Slow-Roasted Pork with Apple Relish

Most meals, I can count on at least one thing that Miss H will like and eat without complaint. Cheese will always get eaten (unless it’s mozzarella). Bread and noodles will also be devoured without complaint. Certain vegetables like carrots and edamame. Sweet potato fries (or any fries, really). Greek yogurt. Any kind of fruit.

We ask her to try everything, within reason. When we had kale and artichokes with salmon on Monday, we encouraged her to try the vegetables, but we didn’t push it. They were a little weird, and I’m not sure she would have liked them anyway (although who knows – Miss H loves kale chips and marinated anything so one would think they were right up her alley). We did, however, encourage her to try the capers, because she has really liked them in the past, and all she needed was a reminder of that.

And then there are some nights when she eats everything on her plate without complaint. Usually those are leftover nights, because she gets a sandwich or noodles or something totally benign. Every once in a while, though, there is a meal that takes a little coaxing but ends with a clean plate.

Like this one.

The sure things on this plate were the egg noodles and the roasted parsnips. The pork was iffy, because Miss H does not always trust proteins. And the apple relish was a wild card. On paper, she should like it: fruit, lemon juice, fun to pick up and eat. In reality, you never can tell, especially with little specks of green (dried parsley) all over the apple pieces.

Then you go and get proved wrong, because Miss H took one taste of those apples and ate them all up. She went through the noodles and parsnips first and then agreed to eat a couple bites of pork. She wasn’t sure about the apples at first, but once she realized the green on the apples was parsley, she decided to give them a try. The husband and I were kind of surprised but also kind of not. The apple relish was quite sour because of the lemon juice, which accompanied the pork quite well but wasn’t fantastic by itself. Since I know Miss H likes sour, I figured the real challenge would be getting her to try it.

She eventually cleaned her plate, with help from daddy, who is always willing to eat leftover meat.

We liked this meal, obviously. The relish and the meat made a nice combination, although I’d serve the meat with more of the juice from the slow cooker, which was sweetened by apple cider. The parsnips made a nice accompaniment. If I were to make the meal again, I’d go with mashed potatoes (to catch all that delicious juice) rather than noodles, but it was still fine as it was.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5. I could see adding this to our rotation, especially in the winter. A juice, flavorful pork shoulder is always welcome at our table. The apple relish, though a little odd at first, went nicely with the pork and added some freshness to the meal. Easy to make and very tasty.

Recipe from “Real Simple: Dinner Made Easy.”

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Pork & Udon Soup

Every Friday or Saturday, usually as we’re nearing the end of dinner, I say to my husband, “So, what do we want to eat next week?”

It’s a habit of ours to talk about food while we’re eating. It seems an appropriate time.

Often during autumn or winter, my husband will say, “Udon!” Sometimes he says it even during summer, when soup doesn’t always make an appearance on the weekly menu. My response is usually, “I’ll check the weather,” because I prefer a cold evening for udon soup, because it’s a meal that will warm you up and keep you warm for a good long while.

This weekend, we’ve had freezing temperatures, a not-so-common occurrence in our area of Texas, even in winter. My go-to Pork & Udon Soup recipe seemed like a perfect meal to end a cold weekend, especially since we’d be getting back up into more reasonable temperatures in the coming week.

What is Udon? Besides fantastic? Udon is a thick wheat noodle of Japanese origin. And by thick, I mean thick. It’s not like an Italian noodle, or even a ramen noodle. Think much thicker. As a result, it’s doughier and heartier, and it’s delicious. There are a dozen ways to make udon soup, depending on how you flavor it and what you add to it. What I use is a simple recipe that’s overflowing with vegetables and pork. It’s probably not an authentic udon soup – it is Food Network, after all, and though the effort is sometimes there, authenticity doesn’t always follow. But, it is a tasty udon soup recipe, and the pork – while not cha siu levels of delicious – still delivers on taste and is really simple to make.

I will note that I don’t follow the recipe 100%. First, no onions, because we are a no onion household. Second, I use whatever stock I happen to have. This time around, I used three cups of seafood stock and five cups of water. Still tasted fine. Third, I don’t use just soy sauce to add flavor to the broth. I also add toasted sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. I just like the depth they add to the flavor. Makes it a little more interesting. Fourth, I don’t usually bother with the cilantro (because I don’t like it) and the bean sprouts (because they only come in large packages and we don’t need that much of them). Fifth, regular cabbage and mushrooms are fine. No need to get fancy.

This recipe makes a ton of soup. It says 4 servings, but those must be huge servings, because we can get almost twice that much out of a batch. Or maybe we’re just eating smaller servings. Either way, for us, there is more than enough for lunch and dinner leftovers. It’ll keep us warm and full for days.

Udon noodles go into the bowl first and then are topped by ladles of hearty, flavorful broth.

Udon noodles go into the bowl first and then are topped by ladles of hearty, flavorful broth.

A nice big bowl of warming udon soup.

A nice big bowl of warming udon soup.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms in Cream

Source: The Kitchn (How to Make Roasted Pork Tenderloin)

Sometimes, simple is best, and this is very simple. We do pork tenderloin every once in a while, and this is generally how I cook. Seasoning can be as simple as just salt, pepper, and garlic granules. It’s really good with some Dijon mustard rubbed into it, especially if it’s left to marinate for a while. This time, I didn’t have any mustard, so I added some Worcestershire sauce. And too much salt. I also overcooked it a little. Oops. Can’t be perfect all the time.

I served this with some leftover mashed potatoes that had been made with all sorts of delicious and fattening things: butter, milk, and cream cheese. Probably also a splash of heavy cream, but I really can’t remember. I don’t usually add heavy cream to my mashed potatoes, so maybe not.

Heavy cream definitely went in with the mushrooms though. This pork tenderloin benefits a lot from a little sauce, and I had a feeling that the mashed potatoes would too. So while sautéeing the mushrooms, I added a splash of red wine and let them simmer in that for a few minutes. Then I added a half-cup of heavy cream and let that thicken up a bit. It did not get as thick as I would have liked, but it was too late to add flour, and I was out of Wondra. So the “sauce” wasn’t very sauce-like, but it went well with the potatoes and added a nice creaminess to the mushrooms and the meat.

The toddler does not like mashed potatoes, but she ate a few bites with the sauce. She used to love mushrooms, but that is so 2014 and she doesn’t eat them anymore. The pork she will dig into if she has ketchup to go along with it. Ketchup would not be my first choice for this pork, but I’m an adult so what do I know.

Rating: 4 stars. This is not a remarkable dish, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a fairly simple weeknight meal. Pork tenderloin goes a long way, and it’s very easy to cook, which is why I like it for weeknights. Also, the toddler likes it, so that’s a bonus. The mushrooms weren’t quite as I wanted them, but they were still a very nice addition on the plate. And the mashed potatoes were leftovers from a previous night, but that just means they didn’t go to waste.

Would I make it again? This is my go-to recipe for pork tenderloin, so yes I would. Not sure I would do the mushrooms quite the same way, but it’s something I’d play a little with to see what works best for us. Mashed potatoes are like a blank canvas for me – I use whatever I have around, be it cream or random cheeses or cream cheese or even buttermilk. Whatever works. All three of these components work together, but they’d work with other foods too. Which is why simple is such a good thing.