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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Live Blog 2014!

Hello and Happy Holidays (It's my blog and I can say Happy Holidays if I want to!) to all of my beloved TERP readers.  It's a big day for the (dis)Ordered Kitchen.  I'm hosting Christmas dinner.  Why am I hosting Christmas dinner when I am still recovering from surgery and still have pain in my hip?  Because no one else wanted to do it!

I don't really mind.  I like hosting holidays as long as I don't have 17 people over.  I am into hospitality and cooking for people.  If you believe in astrology, you could say it's a Cancerian thing.  Cancers are homemakers who like to nurture.

The last time I hosted Christmas, I did a live blog, giving regular updates as the day went on, posting food as I cooked it.  I thought it would be fun to do that again.  All my friends can share the adventure with me.

So let's begin.

12/24/14 -   Start with the most time-consuming stuff.  It's Christmas Eve and I just finished making dessert.  My dessert is my favorite non-chocolate cake recipe, Brown Butter Layer Cake.  I thought it would be great with salted caramel frosting.  At first I thought I might make my own recipe, but ended up going with Martha Stewart's version.  I did add a teaspoon or two of salt to the caramel sauce.  Who doesn't do that these days?

Here are the cakes cooling on the rack. (Yes I know my place is messy.  I am still in the tidying process)


Think there is too much butter in the frosting?

I made the cake layers and frosting tonight, but I'll  assemble it tomorrow.

The frosting was an Italian meringue buttercream (which seems a lot like a Swiss meringue buttercream to me) according to Martha Stewart.  I had to warm egg whites and sugar over a double boiler and whip them really well.  Gradually I added the butter.  At first the butter just seemed to destroy the meringue and create a deflated greasy mess.  Then after the last few additions of butter I had a creamy, fluffy frosting.

Christmas Eve dinner wasn't very festive.  It was just Kevin and me having dinner.  We ate some leftover Almost Perfect Chili (some variations on that recipe though).  Maybe it wasn't festive, but at least it wasn't fish.  There aren't too many advantages to being an adult, but one of them is that I can eat whatever I want (in other words not fish) on Christmas Eve.

Thursday 6:51 AM - I need to get started on stuff!  I now have 10 hours until the guests arrive.  Time to work on some actual food.

When I last did a live blog for Christmas dinner, I created the dinner over the space of three days.  This year I had part of an afternoon and an evening and then just one full day to do dinner.  This is a little scary.

Thursday 8:15 AM:  I just made my green bean casserole.  Before you shrink away in disgust and vow never to read TERP again, I will remind you that I don't use instant anything if I can avoid it.  I made homemade green bean casserole.

I started by blanching a 2 pound bag of green beans. While I don't use instant and prepared foods, I do use shortcut foods.  I don't want to be wasting time trimming green beans, so I bought a bag of pre-trimmed beans and cut them up.

 There were boiled 2 minutes and shocked in ice water.

Next I sauteed shallots and mushrooms and then cooked them in a basic white sauce with butter, flour, and milk.  I also used pre-sliced mushrooms as a time saver.
 Here they are in the pan ready to be topped and baked.  In this case I'm frying up the onions later and putting the whole thing in the oven when the guests arrive.  The recipe below will tell you how to do it all at once.

Homemade Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Oil for frying
  • 2 pounds trimmed green beans
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 1/4 (1/2 stick) cup butter
  • 10 oz sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups lukewarm milk
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Dash of nutmeg
Soak onions in buttermilk for 15 minutes.  Mix together flour, spices, and salt.

Drain excess milk from onions.  Toss in flour mixture to coat.  Fry in hot oil until crispy.  I use a Fry Daddy for this purpose.  Set aside and try not to eat them all.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut beans into smaller pieces and cook in boiling salted water about 2 minutes or until they are vibrantly green.  Immediately plunge into an ice water bath.  Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a pan over low heat and cook shallots until they soften.  Add butter and cook until melted.  Add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to brown and give off their liquid.  Add the flour and stir in vigorously.  Constantly scrape up any flour sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Cook until it doesn't smell like raw flour.

Leave an open space at the bottom of the pan and slowly whisk in the milk.  As you begin whisking, slowly incorporate the other ingredients in the milk.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes thick.  It should coat a spoon well enough that you can draw a line through it.  Keep cooking until the whisk starts to make tracks at the bottom of the pan.  This should take about 15 minutes.  Stir in pepper, salt, and nutmeg.

Mix together beans and the sauce.  Place in a casserole dish.  Top with fried onions and bake for 25 minutes.

