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Guest Chef: Contest Winner!

Image of Kathi Sapp
This month’s Ingredient Challenge recipe is a delicious use of some of the fall season’s best-in-harvest fresh favorites. It can also be said that this is truly an award-winning dish as this is also the winner of our Reader Recipe Contest held in July. Cooking instructor and food consultant Kathi Sapp of Orange County, California won the day with her luscious “Savory Pork Tenderloins with Apples, Grapes and Baby Dutch Yellow® Potatoes” main course entry. Here’s a dish with dinner party elegance that is easy enough to make that there is no reason to wait for guests or a special occasion to enjoy it. In fact, it is the perfect recipe to prepare for an intimate, restaurant-quality dinner for two on a weeknight; especially when the plating makes this dish appear to have taken much more time and effort than was actually the case.

Kathi’s recipe combines the challenge ingredients in a few different combinations that really show off both the versatility of these components as well as her own culinary imagination. The Gala Apple is one of the first varieties of the new season to be harvested. Galas are at the peak of their flavor and volume this month, which means bargain prices at retail. The fruit is a "sub-acid" variety that has a sweet-over-tart balance compared to, say, the blatant sugary taste of a Honeycrisp or Fuji. The fall season also delivers the last, and the best, of the red grape harvest with succulent sweetness that has taken all summer to develop. Kathi reduces these two fruits with balsamic vinegar into a velvety smooth, savory sauce that she then hides in the middle of her dish, like the center of a chocolate cream, and just as yummy! The grapes and the grape-based balsamic are a natural pairing; with the apple adding a delightful little aftertaste. Once discovered in the first forkful, this sauce laces each bite with a taste that is reminiscent of a full-bodied red wine that has been aged in apple wood.

In plating, this flavorful reduction sauce gets surrounded by apple slices that have been sautéed in butter, lemon juice and cinnamon. The sunflower shaped combination brings a contrast of yet another set of flavors for the palate to parse. The apples have an apple pie comfort food flavor that may sound like an odd match for a balsamic reduction sauce, but the marriage works, and perfectly. This juxtaposition of natural fresh flavors also demonstrates Kathi’s feeling about cooking with fresh ingredients: “Meals can be nutritious and as flavorful as any restaurant without all the chemicals, fat, salt and sugar.”

Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes The grape sauce is then hidden under a very tasty mix of diced Baby Dutch Yellow® Potatoes and grape halves, heated in the same pan with the drippings of the apple slices. This quick little step in Kathi’s recipe serves to connect the flavors of all the fresh produce ingredients. Kathi achieves a fine balance that teeters back n’ forth between tasting hints of each ingredient separately while at the same time enjoying a singular, perfectly shaped flavor note of the dish as a whole unit. Bravo!

Finally, the plate’s visual pattern is crowned with a rosette of petal-like pork tenderloin slices, which finishes the mandala design of the plating. Kathi improves on the traditional combination of potatoes, apples and pork with the red grapes used in different ways, which adds several layers of complexity for the palate to enjoy, as well as some playful color to the plate.

This is actually a very straightforward dish that, except for the marinating of the pork, takes little preparation time. The recipe is very dinner party friendly as the reduction sauce and potatoes can both be cooked ahead of time. While the meat is grilling, the apples slices can be sautéed following by a quick warmup in the same pan used for the potatoes and grape halves. Warm up the reduction sauté while the pork rests and you are ready to plate!

I can save the reader lots of time trying to replicate Kathi’s attractive dots of balsamic garnish – think FLAT plate. My “duh” moment during the making of this recipe was watching my perfectly placed daps of balsamic dribble downhill on the curved lip of my first choice of plates, leaving a messy track and pooling around the apple slices. I never realized just how much of a curved lip there are to most plates as I did my Goldilocks’ impersonation, trying several until I found one that was flat enough. So caution, watch for rolling balsamic!

