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The key to succulent, juicy pork like you get at restaurants is not to overcook it. Most people do. They recently lowered the FDA accepted temperature for pork to 145 degrees, which means it stays juicy and slightly pink. This makes the meat so unctuous and tender, you won’t miss red meat. Invest in a meat thermometer if you don’t have one; they’re cheap and take the guesswork out of cooking meat.

Add a wonderful spice rub and some sort of fruit, and I’ll be really happy. A delicious, cheesy smear of polenta under the medallions completes it and makes it the best pork you’ve ever had. My dad always made pork tenderloin stuffed with dried apricots and prunes. Definitely one of my favorites, and a great way to do it in the fall.

Seared Pork Tenderloin with Grapes

1 pork tenderloin

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon salt

1 cup grapes, red or green

1 cup white, red or white

Combine the cocoa and spices together and rub all over the pork. You can let it rest for 20 minutes or go ahead and start searing. Sear all sides in an oven-safe pan in a couple tablespoons of olive oil, making sure to brown all sides. Add the grapes and deglaze the pan with the wine.

Move to a 375 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until it’s about 145-155 degrees in the fattest part. It will continue to cook as it rests. Slice medallions against the grain and serve with the sauce.

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Spice cookies always say the holidays to me, so of course I had to make some this week. As I watch the Nutcracker on TV and smell the cookies baking, I’m feeling particularly festive. For these cookies, I tend to substitute spices with what I have available so feel free to use something different.

Spice Cookies

1 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

a pinch of ground pepper

1 stick butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablepoons granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

turbinado sugar for sprinkling

In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add in the egg yolk and combine. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. The dough will be crumbly, so dump it onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into a log, and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Slice into 1/2 inch thick slices and place on cookie sheet a couple inches apart. They don’t spread too much, but you want to leave enough room. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes rotating pans halfway through. Let cool on a cooling rack and enjoy.

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Most people here think fettuccine alfredo is a creamy, heavy sauce because that’s what you get in Little Italy. Fettuccine alfredo is actually a much lighter dish and doesn’t have any cream at all. It’s so easy, you could actually get it on the table in under 10 minutes. You really do need to use the full amount of butter and cheese though, because that’s the whole sauce. This is Italian comfort food because it’s one of the first pastas children have. Highly recommended.

Fettuccine Alfredo

1 package fettuccine

1 cup grated parmesan

4 tablespoons butter, diced

Cook the pasta in heavily salted water. I usually tell you to cook it one minute less than the package instructions and finish it in the sauce, but in this case you will be saucing it in a bowl, so you cook it the whole time. In a bowl, combine the butter and parmesan. Once the pasta is done cooking, add it along with a little of the pasta water to the bowl and toss. The butter and parmesan will melt  and combine with the pasta water to create your sauce. Season with a little freshly ground pepper and perhaps some basil. Pasta in less than 10 minutes.

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