Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday dinner party

No pictures, alas - when will I remember my camera again? But I thought I would share the menu. This turned out to be a pretty low-stress, pleasant meal, even though I made a few things I had never tried before. But the ingredients were all things I feel comfortable with, so I wasn't worried. Except for dessert, I only used one recipe. What's funny is that I didn't notice that at all until after dinner. I think I'm finally getting the hang of this cooking thing.


Roast pork shoulder: If you read my cheapskate's guide to the holidays, you'll know already why I picked this. $10, fed seven easily, we ate leftovers for dinner yesterday, and I suspect there's more lurking in the fridge. I marinated the roast in Sam Adams, dark brown sugar and kosher salt for two days, then cooked at 325 for four hours, turning twice and basting three or four times with marinade. About half an hour before I took the roast out, I brushed it with mustard and black pepper. Nice and juicy, well-flavored meat, could have been more generous with the mustard, but the edges were nicely flavored.

Barley pilaf: I loves me some barley. It is cheap, underutilized, keeps its chew even if it has to sit for a while before serving, and its mild flavor plays well with others. I minced an onion and a couple stalks of celery, cooked them briefly in a little oil, added the barley and cooked a few minutes more, and then covered in a good homemade meat stock (mostly chicken, with a few beef bones thrown in). One cup of the stock had been used to soak about 1/3 cup of dried mushrooms, which I minced and added. When the barley was cooked, I added some smoked paprika and fresh parsley, and that was that.

Parsnip and roasted chestnut puree: Be glad there are no pictures, because this looked like gruel. Tasted good, but not good enough to warrant the effort involved in peeling chestnuts. Next time, I'm trying parsnips pureed with apples.

Beets and carrots with a maple-horseradish glaze: Beet bunches are SMALL at the Stop and Shop these days. Didn't make enough, and this was the most expensive dish of the meal, weirdly enough. Provided some much-needed color, though. Glaze was just horseradish, syrup and butter, not too strong.

Marinated mushrooms: From Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook. Have made these so many time, I don't really actually use the recipe any more. But this is my recipe dish, and it is good. Should have made twice what I did.

Apple-smoked gouda-onion tart: Still working out the kinks on this one, but the idea is right. Started with a half-cornmeal, half-white flour crust from Nick Malgieri's How to Bake. Caramelized some onions, put those in the crust first, followed by shredded smoked gouda and a layer of thinnly sliced apples. Poured a blend of sour cream/milk/egg over, sprinkled with a little more cheese and baked. Wasn't as pretty as I might have hoped, because the apples were still a little pale when the rest was done, but the flavors worked together well. I'll revisit this.

For dessert, molten chocolate cakes from The Best Recipe. The Cook's Illustrated folk get it right again, although the cakes needed two minutes longer than suggested, and my overn thermometer tells me my temp is fine. I've notices that ramekins can vary a lot in thickness and therefore heat transmission, so that can affect timing. Good anyway.

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