This was the premiere night for Top Chef All Stars. Now happily hitched, we were settling in for a long winter of cooking and ready to ditch the post-wedding chaos (and use some of the kitchen gadgets we’d been gifted). Despite only making it through about half of Top Chef Season 4, we knew that Stephanie was the winner so we decided to make one of her masterpieces worthy of the inaugural All Stars episode — grilled pork tenderloin with pear and bacon potato salad.
I scanned this recipe carefully before agreeing to it because normally I hate potato salad — glopped down with mayonnaise or mustard (a flavor I really don’t enjoy). But this potato salad seemed right up my alley. I started cutting up the new potatoes (the small red ones), put them on a foil-covered cookie sheet and tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper. While they were roasting, I cut the green beans (we skipped the haricots vert because we had leftover fresh regular beans), then blanched them and ran cold water over them for awhile to stop them cooking.
Meanwhile, K was cooking up the bacon he’d cut into bits and I chopped a shallot (because I always think red onion is too strong) and boiled it up with red wine vinegar and some sugar. And this was where the recipe got confusing. It says to strain the mixture then toss in pears and bacon with the sherry vinegar. Huh?!? I’m straining out the onions and just tossing that in with the…wait, I figured it out. Strain the liquid from the shallot (onion) mixture. Discard that liquid. Toss the shallots (onions) with the cubed pears and the bacon bits. THEN add a little sherry vinegar to the mix. Two slightly different kinds of vinegar scrambled my brain, but we eventually cracked that code.
Note to the meat guy at Byerly’s: We came in and asked for the veggie-fed, humanely raised, no artificial junk Nieman Ranch pork. You tried to sell us on the pork that was “much cheaper but tastes the same.” A) Learn the art of the up sell. B) We don’t *WANT* the “cheap” pork and it *does not* taste the same. I don’t make a great deal of money, but we choose to spend a little more on our food so it’s better for the earth, better for the animals, better for the farmers and better for us. And TASTES BETTER.
Anywhooo…K started grilling our Nieman Ranch pork on our new grill pan (thanks brother-in-law and sister-in-law!!) and his job was to make it perfect while I puttered around with sautéing the pears in butter and making the rosemary vinaigrette. I blasted an egg yolk, a little sherry vinegar and a (very) little Dijon mustard in our new blender (thanks Aunt P and Uncle D!!!) and drizzled in some good olive oil until the mixture thickened. I added in some dried rosemary and a little soy sauce and honey and, surprisingly, it wasn’t too mustardy, but was pleasantly layered and evergreen from the rosemary. Then, as I was pouring it out, our new blender leaked causing me to distract K with my minor, “HEY, we just got this and I already recycled the box,” freak out. Turns out we didn’t have the bottom screwed on tightly enough. User error.
In any case, the distraction was not enough to pull K from his pork cookin’ duties, which he performed admirably. He finished grilling the pork and let it rest for a few minutes while we assembled the potato salad by adding the hot potatoes and green beans along with the shallots and bacon and sauce.
This, my friends, was the best potato salad I have ever eaten in my entire life. The potatoes were crisp yet tender, the bacon was crispy and salty, the vinegar sauce was slightly sour and zingy and the green beans were crunchy and fresh. I can still taste the deliciousness that was this potato salad. And K *nailed* the pork. Perfectly cooked. The piney rosemary sauce worked with the pork to make lush bite after lush bite. Never again should you make potato salad, for any reason, with mayo or a bunch of thick yellow mustard. You must make this potato salad instead. Keep your eye on the Nieman Ranch pork and you, too, could have the perfect indoor picnic to celebrate the premiere of Top Chef All Stars … or whatever occasion you’re celebrating.