March 2, 2019

Blog the Forty-second: My Pork Roast Barbary

Pork Tenderloins 
Rolled with Mushrooms Garlicky

This long awaited post is devoted to recrimination and disclaimers. Reader's discretion is advised, as there is little in the post.

First, let me disclaim this recipe for pork tenderloins rolled with mushrooms, because it’s mine. As you know, Gentle Reader, I eschew both individualism and innovation in my people’s cooking, as the slippery slope to gentrification. For this reason I attach the recriminatory label Barbary to recipes of my own invention, borrowing the traditional name of those trading ports where all manner of exotica hook up with things native and miscegenate.

And it is on this point of miscegenation that I want to recriminate. It seems to me that when one of my people marries a Gentile, you know you're in for ribbing, and it’s quite ridiculous of you to take any offense at any caricature I proffer of you or yours in this Blog about our people, because it’s a caricature. Caricatures are funny because they’re distortions, offered not as insults, but as alternative truth. A good joke always tells the truth, just not literally. Humor has its own way of telling the truth, and ridicule is its way of masking it. For you to take the ridicule personally quite misses the point, because you aren’t the point. Get it? You’re just the comic mask with which I’m masking some social critique, or just as often, some self-critique of my culinary chauvinism, itself an oblique critique of a prevailing relativism. It’s a hall of mirrors.  Have fun in it.

The serious comic doesn't want to be taken seriously, because it's not safe.  For him to tell you the truth safely, you must suspend belief.  Aristotle claimed that poetry is more philosophical than history, because whereas history is interested in the individual as individual, poetry is interested in the universal in the individual.  He made this claim about Greek comedy as well as Greek tragedy.  Tragedy has an easier time of it, since it deals with extraordinary acts we're curious about and think remote from us, larger-than-life acts of love, lust, anger, friendship, courage, betrayal, violence.  We're riveted by the sight of what's above us falling below us.  But comedy deals with what's all too close to us, all too familiar to us, all too shameful to us, the loins and bowels of our souls.  The comic has to dress up the ridiculous in us in ridiculous garb of caricature, so that we can safely laugh aloud at it as though at something beneath us while in truth we wonder at ourselves from above.  We're playing around, it's not serious, goes the noble fiction, the necessary lie.  Just joking.  Well, that's true.  Though every good joke is serious, it's still just a joke.

So, if I find something you or yours say or do interesting enough to qualify as fit matter for comic caricature in these bytes, look to the universal in it.  This recrimination goes for friends as well as family, as you people constitute my readership, as far as I can tell (which is perhaps more than many another Blog can boast). Everybody seems to take the jokes in the right way until one of them is about them. It’s ridiculous of you to take the ridiculous seriously, or to worry about anyone else ridiculous enough to do so, especially anyone willing to slog through this Blog.  The joke is on us all.

I’ve been on strike, protesting my readership’s want of humor, having learned that the comic is no more accepted among his own than the prophet.  I had been text-shamed by one of the family venerables into deleting some really funny lines about smoothies, lest my readers think I was mocking my doctor-cousins rather than their smoothie. My joke was about their “deleterious health concerns,” i.e., about my thinking doctors’ health concerns “deleterious” to delicious food—which is funny, because it’s true. Get it? But because this family venerable didn’t, I had to delete such a favorite line as: That man was a rhetorical if sophistical genius who rendered the pablum of toothless infants fit food for grown men by renaming it “a smoothie.”  (There, got it back in!)  We are enjoined to hate the sin but not the sinner, and it is accordingly the slurpees I mocked, not the slurpers. The slurpers I pity, and from the bottom of my electronic heart pray that the prodigals return from slurping their slop to chewing their cud.

Now, let me reduce the offending joke to the facts, and let’s see if you, Gentle Reader, find anything insulting in it: I made fun of a doctor for drinking a nutritious smoothie after his run. I also surmised that he harbored a secret belief that eating is really about nutrition.  Insulting?  When I make fun of that, am I making fun of him, or making fun of myself making fun of him?  And to the extent that I'm making fun of him as well as of myself, isn't the whole joke in my making those utterly uninsulting facts insulting?  And when I do, I insult not him as such, but in him every American financing our 2 billion dollar smoothie craze, do I not?

