Sunday, January 10, 2010

Let's Be Real, It's Pork Week: Lemony Scaloppine of Pork

If you can't stand the the cold, hover close to your ranges.  It's an appealing way to spend the last lazy days before the semester starts.

This article from the LA Times, on the public dialogue about local food that so often disintegrates into a shouting match between the "hard-line aggies" who must produce food on a scale large enough to survive, and the "know-nothing urbanites" who want their food deeply imbued with moral blamelessness, has got me thinking about compromises made according to the situations we are in.  From my vantage point, even though I'm extremely lucky to be clerking for a firm next summer, I am conscious that not everyone has that opportunity (which, by the way, will be the last you hear from me on that.  The first rule of Fight Club is, you don't talk about Fight Club).  Nothing is sure for a law student these days, as recent grads have offers revoked and intelligent, well-regarded 2Ls and 3Ls find that there's no room at the inn, so to speak.  It's an unknown that sends me scurrying toward my defense mechanisms, namely, risk aversion and extreme frugality.  But frugality is usually fraught these days.  I know too much about how conventional food and food-like products are produced in this country (and so do a lot of people, thanks to voices like Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Alice Waters [whatever you think of her], Wendell Berry, Barbara Kingsolver, and Vandana Shiva, to name a few) to fool myself into believing for an instant that the shortcut is the overall least costliest option, for my body and for my environment.

Walking this tension rope between needing to be conservative with my finances and wanting to be a responsible, thoughtful human being, is not, I think, so impossible, and I'll be making a conscious effort this year to consider the push-pull between the wild, near-impossible dream of keeping my money entirely in my community, and absolute surrender to the bosom of mother consumer culture.  It doesn't have to be a dichotomy like that.  Call it a resolution for a new year, of sorts.

So, pork now.  Delicious, delicious pork.

My grandmother gave me Judith Jones' (Julia Child's editor) The Pleasures of Cooking for One as a goodbye gift last week, and I've really enjoyed going through it.  One thing that Jones is good at is getting the cook to think about various ways to use leftovers throughout the week, which is a really weak spot for me.  I tend to, say, just make a roast one night and then eat reheated roast for the next few nights.  But this book has me thinking more about being judicious with tonight's cuts of meat, so that I can make something different, with the same roast, tomorrow night.  This recipe is a good example, and I'll cook through the next few recipes to (hopefully) prove to you (and myself!) that one 1.65 lb of pork roast can be easy to adapt.

Lemony Scaloppine of Pork
From The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones

3 thin slices pork tenderloin/roast (Barnes Farms)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
AP flour for dredging
1 teaspoon light olive oil
2 teaspoons butter
4 very thin slices of lemon, plus 1/2 lemon for squeezing (my lemon was from a Florida tree, and was, like, the size of a grapefruit.  This will become important later on)
1 fat shallot, sliced paper-thin
2-3 tablespoons chicken broth or water
1 1/2 teaspoons capers, rinsed (didn't use)
A scattering of chopping fresh parsley (ditto)

Slice up your lemons and shallot to have them ready.  Start the rice on the stove now, too, if you want that.

Place your very sharp chef's knife on top of the pork about 2 1/2 inches from the thicker end.  Tilting the knife slightly on the diagonal, slice off one quite thin scallop, moving from where you inserted the knife toward and off the end.  Repeat two more times to make three slices.  

Pound the scallops gently to an even thickness (this is easy in a plastic bag.  I used a rolling pin to pound them).  

Salt and pepper them lightly and dredge them in flour.  

Heat the oil in a skillet just large enough for the three scaloppine, then add the butter, and when it is sizzling, lay in the meat along with the slices of lemon and shallot.  Cook the scallops over medium-high heat for less than a minute on each side (longer if your scallops are thicker... just watch them and don't be afraid to cut into them.  Uncooked pork still makes me nervous).  

Remove scallops to a warm plate.  Squeeze most of the half-lemon into the pan, add the chicken broth/water, and boil down until lightly thickened.  Toss in the capers and return the meat to the pan just to heat through.  Taste to see if it needs a little more lemon and/or salt.  Spoon everything onto your warm plate and scatter a little parsley on top.

I had this with brown rice and a salad with roasted white sweet potatoes (from Delta Sol Farms) on top.  The pork was good, but holy lemon!  If your lemon is the size of a grapefruit, squeezing "half a lemon" into the sauce will make it so that lemon is ALL you can taste.  Just... just use a normal sized lemon.  You'll be fine.

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