Turkey Alternatives

                                                                                                  photoIt’s heresy I know,  but my family really doesn’t like turkey.  Every year we’d try something different, brining, deep frying, fancy basting techniques, expensive heritage turkeys . . . .  Until one year I said the heck with this, I’m not making a turkey.  We had roasted lamb shanks that year and guess what?  The sky didn’t fall, there wasn’t a riot at the table, and the Thanksgiving police didn’t throw me in jail.

I’ve never looked back.

This year I’m trying out different options. The dish pictured here is a pork tenderloin with a pomegranate sauce. The meat is coated with finely ground gingersnaps.  The presentation factor was high, and the flavors hit that middle ground of adult/child preferences perfectly.  My oldest child insisted this is THE ONE.

Maybe.

There’s certainly a lot to love about pork tenderloin.  The meat is tender, cooks quickly (no need to get up at 4AM to put the turkey in the oven.) and it’s so versatile.  Pork goes really well with the traditional flavors of Thanksgiving such as sage, or you can go as exotic as your guest list will allow.  And when sliced, placed on a long platter, and decorated with the herbs or fruits of the season, pork tenderloin has as much or more presentation value as a turkey. Plus, pork tenderloin is often on sale and there is no waste of skin, bones and fat. Everything you pay for is useable.  I love that.

If your family doesn’t like fruit sauce, you could easily substitute a browned butter sage sauce for the pomegranate one I used here and do a Panko bread crumb and garlic crust on the pork.  But I really like the bright red of the pomegranate for a holiday dish, and the gingersnaps add an earthy note that I really liked.

I’ll give you the basic parameters of this dish, if you’d like to try it out. I usually just start with one ingredient and work outward to create a dish. But not everyone is comfortable with laissez-faire cooking, so I’ll do my best to provide details. I was thinking I’d do a red wine reduction (also great with pork tenderloin) but I had fresh pomegranate juice in the fridge and decided to reduce that, figure out what else it needed, and the dish grew from there.

Pomegranate Sauce:

Juice of two pomegranates(about 1/2-3/4 cups total)

Reduce in small saucepan over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s half gone.   I then added about two tablespoons of ginger liqueur (Domaine de Canton) and some salt, 1/2-1 tsp?. (This varies because if you use unsalted butter, you should use more salt.)  Reduce a bit more until liquid is syrupy. Remove from heat.

Make sure your pork is at or near room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Room temperature makes the pork cook more quickly and evenly.  I used a tenderloin just under 1.5 lbs. for this dish.  Slightly bigger or smaller will work just fine.

Crust for Meat:

Dredge pork lightly in cornstarch.

Dip into a beaten egg to which you’ve added a bit of water.

Roll in 1 cup of finely crushed gingersnaps

I really like Trader Joe’s gingersnaps because they have bits of candied ginger in them and they crush easily, but you could use whatever kind you like.  Pat the gingersnaps into the meat to make them stick.  Place tenderloin, tail-end tucked under, in an oiled baking dish.  Roast until internal temperature is around 135 degrees, or a bit more if you like it well done. (15-20 minutes)  Remove dish from oven and let rest.  Internal temperature will continue to rise as it sits.  Don’t cover, as this will make the crust soggy.

While the meat is resting, return sauce to burner over medium heat and add 3 T. of butter, stirring until well blended.  Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed.

Slice meat and arrange on serving platter.  Drizzle pomegranate sauce over the top and serve.

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