If I had to guess my first day in the kitchen, it was probably around Thanksgiving when I was eight years old. My mom, and older sister handled all of the everyday cooking back then, but on holidays when the meals got bigger, and more elaborate, I was conscripted as a prep cook as soon as I was old enough to safely use a knife. Whenever something needed to be peeled, sliced, seasoned, or otherwise prepped for cooking, it was my job (with plenty of guidance, of course). My appreciation for good food, the effort it takes, and the people it brings together stems from those early days.
I remember one particular year when my sister decided to make her own cranberry sauce for the first time–a day that probably set the wheels in motion for me to come up with this dish years later. She found a recipe that suggested adding vodka to the sauce for extra flavor, and thickness (since alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water, the sauce reduces more quickly). Back then, she was fresh out of college, holiday stress was building, and let’s just say she was a little heavy handed with the vodka…(I’m proud to say I basically had my first alcoholic drink at dinner that night–less proud that it was a vodka-cranberry). She never made that same “mistake” again, but I still like to bring it up every year for a good laugh.
Twelve years later, I ended up remixing it for a post-exam dinner with two of my close friends on campus. We’d all pitch in to buy ingredients, and I would make something awesome to celebrate the end of all-nighters, caffeine withdrawal, and the general dread that those tests triggered. I pushed myself each time to make a more challenging meal than the one before it, and I ended up creating some of my favorite dishes during those times.
This meal took a lot of time and effort back then, but it was a welcome distraction from all the stress. Now, it’s going to be your dinner.
1 Pork Tenderloin, trimmed
4 Cups Arborio Rice
1 Cup Brazil Nuts, roughly chopped
4 Cups Baby Arugula, rinsed
1 Cup Shallots, sliced thinly
1 Cup Tarragon, chopped
1/2 Cup Italian Parsley, chopped
1 Cup Leeks, sliced thinly
1 Apple, sliced thinly
2 Cups Dried Cranberries, chopped
1/2 Jalapeño, sliced thinly
1/2 Cup Apple Butter
1/2 Cup Cider Vinegar
1 Cup Vodka
2 Cups Chardonnay
4 Cups Chicken Stock
1/2 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, shaved
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tbs Garlic Powder
1/2 Tbs Coriander Powder
Salt and Pepper to Taste
- Combine Apple butter, cider vinegar, coriander, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, tarragon, and olive oil in a bowl. Whisk together until everything dissolves, then set aside.
- Place the pork tenderloin into a Ziplock bag, then pour the marinade into the bag, and seal. Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for one hour, then place the bag on the counter for at least thirty minutes to allow the meat to come up to room temperature.
- Remove the meat from the bag, and place on a cutting board. Pat the tenderloin dry with paper towel. Pour the excess marinade into a small sauce pan, and reduce on medium heat until the mixture thickens.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a large pan on medium-high heat, and add one tablespoon of oil.
- Sear the pork on all sides, then remove from the pan, and brush on the thickened marinade. Wrap the meat tightly with foil, then place it on a baking sheet and continue cooking in the oven until fully cooked–about 15 minutes.
- Let the meat rest on a heat-safe surface for at least ten minutes before unwrapping, and slicing.
- Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a small pot, and cover. In a separate pot, melt the butter on medium heat, then stir in sliced leeks and shallots. Continue to stir until they turn translucent, but adjust the heat so that they do not caramelize. Pour in the rice, and stir until all the grains are coated.
- Pour in one cup of wine, and stir until the liquid evaporates. Ladle in small portions of hot stock onto the rice, and stir gently–repeating each time the liquid is absorbed.
- Continue cooking until the rice softens, and appears creamy. Pour in another cup of wine, and stir gently until all of the liquid is absorbed. Add chopped parsley, brazil nuts, and stir to combine. Lower the heat, and taste for seasoning. Keep warm until ready to serve.
- Place the pan used to sear the pork back on medium heat. Stir in chopped cranberries, sliced jalapeño, and 1/2 cup of water to deglaze. Once half the water has evaporated, pour in vodka, and continue stirring until the alcohol has evaporated. Remove from heat, and allow to cool in a separate container.
- Combine sliced apples, baby arugula, olive oil, parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar, salt, and pepper in a salad bowl. Toss to mix
- Plate and serve.
1/2 Cup Butter