This turned out to be another memorable evening. I just love having dinner with my friend Lisa. It feels like home.
We planned to have dinner, and then left it at that. The next day I had visions of beautiful pork cooked on the grill. Scott and Lisa are die-hard “grillers” who don coat, hat and gloves in freezing weather, just for the taste of grilled food.
I called Lisa about possibly firing up the grill, and she told me in delighted tones about the beautiful new grill they sprung for. Scott had been salivating over a grill he had spotted in a shop during the summer, but, being the practical man he is, waited until the end of the season sale in hopes of getting a deal. Sure enough, he got his dream grill at a bargain price!
I was dying for that real barbecue flavor and so made a marinade that felt hefty and rich. I often use balsamic vinegar to achieve a somewhat grilled kind of taste from the oven, so I started there. I read the back of a barbecue sauce bottle at the supermarket and found out that tomato sauce seem to be a necessary ingredient. I then forgot all about that until I returned home with my bag of pork.
I decided to make do with ketchup, and it worked like a dream. My daughter saw me making the marinade and announced she would not eat her dinner if I used ketchup. The end of that story is of course that she ate her words along with the ketchup!
When I got to Lisa’s, the smell wafting from the kitchen gave me instant hunger pangs. The source of the smell was the big skillet of luscious sweet potatoes cooking in ungodly amounts of butter on her stove-top. She was all worried that it wasn’t turning out as good as she had hoped, and I silently dismissed her ravings knowing how she is a total perfectionist in all things. I have a knack for being friends with women who make me feel disorganised and flighty, (I suppose opposites attract).
This was really fun for me because I got to hang out with Lisa, and take pictures of her frenetic movements in the kitchen, while also getting to follow the completely calm and cool Scott, to document the pork, and grilling side of things.
He let me order him around, telling him to turn this, and move that, without uttering a complaint or objection. I just love him for that!
He ended up grilling the best pork tenderloin I had ever tasted, and being the humble guy he is, gave all the credit to his fabulous new grill.
Dinner was out-of-this-world fantastic. My man Dave talked about how great the sweet potatoes were so much I wondered if I should be jealous. I loved last night, I love my friends and family so much, and I don’t care how corny it sounds to say that.
For pork & Marinade; You will need: 2 pork tenderloin (1 lb each approx), cut in half, 8 thin-cut bone-in pork chops, 3/4 cup ketchup, 1/3 cup good quality balsamic vinegar, juice of 2 oranges, leaves from 10 thyme sprigs, 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 2 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tbs honey, 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper.
1 – Prep all ingredients and whisk everything (except the meat) together in a bowl. Divide the meat between 3 zip top plastic bags and pour an even amount of the marinade into each bag, and seal. I used a measuring cup for the job. Place in the fridge for no less than 3 hours, and as long as 12 hours.
2 – When it is time to cook the meat (about a 1/2 hour before ready to serve), turn the grill to about 325* to 350*. The tenderloin will cook in about 25 minutes and the thin-cut chop should be done in 12-15 minutes. You can baste with the marinade as you go.
For the Sweet Potato Side-Dish; You will need: 10 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed & cut into large cubes, 1/2 cup craisins or dried cranberries, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 5 tbs unsalted butter, 2 tbs soft brown sugar, sea-salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.
Preheat oven 450*
1 – Put potatoes in pot and cover with cold water. Place on high heat and boil until they are cooked through (still a little toothsome). Drain into colander.
2 – Put big pan on medium heat (a pan which can be transferred to the oven), and add 3 tbs of the butter. Add the craisins and walnuts and saute for 2 or 3 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes. Continue to cook on stove-top adding more butter as needed (up to 2 tbs) for about 20 minutes.
3 – Sprinkle with sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and several grinds of pepper, and mix gently. Place in oven for 10 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
For the Baby Pea and Spinach Side-Dish; you will need: 1/2 lb baby peas (Lisa used frozen), 5 scallions/green onions, sliced, including green parts, 6 cups fresh spinach leaves, 1/2 cup chicken broth, 2 tbs unsalted butter, sea-salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
1 – Put pot on medium heat and add butter. When it has melted, saute scallions for 5 minutes.
2 – Add frozen peas and wait for 2 minutes before adding broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes.
3 – Add spinach and let it wilt, (takes about 3 minutes to cook down). Add a sprinkle of sea-salt (Lisa used Maldon salt) and some freshly cracked pepper.
The important thing about this meal is timing everything to be ready around the same time. So, marinate the meat first, next cook the potato dish, and lastly, grill the meat and cook the peas about a 1/2 hour before you want to eat.
Just when you think it will be an ordinary, run-of-the-mill dinner, something like last night happens. It was very difficult to carry on a conversation during this meal as I was way more interested in my plate of food than the company!