10:08 AM

Just finished making the mashed potatoes.

No recipe needed here.  I boiled 3 pounds of potatoes.  I dried them briefly in the pot and then ran them through a food mill. I mixed in a cup of hot heavy cream, a stick of browned butter, and plenty of salt and white pepper.

Good stuff.  The food mill tends to leave a lot of uniform lumpy bits, which I know some of my family doesn't like.  The just leaves more for Kevin.  He doesn't care.

I have so much cleanup to to before moving on to the next phrase of prep!

11:04 AM - Yikes!  6 hours to go.  My next phase of cooking was the sauce making.  I made two beautiful sauces for the meats.

First I made raspberry-maple mustard.  This was simple to make.

Mix together:

3/4 cup grainy dijon mustard
1 10oz jar seedless, fruit-only raspberry preserves
1/4 cup real maple syrup.

Next up was a lemon-tarragon mayonnaise. 

This one was a little harder, but it was a fine example of "waste not, want not".

You see, my cake recipe had 2 egg yolks and 3 whole eggs in it.  I was left with two whites.

The frosting recipe contained 9 egg whites.  I only needed 7 in addition to the ones I had left over from the cake.

After making the frosting, I had 7 leftover egg yolks.  What better thing to do with them than make them into a sauce?

Lemon-Tarragon Aioli

Ingredients
  • 7 egg yolks
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbl white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbl dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbl chopped fresh tarragon
  • Optional dash of horseradish
Place the egg yolks and lemon juice in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Whisk constantly until the yolks are thick, pale, creamy, and lukewarm all the way through.  Remove from heat.

Whisk in the mustard, vinegar, and salt.  Continue whisking constantly and slowly stream in the olive oil.  Pour in slowly and whisk quickly so the emulsion doesn't break.  Whisk until the mixture becomes creamy and very thick.  (If you're impatient and your arm gets tired, move it to the blender and blend of high a minute or so.)  Stir in lemon zest, tarragon, and horseradish if using.

12:55 PM - Just finished setting the tables.  What a mess!  There is no fancypants eating in this house.  The linens are wrinkled and mismatched.  One of these place settings is not like the other 10.  I have a mishmash of chairs. 


But this is home and it's family.  No one cares.  We just all want to be together and we all want to eat.

Note I tried to be a little fancy and put all of those little votives down the middle of the main table.

One day I will have a house and I will have the storage for a full set of Christmas-themed linens and plates.

I do wish I had a tree though.  I didn't get one this year.  I didn't think with my post-surgical hip pain and the medial epicondylitis in my elbow that I would physically be able to take a tree home and decorate it.  A tree does make the house seem that much more festive.

12/26

What happened to my live blog?  Well, the home computer was hijacked for the afternoon unfortunately. Poor SPP just needed a bit of refuge with me bustling around the house all day getting things ready.  It was no longer so easy for me to jump on the computer every time I cooked something.

So what did I do since the last check in with the blog?

I cooked a beautiful beef roast. It was a grass-fed ribeye roast.  I cut slits in the meat and stuffed cloves of garlic into them.  Then I rubbed the outside with olive oil and thyme and plenty of salt and pepper.  It went into the oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then roasted another 2 hours at 325.

I also cooked a small turkey breast for the non beef eaters.  (I feel I should make some kind of joke here about gin or the Tower of London, but I can't think of one funny enough.)  I rubbed it with rosemary, olive oil, salt, and pepper and poured a little white wine in the bottom of the pan.  I cooked it alongside the beef for two hours.

I made the specialty cocktail of the evening.  Instead of eggnog I served hot cider infused with cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and allspice.  Then I added lots of brandy.

A tea ball helps keep the smaller spices contained.

Here is my bar all set to go.  For those not drinking cider, there was plenty of wine.

I started the evening with a cheese plate.  I had a mix of cheese types and textures.  There was brie, peppered goat cheese, gouda, and manchego.

Time to start dinner.  Candles on the main table are lit.

Who doesn't love homemade biscuits?


Finally, the dinner buffet.  We had the beef, the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the green beans, the sauces, and some cranberry coleslaw that my mother provided.


We ended with the dessert buffet.  Here is the frosted cake along with cookies that my sister-in-law baked and pecan bars that my mother baked (they taste like the Christmas of my childhood).

