The Game Changer

December 6th, 2011 · 68 Comments · Picky Eating, Pork and Beef

The pork loin I braised in red wine last Tuesday night was pretty freaking delicious. I can say this because most of the credit goes to my coworker — remember the one who was plotting her own pork and lentil stew in the slow-cooker while I was plotting drumsticks? After she told me that one, it was on the brain for 24 hours and I knew the only way to get it off the brain would be to try out a version of the pork stew for myself. The problem? I didn’t own a slow cooker. (Well, not true. I own one, but it is in a box deep in the bowels of our basement, and last time I remember using it, I think it was missing a crucial piece, like a lid.) I was working from home the day I decided to tackle the recipe in my Dutch Oven and began cooking just as the girls were scattering their math workbooks on the kitchen table to start homework.

What’s for dinner? asked Abby as soon as she heard the loin hit in the oil.

This can be such a loaded question. When I’m making something new for the girls — which is fairly often — and there’s a good chance that the unfamiliar name of this dinner will set off some whining, sometimes I just lie and say I don’t know yet. But other times, when dinner is simmering away on the stovetop, and an oniony aroma is in the air, I opt for the truth.

Some sort of pork with beans…and maybe kale, I told her.

I don’t like beans! And then, for the next two hours, it was all Do we have to have pork with beans? and Can’t you make those chicken wings again? and Can you make me something else if I don’t like it?

I hate this scenario. The whole point of dinner — the whole point of this site actually — is to get people excited about sitting down to eat. And what killed me is that I knew Abby would love this meal if she had the right attitude. But she couldn’t picture it, so it scared her. I get it  – for the longest time, that’s exactly how I felt about J.Lo on American Idol.

I needed a game changer. I needed Tater Tots.

Abby had hand-selected a bag of them from Whole Foods a few weekends earlier and hardly a day had gone by when she hadn’t begged to have them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It was just the psychological latch she needed on the plate to adjust the way she was approaching the table. I piled a mountain of them next to her pork, which she ate absent-mindedly, and which, when deconstructed and cut into pieces, was not all that much different looking than the Pork braised in Pomegranate Juice and Marcella’s Milk-braised Pork she’s had (and loved) a hundred times before.

And I know this is not exactly breaking news, but Holy Christ Tater Tots taste good! The rest of us were pretty excited about dinner that night, too.

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Red-Wine-Braised Pork Loin with Beans and Kale…and Tater Tots

In a Dutch Oven, brown a pork loin over medium-high heat in olive oil on all sides, about 10-12 minutes total. Remove from pot. Add 1 clove garlic (halved) and swirl around in the oil for about one minute; remove.

To the Dutch Oven, add one chopped onion, 1 stalk celery (chopped), 1 large carrot (chopped), salt, and pepper. Cook until soft, 3 minutes. Add about 3/4 cup red wine and 1 cup diced tomatoes (in their juices), a dash of hot sauce, and a bay leaf. Add loin back to the pot. (Liquid should come about a third of the way up the sides of the loin.) Boil, then reduce braising liquid to a simmer and cover. Cook 1 hour.

If you are using dried beans add 1 1/2 cup of them now, and cook another hour. (I used tiger beans, which had been presoaked for a few hours, but any white bean like cannellini or Great Northern would be good, too.) If you are using canned beans, wait another hour, then add a 15-ounce can for the last 15-20 minutes of cooking. (My guess is that you could add a cup and a half of uncooked French lentils at this point, instead of beans.)

During the last 15 minutes of cooking, make your Tater Tots!

During the last 10 minutes of cooking, drizzle in a tablespoon or two of white wine vinegar.

During the last 3 minutes, add a handful or two of chopped up kale.

Cook until kale has just wilted. Remove pork loin, slice in pieces and serve over bean stew. With Tater Tots.

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68 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Susie // Dec 6, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Same thought here too! Making the pretzel chicken and did you see the kale/brussel sprout salad last month in gourmet (i mean BA of course)??? Clearly I’ll need tater tots to neutralize the menu for the boys.

  • 2 Amanda // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    This recipe looks delicious! The addition of tater tots was genius though because I often forget that when introducing a new dinner on the table, it’s good to have a familiar thing on the plate for the little ones – or in this case a totally awesome treat that my kids would swoon over. This post gives me permission to buy tater tots! I can’t wait!

  • 3 Elizabeth // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    This looks wonderful. Including the tater tots. Do I win the feast?

  • 4 b*schus // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Sadly, I was one of the weird kids who always hated tater tots! I’ll have to try them again with my own kids.

    Do I win the feast?

  • 5 Kelly // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I think I can get this into my brand new husband, even without the tots. . . also, do I win the feast?!?

  • 6 Laura // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Yum! Do I win the feast?

  • 7 Kim // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Do I win the feast?

  • 8 Heidi // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Do I win the feast?

  • 9 Kali // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Do I win the feast?

  • 10 Sara // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    This looks delicious! Also, Do I win the feast?

