Friday, May 6, 2011

Last-Minute Mother’s Day Meal

Photo Courtesy of Max Lau

Mother’s Day is just days away, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve been getting a barrage of emails touting the perfect gifts for Mom. Sales on everything from perfume sets to pots and pans, spa treatments to sparkling tennis bracelets, have invaded my inbox. My Mamma deserves every bit of indulgence after the drama she’s been through, but this year my gift to her comes not in a box, but in a promise to raise $1,000 for the institute that cured her cancer and continues to fight for every patient that passes through their doors.

On June 25th I’ll take to the streets of Buffalo to attempt my first ever cycling event to support Roswell Park Cancer Institute. They need the money, and truth be told, I’ve never encountered a cause that is more deserving. I’ll ride for my mom and all our moms, and I need your help. Join my team to ride by my side, or make an easy, online donation to give as generously as you can. Every penny counts (and is completely tax-deductible), and each cent means the world to me and Mamma. Of course, there’s always more we can do, so even after the race, those of you who are interested in helping people professionally may consider a social work degree.

Later today I’m heading to Chicago to ring in the holiday with Mr. Mix and his fam. We’ll be taste testing the city’s best and cooking up my Fennel Pollen Crusted Pork Loin as the centerpiece for the cocktail party my mixologist is shaking up to celebrate Mom’s Day. Pork loin is actually one of my Mamma’s favorite cuts of meat, and one I learned a thing or two about butchering last summer. Tender and delicately flavored, it easily takes on whatever marinade you rub into it.

This Mother’s Day I’m making my own rub by casually combining fennel pollen and seeds, mustard seeds, chili flakes, salt, pepper and lavender, then massaging it into my pork loin til it cooks to juicy perfection on the inside with a spice-spiked crispy crust to crack into. An easy, infinitely adaptable treat for anyone looking to delight their Mamma with a last-minute meal this Sunday, this dish can morph into an earthy, stick to your ribs dinner entrée or something more ethereal and floral for Mother’s Day brunch, just by changing up the seasoning and your choice of braising liquid.

I’m choosing the lighter, lady-like option this time around, using a blend of Chardonnay and Marsala wine to braise. Served a top a tray of cabbage, thyme and edible flowers, this dish will look as sophisticated and special as it tastes. Looking back on what I’ve eaten these last few months, my porky past makes plain my meat-loving appetite: from soul-warming wild boar ragu and bacon-studded chocolate chip cookies to my full-on pig indulgence at New York Vintners, I haven’t had trouble finding ways to eat whole-hog. And this weekend, neither will Mom.


Fennel Pollen Crusted Pork Loin (serves a family)

  • Handful of yellow & black Mustard Seeds
  • Handful of Fennel Seeds
  • Handful of Fennel Pollen
  • Sprinkling of edible Lavender
  • Sprinkling of Chili Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 7.5 lb Pork Tenderloin
  • ½ cup Tarragon-Dijon Mustard
  • ¼ cup Spicy-Brown Mustard
  • ¼ cup Lavender Honey
  • 1 bottle Marsala Wine, Chardonnay, Apple Cider or Stock (for braising)
  • Mixture of Cabbage, Endive, Thyme and Edible Flowers (for garnish)

Preheat the oven to 250°. In a mortar, lightly crush the mustard and fennel seeds and mix them with the chili flakes, lavender, fennel pollen, salt and pepper. Spread the crushed spices on a baking sheet and roll the pork tenderloin in the spice rub to coat. Massage the rub deeper into the meat, then heat an oven-proof roasting pan or dutch oven over high heat with olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Sear the pork on both sides until brown (about 3 minutes per side). P.S. If you’re using a big 7 lb loin like I am, feel free to cut it in half to make it fit in the pan.

Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil or a lid, and roast the tenderloin for about 2 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the loin registers 125°/130°. Baste with the braising liquid of your choice every 30 minutes, then tightly recover the pan with aluminum or lid. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. While resting, reduce the braising liquid in the bottom of the pan on the stove stop over high heat, to serve as jus alongside the honey-mustard as an alternate dipping sauce.

In a small bowl, mix the mustards with the honey and season with salt and pepper. Slice the pork ½ inch thick and serve with the honey-mustard and jus. Arrange the pork on a serving platter with fresh herbs, cabbage and edible flowers for a purdy Mother’s Day feast.

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