Perplexed at anyone's taking offense? So was I, so I decided to delete and strike in my own defense. I stopped blogging to protest reader censoriousness, not just theirs, but in them, all of you people.

So, why, you ask, start again now? Time heals all wounds?  No. Rather, remember my other cousin, merry Achilles of the Tiramisu post? Well, he has a spirited sense of humor, which can be unsafe, as I've been saying, albeit in his case for others.  When I graced him with a caricature in that post on tiramisu, he was delighted, but others of less wit [pun intended] wondered whether he had been insulted.  Now, the only family member that noticed my strike was merry Achilles, who inquired at the Christmas Eve party why no blog posts for over a year? Well, he ended up motivating my return to blogging as follows. For years a plenary session of the Brooklyn diaspora reunites at his Jersey mansion for the Christmas Eve party, and his mother, my godmother, makes a gigantic bowl of fish salad for literally dozens of cousins. The center of my people’s Christmas Eve feast is this great fish salad; it is long awaited, much coveted, and often runs out. Well, I witnessed our host make a hog of himself on the night in question, not only by filling a cereal bowl (commandeered from his kitchen cabinet for the purpose) thrice to the brim with his mother’s fish salad, but also grabbing a jar (from yet another of his kitchen cabinets) to skim a stash of leftovers in his fridge for the next day. This struck me, God, Nature, and Consicence, as OTT.

For that reason, perhaps, I thought it an angel of mine, God, Nature, or Conscience whispering in my ear later that night when, everyone summoned to the basement to greet Santa Clause loudly announcing the arrival of his bag of gifts, I, left providentially alone in the kitchen upstairs, felt a moral imperative to confiscate that jar of absconded fish salad from that fridge and stow it in the trunk of my car to bring back to Brooklyn, whence came the fish in the first place, I note.

Of course, I meant this as remonstrance rather than revenge, and so I took a pic of the jar of fish on my mother’s kitchen counter once back to Brooklyn, and I texted it in the middle of the night to a dozen cousins with the tag line, Father, forgive me, for I have sinned, that being the opener of every Catholic confession, and the words I hoped to grace Achilles’ lips upon seeing his soul's excess reflected back to himself in that texted pic in the light of Christmas morning.  (As for my mother, she avowed there was no way she'd eat any of it, so I don't think she was counting on any repentance.) 

Well, it took the dozen cousins the better part of Christmas day to figure out what that texted pic was about, and I received gleeful hugs, kisses, and accolades from the doctor-cousins I was with Christmas Day when they heard the story of my Christmas Eve caper. But in Jersey, Achilles wasn’t laughing. He also wasn’t repenting. Unlike me, he was intent on revenge, and vowing it via texts the day after. Knowing his sense of humor to be as intemperate as his appetites, I thought appeasement the better half of recrimination. I managed to talk him down by replying with a droll chain of scriptural quotations about forgiveness. He finally relented from his avowed revenge, on condition however that I confess the sin on my Blog. So, here it is. I couldn’t imagine why he wanted me to blog about the sin, if I didn’t know what a hearty sense of humor he has, even about himself, as I’ve confessed, which is what he required.

As for the doctor-cousin who likes her doctor-husband’s green smoothies, I know she knows that it’s a running joke of this Blog that our mothers’ people are the chosen people of cookery, and that the chosen people of cookery are ever in danger of corruption from mixing with the gentile peoples of the promised land. [By the way, it should be all the funnier that her particular Gentile happens to be Jewish.] You marry one of these Gentiles, and next thing you know, you’re adapting our recipes to the corruptive dislikes of your gentile spouse and gentrified spawn, or worse yet, you’re drinking their green smoothies. As both self-appointed Apostle of Cookery to the Gentiles and Culinary Cato to the family, it falls to me to exhort our own to save your Gentile from gustatory barbarities, however nutritious, and to upbraid you when you yourself are instead led awry by your Jezebel to drink their smoothies. On the other hand, it also falls to me to celebrate the Ruths of our family (like cousin M.’s McHusband) who happily renounce the food of their own mothers to eat ours, feasting on the food of our mothers in fattening joy.

