Perhaps you love trying new dishes or maybe you could get to know your way around the kitchen a little better.

Whether you love trying out new recipes or need a little help in the kitchen, it’s always good to have at least one signature dish for when friends and family come over. What better way to perfect that signature dish than to enlist a local chef to help?

Meranto

Ralph Meranto, director of operations and executive chef at Stewart Penick’s Terrace (formally Terrace Café) has more than 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry and has been with the restaurant since 2016. Prior to working with Stewart Penick’s Terrace, he owned his own restaurant, Harry & Jeans, and trained as a full scratch baker.

Before we share Meranto’s recipe suggestion for a signature dish that is sure to impress at dinner parties, here’s a little more about the chef who in college won an award for a wedding cake he made, and has since gone on to win awards for menu originality, best dinner and best dessert.

Where did your interest/love of food come from?

I was the oldest grandchild and both of my grandmothers were great cooks. My Irish grandmother lived on a farm and cooked everything from scratch and my Italian grandmother made her own pasta, breads and sauces. My interest in food came from watching them both cook, and my love for food came when they started to teach me their techniques.

You credit your grandmother as an influential cooking figure for you? How so? 

Irish grandmother loved to bake and she was quite an influential cooking figure for me. Every day she would make a cake or pie with fresh fruit that she picked right off the tree or vine. … Living on a farm, my grandparents never had to go to the grocery store. They didn’t have much money, but they felt the kitchen was an important part of their life and a way to bring the family together. My favorite dish my grandmother made was her chicken and dumplings. She would catch one of the chickens on the farm, and after she prepped it, she would start it on a slow cook in the pan before beginning to make the flour dumplings from scratch.

When you first began cooking, what was your signature dish?

My father made great sauces, so when I first began cooking my signature dish was beef medallions with a rich sauce. First, I would season the steak and sear it in either butter or olive oil. I have found over the years that not many people realize the importance of cooking the seasonings on the steak to bring out the flavor. Next, I would broil the steak and slice it into medallions. I would then sauté sliced onions, peppers and mushrooms in marsala or cabernet, reduce it and pour it over the medallions.

People rave about the red velvet waffles at Stewart Penick’s Terrace. Can you spill the secret on why they are so delicious?

One of the reasons the Red Velvet Waffle is one of our most popular dishes on our menu is because we blend both waffle and cake textures in the batter, giving it a richer flavor. This one-of-a-kind texture, combined with our cream cheese drizzle, makes this a delicious treat for any time of day. I also recommend adding our fried chicken on top for a twist on fried chicken and waffles.

What’s next/new for Stewart Penick’s Terrace?

We are currently working on adding fall flavors, like apple and pumpkin, to our menu for the coming season.

Is there a chef you admire the most?

The chef I admire most is Bobby Flay. He uses his skills at all levels of the food tree, from casual burgers to upscale dishes. He is a true chef and restaurateur.

Now for the recipe that will make you look like a chef in your own home—Chef Meranto recommends making apple pork tenderloin your signature dish.

Ingredients

(For the rosemary apples)

– 1 pound apple slices, approximately ¼-inch thick — can be fresh, frozen or canned
– 1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
– ¼ cup water
– ½ teaspoon rosemary, dried (you can substitute another herb if you like)
– Pinch of salt
– Pinch of black pepper

(For the pork tenderloin)

– 8 ounces pork tenderloin (usually two per pack)
– Blackening or chop seasoning as needed
– 4 to 5 ounces rosemary apples (recipe above)
– 1 ounce marmalade, flavor of your choice (savory — not overly sweet)
– 1/2 ounce dried berries

Cooking

(For the rosemary apples)

(1) Place the water and sugar in a large sauté pan over a medium flame and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

(2) Add the apples and cook until the apple slices are soft, approximately 6 minutes.

(3) Season with the rosemary, salt and pepper and stir to blend.

These can be held in refrigeration until needed.

(For the apple pork tenderloin)

(1) Season the pork well on all sides.

(2) Sear the loin on a blackening skillet if available. If not, use a pre-heated sauté pan over a high flame.

(3) Roll the loin to sear all sides.

(4) Place the loin on a pie tin or sheet pan and place in a 400-degree oven until the loin is cooked temperature of your choice.

(5) Place the apple set in the microwave for 45 seconds, or reheat in a sauté pan.

(6) After removing the loin from the oven, allow to set for at least 2-3 minutes before slicing.

(7) Slice the pork loin into six slices on a slight bias.

Presentation

(1) Shingle the pork slices on a large plate, overlapping each other.

(2) Top the pork with the warm apples.

(3) Spoon the marmalade down the center of the apples.

(4) Garnish with dried berries.

To create a vegetarian version, Meranto recommends following the same recipe, but use vegan chicken instead of pork tenderloin. For this alternative, you still flavor the vegan chicken with the same seasonings, but instead of placing it in the oven, Meranto recommends sautéing it.

Also, if you are not a fan of apples, or want to try something different, Meranto recommends trying peaches. The chef also suggests pairing the meal with a seasonal vegetable medley on the side.

The only thing left to do is eat.

Photos: Courtesy of Stewart Penick’s Terrace

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