Beijing Tried to Kill Me (so I made brined pork tenderloin with risotto)

The past week or two, the weather has really turned, and spring has infiltrated Beijing. It’s warm enough so that I don’t have to wear log underwear anymore, and can trade in my winter coat for a lighter jacket, and lamb leg and other outdoor meals and activities are becoming viable again. This winter wasn’t as bad as my first one in Beijing, but there were some bitterly cold days, and a lot more snow. January was filled with terrible weather in Beijing, enough off-the-chart pollution days to make international headlines. The city beyond twenty feet seemed to be swallowed up, and I wore my face mask everywhere. Eventually the smog turned into, amazingly, actual fog, and the temperature plummeted. Beijing, it seemed, was not content to passive aggressively try to get me with cancer causing particles. Instead, Beijing started to set traps.

The fog started spitting and coating everything with moisture despite there not being any real precipitation, and then it got really cold again in the night, and by morning pretty much all the surfaces were covered in black ice. I didn’t notice it at all on the street, but when I rode up onto the sidewalk to park my bike, I immediately wiped out and hit the sidewalk and my bike landed on top of me. Ow bruises. Of course my first though was for my laptop in the bike basket, but it survived unscathed. Aside from one sideways glance at my very audible swearing, no one looked at me twice with any concern. People in Beijing are kind of jerks. But, not thirty seconds after I hit the ground, a delivery cart started skidding and crashed into the already parked bikes, and when I hobbled up to the office it turned out at least one other coworker had done exactly the same thing, so I felt much better about my life.

Certainly not a good start to my day, which I spent most of crankily sending out emails that will probably be ignored even though they’re important. The day wasn’t a complete waste, however. A friend and I have a cooking-and-watching-Dr. Who session every few weeks, and we made a very nice little repast. I started by setting pork tenderloin to brine overnight the day before.

Brine: Mix brown sugar, salt, pepper, star anise, fennel, coriander, all spice, bay leaves, garlic powder, and whisk it into a half cup or white wine or hard cider. Add this to enough water to completely submerge pork tenderloin in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

We rinsed it off, patted it dry, and browned in a bit of oil in a pan (about 10 minutes, 3ish minutes per side). Placed into a lined baking dish at 200C in the oven for about 15, 20 minutes, until the juices run clear. While baking, we cooked chopped apples in some melted butter and brown sugar until just soft.

Pork Tenderloin with Stewed Apples and Spinach Risotto

Pork Tenderloin with Stewed Apples and Spinach Risotto

To serve with this, we made mushroom and spinach  risotto. I follow a pretty basic risotto recipe: half a chopped onion, about a cup of arborio rice, maybe 6 cups of stock and water, a mix of goat cheese and parmesan cheese, and change up the vegetable additions. Soften the diced onion with some minced garlic in olive oil, then add the rice, once the grains are nearly translucent, start stirring in the stock and water, about half a cup at a time, only adding more once most of it has been soaked up. I add mushrooms at the beginning with the onion, and the spinach in the last few minutes of cooking. Once the rice is tender, stir in the cheese. As long as you have someone willing to stir the rice every few moments, it’s not challenging to make.

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