Now, if you know your Bible, these allusions are as witty as they are ridiculous. But if you don’t know your Bible, and you think moreover that I’m serious about any of this ridicule, and you’re offended, then you should click off to another Blog [yes, of course “click off” is euphemism], because you’re not getting the jokes, and if you’re not getting the jokes, why put up with them? That would be truly ridiculous.

However, for my readers of weak conscience:  I hereby formally dislcaim any description, sketch, vignette, portrait, or cameo in this Blog as in any way factual, even if true; and I avow any incidental verisimilitude to yourself to be complimentary, any appearance to the contrary notwithstanding.

Now, enough recrimnation; back to disclaiming my recipe for rolled pork tenderloin. Granted I aver that Art loves Accident, I’m not sure Error counts, and my Barbary pork roast emerged from a veritable comedy of errors.

One Christmas day, my sister made a pork loin with a big slit filled with sautéd mushrooms, and we all loved it. Much later, I tried to re-create it from memory, and ended up filling my slit with my mushrooms garlicky bulked up with seasoned breadcrumbs. But I hated the tedium of trying to get those mushrooms to stay inside their slit, so I stopped trying her recipe, until one day on television I saw Jacques Pepin slice pork tenderloins in a Frenchy-foo tripartite butterfly that converts them into slabs of pork to be rolled jelly-roll style and tied into a stuffed roast. So, I started rolling my mushrooms garlicky into spliced tri-butterflied pork tenderloins, which turns out to be even more tedious than stuffing them into the slit of a pork loin, however well worth the fancy-foo result .

Oh no, I just invented a gourmet roast! See how innovation ends in corruption, the purity of the ancestral ways in the barbarous debauchery of a decadent sophistication! Would my ancestors have ever even tolerated such alliterative assocance in a sentence, let alone such a roast?

When I made my fancified version of her roast for my sister, she said, That’s not like mine at all. Oh? said I. Turns out that whereas she sautés white button mushrooms with onions and sherry, I sauté dark Baby Bella’s with garlic and parsley; and, whereas she rolls her loin roast in seasoned breadcrumbs, I roll the seasoned breadcrumbs into my mushroom stuffing. Then it came out that she adapted her own pork loin version from an original recipe of the mother of a life-long friend of hers, of Irish extraction, who did it with beef tenderloin, not pork loin. So my recipe for pork tenderloin comes from my Frenchifying my sister’s pork loin Italianization of her Irish friend’s recipe for beef tenderloin. If that ain’t Barbary, what is?

What shall I say? This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine. Since his breeding hath been at my charge, shall I not braze myself to acknowledge him? After all, the bastard has his father’s good taste. In the end, moreover, my Barbary pork roast tastes like the food of my people, so maybe the Eternal Verities love Error, as Art does Accident, if only a good roast may be brought of it in the end. After all, does it not belong to Providence to make chance serve its intention and to bring forth good even from evil?

Now, to add to all the impurity of this recipe’s engendering, there’s my vain motive for writing this Blog post. I have a great pic of the roast that I want to post in my sidebar. This motive gives me more matter for yet more recrimination. My readers, being family and friends, offer me more complaints than compliments. [One rare compliment came qualified thus, I’m only going to say this once, and never again, because I don’t want to give you a fat head, but your Blog is really good. That was several years ago.] For a long time I endured recurrent complaints about there being no pictures of the food on my Blog. I wanted the Blog to be like an old recipe book, with just words, I said; but the truth is that I was afraid food pics would prove a Pandoric Rabbit Hole, and I was right. [No mixed metaphors not intended.]

