Sunday, 4 September 2011

New Traditions

Bistecca di Maiale in Pasta Sfoglia 
con Purè di Patate Dolci & Bastoncini di Sedano,  
su una Salsa al Vino Rosso
Pastry-Wrapped Pork with Mashed Sweet Potato and Celery Sticks on a Red Wine Sauce

Here's a thought... let's prepare a meal that looks ordinary and traditional, so that our guests will see it and think they know what flavors to expect- and then let's blow their taste buds right out of their heads! That was the idea I had this evening- to have exotic (but not outlandish) flavors in a traditional looking meal. I think it looks harmless enough... want to find out what it really tasted like? Follow me...

So- where to begin? I guess with the mashed sweet potato, which is also probably my favorite ingredient here. I like it to have a bit of texture and bite though, as well as my secret ingredients- let me tell you how it's done. Make a relatively fine dice of the potatoes and pour just enough boiling water over them to cover and boil for 5 minutes. After this time, most of the water should be absorbed/evaporated- if not, pour it off now. Add a little tomato purée to help maintain the nice color and to add a bit of flavor, a little milk and some vanilla. I know that people often go to the trouble of scraping out the seeds from the vanilla pod and act as if the pod is an inferior product.. but that's just silliness. I simply chop off a piece of pod and add it to whatever I am cooking- it still infuses its flavor and I can fish it out at the end. So much to the vanilla. Turn the heat back on and stir with a wooden spoon... grate with nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and keep stirring! The sweet potato should be so soft by now that it turns to mash simply through stirring- if not, use a fork... but don't mash all of the texture out of it. It is nicer if it has a little bite. And now to my secret ingredient... a half teaspoon of instant coffee. That's right! The bitterness of the coffee takes that sweet edge away and turns the simple sweet potato into something much more complex and exciting. The second those flakes of coffee touch the hot potato, they melt and give off a delicious cocoa flavor... And all you have to do now is to add a little pat of butter and your exotic mashed potatoes are ready!

Of course I have a little surprise up my sleeve with that little slice of pork too.  I popped it into a hot pan for 1 minute on each side, to get the cooking process started and then took it out and spread it with sweet mustard. I then grated some apple and some ginger, added a splash of cognac and spread this onto the meat too. I seasoned with salt, pepper and a little sugar and then wrapped it in puff-pastry. I cut decorative slices into the pastry and then popped it into a hot oven for 5 minutes with the reverse side up and then flipped it over and gave it another 5 minutes from the other side. Easy! And so delicious!

On to the celery! The important thing to do, is to take a peeler and to strip off the outer, stringy layer- it just makes it so much nicer to eat... and easier to digest! Cut the celery into strips and fry it in a little butter, with some garlic, salt and a little lemon pepper. After 2-3 minutes of stirring, de-glaze the pan with a shot of Sambuca and continue stirring until it is fully absorbed and the celery is infused with it's anis flavor... mmm!

For the red wine reduction, I used the pan that the pork was seared in, added chopped onion, celery and carrot, and fried them all at a relatively high temperature for 2-3 minutes and then de-glazed the pan with red wine. I added a little honey, a tiny pat of butter and a sprig of rosemary and some thyme and let it simmer and render down. I added more wine, a slice or two of ginger, some garlic and a little vanilla and continued simmering until it began to take on a syrupy consistency. I then poured it through a fine sieve and my meal was ready to serve!

So indeed... you have 3 very distinct and strong flavors there and a rich sauce as well to set them all off! And you thought you were just getting meat pie with mashed potatoes and gravy! But aintcha glad that you got this instead?!


  1. Instant coffee in sweet potato mash - will try that! But anis flavoured celery sticks? Really? Doesn´t this just taste like overcooked fennel? Well, at least you just don´t get such nice sticks out of a fennel bulb ;)

  2. Toller Blog ! Hab mich sofort verliebt :) .... denise

  3. G'morning Alexander! The thing with the strong anis flavor, is that I like the contrast of it to the wine and the sweet potato... and I didn't have fennel at home at the time! Innovation is the son of invention... or something like that! Thanks for posting! And hope you like the mash! Best regards from Frankfurt! Francesco

  4. Guten Morgen Denise und Danke Schön! Sehr lieb von Dir und es freut mich sehr das es Dir gefällt! Schön Dich dabei zu haben! Und viel Spass damit! Viele Grüße, Francesco

  5. Achso, ich könnte ja eigentlich auch auf Deutsch kommentieren ;) Die Idee mit dem Sambuca ist ja eigentlich echt gut. Dein Gericht ist toll, aber jetzt habe ich Lust ein bisschen rum zu spinnen - wie findest du folgendes: Die Sellerie-Sticks blanchieren, in Sambuca marinieren, sehr fein panieren und dann anbraten, so dass sie aussehen wie Pommes - was wär das wohl für eine Überraschung für die Geschmacksnerven ;)

  6. Gut das Du hier auf Deutsch schreibst Alexander... ich möchte nicht das mein Englisch-sprechender Fans merken das Du bessere Ideen hast als ich! Lach! Schöne Idee mein lieber! Und schön Dich virtuell zu kennen!

  7. Aboslutely gorgeous! And I can't get over your production, churning out these wonderful dishes (and posts) day after day. Where do you get the energy?!

  8. Thanks Frank- I really appreciate the appreciation! I wish I knew where I get the energy from- although I am almost at the limits of what is doable right now- what with this and a full time job! I just love doing this and hope to one day make a step towards doing this full time. And I love the fact that people are enjoying this- there is no greater compliment for a cook than to see happy victims... even if they are only "virtual" ones! Always great seeing that you have visited the blog- am loving yours too! Best wishes from Frankfurt! Francesco