Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Liquid Smoke

Sunday, December 7, 2014


Liquid smoke was invented in the late 19th century as a convenient alternative to the smoke house. The product is derived from actual wood smoke, which is cooled and condensed to give a liquid, rich in the compounds that give the characteristic smoked wood flavor. When wood burns it doesn't do so completely, and while it burns it releases certain compounds - a process called pyrolysis - that can be used to season and cure food and give it a smokey flavor. Liquid smoke effectively does the same thing - it contains the same compounds released by smoldering wood and is essentially wood smoke in liquid form.

The story has it that sometime in the early 1890s a guy named Ernest Wright, a Kansas City pharmacist, made the first liquid smoke to prepare a ham for his friends, who could not distinguish the soaked ham from an ordinary smoked one.


Indeed, soaking meat for 1-2 hrs in a liquid smoke solution imparts the same smoky flavor as actual smoking and can be done much more easily than actually smoking it! This is not to say that we would not want to smoke our meat in a traditional charcoal/wood smoker, but it is simply not practically possible for many apartment-dwellers such as ourselves.


You can find liquid smoke in specialty shops or large supermarkets (in ours it was filed under "condiments"). Try following the directions on the bottle as they tend to be pretty accurate (diluting one part liquid smoke in X parts water). If you taste the liquid smoke/water solution, it will taste very bitter. So I was skeptical the first time, and I insisisted that we use half the amount of liquid smoke, since I thought the meat would come out bitter as well. That was not the case. The meat still came out delicious. The tenderloin tasted like ham (the smokiness flavor was subdued). The second time we used it we used the full amount, and the meat came out tasting like it's been smoked.


You should allow at least an hour or two for the meat to soak in liquid smoke solution (two hours is better). Also allow enough water and a container large enough for the meat to be completely submerged. Once the meat is done marinating, discard the liquid and pat dry with paper towels. Lay on a lightly greased baking sheet and either season with spices to your preference, or (an option we prefer) use a dry barbecue rub.


Roast in oven at 350ºF. Any time we have any meat or poultry that needs to be roasted, I like to use old trusted sources for temperature and time. For this one, we used the Joy of Cooking magic formula: cook at 350ºF for 30 minutes per pound of meat. We had two pounds, so an hour was perfect (however, keep an eye on it as pork tends to dry out easily even if slightly overdone).


Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Liquid Smoke
(serves 6-8)

You will need:
About 2 lb split pork tenderloin
liquid smoke (proportion as instructed on the label)
dry barbecue rub (check out our recipe here)
canola or other high-heat oil


1. Rinse the tenderloin and pat dry with paper towels. Prepare a bath of 1 parts liquid smoke for 8 parts water (or as instructed on the label) in a container large enough for the tenderloin to be submerged completely. Soak tenderloin, refrigerated, in liquid smoke solution for two hours. Remove, discard the liquid, and pat dry completely with paper towels.
2. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with foil with a little oil. Generously rub the two tenderloin pieces with barbecue rub.
2. Place in oven, uncovered, and roast, for about 1 hour for two pounds or until done.* Let rest for about 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy with a choice of barbecue sauce, horse radish, mustard, or whatever condiment you prefer.

*Add half an hour for additional pound of meat


Gluten-Free Sour Cherry Galette with Buckwheat Flour

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I was in the baking section of a food store one time just looking at things and I saw some buckwheat flour, thought it was interesting, and grabbed it. Despite the name, buckwheat contains no wheat and actually bears no genetic relation to the grain so it is therefore 100% gluten-free.

I am a haphazard gluten-free baker. I usually bake with regular gluten-based flour (mostly because I'm lazy), and when it comes to gluten-free baking, I am rather careless about things like mixing several flours to get the optimal flavor/pliability. I fly by the seat of my pants, and I kind of tend to wing it when I do. At the super market, I also found some fresh sour cherries from upstate New York. I grabbed two baskets, to be sure I had enough for several failed tries.


At home with the flour, I wanted to see what would happen if I followed a regular short-crust recipe, modifying a little as I went. Overall, to my surprise, this worked.