Once I got a smart phone (against my will), pics started seeming not only possible but imperative, since I only have to flick my wrist to get my Android to take a picture of my dinner. Now, I hate to bite the hand that feeds me, but this Google Blogger platform really sucks (to ellipse curses rather than mince words) . You can have no idea how much time I waste wrestling this software’s dysfunctionality. The stupidities of the program are so grave, I can’t even make a good comic rant out of them. However, unfortunately for me, its impediments to my will rouse my spirit to defiance rather than my intellect to acquiescence.

My pic ambitions reached their pitch in my next-to-last Blog post, the one about peas. I spent untoward time and effort dodging the program’s faults and defaults, and when in the end I succeeded in bending its graphics to my will, I expected adulation. But I got none—not even a mention, let alone a compliment on my tiled pea-pics, from any reader whatsoever. When my consternation reached its own pitch, I descended to fishing for a compliment. I asked one loyal reader I work with if he had seen my latest Blog post on peas. Oh, ye-aah, but that one’s mostly about the recipes, isn’t it?

Mostly about the recipes? Rather than rants, I guess he meant—with not even a mention of the coffered quartet of tiled pea-pics at the head of the post, thumb-nailing each of the four recipes? Yes, I say to him, the one with all those pics, cueing him; and he, Yeah, that one. Yeah that one? The one with all the recipes? So your only comment is a complaint that too much of my food blog is about food?

Now, allow me to interrupt this recrimination to illustrate my earlier one. Is it as a matter of fact true that this loyal reader is not interested in the recipes? Probably he is, as he is spawn of an Italian restaurateur. But it would be ridiculous for him to protest that he didn’t mean to say to me that he wasn’t interested in the pea recipes, because whether he is or not is quite beside the point of my joke, which is to posit a reader who is interested only in my rants and not in my recipes, as a dialectical response to kin who censure/censor my insults and make me delete my favorite ones. It’s funny to posit that some of my readers find my insults the only really worthwhile parts of my Blog posts, whether that’s true or not. (Of course, they’re not really insults. Smoothies are ridiculous; you know that. That’s just a fact.  And belaboring the obvious is funny.)

My complaint, in sum, is that keeping all you people laughing all the time is simply not in the nature of things possible, and if you keep reading anyhow, that’s on you.

Okay, enough rant ‘n recrim. In case you’re one of my readers who reads for the recipes and not the rants, read on, and let the others get going, now that I’m going to talk about food.

Preparing the Pork Tenderloins

I always brine pork, leaving it to soak all day in water salty as the sea (1/4-cup salt/1 qt. water)—and rinsing it well with fresh water before proceeding with the recipe. Pork tenderloins always come in pairs, and I always trouble myself to trim away all the fat as well as the silver skin, which needs to be pulled at and shaved away with a thin, sharp knife.

I mention above that Jacques taught me how to butterfly a tenderloin into a flat tripartite slab, but often I make do with just butterflying smaller ones in halves, opening them out like a book. That means evenly pressing down the tenderloin with the full length of your hand to flatten and firm it, and then, lowering your eye to slicing level, running a long, thin, sharp slicing knife along the length of its side, half-way down, but only two-thirds in. This will allow you to open it up like a book part way; then you use your knife to continue slicing lightly along the crease-fold until the meat opens out completely flat.

If the tenderloins happen to be rather thick, then I do it Jacques’ way, in three parts and not just in half, which requires not thinking. If you think, you’ll mess up. So, without thinking, press the tenderloin down with your hand and run your knife along your right-hand side one-third the way down from the top (rather than half), but still two-thirds the way in. As before, open the flap like a book and slice lightly at the crease to open it completely flat. Now, without thinking, close the flap, turn the whole ternderloin upside down, and slice again along your right-hand side one-third down and two-thirds in; as before, unfold and slice lightly along the crease to open it fully, like a book opened flat. Now, without thinking, turn your open book upside down, and unfold the flap on the other side, which will open out in the opposite direction from the top flap. If you haven’t been thinking about it, you’ll have a tripartite pork tenderloin slab.

