy of Jamie Oliver. It wasn’t too bad. I’ll take filleting over cleaning any day!

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I couldn’t quite imagine what this dish was going to be like as I put it together. The sardine fillets are quickly fried to partially cook them, arranged in a dish, and strewn with thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and sun-dried tomatoes. Then thinly sliced vegetables (onions, carrots, celery, and garlic) are sautéed and then simmered in olive oil, vinegar and spices (and a little bit of ketchup). The hot vegetable mixture is poured over the fish and chilled overnight.

We ate the sardines escabeche with crusty bread for dipping in the flavorful oil and a beet walnut salad on the side — a picnic of sorts.

Escabeche

There was a reverse verdict on this one. Howard really enjoyed it. For me, the fish was just too fishy. It reminded me of pickled herring, which is one of the few fish preparations that I don’t really care for. On the other hand, I loved the oily pickled vegetables. While I doubt I would make this with sardines, I would make the vegetables, or maybe even the bonne idée, using shrimp instead.

To see how the other Doristas made out with their escabeche, check out their links here. You can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table or this similar one on Dorie’s website.

pork with mangos and (not) lychees {ffwd}

Fruity Pork

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.

More Fruity Pork

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