The coincidental timing of my husband’s birthday near Columbus Day and peak foliage has turned this once minor family celebration into one of my favorite annual events – a weekend getaway to our cottage in the Endless Mountains with Mr TBTAM’s parents. Add in bro Joe with Rachel and clan in a rented RV, bring eldest daughter in from college, make the weather glorious and warm, go for Sunday brunch at Berry Fields Farm and put the Phillies in the playoffs (with a no-hitter reminiscent of the one that occurred on the day Mr TBTAM was born, which is why his middle name is Donald), and this year’s birthday weekend was very special indeed.
My only disappointment was that Joe’s family had already hiked Ricketts Glen before we arrived, and the meager apple harvest this year meant no apple stand or applesauce makers at the Forksville Fall Festival.
Joe, Rachel and my mother-in-law Irene are all fabulous cooks, so the weekend was one long Iron Chef event that started earlier in the week as we planned and coordinated via phone what we’d make and who would bring what. Since we had brought two separate pairs of tenderloin, we even had a brine-off. Irene had started her tenderloin brining Friday night, but Mr TBTAM and I could not start ours till we arrived to the cottage Saturday late morning, in brine that Joe (who had arrive the night before) had made and set cooling at around 7. It was clear by their rich color that Irene’s tenderloin were the superior brine, but by the time the dish was done no one knew or cared which was which.
We all crammed into the kitchen to cook the birthday dinner together, with Irene and Joe sharing Chef de Cuisine while Rachel and I played Sous Chef. Everyone got along famously, and the dinner was incredible. We served the tenderloin with a side of green beans, homemade applesauce and roasted herb potatoes. The birthday cake was a dense ginger cake with whipped cream (recipe coming soon…).
I don’t have space or time to detail the rest of the food we made that weekend, except to say that the pork leftovers went great with Frugal Fig Flatbread and salad for Sunday dinner, and leftover salad and fig flatbread were delicious additions to omelets and sausage for Monday morning brunch.
But better than the food that weekend were the moments with one another. Joe and Em jamming on guitar, Joe and Marvin kibbutzing on the porch, me hanging with Rachel under the stars while the kids and the boys watched the game at The Barn, Luke drawing, Mr TBTAM blowing out his candles, laughing with Grace and Nats in the middle of the night, Irene and Rachel cooking breakfast, going on the world’s longest wild goose chase for those elusive fall apples, worrying we’d get tossed out on our ear by the Lake association for parking an RV in the driveway, hiking the lake and just sitting around the fire together talking.
Thanks Irene and Marvin, for joining us again, and thanks Joe, Rachel, Luke and Grace for making the long trip up north. And thank you, Mr TBTAM, for being born on the best weekend of the year.
Roast Pork Tenderloin with Braised Cabbage and Port Wine Sauce
This recipe is based on one from Chef Mark Peel (which can be found in the Gourmet Cookbook) with Irene’s modifications. It’s a lot of work and worth every second. The recipe below will serve 6. We doubled the meat (but not the cabbage) to serve 10 with leftovers.
Peel’s original recipe uses pork loin and brines for 2-3 days. We used tenderloin and brined for 6-8 hours. We also substituted chicken for veal stock in the port wine sauce. We saw no need to blanch the cabbage before sauteing, as Peel does in his original recipe. Finally, doubling the cabbage and using red onions and more garlic adapted it further to our tastes.
2 quarts water
1/3 cup Kosher salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
A few red pepper flakes
1 tablespoons dried thyme
4 whole cloves
4 whole allspice, cracked
1 bay leaf
2 pork tenderloins, 3/4 to 1 lb each
1 head (2 pound) red cabbage, cored, split and cut into thin slices (The thinnest you can get without using a food processor or mandoline)
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 large red onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick round slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped (2 teaspoon)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
8 fresh sage leaves, chopped fine (optional – we left them out)
1 tablespoon drained capers
Port Wine Sauce
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 large shallots, trimmed, peeled, and chopped (2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup ruby port or sweet marsala wine
1 cup canned beef or chicken broth
1 tbsp butter (to add at the end)
- Brine the pork. Combine 2 quarts of water, 1/3 cup kosher salt, sugar, garlic cloves, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, thyme, cloves, allspice, and bay leaf in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the stockpot from the heat, transfer the brine to a large mixing bowl, allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours. When the brine is thoroughly chilled, add the tenderloin, ensuring that it is completely immersed, and refrigerate, covered, for 6-8 hours. When ready to roast, remove the meat from the brine, and dry with kitchen towels.
- Cook the pork and onions. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the pork lightly with black pepper. (It should not need salt.) In a large cast-iron skillet, over medium-high heat, brown the pork loin on all sides, then remove the pork to a platter and reserve. Distribute the onion slices on the bottom of the cast-iron skillet and place the browned pork loin on top. Transfer to the oven and roast until the internal temperature of the pork is 150 degrees, about 15- 20 mins. (15 mins if you like it pink, 20 mins if you like it more well done.)
- Prepare the Port Wine Sauce. While the pork is roasting, prepare the Port Wine Sauce. In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Sauté the shallots until wilted, about 5 minutes. Pour in 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and cook until completely absorbed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the port wine and cook until 1/2 cup remains, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the stock and cook until the sauce begins to thicken, about 5 to 10 minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh, stainless-steel strainer into a small pot and keep warm. Add the butter just before serving.
- Caramelize the onions. Remove the cast-iron skillet from the oven, transfer the pork loin from the skillet to a platter and let it rest in a warm spot. Using a stainless-steel spatula, scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen any browned particles. Remove an of the onions that are burned. Sauté the remaining onions over medium heat until caramelized, about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and reserve.
- Saute the cabbage. Add a little olive oil if needed to the pan and heat. Add the garlic and cabbage. Sauté until the cabbage is thoroughly heated through, and crisp-tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and the caramelized onions, stir briefly, add the sage and capers, and season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and keep warm till the sauce is reduced and ready.
- Serve. To serve, cut the pork loin into 1/2-inch-to-2-inch-thick slices. Place the cooked cabbage on a large warm platter. Arrange the slices of pork on the cabbage, ladle the sauce over, and serve immediately.