I decided to make a galette, since I knew it would be more accommodating. A galette is basically the same thing as a pie, except it is made without a pie pan as a sort of free-form pastry. Its beauty is in its imperfection, and it is a lot more forgiving since as soon as you roll it out, you can just stuff it with filling, fold the edges and bake it without having to worry about transferring it into a pie pan.


Buckwheat flour offers a sandy texture, both when working with it and consuming it. It holds together well, and overall it is a lot easier to work with than other gluten-free flours I've tried, and the end-result will not suffer if it is not mixed with other flours. Baked, it is rich in taste and darkish brown in color.


Untouched, the flour is light gray in color but becomes the color of wet dirt when it comes in contact with moisture. Once it is mixed with liquid, it becomes very pliable and forms into dough rather easily. When molding, it behaves almost like gluten-based dough, but it is prone to tearing (which is why I thought a galette would be a more optimal use rather than pie, but with care, you can also try it as a regular pie crust). Due to the pliability of the flour, the tears can be easily repaired.


Also, unlike regular pie crust made with wheat flour, whose flavor tends to fade into the background when baked, letting the filling take the center stage, the taste of the buckwheat crust is quite prominent. Full of rich, earthy flavor, it is not for those wishing for a simple, bland pie, and it certainly makes for a far more interesting dessert.


Cognizant of the fact that sour cherries are not readily available, I've also included a recipe for a blueberry filling. However, for those who cannot find fresh sour cherries, canned ones work well too (I've used them here and here). Please note that blueberries will not require as much sugar as sour cherries.

For other gluten-free short-crust pastry dough, check out these coconut tartlets.

Buckwheat Pastry Dough
(enough for a single-crust 9-inch pie or galette)

You will need:

1 1/2 cup buckwheat flour, plus more for dusting
2 tbsp coarse sugar, plus more for decorating
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
10 tbsp cold butter
1 tbsp sour cream
2-3 tbsp ice cold water
1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash (optional)


1.Prepare the filling (see below - use one or the other). Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment paper and set aside. Cut up the butter into 1/4 inch pieces and place in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up.
2. In a bowl, whisk together buckwheat flour, sugar, salt an cinnamon. Add the cold butter. Mix in the butter with the flour by quickly rubbing the butter pieces between your index finger and your thumb, until the flour has darkened and becomes crumbly and all of the butter is blended in. Mix in the sour cream. The mixture should start to stick together. Add the water, one table spoon at a time, until dough forms. Knead the dough a few times (if it is too moist, add more flour; too dry, add a few drops more of water). Form into a ball and place in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
3. Place the dough on a dusted work surface lined with parchment paper. Dust your rolling pin. Roll out to a 10 inch circle. Carefully lift the parchment paper with the dough and invert the dough onto the baking sheet. Add the filling. Fold the sides over the filling. Brush  the folded edges with the egg wash if using. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the center is bubbling vigorously and the crust is slightly golden and hard when tapped with your finger.
4. Remove to a cooling rack, let rest for 20-30 minutes before serving to let the filling solidify.

Sour Cherry Filling:
(enough for 1 pie or galette)

You will need:

3 cups sour cherries, pitted
4 tbsp coarse sugar, or more to taste
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp corn starch


Mix pitted cherries, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and corn starch. Let stand as you make pastry dough for the galette. Place the cherries in a colander over a bowl, let the juices strain for five minutes before adding to the galette.

Blueberry Filling:
(enough for 1 pie or galette)

You will need:

1 pint blueberries
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp coarse sugar, or more to taste
1 tbsp corn starch


Mix blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and corn starch. Let stand as you make pastry dough for the galette. Strain the juices before adding to the galette.


Jersey Breakfast: Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese

Sunday, October 26, 2014


When we were living in NYC, there was a bagel shop around the corner. The kind of bagel shop that every morning a line would form outside the door, sunshine, rain, or snow. The kind of bagel shop that when I went there for the first time and asked for a toasted bagel, the owner laughed at me, but then said "okay, it's your call." (They were made on the spot and were warm when served so no toasting was needed, just a schmear of lox spread). I never asked for a toasted one again.


