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.
It makes me sad to say it, but with this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie, we begin the countdown of the final 10 recipes in the book. I won’t get overly reflective yet, but it is hard to believe the end of this journey is in sight.
This week, spring’s been in the air. There are still huge mounds of melting filthy snow, but the air is different. I think I can smell the lovely scent of dirt. In the transition from winter into spring, a bowl of stew can still be satisfying if it’s not too heavy or light. Veal Marengo fits that bill.
Marengo is an old French classic, created by Napoleon’s chef to celebrate victory in the Battle of Marengo. It might be classic, but I’d never had it before. I made some adjustments to it to suit our tastes, but I think it probably tastes close to the original.
We seldom eat veal, so first thing, I swapped out the veal, using chunks of pork tenderloin instead. I also thought the recipe was stingy on the vegetables. Come on, 12 pearl onions, 8 mushrooms, and 8 potatoes for a dish that serves four? I added about a pound of onions, a pound of mushrooms, and over a pound of fingerling potatoes.
To start, the meat is tossed in seasoned flour and browned in oil. Then, onions are sautéed then simmered briefly with diced tomatoes, tomato paste, white wine, and a bouquet garni. The meat is added back and cooked in a low oven until the meat is tender.
In the meantime, the onions are glazed in butter, the mushrooms are sautéed, and the potatoes are boiled, then glazed in butter. Finally the onions and mushrooms go into the skillet for the flavors to meld for a few minutes.
The Marengo is served with potatoes on the side (or in our case, around), sprinkled heavily with parsley.
We both enjoyed this meal. Howard said it reminded him of something else I’d made, but couldn’t remember what. Maybe he was thinking of the osso buco, which was tomato-based, though had different seasonings and vegetables?
To see how the other Doristas interpreted this recipe, check out their recipes here. You can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. If you haven’t bought the book yet after all this time, what are you waiting for?