As I mentioned in a previous post, we had an early Christmas celebration with one of my stepsons.  This year all our holiday meals were decided on a whim, serendipity playing a pretty big role. I happened to catch Marcela’s episode “My Favorite Holiday Dishes“, and while watching it with Phil he suggested we make that full menu for our Christmas dinner. Avocado-Cilantro Mousse, Pork Tenderloin, and Mexican Chocolate Souffle.   You know how we felt about the mousse, so now it’s time to share the recipe for the second course, a pork that ended up moist and tender, surrounded by the sweetness of prunes and pearl onions.


(from Marcela Valladolid)

for the brine:
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 cups warm water
6 cups cold water
2 pork tenderloins
for the herb rub:
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
for the final roasting:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dried prunes, halved
1 pound pearl onions, peeled
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup pineapple juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the brine: Combine the salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and 2 cups warm water in a large bowl. Stir until the salt dissolves. Add 6 cups cold water. Add the pork, cover, and refrigerate overnight (the pork should be submerged in the liquid).
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.For the herb rub: Mix the garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary in a small bowl. Remove the pork from the brine and pat it dry (discard the brine). Spread the herb mixture over the pork loin, making sure you coat all sides of the loin.
For the pork: Heat the olive oil in a medium, heavy saute pan over high heat. Add the pork and sear until browned, 4 minutes. Carefully turn the pork over and sear until browned, another 4 minutes. Meanwhile, add the prunes and pearl onions to a baking dish, creating a bed for the loin. Transfer the seared pork loin to the baking dish (making sure the loin fits in the baking dish, leaving a 1-inch border on every side). Add the wine to the same saute pan used to sear the pork and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove the browned bits, until almost evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in the pineapple juice and remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the pork. Season the prunes and onions with salt and pepper.
Place the pork in the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 160 degrees F, or to your desired level of roasting. Baste with the pan juices every 20 minutes. Transfer the pork to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let it stand for 10 minutes. Slice the pork into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices and arrange on a platter. Top the pork slices with the pearl onions, prunes, and sauce.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments:  I loved making this dish, it is perfect for a day spent at home, relaxing, enjoying the aromas and the anticipation of a more elaborate meal to come.  Brining the meat is the way to go when roasting pork loin (or tenderloin), as the delicate meat, so low in fat these days, can dry out in the oven.  I left the tenderloins in the brine from 8am until around 5pm.

Pork and prunes are a classic combination for good reason! This recipe is not too different from a typical meal served in my family in Brazil during the holidays, except that they like to roast a pork shoulder or butt. We call it “pernil assado“, and prunes or pineapple slices are often part of the sauce.

Leftovers were awesome on day 2 and amazing on day 4, the sauce intensified in flavor, the meat retained its moisture and tenderness. I can tell this recipe will become a regular appearance at our table.  Next time I’ll add some fennel to the bed of prunes and onions, I think its flavor would be great here.

Pork with Prunes in Pineapple Glaze

ONE YEAR AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

TWO YEARS AGO: Edamame Dip


FOUR YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night

Chicken breasts, coffee, and serendipity…

This past week we’ve had high temps above 100F every single day. My Brazilian nature does not mind the heat, quite the contrary, but meals have to match the weather: give me something light, refreshing,  maybe with a hint of spice in the background.  Preferably something I can cook outside on the grill, so the kitchen stays nice and cool. I had some boneless chicken breasts in the fridge, but usually grilling  them would not be my first option: they are so lean, it is easy to end up with dry, chalky-tasting meat. But, where there is a will, there is a way; in this case the way is called “brining”. You can read about the  method here and  here.
For our dinner, I chose a recipe I had made before from Fine Cooking. I remembered that we both liked the way the chicken turned out, but thought that the flavor was just a little bland. Then, my friends,  serendipity hit: the TV was on,  and it so happens that Bobby Flay was showing Giada de Laurentiis how he liked to grill chicken breasts… No, he did not brine it, but before grilling he covered one side only with a mixture of dry spices, or as the lingo goes, a “dry rub”.  If you want to see his recipe, click here.
That pretty much sealed the deal for me. I made a “mix-and-match” version that pleased 100% of the critics (those would be me and hubby, the dogs did not have a chance to taste it, even though they did beg).
Grilled Coffee-brined Chicken Breasts
(adapted from Fine Cooking #59)

1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 cups water
4 slices lemon (1/4 inch thick)
1 Tbs. black peppercorns
1 Tbs. mustard seeds
3/4 cup strong brewed coffee
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves2 T olive oil
dry rub:
1 T smoked paprika
1  t  ground fennel

To make the brine, combine the salt, sugar, water, lemon, peppercorns, and mustard seeds in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the salt and sugar dissolve, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium-large bowl, add the coffee, and refrigerate until cool, about 15 minutes. Put the chicken breasts in the brine and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Heat a gas grill to high or prepare a hot charcoal fire.

Make a dry rub mixing the spices. If you don’t have adobo seasoning, feel free to improvise mixing flavors you are fond of  😉  Drain the chicken and blot dry with paper towels. Lightly brush both sides with olive oil, and coat one side with the dry rub mix. No need to make a thick coating, just sprinkle the spices all over. Place the breasts on the grill, spice side down, grill for about 3 minutes, rotate them 45 degrees (do not flip them yet) to get a nice pattern of marks, continue grilling 4 additional minutes. Now flip the breasts and grill 4 minutes with the spice rub up.

Remove from the grill and tent with aluminum foil for a few minutes before slicing at an angle.

but, but… what about the tomatoes?