Having moved to Jersey and having seen a bagel shop in almost every town, I was of course skeptical. There is one in our town, and although their bagels are improved by being toasted, they're as close to a New York bagel as we were going to get. So we began spending a lot of our weekend time at that bagel shop. One of my favorite pastimes is observing people. And living in a small town and going to the same bagel shop almost every weekend is quite different from seeing a parade of anonymous strangers at a cafe in NYC. You get to know the locals. You get a feel for people's habits.

After some time, I kept hearing the same order from people in front of me, people behind me, from the short order cook shouting out when an order is ready: Taylor egg and cheese on a bagel. Taylor egg and swiss on a roll. Taylor egg no cheese on rye.


After hearing this in the background so many times, I finally started to wonder. What on earth is a Taylor egg? And why are so many people ordering it?


Then we researched it. It turns out Taylor refers to Taylor pork roll which has been made in Trenton, NJ since the 1800's (and still counting). Because of some legal nuances it cannot be called "ham," as ham apparently has a very specific legal definition but, perhaps in defiance, everyone in New Jersey calls it "Taylor ham." Or just Taylor as in "Taylor, egg, and cheese."


It appears to be a Jersey specialty as I've never seen it on the menu anywhere else (and for that reason it is also known as the "Jersey Breakfast"). I'm not usually keen on breakfast sandwiches since I don't like eating meat for breakfast and I was overall skeptical. But yet again, following the When in Rome mentality, we finally caved in and ordered it.


Well, friends, all those people ordering it clearly knew something I didn't. This sandwich is good. Really good. Like put you in a food coma afterwards kind of good.


We bought some at a store (even our local supermarket sells it) and made it at home. One way to prepare your Taylor ham is by making three incisions around each slice (to prevent it from forming a dome when frying) then frying it until fairly crisp, and then slapping it on a sandwich topped with egg and some kind of cheese (commonly yellow cheese, but it's really good with Swiss). The closest thing to it would probably be Canadian bacon, which could be used as a substitute.


Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese on a Roll
Serves 2

You will need:
1 package Taylor Ham (or Canadian Bacon)
2 eggs
2 slices of Swiss cheese (or your choice)
Kaiser rolls
Hot sauce of your choice (optional)


Preheat oven to 350ºF. Fry the eggs up over-medium. Make three incisions in each ham slice. In a non-stick pan, fry the ham, flipping several times until it is golden brown and edges are lightly crisp (about 3-4 minutes per side total). Toast the Kaiser rolls. Place ham on the bottom, top with egg and a slice of cheese. Place the sandwich in the oven on a baking sheet for 5 minutes to melt the cheese. Remove, add a splash of hot sauce (optional) and enjoy!


Clam Juice and Tomato Cocktail

Monday, September 8, 2014

This recipe was inspired by eating clams and thinking about how we can use them in a recipe (we did a dairy-free clam chowder last year), and also by a recipe we discovered in a cookbook found digging around in a thrift store.


The cookbook is a 1936 edition of the Boston Cooking School Cook Book. The recipe is simple: it proposes mixing 2 parts clam juice and 1 part tomato juice. Nothing more.



Intrigued and inspired, I started digging around. The closest thing I found to a modern-day clam cocktail is Clamato, which is a cocktail mix that is apparently quite big in Canada, Mexico, and on cruise ships. It is sometimes mixed with things like vodka, and sometimes even like beer. After trying something I found somewhere that strangely suggested mixing half part the mix and half part beer, I can report to you that I am not among those gourmands that enjoy this peculiar beverage (it tastes just how it sounds).

Dissatisfied, we decided to make our own version. We mixed and measured and sampled until the combination of ingredients seemed just right.

For the clam-squeamish, don't be. If you like Bloody Marys, you will like this one. It is closest to that, except with a clammy twist of je ne sais quoi. For more seafood and cocktail inspirations, you can try our Bloody Mary shrimp cocktail.


Clam Juice and Tomato Cocktail
Serving size: 1

You will need:
4 oz tomato juice
2 oz clam juice
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp hot sauce such as Tabasco
1/4 tsp horseradish
Celery salt to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime

1. In a shaker, with ice combine the above ingredients. Shake well. In a highball glass, add 1 oz to 1 1/2 oz vodka (to taste, or skip), 4 ice cubes, and fill with the mix from the shaker. Garnish with lime or lemon wedge. Enjoy!


