My name is Thomas Lott. I am a proud husband and father of two. Two of my favorite things are football and cooking. I'm no expert in either, but I certainly like to fool around with both. I’ve been a home cook for about 10 years, and been around football since I was 4 years old. This fall, perhaps I’ll find out which one I know better! So I'll be checking in periodically to make a pick - or picks (even I'm allowed a bye week here and there!). Again, I'm no expert, so please don’t go betting the mortgage on my humble picks! From that, I’ll make a dish that has something to do with the game - who I think will win, a star/key player, or other story line. Don’t worry - I’m a home cook so it won’t be anything you can’t do - I promise. I’m still learning so most of these will come from my stash of cookbooks or another recipe floating around the internet. I won’t pawn anything off as my own or pretend there’s some super-secret family recipe that I can't share. Most of these I will probably have made before, others might be an experiment. I hope all will go well, but some may go from stovetop right to the dumpster! I'll be sharing my successes, mishaps, and maybe even a few gratuitous shots of my crew of sous chefs and tasters :-)

I'm always a work in progress, so my food won't *always* be pretty (or healthy!), but it's going to taste good--and if it doesn't I'll tell you that, too. And just so you know, it's also a mathematical certainty that I'll whiff on some of my football picks, too. The whole point is to get better at both! So I hope you keep up with me this fall as I have some fun with the kitchen and the pigskin! I welcome all comments, suggestions, requests and discussions on all things pigskin and kitchen!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Week 5 - Cajun Spiced Pork

College Football! So nice to have you back! After a pretty uneventful week in which one of the major highlights was an onside kick by the Rice Owls, it’s exciting there’s a game or two to look forward to. So let’s get right to it:

First, we’ve got the Oklahoma Sooners traveling up to Notre Dame. If you remember last year, the Irish came to Norman and punched the Sooners right in the mouth at home. They looked absolutely atrocious in that game. Ever since 2003, once or twice a year – big game, small game, bowl game, or national championship – the Sooners seem to miss the memo that they have a game that day. Last year’s Cotton Bowl is a perfect example. It's interesting that Bob Stoops has had to turn to Blake Bell at quarterback after he was suprisingly not handed the reigns on opening day. He had a pretty good game against Tulsa, but this will be his first real test. I'm still not sure about Bell because up until a week ago, I had literally never seen him do anything but take a shotgun snap and bull his way between the tackles. I’ve got a good feeling about him this week, though.  I like that OU is flying under the radar right now, and there is surely a bit of that bad taste left over from last year. They'll be slowed a little by that jungle grass at Notre Dame's stadium, but I like Boomer by 7.  
The BIG one this week is LSU at Georgia and should be an exciting matchup. In my opinion, LSU has been perhaps a bit overrated at times. They usually rely on their athletes more than scheme and are generally pretty unsophisticated – particularly on offense. I can’t remember a time when their quarterback was a game changer that they won because of. I wouldn’t call Zach Mettenberger a star, but I like what he and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron are doing and hopefully he can stay focused and not get caught up in his return to Georgia. As for UGA, a big game in Athens can only mean one thing: time for Georgia to be Georgia again! I think the Dawgs will look good early, but I’m selling my Georgia shares and taking LSU in a close one.

So this week, I'm going to be making Cajun-Spiced Pork. This recipe comes from a book from the good folks at Weber called Charcoal Grilling by Jamie Purviance. It seems pork tenderloins are on sale a lot, and you really can do a lot with them. While this original recipe is for grilling the pork tenderloin, I learned to do this with a searing technique that is finished in the oven. Firing up the charcoal grill isn't always realistic or practical, so by doing it this way, you'll likely be pulling the pork out of the oven the same time your coals would have been ready!

Cajun-Spiced Pork Tenderloin
from Weber's Charcoal Grilling by Jamie Purviance
Start out by making the Cajun rub. You'll need fresh thyme, kosher salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion, paprika, light brown sugar, fresh ground black pepper and cayenne pepper. Mix well with your fingers or a fork. Also, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
(I actually used dried thyme. If you're using dried thyme use about 1/2 - 2/3 tsp)

Rub the Dijon mustard all over the pork. You'll notice that I've actually cut the tenderloin into about 7 medallion pieces. You don't have to do this, but it seems to cook a bit faster that way.
Season the pork with the rub. Make sure to really press those spices into the meat.
Oil and heat up a skillet to medium high. About 1 to 1 1/2  tablespoons should do it. Grapeseed is the best, but vegetable or canola will do also. You probably want to stay away from olive oil because its not very well suited for high heat searing like we're doing here. Once your pan is good and hot (just about the time EVOO would start smoking), drop the pork in the pan. Let it sear undisturbed for about 3-4 minutes.

Keep rotating every 3 minutes or so and let it get nice and brown all over. You'll see a nice crust developing...

...and yes I am totally crowding the pan which I know is a big no-no. BUT, 2 Kids + after 6pm + no bath yet = one round of searing

Then into the oven for 12-15 minutes....could be a little more. Basically until the meat has an internal temperature of 150.

And there you go! Make sure you let the meat rest for a few minutes before you slice it up. You can see even in the picture how moist it cooked up.


Now of course you can’t replicate that wonderful distinct charcoal flavor cooking indoors, but between the rub and a good sear you might actually be surprised how “grilled” it tastes. If I just showed you the picture, wouldn't you think it looks grilled, too? Cutting the tenderloin into medallions not only cuts cooking time, but more of the surface area gets seared which equals more flavor. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, make a gravy or a pan sauce with the drippings/seasonings left in the pan from the sear. So just think: if you’re having mashed potatoes with the pork, how delicious would a Cajun spiced gravy go with them?!

I hope you enjoy the games this week as well as your pork!

Cajun-Spiced Pork Tenderloin
adapted from Weber’s Charcoal Grilling by Jamie Purviance

2 lbs of pork tenderloin (two one pounder tenderloins or two pounds cut into 2” – 3” medallions)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp fresh thyme (chopped)
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp granulated onion
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp light brown sugar
¾ tsp fresh ground pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

1)Combine rub ingredients in a small bowl. Use a fork or fingers to mix well. Set aside.

2)Rub the Dijon mustard all over the pork. It should cover the entire surface.

3)Season evenly with the rub, making sure to coat the meat and press the spices into the meat. Let the meat sit at room temperature for about 20 mins. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

4)Oil a skillet with 1-1 ½ tbsp. vegetable, canola, or grapeseed (preferred) oil and heat to medium high. Sear for about 3-4 minutes on all sides to develop a nice brown crust. Once pork is seared on all sides, transfer to a foil lined baking sheet and finish in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, or until done (150 degree internal temperature). Note: this may take a little longer if they aren’t cut into medallions. Let meat rest for about 10 more minutes and slice diagonally on the bias.

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