Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Family Days and Tennis Games

There's no question about it, my family loves to cook. Sometimes when we're all together, it goes as far as waking up, throwing on our shoes for a mourning walk to stretch away our yawns and what do we talk about? Dinner of course. As we walk and talk, our ideas bounce back and forth just like we we're playing one of our regular tennis games. "What should we make tonight?" Serve. "Something light and healthy." Bounce. "What do we have in the house?" Nice forehand. "I don't think we have very much." Oh no, somebody save it! "Hey I noticed we have ginger, what can we do with that?" Yes over! "Let's do a creative Asian inspired dish." Bounce. "Something with mango, cilantro, maybe pork or chicken with a spicy vinaigrette for a salad." Slice. "Hmmm tricky, but I think we can do it." Hit! "Actually I saw this great recipe from SmittenKitchen that has all of that, we should check it out." Down the line. "Ooh sound good." Score!

SmittenKitchen has to be one of my favorite blog sites, everything she makes inspires me and her photography is breathtaking. It's so good that she recently started selling some of her prints off her website, check it out. If you read her blog religiously (*cough* like I do) then you know she's a very detail oriented person (also *cough* like me) and her food is just amazing. Anyway, needless to say this recipe popped up in my mind the last time I was home not only for it's simplicity but for it's light, colorful, and fun nature while still having complex and unusual flavors. Bonus points for being uniquely creative. The only change we made was using pork tenderloin instead of the shoulder. After putting it all together, everything about it; from the sweet and salty dressing and the melt in your mouth pork to the crunch of fresh vegetables, won our hearts. It was a complete victory. Game. Set. Match.

Cellophane Noodle Salad With Roast Pork

Adapted by SmittenKitchen who adapted it by
Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez, Gourmet, June 2006

Makes 10 first-course servings.

For pork
1 (1-lb) solid piece boneless pork butt (shoulder), halved along the grain*
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or sake
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt

For dressing
3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup peanut or vegetable oil**
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 large fresh jalapeno chile, seeded and minced

For salad
8 oz very thin bean-thread noodles (also known as cellophane, glass, or mung bean noodles)
3/4 lb Chinese long beans (1 bunch) or green beans, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
1 seedless cucumber (usually plastic-wrapped; about 1 lb), halved lengthwise and sliced diagonally 1/8 inch thick
1 bunch scallions, cut into matchsticks
1 firm-ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
2 thin carrots, cut into 1/8-inch-thick matchsticks
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh small basil leaves

Make pork:
Cut pork along the grain into long 1 1/2- to 2-inch-wide strips. Remove and discard any sinew but do not trim fat. Transfer pork to a large sealable plastic bag. Stir together remaining pork ingredients in a small bowl until combined well. Add to pork and turn to coat, then squeeze bag to eliminate as much air as possible and seal. Marinate pork, chilled, at least 4 hours but no longer than 24.

Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 375°F. Put 1/2 inch water in a 13- by 9-inch roasting pan and place a metal rack across top of pan (rack should not touch water).

Remove pork from marinade, reserving marinade, and arrange pork strips 1 inch apart on rack. Roast in oven 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring marinade to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan, then boil 1 minute (marinade may look curdled). Remove from heat.

Brush both sides of pork with some marinade and roast 10 minutes more. Generously brush both sides of pork with marinade again and roast, basting 2 or 3 times, 10 minutes more.

Increase oven temperature to 400°F and roast pork until strips are mahogany-colored and caramelized on edges, 10 to 15 minutes more (pork should roast for a total of about 50 minutes). Transfer to a cutting board and let stand, loosely covered with foil, 10 minutes.

Make dressing while pork roasts:
Blend together all dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth. Stir before using.

Cook noodles and beans for salad while pork finishes roasting:
Soak noodles in cold water to cover until pliable, about 15 minutes, then drain in a colander. Cut noodles in half with kitchen shears.

Cook beans in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer with a skimmer or slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking, reserving cooking liquid in pot. Drain beans and pat dry.

Return bean-cooking liquid to a boil, then cook noodles, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain noodles in colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Drain noodles again, then spread out on paper towels and pat dry.

Assemble salad:

Cut as much pork as desired for salad across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices.***

Toss noodles with 1/4 cup dressing in a bowl. Toss long beans with 2 tablespoons dressing in another bowl.

Arrange pork, noodles, beans, and remaining salad ingredients on a large platter. Drizzle with some of dressing and serve remaining dressing on the side.

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