Lightly salt and pepper both sides of both butterflied tenderloins evenly all over. Then melt butter into olive oil, and brush both sides with the buttery oil. Now line the two slabs up, overlapping the thinner edges, so as to create a single spliced slab of tenderloin.  Get it as even as you can get it by trimming and tucking and pressing and stretching, as needed.

Now you’re ready to spread on the mushroom stuffing.

Preparing the Mushroom Stuffing

You should have been preparing the mushroom stuffing while the pork tenderloins were brining. The stuffing is simply my recipe for mushrooms garlicky, with 4-C Seasoned Breadcrumbs folded in at the end. Here’s the Mushrooms Garlicky recipe:

Mushrooms Garlicky  (from Blog the Sixth) 
* Wash and slice Baby Bella mushrooms. Melt a wad of butter into a pool of extra virgin olive oil, and add the mushroom slices with showers of salt.
* Sauté at first on low heat to draw the water out of the mushrooms, then raise heat high to boil all water away.
* When the sound changes from boiling liquid to sizzling oil, add a goodly amount of chopped garlic and generous grindings of black pepper. Sauté the mushrooms with the garlic until savory.
* Add chopped parsley and sauté a bit to wilt. Taste and correct for salt and pepper.

Once the mushrooms are fully cooked, I shower them evenly all over with seasoned breadcrumbs, fold the crumbs in, and shut off the heat. I think it best to let the mushroom stuffing cool off before rolling them into the roast.

Rolling the Roast

Now more gourmet fuss and bother: both the rolling and tying of the roast is awkward.

Use a spatula to spread the mushroom stuffing evenly across the spliced slabs of butterflied tenderloins, leaving an inch margin along the edges.

Then slide foot-length cuts of string under the slabs, about an inch apart.  To create the roll, first fold over the inch of meat along each side of the spliced slabs; then use both hands to fold the top of the slab over about a third of the way, and then the bottom of the slab up and over the top one. Do your best to tighten the whole into a firm roll, tucking and tightening wherever it will allow it.

Now tie up the roll with the strings, from the center out, with single knots. As needed, add more strings; tuck and tighten as you go; use some tooth picks, if you have to.

At the end, cut a long piece of string to tie the whole roast lengthwise, and tie this lengthwise string to crosswise ones by using the ends of the crosswise knots to tie a second knot around the lenghtwise string. Here’s a pic of a finished roll:

Roasting the Roast

This roast cooks pink in the middle, so if you don’t like pink pork, you’ve wasted your time reading this post (unless, of course, you read for the rants). It’s hard to judge how long the roast needs to bake, and I don’t think thermometers are reliable in the case of stuffed and rolled roasts. My rule of thumb is 40 minutes at 400 degrees. By then, the roll should feel springy and have a brownish blush about it. If you wait for it to brown all over, you’ll surely overcook it. If you want it browned all around, there’s the Frenchyfoo trick of browning the roast in a pan before putting into the oven. I, for one, wouldn’t ever go that far. Alternatively, you could brush the whole roll again with the buttered olive oil just before putting into the hot oven, to abet coloring.  (For a while, I then also rolled the whole roast in seasoned bread crumbs augmented with freshly grated cheese, as my sister does in her loin recipe; but I've come to prefer just plain roasted meat on the outside, and one less thing to fuss over.)

Likewise, I often don’t bother turning the roast over. If I do, I do it after 30 minutes. However, I usually position the roasting pan in the low center of the oven, so that oven heat from below heats the roasting pan and browns the underside a bit. In general, if I feel the roast isn’t coloring fast enough at 30 minutes, I raise the heat to 450 degrees. However, I don’t fuss over lovely coloring, because once the roll is cut for serving, the desirable visual effect is the inside.

