These Lucky Charms are Magically Delicious: Pork with Roasted Grape Sauce

Well, we made it!

Happy 2014, all!

Apple Crisp and I were just lamenting yesterday how fast time flies, and how we blinked and suddenly 2013 was gone.  With the new year comes clean slates, goals, resolutions and in the case of Chicago, a whole lotta snow.

Seriously, it’s been coming down non-stop since last night. Good thing I got myself addicted to Scandal and didn’t leave the comfort of my couch for the past few days (though I’m slapping myself a high five for trudging through this to go for a swim).

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All the time inside has made me a little stir crazy, and with little more than my kitchen to entertain me, I slaved for hours to make you a New Years’ dish filled with a whole bunch of good luck, if you believe in superstitions. I personally don’t, but the dish I came across for today intrigued me enough to dive in anyway. And I was kidding about the whole “slaving over a hot stove” thing. Stove time is minimal, as is oven time, making this the perfect lazy day meal.

Pork with a Roasted Grape Sauce packs a two-good-luck-charm punch. I’ll explain.

First, the grapes.  In Spain, twelve grapes –one for each hour are eaten at midnight.  According to Epicurious, this dates back to 1909 when grape farmers in Spain initiated the tradition to take care of a grape surplus.  The idea stuck, and spread to Portugal and both countries’ respective colonies such as Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru. Each grape is to represent a different month, so if for instance the third grape is a bit sour, March might be rocky. For most, the goal is to swallow all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight, so better chew fast or get small grapes.

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Second, the pork.  This came about thanks to the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving (who knew? And did you know that poultry push backwards? So don’t eat that today that, lest you have bad luck.  You now have some information that may help you win at trivia- so more good luck!). Roast suckling pig is served for New Year’s in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Austria—Austrians are also known to decorate the table with miniature pigs made of marzipan. Different pork dishes such as pig’s feet are enjoyed in Sweden while Germans feast on roast pork and sausages. Pork is also consumed in Italy and the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.

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So there are two solid, albeit superstitious reasons for making this dish. If you’re not convinced, I’ll give you two more:

Third, it’s healthy, so if “lose X pounds” was on that list of resolutions, this will make that task a little more enjoyable.

Fourth- if you’re of the whole “the only way to stop a hangover is to keep drinking” persuasion, this dish has wine. And we all know what happens when cooking with wine. One splash for the dish, two splashes for me.

I’m kidding. Maybe.

Adapted from Eating Well

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 cups grapes (red or green, your choice)

1-1   ¼ pound pork tenderloin

Salt and pepper to taste

1 TB olive oil

¼ cup shallots, sliced

½ cup white wine (suggestion: Madeira or a sweet, mellow one)

½ cup chicken stock

½ TB thyme

1 tsp rosemary

1 TB Dijon mustard

Handful of parsley, to garnish (ok, I didn’t have parsley. I forgot to buy it. But I think it would have finished it off nicely)

Oven roasted potatoes would be a nice accompaniment, me thinks. I had mine with quinoa.

Directions

1.  Preheat to 425°F.

2.  Wash grapes and place grapes on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast on the lower rack, shaking the pan occasionally to turn the grapes, until they are shriveled, 25 to 30 minutes. I used really fat grapes, so it took me a little longer.

3.  Meanwhile, rub pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the pan to the top oven rack. Roast the pork until just barely pink in the center about, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer the pork to a cutting board to rest before slicing while you finish up the sauce.

4.  Place the pan over medium heat (be careful!, the handle will be hot), add shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine to deglaze the pan and cook until reduced by half, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in broth, thyme, rosemary and mustard; bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in the grapes and mash with the back of your wooden spoon. Serve the sliced pork with the grape sauce.

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While researching the grape/pork good luck information, I came across some other fun new years’ traditions. I thought I’d share. Thanks, ABC Texas.

Black-eyed peas and other legumes symbolize prosperity because they resemble coins. For those who associate good luck with good money, be sure to add some peas to your New Year’s dinner.

While you’re at it, heap on some leafy greens like collards, kale, or cabbage, which represent paper money — and more prosperity. They’re good for your health too, but the point is, the more foods that resemble money, the better.

A New Year’s smooch when the clock strikes midnight brings good luck in love for the year to come. So whether you’re single or have a steady honey, prepare to pucker up.

In Spain, those sexy Spaniards believe that wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve means that you will have prosperity and good luck in the upcoming year.  While not a sexy Spaniard, I think I am a sexy Hungarian…I knew but forgot about this one

In order to chase out the bad luck of the New Year, the Irish bang white bread against the wallsI would never do this. I love bread too much.

In Ecuador, it’s customary for each family to burn a scarecrow at midnight. The scarecrow represents the negativity of the previous year, so burning it ensures positive energy and good luck as the new year begins.  I feel like this could lead to an arrest in the U.S.

Brazilians jump seven waves for good luck — one jump for each day of the week.  I’d have to dig a hole in the ice of Lake Michigan to make this a reality.

In Greece, smashing a pomegranate outside one’s door at midnight is said to bring good fortune. The red color and seeds of the pomegranate represent fertility, love, happiness… and a big mess on your doorstep.  Seems a sad waste of a pomegranate.

If you’re in Germany, be sure to find a chimney sweep or a fireplace, because touching ashes is the key to good luck in the new year. Like seeing Santa Klaus on Christmas, the appearance of the chimney sweep is a good omen.  A sweep is as lucky as lucky can be.  Schooled by Disney, I knew this one.

In Japan, cleaning and sweeping on New Year’s Eve is good luck, but doing so on New Year’s Day could actually sweep away all of the good luck of the year! So consider this your free pass not to do any household chores after your New Year’s Eve celebrations. WHEW- I almost swept today.  Dodged that bullet.

And with that I close this post.

 But first, my wish for you.

2014

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