12.01.2012

Inspired by Greatness

I think you all know by now that, as much as I love traditional recipes from all cultures, I also love creating new recipes mixing ingredients in unexpected ways.


Ibarra chocolate with a traditional Mexican Molinill
From time to time, a combination of flavors will occur to me and I will throw some things together and see how they come out. Sometimes I am lucky, sometimes not.

Two chiles from Hatch - the medium-hot New Mexico and super hot green
At other times, I will look at the fridge and see what I can make using leftovers. This comes under the heading of "inspiration du jour" - a term I borrow from my friend Bunny who used it when creating wonderful dishes from what she had on hand, including leftovers.

And, as always, I am inspired by dishes I order in restaurants as I travel. I have eaten the creations of many great chefs and have asked for recipes countless times, most often receiving polite messages from the kitchen such as, "Thank you, but we don't share our recipes," or "It is in our cookbook." (I usually buy the cookbook...)

I first visited Santa Fe, New Mexico, with my friend Michael; we have been friends since 5th grade. He took me to a restaurant he had heard of, known for its unique and creative Southwestern cuisine. I wasn't quite the foodie back then that I am now, so the name Inn of the Anasazi meant nothing to me.

Ever since I can remember, Michael has done everything he can to surprise me with great food experiences. When I visit him in San Francisco, he takes me on culinary adventures, from exquisite, highly rated dining rooms like Fleur de Lys and Boulevard, to simpler but no less wonderful places such as Marnee Thai, L'Ardoise (his neighborhood favorite), and Mel's Drive-In for a black-and-white shake. With each experience, he succeeds in delighting me.

I think that particular meal at Anasazi may have been the first of many such meals. I don't recall the name of the chef, but the food was unbelievable - we both had the pork tenderloin with a spice rub that included chocolate and cinnamon. For dessert we had buñuelos, small pastry pillows filled with cinnamon cream, drizzled with a dark chocolate sauce. It never occurred to me to ask for either recipe.

It has been many years now - perhaps 20 - since that trip to Santa Fe, and I have made any number of versions of the pork in my attempts to recreate that meal. My version may not be exactly what we had, but it is (if you will excuse my immodesty) pretty darn good.

The recipe calls for one of my favorite things - Mexican hot chocolate. Have you ever had it? It comes in a disc that is divided into eight wedges; two wedges is good for a cup of hot chocolate. It is an amazing blend of sweet chocolate, almonds and cinnamon that could warm anyone on the coldest day. My two favorit brands are Ibarra and Abuelita (grandmother).

For the pork recipe, I grate it using the small holes on my box grater, then mix it with some medium-hot New Mexico chile powder and additional cinnamon. After slathering the pork with some olive oil, I dredge it in the chocolate-chile-cinnamon mixture and roast it till it is just barely pink. Serve with some homemade tortillas.

~ David

Chocolate, Cinnamon & Chile Pork Tenderloin

2 one-pound pork tenderloins, trimmed of fat and silver skin
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Mexican chocolate (Ibarra or Abuelita brands)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon New Mexico chile powder - or medium hot chile powder

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Rub pork tenderloins with olive oil. Mix the chocolate, chile powder, and cinnamon in a shallow bowl. (If your grater doesn't grate finely enough, you can combine the three ingredients in a mortar and pestle.) Rub mixture into the tenderloins, pressing mixture into flesh. Wrap them together in plastic wrap with any additional spice mixture (much of it will get absorbed) and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Place tenderloins on a foil-lined baking pan and roast for 25 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before carving. This timing will produce a slightly pink pork; if you prefer, roast an additional 5 minutes.

This dish is great with homemade corn tortillas.

Serves 4-6.

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I must admit to having a slightly more complex version that I sometimes make, which gives a better crust to the pork. Try both and see which you like!

Chocolate, Cinnamon & Chile Pork Tenderloin

2 one-pound pork tenderloins, trimmed of fat and silver skin
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Mexican chocolate (Ibarra or Abuelita brands)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon New Mexico chile powder - or medium hot chile powder

Preheat oven to 450ºF.

Rub the pork all over with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix the chocolate, chile powder, and cinnamon in a shallow bowl. (If your grater doesn't grate finely enough, you can combine the three ingredients in a mortar and pestle.) Rub mixture into the tenderloins, pressing mixture into flesh. Wrap them together in plastic wrap with any additional spice mixture (much of it will get absorbed) and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

In a hot skillet large enough to fit both pieces of pork, add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and sear the meat on top and bottom - about 1½ minutes each side. Place skillet in the oven and roast for 10-12 minutes or until pork reaches 145ºF on an instant read thermometer. (Depending on the thickness of your pork, this may only take 8 minutes.) Let rest 5 minutes before carving.

This dish is great with homemade tortillas

 Serves 4-6.

20 comments:

  1. This is so easy it´s a no-brainer for dinner tomorrow! Seared first, definitely, I think it adds a very needed texture. I´m dying to see what it tastes like. I went to so many extraordinary restaurants in my twenties, but my palate was definitely not where it is now. Isn´t that the worst? Have a great weekend David!

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  2. David this looks amazing!! And can I just say that I love reading your stories - you have a way with words and your photography is amazing. Have a great weekend! - Ahu

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  3. Paula - yes, I like it seared but sometimes I just throw it together and run away from the oven to make the rest of dinner. And, admittedly, once I burnt the chocolate... :)

    Ahu - thank you so much! Before this blog, I have never written, or felt compelled to write, and I have discovered that I really enjoy it a lot. Glad you like the photos, too - my other passion (next to food!).

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  4. Love reading about wat you and Mikey were into when I wasn't watching!
    Love from Mikey's (and your other) Mom

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  5. Nan - yes, you would be horrified at the trouble we got into! All sorts of restaurant adventures - scandalous! :)

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  6. My comments are starting to sound like the one about the prisoners who, having heard each others' jokes so many times, just call out a number and everyone laughs. How many times can I say "yummy, delicious-looking, well-written, good photos, etc."?! I may just have to start posting numbers! In that case, think #1 would work just fine!! Look for it in the future. :)

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  7. Thanks, Kirsten! That is so sweet - and I love the prison system numbering!

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  8. OK, this puts together three of my favorite things, chocolate, cinnamon, and piggy! YUM!

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  9. What a cool idea...chocolate & cinnamon pork. Very Aztec.

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  10. Karin - yep, that is pretty much how I feel about it, too!

    Colette - it IS very Aztec, isn't it? Sometime I need to share my Spanish Baroque hot chocolate recipe - saffron, cinnamon, chiles de arból, roses and vanilla... intoxicating!

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  11. I can't find Mexican chocolate but I would love to try this dish. It sounds and looks amazing!

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  12. Magda - someday I will come to The Netherlands and bring you some Mexican chocolate... but, in the meantime, you can use some of that Van Houten cocoa from your most recent post!

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  13. Oh okay! That's easier than having to order it online. I can't wait for you to visit NL! When are you and Mark coming? :)

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  14. Magda - It may take us a while, but we will get there! (Good thing you are a lot younger than we are!)

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  15. Wow!! This is so new to me! I'm very intrigued. This looks fantastic!

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  16. Thanks, Cate! I hope you give it a try!

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  17. I bought pork shoulder (I think) and will attempt slow roasting it with these spices! Then I will eat it the whole weekend!

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  18. Paula - My problem is not eating it all in one sitting!

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  19. love reading your blog...hoping that one day soon we are all sitting at the same table enjoying a wonderful meal together. Happy New Year! Love - Susan

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  20. Susan - being all together again would be a great thing! Maybe it will happen in 2013!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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