As the winner of our Guest Chef Recipe Contest, Kathi’s Sapp “The OC Cook” demonstrated her approach to cooking with this entry: “I make recipes that are simple and fun, using fresh ingredients full of color and texture to encourage people to try new things.” Operating out of her home, Kathi offers healthy cooking classes to schools and for private cooking parties, as well as individual instruction. She is also a food consultant who does custom recipes and new menu content for private or corporate events. Kathi’s monthly newsletter, COOKING IN THE OC, is filled with healthy, family-oriented recipes, cooking tips and an extensive calendar of local culinary events. As a wife and mother of two daughters in college, Kathi knows the value of raising children with an appreciation for cooking with fresh ingredients.

“I try to teach people how to cook a meal with what is fresh in the market and what you have on hand and not to worry about having all the exact right ingredients to a specific recipe. I stress having a good time in the kitchen and that it is sometimes o.k. to just improvise and be creative.”

Of all the submissions, Kathi’s recipe embodied the rules of our contest by using the challenge ingredients in a single dish in a creative and delicious way. If this dish is an example of the recipes that she is in the midst of compiling for her first cookbook, I for one would like to put in my order for a copy right now. Autographed please, so I can brag that I knew The OC Cook before Kathi got her culinary celebrity!

Savory Pork Tenderloins with Apples, Grapes and Dutch Yellow® Baby Potatoes
By Kathi Sapp-The OC Cook
Serves 4
Image of Savory Pork Tenderloins with Apples, Grapes and Dutch Yellow® Baby Potatoes
2 - 1½ pounds Pork Tenderloins (3 pounds total)
3 Garlic Cloves, peeled, smashed
2 cups Balsamic Vinegar de Modena
7 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary, 4 cut in half
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 ½ cups whole Red Seedless Grapes (½ cup sliced into halves)
¼ cup Water
3 Large Gala Apples
3 Tablespoons Butter
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
½ teaspoon Cinnamon-Sugar Mixture (¼ tsp sugar, ¼ tsp cinnamon)
1½ pounds (1 package) Melissa's Baby Dutch Yellow® Potatoes
1 teaspoon Coarsely Ground Pepper
1 teaspoon Sea Salt


Marinate Pork:
Place whole pork tenderloins in a zip type bag, add balsamic vinegar (set 1/4 cup aside for later), garlic, 3 sprigs rosemary, olive oil, zip up and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

Apple-Grape Reduction Sauce:
Place 2 cups whole grapes into small deep saucepan, add water, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, heat on medium heat until grapes start to pop, remove from heat. Peel, core and chop one apple, add chopped apple to pan with grapes, return to heat and simmer until apples are soft. Remove from heat and use hand blender or small food processor to blend until smooth. Set aside until ready to plate.

Pork Tenderloins:
Grill, turning over once so both sides are evenly cooked and pork is rare to medium rare, about 20 minutes. Place on plate, cover loosely with foil, let rest 15 minutes. Do not cut into slices until ready to plate.

Sauté Apple Slices:
Peel and core the remaining two apples, cut fruit in half lengthwise and then slice halves into ¼-inch thick half circles. Melt half the butter in skillet and sauté apples, low heat; add lemon and cinnamon in single layer. Continue cooking until slices begin to brown. Remove from pan.

Sauté Potato-Grape mixture:
Steam potatoes until fork tender; let cool 10 minutes, then small dice. In same pan used for the apple slices, add remaining butter and sauté cubed potatoes until they start to turn golden, then add grape halves and cook just until they are warmed.

Image of sliced apples
  1. Place five slices on each plate in a circle to create a flower shape.
  2. Spoon the reduction sauce into the center of the flower.
  3. Cover the reduction sauce completely with potato and grape mixture, overlapping slightly onto the sliced apples on plate.
  4. Slice pork tenderloins into ¼ inch thick slices to make round medallions, place four slices around center and one slice in center slightly on top of other pieces.
  5. Place five grape halves cut side down around outside of apple flower.
  6. Drizzle balsamic vinegar in small dots around plate by using remaining vinegar in small plastic bag cut with a tiny hole in one point.
  7. Cut rosemary sprigs in half, place a bit under meat at top.
You can either drizzle a little balsamic on the pork medallions themselves or, as a self-serve option, put the balsamic in a small bowl with serving spoon right on the table.
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