Friday, August 30, 2013

Grilled Strawberry Shortcake Kabobs

Okay, so I'm not sure where these lovely little gems have been all my life!  But really?  Strawberry shortcake on a stick?  Face it, we all enjoy eating food off of a stick.  I'm not sure exactly what the fascination is... but think about how many marshmallows and hot dogs have been roasted over a bonfire all these years. 

Although we are still able to buy them, the actual season for strawberries has pretty much past.  That means that the ones in the supermarket are not quite as sweet as they once were in late spring and early summer.  But the juices from these hot grilled ones is pretty much amazing.  And the angel food cake gets this... um... sort of crunchy crusty thing happening that is pretty appealing to me as well.  

I'm not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the traditional strawberry shortcake recipe!  But if you are putting some things out on the grill (or inside on the grill pan), I'm just saying that this is a fun one to try!  I guess I like it when I encounter things that are traditional, but with a cool twist.  

Then you get to DIP it!  That's another kid favorite thing... something to dip.  We whipped up a batch of lemon scented sweetened whipped cream.   Don't you know a kid (maybe even a big person) who would enjoy eating this cool dessert?  Even if its a dinner party out on the back deck... these will steal the show!

Click for Printable Recipe
Ingredients: (4 skewers)
  • 1/2 pound angel food cake 
    • you won't need it all
  • 12 strawberries 
  • 1/4 cup strawberry preserves
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp good quality vanilla
  • zest of 1 lemon

Step-by-Step:
These can be made ahead of time and grilled just before dessert.
1. dip    2.  strawberries   3.  cake   4.  grill and serve!

1.  Let's make the whipped cream dip -
Mix together the heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar.  Beat until soft/medium peaks form.  Caution - don't let it go too long or it will turn into butter.
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla (I used clear Mexican vanilla)
Get it a bit thick first...
Then add the powdered sugar.
3 Tbsp powdered sugar
You can see the soft peaks in the bottom.  

Make sure you have someone to test it out for you.  Then add the zest of about a half of a lemon to the top, and refrigerate the cream until you are ready to serve.

This is probably more whipped cream dip than you will need, but I'm sure you'll put it to good use.  Hello pancakes.. here I come.


2.  Prepare the strawberries - 
Remove the hulls.  You can do this with a paring knife the traditional way, or you can even use a regular straw.  Push the straw up through the bottom of the strawberry.  Once it comes out of the top, the hull magically just sort of pops out.  It's pretty fun, actually.
12 strawberries
The hulls.  Pretty cool, huh?
Melt some strawberry preserves in a small bowl.  I just microwaved it for 30 seconds.  You want it liquified.
1/4 cup strawberry preserves
Dip the strawberries into the melted strawberry preserves.  Use a fork to get them out and "drain" them as you go.

3.  Prepare the angel food cubes.
Cut your angel food cake into cubes. You want them to be roughly the same size as the strawberries, and the same size as each other.  If some are really large and some small, the smaller ones won't touch the grill.  Size and uniformity does matter in this one.

We need 8, equivalent sized cubes of cake
Now just put them together.  I am using these double skewers. If you are using singles, use two at a time.  Hold them slightly apart while threading the food onto them.  This will keep the fruit and cake from swiveling around.

4.  Grill and serve - 
When you are ready to grill them, brush the cake with melted butter on each side.  The butter will help to prevent the cake from sticking, and it will also help form that lovely crust.
2 Tbsp melted butter
Grill the kabobs on a medium grill or grill pan about 4 minutes per side.  You should see some really nice grill marks on the cake.  The berries will also get a slight char on them.  

Serve hot with the lemon scented whipped cream dip.


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These can be made ahead of time and grilled just before dessert.
1. dip    2.  strawberries   3.  cake   4.  grill and serve!

1.  Let's make the whipped cream sauce -
Mix together the heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar.  Beat until soft/medium peaks form.  Caution - don't let it go too long or it will turn into butter. Get it a bit thick first... Then add the powdered sugar. You can see the soft peaks in the bottom.  Then add the zest of about a half of a lemon to the top, and refrigerate the cream until you are ready to serve.  This is probably more whipped cream dip than you will need, but I'm sure you'll put it to good use.