Jersey Summer - LBI

Monday, September 1, 2014

In late summer, heading south on the Garden State, a one hour and forty minute drive can stretch to four hours. Simply due to congestion.

Everyone heads to the shore.



To get to Long Beach Island, you wait an hour just to get off the exit, because there is only one road to the island. But oh, once you get to it, you forget everything else.

This is a place I want to come back to, no matter the traffic. This is the place where I want to live, year round. This is my shore.




It's full of one mile wide towns with names like Ship Bottom, Surf City, and Love Ladies, of seafood and of warm lapping waters, and of sun bleached cottage houses painted in pastel colors.




If you drive through the length of the entire island (it's called long for a reason), at the very bottom you can see the skyline of Atlantic City. From the northern tip, on the breakwater, you can see the Barnegat Peninsula across the inlet.





Barnegat Lighthouse is a fun place to be in the evenings. In the summer, it offers night climbs for some spectacular views.


(Tony took these lighthouse photos.)


We saw some divers in the area (this man waddled his way across the wet rocks only to come within two feet of the diver, hold up his camera, take his picture, and waddled his way back).



It is the best part of the island to watch the sunset, before heading back to your cottage for some grilling on the patio, or, for us, hitting the road (but not before securing a bucket of fried clams for the ride back).




Jersey Summer - Highlands Clam Fest

I'm not a native New Jerseyan, but it has been my home for the last few years. Before moving here it used to be what it perhaps is still to my coworkers who live in the city: something far away, less cool, where "other" people live. With some hazy images of trees and suburbs.

I've previously lived in various parts of the city for a number of years. I don't miss it, mostly because I'm still there five days a week for work. When I'm done at the end of the day I go back to the hot sweaty summers in Jersey, full of hikes, cicadas, katydids, the cries of blue jays, ripe and juicy Jersey tomatoes, farmers' markets, and the shore.

I heard of the "shore" way before it was made infamous by MTV. That shore exists. I've been there. The Boardwalk is lined with kiosks that sell burgers, fries, pizza, margaritas and beer. It is full of places offering philly cheese steaks, except when you're on the shore, you order the "Jersey Shore" - a philly cheese steak stuffed pita with cheese balls. In the words of one tween we were ahead in line of "when you're at the shore you can't eat healthy." The boardwalk is is full of carnival attractions, with a small amusement park, similar to and just as crowded as Brooklyn's Coney Island.

But there is a different shore. There is the North Shore, which most wouldn't consider "the shore" at all.


At the North Shore, there is Sandy Hook, which used to be an army base but is now a national park, with sandy beaches, a jitney to NYC, and some nudists on one of the beaches named after a military officer John W. Gunnison. A former gun battery, it is still a home to its ghosts. At the very tip of it, there still stand officers' quarters, abandoned and boarded up, but the area is open for biking and exploring.


After a day of exploring this place, a good place to go for dinner is in Highlands, NJ. Highlands used to be a popular resort town in the beginning of 20th century and has a rich history (including being a popular destination during the prohibition era). Severely hit and damaged by Sandy, the place is home to some of its own ghosts.


But most of it has bounced back. And it remains a good place to get some seafood. There is Moby's (a shack-type restaurant that serves everything you would want from a shore-front seafood place, in its freshest form - pick up your order at a kiosk and sit on a patio facing the water cracking a lobster or eating clam strips) and its neighbor Bahrs Landing (a sit-down, waitered version with boat access).


This is also a place where the local annual clam fest is held. We were there last year, and again this year. This is one of the best times to get some good seafood, raw clams, oysters, lobsters, lobster rolls, gator sausages, crab cakes, and some of the world's best clam chowder (from Bahrs).



This is a good time to get your fill of summer seafood, have some beer, listen to some good music.


Strangers strike up conversations and people are there just to have a good time, no questions asked. The atmosphere has been what Jersey is to me: unassuming, matter of fact, welcoming, frank.  "Is that a lobster roll?" A woman asked us when we sat down to share one, busy with her own plate of clam strips. Upon our assent, she shouted "Hey! Glen! Get me a lobster roll! I'll split it with ya."


Glen was nowhere to be seen, so she went and got one herself.


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