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On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of aging high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, wealthy women) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Pork, on May 20th, 2014.

bacon_wrapped_pork_tender_sliced

If pork tenderloin is cooked just right, it can make a lovely entertaining entrée. And it will be doubly special if you serve it with the bourbon butter sauce to drizzle on top. But it’s also easy enough to do for a weeknight dinner, too. The bacon makes it special, but the sauce puts it over the top in the flavor department. I forgot to take a photo of a serving with the sauce. Just trust me on this one.

With a group of people coming over for dinner, I thought pork tenderloin would be a good one to serve. This was a week ago I did this, and we were in the midst of a blistering heat wave. We had 2 days with temps over 100° and a couple of days either side of that with temps in the high 90s also. And winds. Oh my yes, the winds. We get something in the California weather system – really only Southern California – called Santa Anas. It’s a hot wind that whips up and blows in from the desert and oh, does it blow. It can blow furniture around the patio, throw cushions 30 feet away, up into trees, stuck in shrubbery. In the previous house Dave and I owned we had a rolling metal trolley cart blow right into the pool. It didn’t break (had 2 pieces of glass too) but we had to ask our son to come over and dive down to the bottom of the pool to get the 2nd piece of glass that was just seemingly stuck to the deepest area. It was winter when this happened, so he donned his wet suit and did it for us, bless him! In years since we generally tie the rolling cart to a post somewhere so it doesn’t go wandering with the will of the wind. With these Santa Anas, about the only – ONLY – saving grace is that generally the humidity is low – this time about 10-15%, so if you stayed inside the A/C’d house, it was bearable. But it was way too hot to eat outside.

And I am going to admit something here that’s new . . . something startling . . . I don’t know how to barbecue. My darling hubby did all the grilling and barbecuing. Not that I didn’t give him some instructions with some frequency, but he did all that stuff. We have a gas barbecue that should be fairly foolproof. I just have to force myself to learn. My best friend Cherrie’s husband Bud has promised he will come one day and give me a lesson or two (they own the same barbecue), but I thought maybe I’d try doing something on my own first. Just to see how bad I am at this. Sometime soon. Stay tuned for that bulletin.

pork_tender_bacon_brownsugarOkay, now that I’ve got that big cooking character flaw out of the way, let’s get back to this great pork tenderloin that is BAKED IN THE OVEN. Not grilled. <BG> The recipe came from a great blog I read, The Runaway Spoon – sometime last year according to my notes. After removing the silverskin from the pork (a bit tedious, but necessary) I cut the thick slices of bacon in half lengthwise. The recipe calls for a pound of bacon – I didn’t have a pound of bacon. I had about 7 slices of thick bacon, so I made do, and it worked fine. First the pork is rubbed with Dijon mustard (a lot actually – and do use all that’s suggested – you’ll really not know it was there when you taste it). Then the bacon slices are wrapped around the pork tenderloin (you could use toothpicks if you’d like the bacon to stay neat and tidy). Then you pat on some light brown sugar – trying to stick it to the bacon if possible (not exactly a slam dunk – just do your best). The recipe recommended placing the pork in an iron skillet. I don’t have one big enough, so I used my Le Creuset, and slightly rounded them in my largest one, well oiled with grapeseed oil first.

bourbon_sauce_ingredThere at left is the uncooked sauce which I made about an hour or so ahead of time – it’s so very easy – mix good Dijon mustard, light brown sugar, bourbon, Worcestershire sauce in a saucepan, heat to a low simmer and cook until it thickens just a little bit, then you add in a copious amount of butter. A lot. 1 1/2 cubes to be exact (this served 8-9 people).bourbon_sauce_finished The butter is added in slowly when the sauce is just below a simmer. Then let it sit and rewarm it just before serving. The photo at right shows the finished sauce.

The pork is baked at 375°. If you like/want crispy bacon, you’ll want to turn on the broiler at the end – I didn’t want to overcook the pork, so didn’t do that step. The bacon was definitely cooked and tasted great, but it wasn’t crispy, just so you know. Everybody ate theirs even so. The meat took about 45 minutes, maybe a few minutes more, but the pork I had (from Costco) were big tenderloins, so that may be why. Cook it until it reaches an internal temp of 140°. Then, if you switch to broil, the meat will likely go to 145° which is what you want.

I made risotto to go with this and the meal all came together at the last minute. I reheated the sauce, sliced the pork and gave everyone some of the bacon, either still wrapped or loosely draped over the pieces of pork, drizzled each serving with the sauce and served up a big green salad, some very fresh sourdough bread and that was dinner.

