I am a firm believer everyone should have a couple of back-pocket recipes. What I mean by that is a few flavorful and seasonal dishes you can feel confident to cook with ingredients mostly on hand.
I don’t think cooking has to be complicated or stressful and I certainly don’t think you have to make something new and different every time you set out to cook. Two or three dishes you really love are more than enough. Keep the staples stocked so when the question of “Whats for dinner?” comes your way, you’re ready.
For me, pumpkin chipotle soup and homemade marinara sauce are two tried-and-true recipes I don’t think I’ll ever move away from. I’ve been making these dishes for years and as soon as the first cool night hits, I can guarantee someone in my family will be begging for spaghetti (or soup). And I’m always happy to oblige.
Some times I think cooking gets a bad rap. It’s thought of as a chore, expensive and stressful. In a world where we are busy, busy, busy, it’s easy to let preparing a meal fall off the list of priorities. But I think cooking is a little like writing a love letter. It’s a tangible reminder of care and attention to the people we love.
And when we cook, we gather. Sometimes that looks like a simple meal eaten in 10 minutes at the kitchen island and other times it’s a big ordeal with fancy napkins, wine glasses clinking and the hustle and bustle of a party. There’s no perfect way to do it, but I would say its the unplanned meals that tend to be the most special. Somehow those are the moments that sear into our memories.
Since this is the annual food issue and you’ve endured my soapbox, I’ll (finally) cut to the chase: maple bourbon pork tenderloin. This is your fall back-pocket recipe. Pork tenderloin is marinated for a couple hours in a splash of bourbon, pure maple syrup, a little ginger and soy sauce. Throw it on the grill and while it cooks, quickly sauté a big pan of apples and onions in the leftover marinade. In an easy 20 to 30 minutes, dinner is ready. The pork is tender and juicy and the apples and onions are the perfect addition all fall long.
- 2 pork tenderloins
- (about 1 pound each)
- 1⁄4 cup bourbon
- 1⁄4 cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 1 large Walla Walla sweet onion chopped
- 2 medium Fuji apples chopped
In a large Ziploc bag combine the bourbon, soy sauce, maple syrup, ginger, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper the pork tenderloins and add them to the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours or on the counter for 2 hours. The bourbon adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the dish, but you can always swap it for white wine or even chicken broth. The secret to cooking with alcohol is to choose something you would actually drink. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.
Remove tenderloins from the bag, reserving the leftover marinade. Grill them over medium heat for about 20 minutes, occasionally turning the meat so it cooks evenly with grill marks on all sides. The meat is done when the tenderloin is firm to the touch but not hard and a meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of 140 degrees.
While the tenderloins cook on the grill, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Melt the butter in the pan and add the apples and onions. Liberally salt and pepper and allow the apples and onions to soften and begin to turn a light brown, about 5 minutes. Add the marinade to the pan, stirring often until the sauce bubbles and cooks down by about a third. Turn the heat to a low simmer and add the cooked tenderloin to the pan. Toss everything together, coating the tenderloin in the sauce before removing the pan from the heat. Allow the meat to rest at least five minutes before slicing.
To serve, cut the tenderloin into slices with the apples and onions piled high on the meat. Serves 6 to 8 people.
You can always find an archive of Kitchen Captivated recipes online at the Yakima-Herald Republic including the pumpkin chipotle soup and marinara sauce mentioned above.