IMG_1642 Peter Kaminsky is a friend and colleague who has co-written another excellent cookbook, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way with Argentinian chef Francis Mallman.  It's all about cooking with fire—a great book for the boys, who as we know are predisposed to playing with fire, and another beautiful production from Artisan; here's a feature in the NYTimes on it.  Peter wrote the excellent Happy in the Kitchen with Michel Richard as well as his excellent Pig Perfect and several books on fly fishing.  I'm pleased to have him here today, talking about grilled steak and a fantastic grilled pork tenderloin with orange confit (my favorite part of the whole preparation).

Skillet Roasted Pork and Thirty Grilled Steaks

by Peter Kaminsky

Having grilled most summer nights since the late 1960's I felt that my skills were pretty decent. Then I met Francis Mallmann, a refugee from the world of haute cuisine (apprenticing with Verge, Trocellier, Oliver and at il Pinchiori in Florence). Francis decided to get back to basic Neanderthal cooking (although served in the elegant and rustic style of Patagonia). I've watched him prepare whole cows, roast salmon for 300, and legs of lamb for 300 … all done perfectly. The recipes that he shared with me in writing our new book taught me that simple food can be as elegant as the most froufrou foie gras and caviar concoctions.SevenFires Jacket

I personally tested our recipe for steak about a gazillion (make that thirty) times.  The steak thing is interesting. I wanted one foolproof thing. Francis and I made them a few times. I went to the Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo, which has fifteen or twenty steak joints. To every one of them I said, "Make me a ribeye." I watched how they salted, felt the heat, and timed them. Then in the states I made them over wood, charcoal, charcoal briquettes, gas-fired barbecue, stove top barbecue, and grill pan. On hot days and cold.

What i found was, that if you follow the one mississippi, two mississippi , three rule (depending on your own nerve endings) it always works. You may need to shave a minute off depending on the wind and weather, but it always works. Good salt crust and uniform color wall to wall.

The pork tenderloin is one to try outside (it's smoky) on a cast iron griddle. I love it because it is so striking and delicious. For so few ingredients it is deeply complex. First the burnt-ness of the sugar (not incinerated just burnt) really punctuates the other flavors. There is a bitter, fruity floral aspect to the orange peel (and its olive oil), and that floral herbal aspect is heigtened by thyme. Then there's that funky thing you get when you bite down on pork, and as you naturally breathe out through your nose, it's a wonderful mix of herbal, floral, meaty.

Pork Tenderloin with Burnt Brown Sugar, Orange Confit, and Thyme
Serves 6

2 boneless pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each
6 pieces orange confit, about 2 inches each (see Basics)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon coarse salt (or to taste)
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons oil from the orange confit

Lay the pork tenderloins on a work surface. Flatten with the palm of your hand. Tear the orange confit into 1/2 inch pieces and distribute over the top surface of the meat. Sprinkle with the fresh thyme and half the salt. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top and pat it down firmly with your hand. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil from the orange confit.

Preheat the chapa or a large square cast iron griddle over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles.

Using a wide spatula, lift the pork tenderloins one by one and invert them sugar side down onto the griddle. Do not move them for 5 minutes. If the sugar begins to smell unpleasantly burned, adjust the heat by moving the griddle and lowering the flame. When the sugar side is well browned, turn the tenderloins. Cook on all sides for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until done to taste. The internal temperature should be 135 degrees for a rosy pink. Remove the meat to a carving board and allow to rest, tented with foil, for 10 minutes before slicing.

Orange Confit

4 oranges
3 bay leaves
12 whole black peppercorns
2 cups plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup white wine
2 teaspoons coarse salt

Cut the oranges in half. Squeeze the juice and reserve for another use.

Place the squeezed orange halves in a 3 quart saucepan. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, 3 tablespoons olive oil, white wine and water to cover. Add salt and bring to the boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook until the orange peel is tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the liquid.

When cool enough to handle, drain the oranges. Tear the peel into rough strips about 1 inch wide. Place a strip of orange peel skin side down on a work surface and, using a very sharp paring knife, scrape away every bit of the white pith.

Place the strips of orange zest in a bowl and cover completely with extra virgin olive oil. This will keep, covered tightly in the refrigerator, for at least a week.