2.  Prepare the strawberries - 
Remove the hulls.  You can do this with a paring knife, or with a regular straw.  Push the straw up through the bottom of the strawberry.  Once it comes out of the top, the hull magically just sort of pops out.  It's pretty fun, actually.  You need 12 strawberries.

Melt some strawberry preserves in a small bowl.  I just microwaved it for 30 seconds.  You want it liquified.   Dip the strawberries into the melted strawberry preserves.  Use a fork to get them out and "drain" them as you go.

3.  Prepare the angel food cubes.
Cut your angel food cake into cubes. You want them to be roughly the same size as the strawberries, and the same size as each other.  If some are really large and some small, the smaller ones won't touch the grill.  Size and uniformity does matter in this one. You need 8 equivalent cubes of cake.

Now just put them together.  I am using these double skewers. If you are using singles, use two at a time.  Hold them slightly apart while threading the food onto them.  This will keep the fruit and cake from swiveling around.

4.  Grill and serve - 
When you are ready to grill them, brush the cake with melted butter on each side.  The butter will help to prevent the cake from sticking, and it will also help form that lovely crust.  Grill the kabobs on a medium grill or grill pan about 4 minutes per side.  You should see some really nice grill marks on the cake.  The berries will also get a slight char on them.  Serve hot with the lemon scented whipped cream dip.
 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pancetta Wrapped Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Pork wrapped in pork?  Yep.  Can I get an "Amen?!"  And to top that off, it's filled with a delicious caramelized onion, apple, toasted walnut filling.  Yum!!  The pancetta helps to keep the pork moist, as do the juices from the apples, and the flavors are just huge in your mouth! 

My family really enjoys pork tenderloin, and these days they are super lean.  But they are also a blank slate, just waiting for you to add some pizzazz.  Well this, my friends, it pizzazz!

This recipe is a bit more labor intensive (in terms of number of steps) than some other posts, but rest assured, each step is simple; and I will walk you through it one step at a time.  You could easily assemble the whole thing ahead of time, and have it "oven ready" and waiting in the fridge for you to walk in from work.  Your regular pork chops will be so jealous!  Can you say "dinner party worthy?"

Ingredients:

Filling- 
  • 2 Tbsp butter + 1 Tbsp more later
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 medium apples, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Dressing - 
  • 2 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs 
    • rosemary, sage, chives 
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Pork -
  • 1 1/2 - 2 pound pork tenderloin
  • 6 oz pancetta
Method:
Here's the general plan of attack..
Prepare Filling  -- Stuff the pork -- Prepare the dressing --  Wrap the pork -- Cook.

Step 1.  Let's start with the filling.  This can also be made ahead of time and refrigerated.

Start by toasting the nuts.  I put them in a dry pan and toasted at 400 degrees F for 7 minutes, shaking them around about halfway.
1/3 cup walnuts
 Now we will saute....
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 medium apples, chopped

Remove the toasted nuts from the oven and let them cool.  Then chop them.  It obviously takes Lily quite a while longer to chop them than if I did it myself, but this is quality time for us.   
Lets season this baby up!
1 tsp fresh thyme
kosher salt
black pepper
 Now I added the other tablespoon of butter.  I want everything to really cook down and start to caramelize.
1 Tbsp butter
Add in the chopped, toasted nuts.
1/3 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
Let that all cook down a while.  The onions and apples should get nice and soft (but not mushy).  It will be pretty fragrant.
When they seem done, give them the master treatment with some freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano cheese.
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano reggiano cheese
Of course, you MUST taste this.  You need to check your seasonings anyway, right?  Sweet, crunchy, salty, herbaceous... yum.    
Variation - If you are short on time, or do not need an entire pork tenderloin, this would be a great topping by itself for some thick, center cup pork loin chops!!!  Just let it cook down a bit more. 