Speaking of slicing, that’s awkward too. Let the roast cool down a bit, perhaps 10 minutes, so as to firm up and finish cooking. When slicing it, I always start at the fattest point in the middle, so that if I undercooked it, I could put it back into the oven—keeping in mind, though, that the ends of the roast always cook more than the middle, and a range of doneness is good for a range of eaters.

The slices are hard to keep in tact, but if they fall apart, they taste no less delicious, so I don’t fuss over it. If you’re intent on preserving the jelly-roll look, then I recommend you slice up the roast in the serving platter rather than on a cutting board. Grab the whole roll with your hand, surrounding its girth with your fingers to firm it as you slice very thick slices with gentle even pressure, letting the sharp blade and friction do the work, not downward pressure. Use the same knife edge to separate slices a bit at the base, so as to splay them.  At the head of this post is, please note, a nice pic of a rare success that got all this fuss of a post started in the first place.

Pork Tenderloins Rolled with Mushrooms Garlicky
(from Blog the Forty-second)

* Trim all fat and silver skin away from the two tenderloins. It's best to soak (or defrost) them all day in a brine of 1/4-cup salt/1 qt. water. Rinse well with fresh water, and dry well, before butterflying.
* Prepare mushrooms garlicky: Wash and slice Baby Bella mushrooms. Melt a wad of butter into a pool of extra virgin olive oil, and add the mushroom slices with showers of salt. Sauté at first on low heat to draw the water out of the mushrooms, then raise heat high to boil all water away. When the sound changes from boiling liquid to sizzling oil, add a goodly amount of chopped garlic and generous grindings of black pepper. Sauté the mushrooms with the garlic until savory. Add chopped parsley and sauté a bit to wilt. Taste and correct for salt and pepper. Then sprinkle all over with an even covering of seasoned breadcrumbs (preferably "4-C" Brand), and fold them into the mushrooms until imbued with oil. Shut off heat and cool.
* Butterfly each tenderloin thus: press the tenderloin down with your hand and run your knife along your right-hand side one-third the way down from the top, but two-thirds the way in. Open the flap like a book and slice lightly at the crease to open it completely flat. Now close the flap, turn the whole tenderloin upside down, and slice again along your right-hand side one-third down and two-thirds in; as before, unfold and slice lightly along the crease to open it fully, like a book opened flat. Now turn your open book upside down, and unfold the flap on the other side, which will open out in the opposite direction from the top flap. (If tenderloins are not thick, you could simply butterfly them in half.) Salt and pepper each butterflied slab evenly all over on both sides, and brush all sides with butter melted into olive oil.
* Now splice the two butterflied slabs together by overlapping the thinner edges, and pressing, spreading, tucking, trimming, as needed, to create as even a single slab of meat as possible.

* Spread the mushroom stuffing evenly across the spliced ternderloin slabs, leaving an inch margin at the edges. Shimmy foot-long lengths of string under the meat, at intervals of about an inch. Time to roll ...
* First fold the inch of side margins of the slab over. Now use both hands to fold the top third of the whole slab down and over; then fold the bottom third up and over the top third. Do your best to shape and tighten this roll, tucking, massaging, firming, as best you can. Then tie it up, from the inside out.

At the end, cut a long length of string to tie it up lengthwise, tucking in the ends of the roll, and tying this lengthwise string to the crosswise strings. Brush the outside of the roll with butter melted in olive oil. (Optionally, you could then roll the roll in seasoned breadcrumbs enhanced with freshly grated cheese, preferably Parmigiano.)
* Preheat the over to 400 degrees. Place the roll in a roasting pan, and the pan in the bottom half of the oven. After 30 minutes, check to see if the roast is beginning to color; if not, raise the heat to 450 degrees. Bake until the roast blushes brownish and is springy to the touch (probably another 10 minutes, for a total of 40 minutes, more or less).
* Let cool for 10 minutes. In the serving platter, slice thick slices from the middle out with a long sharp slicing knife, grabbing the girth of the roast to secure and firm it, and letting the blade and friction do the job rather than downward pressure. Use the knife to gently splay the slices.