If Yan Could Cook. . .

Pork Tenderloin and Spinach Pastry; La Paryse

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A memory of making spanakopita: my then-boyfriend was playing a video game in our then-one-room apartment. I was rambling, talking to myself loudly, uncertain of everything I was doing. Maybe I should do it like this, or this? That seems like too much…well, maybe just too much of that…do you think there’s too much? How do I…this shape…sealing it here…oh, this one won’t work…crap, I don’t have one of those, what do you think I should use instead?

Occasionally he’d answer, but mostly he sat in silence. This is what I remember: standing still, for a moment, with a neon pink plastic bowl filled with spinach and feta in my arms, looking at his broad, unresponsive back. Did he find my frenetic yammering annoying, I wondered, or was he able to tune it out?

On Saturday afternoon, quietly rolling pork tenderloin in puff pastry, stainless steel bowl of dry rub on hand, I was suddenly glad to be alone in my large, ramshackle kitchen. A new place of only good memories.

Photo by John-Paul Lobos.

I went to a pot luck on Saturday. I intended to slow roast a pork shoulder, bake some white bread, and smother it all in something sweet and sticky, but I ran out of time (letting yeast sit, letting pork fall to pieces in a cooler oven). Instead, I bought two pork tenderloin, which was not nearly as expensive as I had been led to believe. I trimmed the fat minimally; in retrospect, I don’t think it was necessary.

Dried oregano, cayenne, paprika, cumin, and salt was mixed in a bowl, and then rubbed dry onto each piece of meat. The meat was seared on all sides, in hardly any oil, on medium-high heat. I chopped up some fresh spinach and shallots and wilted them together, and pureed some chipotle peppers with brown sugar and tomato paste (if it isn’t obvious, I was trying to use up some leftover ingredients). Puff pastry was rolled out in two large rectangles to a 1/2 inch layer (next time, and ho boy will there ever be a next time, I would use less and roll thinner) and spread with the chipotle mixture, as a pizza with tomato sauce. One tenderloin and half the spinach mixture were laid together on each piece, and then rolled up together, closing the pastry along one edge. Brushed with egg wash (raw egg beaten) and then diagonal slits with a steak knife to let steam out.

After fifteen minutes at 425 degrees F, and then another twenty at 375, the pork was so tender you could split it easily with a plastic spoon. As the potluck was hosted by a lazy dishwasher, that is actually what I was using. The finished product felt somewhat experimental to me; there are a lot of things I intend to change next time, not least of which are aesthetic.

On Friday night, I was taken to La Paryse, a self-proclaimed “snack bar” at 302 Ontario E. We arrived at five and were seated right away, and then a line promptly formed behind us that went out the door and around the corner.

Best. Hamburger. Ever.

And I don’t say that in my usual, contemplative way. I did not chew slowly with my head tilted to one side, saying, “Hmm, this is good, what’s in it?” I have no idea what was in it, and I don’t remember the individual flavours and textures. I was not comparing it to all other hamburgers I’ve eaten – all other hamburgers were obliterated, as though they had never happened. I had no thoughts beyond “best hamburger ever”. Completely blindsided by pleasure.

The milkshakes, too, were a dreamily perfect thickness, and they give you just slightly more than you would want (which is how much milkshake you should always get). The poutine was less impressive, using a mixture of curled and shredded mozzarella instead of curds, and quickly limp fries not ideal for gravy sopping, but by then I didn’t care. My companion laughed at my eyes-to-the-heavens visceral reaction and at how he had to lug my happily comatose body along the street afterward, but hell, that is living.

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Written by skimfu

October 27, 2008 at 3:55 pm

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