Deciding what to serve guests? For me, making decisions about a company meal usually starts out with the decision about the entrée. So, is it beef, fish, chicken, pork or lamb? I'll flip through my big personal cookbook (two large 3-ring binders containing all 405 of my recipes, divided up by categories), and start making a list of the options. I may pull out those recipes (each is in a plastic sleeve) before I decide. Here's what I do:
- make a list of a couple of the meat dishes that sound good to me. Then I'll think about what should go with it;
- vegetables (depends on the season, maybe two vegies and no carb), add to the list;
- another side/carb (does this dinner need a carb, would my guests prefer not to have a carb, is it too many calories already? think about the color on the plate since we like to have some variety); add to the list;
- a salad (green type? or another? special additions like pecans or walnuts, a new dressing? an old favorite?), add to the list;
- dessert (look over the menu so far, think about my timetable, what I can manage with all the other dishes, does it need to be lower calorie? a splurge? chocolate or no?); add to the list;
- and lastly appetizers (do I need to make something homemade? can I make do with chips and salsa? if we're not having carbs with the dinner, maybe hummus would be fine with crackers and vegies?).
So, once I'd decided on having pork, chosen the recipe (below) I rounded out the meal with the zucchini gratin (my posting on Saturday), a nice green salad, chips and salsa, and I made some strawberry mascarpone ice cream from over at Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. It was a very nice meal with a couple of bottles of red wine. We were all very mellow by 10:00 pm.
As for the pork, I was careful to use my meat thermometer. But, I found out
that the part of the sensor that reveals the oven temperature isn't working, so think I'll have to buy a new one - I dropped it a month or so ago and bent the connector that goes into the little digital box - most likely that's the problem. I'm glad it wasn't the interior meat temp that wasn't working! I removed the roast at exactly 145°, let it sit for about 10 minutes while I prepped the rest of the meal. The pork was perfectly cooked. And JUICY! I have no qualms about spending the money to buy a new meat thermometer. It convinced me once again what an invaluable instrument it is in the kitchen!
The apricot compote is a bit different than some. The addition of a whole vanilla bean - well not the bean itself, but the contents - makes it unusual. Whole vanilla beans have such a fragrance - a perfume, if you will - that could easily
overpower. You carefully slit the bean open, to butterfly it (it's a little like microsurgery - attacking this tiny, narrow little thing - do use a small knife with a very thin and sharp point) and scrape the miniature grains out of the bean. You'll get about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon total. And you can see the grains in the finished sauce - you may want to tell your guests so they don't think it's sand!
Roast Pork Loin with Apricot Compote
Recipe By: A cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter
Serving Size : 10 Preparation Time 35 minutes
1 1/2 cups white wine -- sweeter variety, if available
1 1/2 cups apple cider
2 whole cinnamon sticks
1 whole vanilla bean -- split & scraped
2 tablespoons sugar
12 ounces dried apricot halves -- chopped
4 1/2 pounds pork loin -- chine bone removed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
1. Compote: In a medium pan combine wine, cider, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla bean scrapings. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and add apricots. Simmer for 20 minutes or until a syrup consistency is achieved. If the syrup has not reduced sufficiently, remove apricots and boil the syrup until it reaches the desired consistency. Remove from heat and set aside or keep warm to serve. Can be made one day ahead.
2. Pork: Preheat oven to 350°. Season meat with salt & pepper. In a large pan heat oil over medium high heat and brown pork on all sides. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and bake for about 30 minutes, turn meat over, then bake an additional 30 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 145°. Remove pork from oven, cover loosely with foil for 10-15 minutes, then cut into portions, and spoon hot compote over meat.
Start to Finish Time: 1 hour
NOTES : It may be preferable to use two pork tenderloins for this recipe. If so, bake them for about 20 minutes total. You can, if necessary, use vanilla extract in place of the vanilla bean, but the flavor will be significantly reduced. It really is worth the time and trouble to buy the whole bean.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 332 Calories; 9g Fat (26.6% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 64mg Cholesterol; 379mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.