People always ask me about recipes, and I'm hesitant to blather on and on. Many of the emails I field are of the "I did just what the recipe said but it didn't taste how I wanted it to" variety. In my humble (or not so) opinion, a recipe is one person's idea of how something should be. Aside from baking, which can go very wrong if you dork with the recipe too much, general cooking is a bit more relaxed. Let's take, for example, the entree I made for dinner last night, and deconstruct it.
Pork Cutlets with Pan Roasted Tomatoes
1 lb pork tenderloin
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 1/2 tbs kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp pepper, divided
5 tbs olive oil
8 italian plum tomatoes
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsps dried thyme
Slice the tenderloin into 8 pieces and pound to 1/4 inch thick.
Place the flour in a shallow bowl.
Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl.
Combine parsley, bread crumbs, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a shallow bowl.
Dredge each piece of pork in flour, then egg, then crumbs.
Heat half of the oil over medium high heat in a large skillet Cook 4 pieces of pork 2 minutes each side, then set aside and keep warm.
Cut the tomatoes into wedges and add to the skillet with the vinegar, thyme, and the remaining salt and pepper.
Cook for 7 minutes.
Add the pork back to the skillet just to rewarm and absorb some of the juices.
Doesn't that sound like a lot of work? It wasn't. First of all, I had a lot of other things going, and knew pounding pork was not a good use of my time, so I turned the oven on to 400 and sliced the pork into, well, whatever my first 3 fingers measure. I also had 2 pork tenderloins, as the menfolk around here tend to eat a wee bit more than 4 oz. I mixed some (what, me measure?) salt, pepper, and thyme in with the beaten egg, and tossed the pork in there while I did some other things. Sorry, not in the mood for flour, I just used breadcrumbs.
Breading can be a very messy experience, especially if you're prone to walking around the kitchen with the bowl while you do it, and the dog and the kids are running around too. I can never manage to keep straight which hand is wet and which hand is dry, so I just use kitchen tongs and call it good. If they get all muddly I just use a paper towel to wipe them off right into the trash. Tangent: While Rachael Ray might have the counter space and desire to wash a garbage bowl, I do not, so I just put the trash can right next to the counter while I work. Anyhow, the first batch of pork got breaded and safely into the pan and I set the time for 4 minutes and went to bread the other half. Why the timer? Because I tend to start a lot of things at once. By the time the 1st batch was done the 2nd batch was ready. Now, many people neglect to note that food comes in and out of contact with the pan, but the pan stays in constant contact with the flame. By the 2nd batch of darn near anything you need to reduce your heat or cook for less time. OK, everything was nice and golden and in the baking dish and in the oven. I guessed at 15 minutes, based totally on experience. If you don't have this experience, go out and buy a thermometer than stays in the oven with a digital readout that sits on the counter. You want to shoot for 145. It is no longer necessary to cook pork to death.
OK, time for the tomatoes. The recipe calls for plum tomatoes, but they did not look nice at the store so I bought a box of grape tomatoes, and those were halved and tossed into the skillet and allowed to cook over medium until I notice that the pan was looking too dry. So I hit it with some chicken stock that was still out from the rice recipe that I also was not following. Once that reduced (while I was making a fondue for the cauliflower - don't ask), I circled the pan a few times with balsamic vinegar, and slammed the cauliflower into the steamer. The sauce was looking good (nope, it wasn't supposed to be a sauce, but I like sauce), so I swirled some butter into it, then scraped it over the pork, which was now done, covered it with a baking sheet because I was too lazy to go and get the foil. It would have been even prettier with the fresh parsley, but I was barefoot and it was cold outside. The pork just coasted to the perfect temperature while I plated everything, and Sunday dinner was served.
I have done this recipe as written, and it comes out very nicely, but it cooks so quickly that you need to have your side dishes done in advance. It goes really well with salad, and /or a roasted green vegetable.