  • 11 MelissaM // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    This sounds so good and I think may have to be Sunday’s dinner. Oh yeah and “Do I win the feast?”

  • 12 Stacey Chase // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Do I win the feast?

    And, what a great idea with the tots – once they are eating and hunger is realized, a new thing isn’t so hard to try!

  • 13 Jenny // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    reminder: all these lobster comments would make sense if you were a newsletter subscriber….

  • 14 Sarah // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    This looks amazing. I’m getting a Le Creuset dutch oven for Christmas and I am bookmarking this along with several other DALS posts for the not-too-distant-future:-) Also, I used to eat tater tots for breakfast EVERY DAY in college. The dining hall used to have a big ol’ pile of them. Ah memories.

    Do I win the feast?”

  • 15 Renée // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Jenny, I loved your pomegranate juice-glazed pork recipe and I’m equally excited about this one. (How had I forgotten Tater Tots existed? My 3-year-old is going to go nuts.)

    Another fantastic holiday-ish pork recipe I love is from Gourmet’s December issue a few years ago. It’s pork tenderloin with red wine/sour cherry sauce (using dried cherries) and rosemary. It was originally posted as an hors d’oeuvre for a cocktail party but it’s fabulous for dinner. Just search using “pork cornets” on Epicurious. It’s soooo good and you can customize with lots of shortcuts. (Such as, obviously, not rolling the pork into cornets and using TJ’s pre-seasoned pork tenderloin.)

    Also. Do I win the feast?

  • 16 Stacy // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    “Do I win the feast?”

  • 17 Katherine // Dec 6, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I love how used and loved your Dutch Oven looks! I hope mine is the same in 10, 15, 20, 30 years.

    Also, it’s appropriate your giveaway is about lobsters, b/c just this morning I posted on my blog about how to treat yourself right every day of December, and one of them (well, two of them) were about eating a lobster at home in the middle of the week just ‘cuz.

    So, Do I win the feast?

  • 18 Amanda // Dec 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Hmmm, I haven’t received the newsletter yet… but hey, why not just say it…

    Also. Do I win the feast? It would go so well with our Northern California crab feast we have on Christmas Eve!

  • 19 Emilie // Dec 6, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    We’ve been talking about lobster around the house alot but living here in Vermont, fresh seafood is often a challenge but if I won the lobster feast, I would definitely need something like your tatertots, or my table’s equivalent — the roasted polenta square — to get that much amazing seafood past the suspicious eyes of my soon to be 7 yo. So– “Do I win the feast?”

  • 20 Julie // Dec 6, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Tater Tots are ALWAYS in the freezer, and they are a simple side dish that I know the kiddos will eat if I’m springing something “fancy” on them. Plus I love them, too.
    PS – Do I win the feast?

  • 21 aj // Dec 6, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Do I win the feast?

  • 22 Nancy // Dec 6, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Love your website with all the wisdom and recipes! I will have to try this dish….with tater tots, of course!

    “Do I win the feast?”

  • 23 Colleen // Dec 6, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Love your website!

    Do I win the feast?

  • 24 Aimee // Dec 6, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    This looks heavenly. I am going to make this on Friday.

    Do I win the feast?

  • 25 bets // Dec 6, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Wow we love Mussels!!! Do I win the feast?

  • 26 Laura // Dec 6, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I never understood the tater tot craze. Maybe I should try them again.

    Do I win the feast?

  • 27 kristin // Dec 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Do I win the feast?

  • 28 My2girls // Dec 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    this is a timely post my daughter (who is nine) asked me the other day “what is a tater tot?” I guess you can tell we don’t have them around here. But I am tempted to try.

    BTW “Do I win the feast?”

  • 29 Hillary // Dec 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Let’s face it, tater tots are amazing. I might need some soon.

    Also, Do I win the feast?

  • 30 Erin S. // Dec 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    It’s my husband I’ll have to entice with tater tots, but I think he’d love this!

    Do I win the feast? hope so!

  • 31 Natalie // Dec 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    MMM we love tater tots. The BF and I just had them as our side starch on Sunday!


    Do I win the feast?


  • 32 meg // Dec 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Do I win the feast?

    (If I win I promise to share with my favorite maine-lobster loving new mom who is in need of spoiling!)

  • 33 Trang // Dec 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Definitely will have to try this– who doesn’t love tater tots? By the way..Do I win the feast?”

  • 34 Tammy // Dec 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    This is one the most genius ideas in the history of parenting. Tater Tots alongside new fare. Yes. Must pick up a bag immediately.

    On a side note, last night my husband (who rarely consults cookbooks but loves yours), made your five-spice pork tenderloin with cabbage, and it was AWESOME. I’m eating the leftovers for lunch as I’m writing this.

  • 35 Ana // Dec 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    “Do I win the feast?”

  • 36 Caitlin // Dec 6, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    “for the longest time, that’s exactly how I felt about J.Lo on American Idol.” That just made me laugh out loud. And tots are wonderful. I need an excuse to get them in my house! I’d enter to win but I have never been able to do lobster. I know, I know, what is wrong with me. This recipe looks great though.

