Thursday, July 3, 2008

Love Affair with Southern Cooking

Jean Anderson, a well-known food writer and cookbook author, recently won a James Beard award for her cookbook A Love Affair with Southern Cooking. (Congratulations, Jean!) The love affair in the book's title comes not only from Jean's considerable talents and expertise as a food historian and cookbook author, but also from her birthright. Jean is a natural-born Southerner and currently lives in North Carolina.

The book is filled with great recipes, of course, but also lots of sidebars and timelines and interesting nuggets of Southern food lore. In collecting the recipes for the book, Jean drew heavily on her own upbringing as well as that of friends; and many of the recipes are Southern classics, like Jefferson Davis Pie, Robert E. Lee Cake, Country Captain or Hoppin' John.

When I was thinking what recipe I would like to share with you from Jean's book, I decided it had to be something typically North Carolina, so to me that meant something barbecued. As Jean puts it: "Of course, every southern state believes its barbecue to be 'the best in the world' and as a Tar Heel, I devoutly make that claim for North Carolina." [Scroll down for Jean's list of favorite North Carolina barbecue joints.]

The following recipe is not for a North Carolina-style barbecue (since I believe that involves a giant smoke pit and a whole hog), but for a really interesting sounding grilled pork tenderloin.

Spicy Grilled Pork Tenderloin
(adapted from A Love Affair with Southern Cooking by Jean Anderson. William Morrow, 2007)
Makes 4 to 6 servings
I hesitate to call this "barbecue" although some people might. It's unlike any barbecue I've eaten; still it's a popular way to prepare pork tenderloin down south.

— 2 large whole garlic cloves
— 4 large scallions, trimmed and chunked (white part only)
— 3/4 cup pineapple juice
— 1/2 cup cider vinegar
— One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
— 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
— 2 tablespoons molasses (not too dark)
— 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
— 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
— 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
— 1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
— Two 1-pound pork tenderloins
— 2 tablespoons cold butter, dice

1. Whiz the garlic, scallions, pineapple juice, and vinegar in an electric blender at high speed until smooth. Pour into a jumbo-size plastic zipper bag, add all remaining ingredients except the pork and butter, seal, and shake well to combine.
2. Add the pork tenderloins to the bag and reseal. Refrigerate overnight, turning the bag from time to time so the pork marinates evenly.
3. When ready to proceed, pour about 1/3 cup of the marinade into a measuring cup and reserve. Pour the balance into a heavy, nonreactive saucepan and set aside. Preheat the grill to moderate heat (375°F).
4. Grill the tenderloins with the lid up, turning and brushing now and then with the reserved 1/3 cup marinade, for 25 to 30 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer, thrust into the center of a tenderloin, reads 150°F.
5. Meanwhile, bring the pan of marinade to a boil over moderately high heat, reduce the heat to its lowest point, set the lid on the pan askew, and keep the sauce warm while the tenderloins grill.
6. Transfer the tenderloins to a carving board, tent with foil, and let stand for 5 minutes. Add any leftover basting marinade to that in the saucepan and simmer uncovered while the tenderloins rest. Just before serving, add the diced butter to the hot marinade bit by bit and whisk until smooth.
7. To serve, slice the tenderloins 1/2 inch thick, slightly on the bias. Fan out on heated dinner plates and top each portion with some of the hot marinade.

Here's a list of 'cue joints from Jean's book:
• Lexington Number One, Lexington, NC
• Stamey's, Greensboro, NC
• Short Sugar's, Reidsville, NC
• Melton's, Rocky Mount, NC
• Parker's, Wilson, NC
• Flip's, Wilmington, NC
• Wilber's, Goldsboro, NC
• Scott's, Goldsboro, NC
• Skylight, Ayden, NC
• A&M, Mebane, NC
• Scott Howell's Q Shack, Durham, NC

To find out more about Jean Anderson--she's written tons of other cookbooks and also won other James Beard awards--check out her website JeanAndersonCooks.

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