Step 2.  Lets stuff the pork.

So here is my beautiful, lean pork tenderloin.  This one was about 1.5 pounds.  I trimmed it, first, of any exterior fat, and removed the silver skin.
I butterflied the pork, going almost to the end, but not quite.  Err on the side of leaving more thickness than you think.  You can always cut deeper later.
Cover the butterflied pork with a sheet of plastic wrap and pound away.  We want to achieve a uniform thickness.
Remove the plastic wrap.
Season the pork.  I always season each component of my dish.  I don't want a flavorful filling and bland meat.  
kosher salt + black pepper
Add the filling, which by this time is probably pretty cool.
The apple, onion, nut filling
Fold the pork over, tucking the filling in as best you can.  I probably add a little too much filling to mine, but it worked out okay.  This isn't an exact science.  HaHa
Wrap the pork in plastic wrap and chill it for a while.  I let it "mold" to the plastic wrap a while so that I could make my dressing and get my pancetta ready.  

Step 3.  Let's make the outside dressing.

Add all the ingredients together.  
2 Tbsp freshly chopped/minced garlic
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 tsp kosher salt _ black pepper
Here is our progress so far.  
Next, I went out an gathered some herbs from my garden.  Use what you have.  I had rosemary, chives, and sage.
Chop them finely and add to the dressing.
This came out to about 2 Tbsp chopped herbs.
I was going to add some Dijon mustard, but couldn't find any, so I added some dry mustard powder.
1 tsp mustard powder
 .. and a bit of white wine vinegar.
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Now just mix it all together.  It will probably make your mouth pucker... but it will season the whole outside of the pork.

Step 4.  Wrap the pork.
Here's where it really gets fun!  Find yourself a cute little helper.

Set out a large sheet of plastic wrap.  On top of the plastic warp, arrange your pancetta - slightly overlapping each other, until the rectangle is large enough to completely cover the pork.  I pretty much just used my chopping board as a guide.
about 6 ounces of pancetta.
Add the pork slightly to the side.
Cover the pork with the herb-seasoned dressing.  
Give it a nice massage.   This will be another layer of flavor for the pork, that we will wrap inside the pancetta blanket.
Now starting from one side, use the plastic wrap to help you roll the pancetta up and around that awesome pork.  Can you tell that I had extra help to do this?  :)
Wrap it tightly, using the plastic wrap.  Pull the wrap back before it would start rolling over onto itself.
Twist the ends of the plastic wrap tightly and let the whole thing rest in the refrigerator about 30 minutes so the pancetta will sort of mold itself to the pork.
Tie the pancetta with kitchen twine.  I roasted the meat on a cooling rack set into a cookie sheet so that the hot air could circulate underneath it.  I didn't want the bottom to be soggy.
Bake at 400 degrees F x 43 min or until to 150 degrees internal temp (per digital thermometer).  

Can you see the thermometer sticking out of the meat in the bottom left side of the photo?  You can just set it at the temperature you want it, and it will alert you when that temp is reached.  This takes a LOT of the guess work out of cooking the pork.  You want it cooked, but not overdone.  And you definitely want it to be juicy. 
And Ta-DA!!!!  Here we have it!  Beautiful, right?  The pancetta gets all crispy, but our pork is still juicy.  But PLEASE, do NOT cut into it yet.  Tent the pork with aluminum foil and let it rest about 10 minutes so the juices won't all run out of it.
Now here we have a shot of the inside of the pork.  Tender and juicy.  Very flavorful.  Sweet and crunchy inside.  Tangy dressing on the outside.  Crispy Italian bacon surrounding the whole thing?  All you need are some great sides and you have the makings of a beautiful meal, whether this is for Sunday supper with the family, or for a dinner party.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe!  If you want to see more great recipes that you can cook with/for your family, hop on over to my Recipe Index.  You'll find tons of ideas!  Some are more involved "weekend" type projects like this one, and others make liberal use of convenience items to get food on the table fast after a busy work day.

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