  • 37 Carolyn // Dec 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    “Do I win the feast?”
    or better still,
    can I come over and eat with and interview David Sedaris?

  • 38 vg // Dec 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    looove tater tots. wish i had some for dinner tonight. oh, and….“Do I win the feast?”

  • 39 Mary // Dec 6, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Do I win the feast?

    Yum, pork loin!

  • 40 Vanessa // Dec 6, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Do I win the GetMaineLobster feast?

  • 41 Carrie // Dec 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Do I win the feast?

  • 42 Shannon // Dec 6, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Do I win the feast?

  • 43 MollyvChartrand // Dec 6, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Do I win the feast?”

  • 44 Caroline // Dec 6, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Do I win the feast? :-)

  • 45 Heather // Dec 6, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Do I win the feast?

  • 46 Susan // Dec 6, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Love love the part on JLo… and my that pork looks good (and tater tots… love them too). Thanks

    Do I win the feast?

  • 47 Heidi // Dec 6, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Nice to know the same scenario plays out in other homes each evening. Soometimes when my picky 10 year old asks what’s for dinner, I just pretend I didn’t hear him. I know, it’s awful. But I can’t stomach the complaining about a meal that doesn’t even exist yet and which he might actually like if he just gave it a chance! Oy vey!

  • 48 nancy // Dec 6, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    I have this on the stove now. I had a feeling that one hour was not long enough to cook the cannellini beans, so they’ve been in the whole two hours. Hard as rocks! So sad. Did you soak your beans first? So I’ve opened a can of pinto beans and I’m cooking the kale separately.

  • 49 Elizabeth // Dec 6, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Everything looks delicious. Tater tots — delish! Thanks.

    Do I win the feast?

  • 50 Jenny // Dec 6, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    Do I win the feast?

  • 51 Anna // Dec 6, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    I thought the game changer was that you used the slow cooker. However, tater tots are always a good addition when serving children. I tried your friend’s recipe in my slowcooker last night and it was DELICIOUS. I’ll try your version next time I pick up pork tenderloin at the store.

  • 52 Angela // Dec 7, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Tater tots on the plate….brilliant!
    Do I win the feast?

  • 53 Tara // Dec 7, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Did you soak the beans first? Seems like a short cooking time for dried beans, but I suspect it would work fine for lentils.

    I live in Maine, so count me out on the lobster. Give it to some more deserving landlocked soul.

  • 54 caroline lambert // Dec 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Pork we can find here in Tucson– so I will try this. But I sure would love some lobster. . .Do I win the lobster feast?

  • 55 Jen // Dec 7, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    “Do I win the feast?”

  • 56 Aileen W // Dec 7, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Do I win the feast?

  • 57 Laura // Dec 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I love tater tots! Though I am somewhat loathe to admit it, my husband claims that one of his fondest food memories is me cooking up tater tots (a brand new food item for him – he’s from England) during a grad school study session. I wish he would remember the french lamb stew I cooked when trying to woo him. Nope, its all about the tots.

    Do I win the feast?

  • 58 Susan // Dec 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Do I win the feast??

  • 59 Susan // Dec 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    “Do I win the feast?”

  • 60 Jane // Dec 7, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    If tater tots are wrong, I don’t want to be right.
    Do I win the feast?

  • 61 amy marantino // Dec 8, 2011 at 5:12 am

    Do I win the feast?

  • 62 Krissie Huminski // Dec 8, 2011 at 11:25 am

    “Do I win the feast?”

  • 63 Melissa@HomeBaked // Dec 8, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    We had the tater tots last night (I did the sausage/potato bake with tater tots, onions and brats), but we’re having the pork tonight with lentils and spinach. There might even be a few leftover tater tots in case anyone fusses. :)

  • 64 amber // Dec 11, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    I love this!! The tater tots game changer is hilarious…

  • 65 Abby // Dec 11, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    This was delicious! We ate it tonight (egg noodles not tater tots but same difference.) For those of you who are thinking of trying it, the beans, which I soaked last night, took an awfully long time. I put it on the stove at 2:3o, beans in at 3:30, and they were barely ready when we ate at 6. Plus side was that the meat was amazing after all that cooking!

  • 66 James Boelter // Dec 20, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I had a go at this dish on Sunday, and holy cow (or pig as the case may be) it was good. Interestingly, as nice as the pork loin turned out, it was the bean stew that was the real star of the show – when I tasted it for final seasoning before serving, my knees almost buckled, it was so good.

  • 67 erika // Jun 2, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    How big a pork loin do you buy? Do cook the pork for the whole two hours? Mine was done after an hour. I wonder if I had the right cut of meat.

  • 68 Lena // Jan 14, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    so funny without reading this, last night i did the same exact thing with sweet potato tater tots and a new recipe i tried out for chicken rice and squash. it works!

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