For Mollie: a plated dish

So during the beginning part of my MasterChef journey, I had made several close friends, besides my bestie Bri. There was Sage, the 18 year old from Long Beach(my neighboring beach town!) who competed on MasterChef Junior, season 1(and sadly didn’t make it to the top 36). David, my fellow skinny Asian/straight clone from NorCal. And then there was Mollie. The bright, cheerful, and infectiously energetic Latina from Corpus Christi, Texas. Mollie and I got close because our personalities really gelled well. She was a sponge when it came to ideas, and I loved bouncing ideas and techniques with her for that reason. Unfortunately, when it came time for the actual apron cooks, she got a black card. Joe Bastianich said no, then chef Aaron Sanchez chose to save her. It was bittersweet. I really, REALLY wanted Mollie to get an apron. Yes, she didn’t get eliminated in that moment, but the black card, to me, it was the definition of unnecessary added stress. It meant that she had to cook against two other people for the very last apron. Imagine having to go through all of that, and STILL not get a white apron.

For the last apron battle, we were told that Mollie, along with two other cooks, Charli and Micah, had to cook another signature dish and that they had 45 more minutes to prepare it. For her original dish that got a no, Mollie had prepared grilled skirt steak with Thai chimichurri and broccolini. The judges basically dinged her for not being ambitious enough. So that night, Mollie and I sat together in the hotel and planned a new concept together. The original concept for her dish was going to be chili rubbed pork chop with spicy glazed carrots, potato-leek puree, and her lime-cilantro sauce. Conceptually, it was a good start, but I kept thinking about what she told me the judges said. So I pushed her to do something a little bit different. Instead of the potato puree, I suggested brown butter-carrot puree. And since she had two spicy components, being the glazed carrots and the pork, I also suggested lime-pickled carrots, to tie in with her sauce, and to add another acidic component to balance the heat out with. So her final dish was chili rubbed pork chop with lime-pickled carrots, brown butter carrot puree, chili glazed carrots, and a lime-cilantro sauce. For this dish, I wanted to pay homage to that, but this time, I’m subbing out her lime-cilantro sauce with my own recipe, which actually uses the carrot tops as well. In terms of the protein, I swapped out the pork chop with a tenderloin, mostly because it’ll present prettier. For the glazed baby carrots, I used batons of whole rainbow carrots, mostly because I couldn’t find the Thumbelina ones, but both will work in this case! So it will be a pork tenderloin with carrots four ways. This one is for you, Mollie, my love!

For the carrot puree:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup orange carrots; peeled and sliced on the thinnest setting of a mandolin
1 stick butter, browned
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon thyme
a pinch of salt
a pinch of black pepper

Start by sauteeing your carrots in the brown butter and spices. Hit with the cream and allow them to simmer, with the lid on, for at least 20 minutes, or until soft enough to smash with a spoon. Transfer the carrots to a food processor and puree, slowly adding in the cream that they were cooked in until the puree is nice and smooth. Pass through a sieve to guarantee a perfect consistency.

For the pickled carrots:
1/4 cup rainbow carrots, peeled and sliced thinly on a bias
1/3 cup white or sherry vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt

Dissolve sugar and salt into lime juice and sherry. Pour over the carrots and allow them to pickle in that liquid for at least 15 minutes. Strain and cool completely before using to plate with.

For the glazed carrots:
8 oz Thumbelina carrots, peeled and halved(you can alternatively quart regular sized carrots if you cannot find the smaller ones!)
water
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons chili flakes
1 teaspoon ancho chili paste
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Blanch carrots for 10 minutes in heavily salted water. In a pan, melt butter and then saute the carrots until golden brown. Finish with the chili flakes, paste, and honey, using water to thin out the glaze as necessary. Make sure that all of the carrots are nicely and evenly coated.

For the pork:
2 pork tenderloins
salt
pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground annatto seed
2 cloves of garlic
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
butter
oil

Season the pork loins aggressively with salt and pepper. Heat up a cast iron then add in your oil. Sear the pork chops on each side for 4 minutes, then add in your butter, aromatics, and spices. Baste 20 times, then transfer to the oven and finish cooking until the inside registers 135 degrees F. Rest for 6-8 minutes before slicing.

For the sauce:
1/2 cup blanched carrot fronds, stems removed
1/2 cup cilantro
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon lime zest.
1 clove of minced garlic
1/4 cup oil
a pinch of salt
pepper

Puree in a blender until smooth.

For garnish:
Carrot fronds

To plate:
Start with a swipe of the puree. Layer on your slices of pork, then garnish those with the chili glazed carrots, pickled carrots, and fronds. On the side, spoon on a circle of the sauce.

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