What’s GOOD: everything – the bacon, yum. The sauce, extra delicious. The perfectly cooked pork – tender, juicy and barely pink in the middle. Just the way I like it. Being able to make the sauce ahead of time was a bonus. The pork took 45 minutes in the oven, so just plan ahead.

What’s NOT: nary a thing – loved the dish.

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Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon Butter Sauce

Recipe By: slightly adapted from The Runaway Spoon, 2013
Serving Size: 8 (maybe 9 if smaller portions)

PORK:
3 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin — (2 tenderloins)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 pound thick-sliced bacon — halved lengthwise (original recipe used regular bacon and a whole pound)
2/3 cup light brown sugar
SAUCE:
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup butter — cut into small pieces

Notes: If you have very hearty eaters, this might not serve 8. Mine actually served 9, but each person had a medium portion.
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Evenly coat a 12-inch cast iron skillet (I used a Le Creuset) with oil making sure it is all well covered.
2. Place the pork tenders on a cookie sheet or large cutting board. Tuck any thin ends underneath so you have nice, even logs of pork. Keep it tucked as you wrap. Brush 1 Tablespoon mustard evenly over each tender. Wrap the bacon around the tenders, starting the next piece where the first one ends and so on, so you have a nice little package mostly covered in bacon.
3. Sprinkle the sugar next to the tenders then start pressing it into the sides and top of the bacon. You can roll the tenders around in the sugar a little if needed. When they are nicely covered, tuck any bacon ends back in place and carefully transfer to the oiled skillet. Neaten up the bacon, but try not to let any stray sugar fall onto the skillet.
4. Cook the pork for about 45 minutes (or less if the tenderloins are smaller), until the internal temperature reaches 140°. Use a probe thermometer. Turn on the broiler to crisp the bacon on the top, and cook to 145°. Remove from the oven and transfer the pork to a cutting board. Pour a little water into the bottom of the skillet and scrape up any cooked sugar with a silicone spatula to make cleaner up easier. Tent the pork with foil and let it rest 5-10 minutes.
5. SAUCE: Mix the brown sugar, mustard, bourbon and Worcestershire sauce together in a small saucepan until it is all well combined. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a low boil, whisking frequently. Cook about 2 minutes, until the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove the pan from the heat, and when the bubbling subsides, return it to low heat and whisk in the butter a few small pieces at a time, letting each addition melt before adding another. When all the butter is combined, remove from the heat. Can be made an hour or so ahead of time, then gently reheat the sauce over low heat, stirring constantly.
6. Slice the pork slightly on the diagonal and on an angle (to make larger slices), then spoon the sauce over the sliced pork. Make sure each serving has some bacon around or on top of it.
Per Serving: 641 Calories; 38g Fat (55.7% calories from fat); 51g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 200mg Cholesterol; 912mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on May 20th, 2014:

    Mmmm! Bourbon and bacon? Can’t go wrong there! I like doing pork tenderloins–they are so quick and easy–so am always looking for something new to do with them. This looks like a winner!

    It was a winner – everyone liked it. . . carolyn t

  2. Nancy

    said on May 20th, 2014:

    Sounds wonderful, I can’t wait to try the sauce. I made a stuffed pork tenderloin over the weekend. They are so quick and easy to fix.

    Yes, they really are easy. Hope you’ll enjoy this one…carolynt

  3. janet

    said on May 20th, 2014:

    I will definitely try this one.

    Have to tell you about my first time grilling without a husband (mine was just a bitter divorce). I was determined to learn how to grill. He, of course, took the grill and all the cookware. So, i bought a gas grill. My oldest daughter (14 years old) and her boyfriend helped assemble it.

    Things were going fine. I’d grilled a couple of things. Then, the nieces were coming up from Southern California for Easter and I decided to do hamburgers. Well, I preheated the grill. It caught fire. I saw the flames licking around the propane tank. I YELLED AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS… GET OUT OF THE HOUSE, THE GRILL IS GOING TO BLOW!! We all ran out. This was pre cell phone, so I went to the neighbor to call the fire department. Her husband was home. He simply looked at me slowly, pulled out the fire extinguisher, and slowly walked next door to put out the flames. That was years ago and it has turned into a family legend. LOL

    Oh my goodness, that is SO funny. I hope I’ll be able to learn quickly enough – I just have to force myself to go try it. Seems silly, but maybe it’s still my grief kicking in that I don’t feel like tackling this right now. In awhile perhaps. . . thanks for sharing your story! . . .carolyn t

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