Monday, August 8, 2011

Impromptu Date Night (Apple Bourbon Pork Wellington)

Lately, my wife and I have been trying to take a little bit more time to enjoy the simple things in life in order to combat the high levels of stress that come with work, grad school, a faltering economy, etc.  For me, this has meant trying to get back into the kitchen a bit.  I'd really forgotten how much I love to cook and what a great stress reliever it is.  So last night I thought I'd make something special for Jess for when she got home from work.  On a whim, I decided to take my first stab at Wellington.  Not wanting to spend the money on a really pricey cut of beef, however, I decided to start with this.

Beef Wellington is typically made from a high-quality cut of beef, covered in pate (often foie gras) and duxelles (a mushroom, butter, and herb mixture), wrapped in puff pastry and baked.  Like I said, I didn't really want to spend a ton of money on a pricey cut of beef, especially since Jess doesn't have the same love for red meat as I do.  Furthermore, we don't eat foie gras for ethical reasons, and Jess hates mushrooms.  Ok, so we're going to have to get creative here.

The pork loin I bought last week was flavored with an 'apple bourbon' spice mixture, so I started by thinking what flavors might complement that mixture.  To replace the typical pate and duxelles topping for the meat, I came up with the following:

  • A handful of walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 TBSP dark brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP whiskey (cheapest thing you have, don't go for the top-shelf stuff here)
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, finely chopped
  • A spritz of lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz. raisins
Begin by toasting the chopped walnuts very slightly in a pan over low heat.  Add the diced apples and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  Add the remaining ingredients (except the raisins) and cook over medium-low for 10-15 minutes, or until the apples begin to soften.  Remove from the heat to a food processor and chop very finely (almost to a paste consistency).  Transfer to a small container, add the raisins, and mix together.  Cover tightly, and refrigerate until ready to use. 

The instructions on the pork loin said to cook for 25-30 minutes, and then check the temperature with a meat thermometer.  My original plan was to cook the loin for 15-20 minutes, cool it for 5 min or so, just so I could handle it, wrap it in phyllo dough, and cook it the 30 or so minutes needed for the pastry to be done.  Unfortunately, I'd forgotten that I'd thrown our old meat thermometer away because it didn't work.  Whoops.  I'd never cooked meat in pastry before and, as I was fighting other factors (power which kept coming and gone thanks to a nasty line of storms moving through the area), I thought I'd play this one extra safe. I ended up cooking the pork loin for about 25 minutes (about 95% of the way done) and then removing it from the oven to let it rest for a few minutes.  Phyllo dough usually comes in a box with two individually-wrapped portions.  I used one half of one of these portions, prepared as per the instructions.  Phyllo is kind of intimidating to work with at first, but once you realize it's not an exact science and just do it, it's not so bad.

Once the phyllo was prepared, I spread some of the apple/walnut mixture out across the dough...

And then added the pork loin...

After wrapping up the loin, I baked this for about 30 minutes at whatever the package said (I believe it was 350).  I was really nervous with how this was going to turn out, but in the end it looked pretty nice!

We served this with fresh asparagus spears with hollandaise and it was really tasty.  The sweetness of the apple/walnut topping worked nicely with the buttery richness of the phyllo and the savory spice of the pork. The only thing I would have change is next time I would make sure I had a reliable meat thermometer on hand.  The pork was slightly over-done (no surprise considering I cooked it almost all of the way before the additional 30 minutes baking inside the pastry) but I wanted to play it safe since I didn't have a thermometer.  All in all though, especially from cooking on a whim, this turned out pretty nicely! 


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...