For twenty years, fully half the time that Savannah, Georgia, was my home, aside from writing cookbooks and traveling to promote them, I also wrote a cooking column for the daily paper. The challenge at the beginning was adjusting to tight deadlines and keeping the copy short and to the point. But that was nothing to the challenge that came a few years in: coming up with fresh ideas and recipes that had not already been done to death. That was especially challenging during the winter holiday season and beginning of a new year.
And then, as if that wasn't enough, I took on running the avocational cooking school of a local kitchenware store. The busiest time there was also the winter holiday season and beginning of a new year of cooking classes. I found myself not only trying to dig up fresh ideas for December and January newspaper columns, but also for midwinter classes, all the while chasing guest teachers for menus and cobbling together the school's first quarter schedule.
I do miss teaching, especially that first class in mid-January, when the holiday rush was over and, by some miracle, there was always a fresh idea or two to share. But I don't miss that crunch of trying to come up with those ideas during the busiest and most stressful time of the year.
It left its mark: The store closed more than six years ago; my tenure at the newspaper ended three years ago; and even now, at this time of year my brain locks up and tries to convince me that I should just go to bed with a bottle of bourbon and forget about it.
But we still have to eat and I still love to cook and share it, so there you go.
Pork Scaloppine alla Primavera
Friend and amazing cook Chef Walter Dasher first taught me to make scaloppine from pork tenderloin in the cooking school's kitchen. They can be used in any recipe that calls for veal or chicken scaloppine or cutlets. This was developed for a newspaper column about ten years back. I often make them using only sage (or omit the herbs altogether) and finish them with Marsala instead of white wine.
1 pork tenderloin (about 1-1¼ pounds)
Salt and whole black pepper in a mill
2 tablespoons finely minced mixed fresh herbs such as sage, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, thyme and parsley
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-1½ tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup flour, spread on a plate
1½ cups dry white wine or extra dry white vermouth
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
1. Trim the fat and silver skin from the tenderloins and if it has a large lobe at one end cut it off at the connective tissue. Cut it crosswise into 4 equal medallions about 1¼-inch thick. Lay them on sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap, cover with a second sheet, and pound them out into scaloppine that are as thin as you can make them without tearing the meat (less than ¼-inch thick). Season both sides well with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the herbs evenly over both sides of the scaloppine and press them into the surface.
2. Put enough butter and oil in equal parts (about a tablespoon to 1½ tablespoons of each) into a large heavy-bottomed skillet to film the entire surface. Warm it over medium heat until the butter is melted and its foaming subsides. Raise the heat to medium high, quickly roll the pork in the flour, shake off the excess, and slip it into the pan. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes, turn, and brown the second side, about 1-2 minutes longer. Remove it from the pan.
3. Add the wine to the pan, stirring and scraping the bottom to loosen any cooking residue, bring it to a boil, and cook until slightly reduced. Return the scaloppine to the pan, turning them several times until they are heated through and the sauce is lightly thickened, about a minute. Swirl in a tablespoon of butter, again turning the scaloppine until the butter is dissolved into the sauce, and serve immediately with lemon.