We had a great evening.  I was afraid the dinner might be a little boring, but everyone seemed to love it.  The biggest hits were the cake and the mashed potatoes I think. (Moral of the story:  People will love anything with brown butter.)  We had an early dinner, so everyone was out by 8:30 and it gave the two of us enough time to clean up as much as we needed to before sitting down the the Dr. Who Christmas special.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas and enjoys a happy new year!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A New Pork Dish and A Food Survey

Hello my dear TERP Muffins!  I do hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.  I stayed home this year, but didn't cook anything.  Instead of having a house party, everyone headed to Pappardella on Columbus Ave.  We all had a lovely time and for the first time in years, I actually ordered the turkey dinner even though I had other choices.

The turkey was moist and tasty  The sweet potatoes were infused with parmesan, which I found surprising, but delicious.  Otherwise, there wasn't much else about the meal to comment on.  It was all good.

Oh yes, there is something else to comment on.  I started with an excellent, fresh bellini.
 

I realize I am way overdue for a new recipe.  I could bring up a list of excuses as to why I'm not developing new recipes lately.  I could devote yet another paragraph to my health woes and remind my readers yet again that I had surgery.  That would be dishonest as my surgery was almost a month ago and I'm walking around pretty well and starting physical therapy.

My real excuse is that I've been doing this for seven years, I have trouble keeping my recipe ideas fresh, and when I'm cooking for myself, I have seven years' worth of recipes I can go back to.

Fresh inspiration does strike me from time to time and when that happens, I know I have to blog about it.

Before I start with a new recipe though, I am going to post this little survey from Emily.  I love filling out this kind of stuff.  I love talking about myself.  I'm so narcissistic!

Breakfast 
Favorite cereal as a child?
Cocoa Pebble, much to my health-conscious mother's chagrin.
Coffee or Tea? With milk or without?
Meh.  I like the occasional tea and usually take it straight.  I think there is something weird about brewed leaves and milk.  I don't know why.   I think coffee as a straight beverage is kind of vile.  I like the flavor of coffee though.  If I drink coffee, it has to have lots of milk or cream.  Better yet, give me a cappuccino or latte or Irish coffee, or Thai iced coffee.
The one food you eat most often at breakfast.
Eggs and some veggies or a smoothie made from fruit, coconut milk, and almond butter.  Occasionally I make a pot of steel-cut oats.

Lunch 
Sandwiches are usually considered lunch food. If you had to choose from a grilled cheese sandwich or a peanut butter and jelly, which would you pick?
The angel on my shoulder says an almond butter or natural peanut butter with sugar-free jelly on sprouted grain bread.  The devil says grilled cheese. It's all good.
You can only put four ingredients in your salad (not including greens); what do you throw in the mix? Additionally, which greens and dressing do you pick?
I love a salad with arugula, shaved fennel, endive, and pine nuts with an orange-balsamic dressing.
One food you cannot live without at lunch.
I can't stick to one food at lunch.  I get bored too easily.  Water to wash it down is crucial.

Dinner 
It’s the end of the day. You’re tired, hungry, and your fridge is empty. If fast food (from a chain) is your only option, where do you go and what do you order?
I would probably go to Salsa Fresca down the street.  It's fresh and good for me and close by.  Otherwise, there is plenty of pizza in my neighborhood.
TV/Computer on or off while you are eating?
On
The one food you eat most often at dinner.
Chicken.  It's the one protein my husband and I both agree on.
Dessert 
Choose between two American desserts: cheesecake or apple pie.
I'd rather have something chocolate.  Can I say chocolate cheesecake?  Sometimes cheesecake is too tart for me and my husband is lactose intolerant, so I guess I should just go with apple pie.
Choose between two foreign desserts: tiramisu (Italy) or flan (Spain).
Tiramisu.  I like flan, but the flavor is often not intense enough for me.
Ice cream: cone or cup. I love a good sugar or waffle cone.  If it's a wafer cone, give me a double portion of ice cream in a cup.


Anyway, on to the recipe...

While food shopping this weekend I found this adorable little pork roast.  I have been craving some good pork and I knew I just had to buy this.  It was just a little over two pounds.

Once I bought it, I really had no idea what to do with it.  I tend cook pork with sweet sauces containing liqueurs, honey, molasses, and brown sugar.  I wanted to try something I have never tried with pork before.

I found some marsala in my liquor cabinet.  I have made chicken marsala many times, but I never tried marsala with pork.  I decided to try a marsala marinade.  Marsala is sweet, but I played down the sweetness by adding mustard, garlic, and rosemary and marinating it overnight.

It roasted up nice and browned and juicy.
I boiled the marinade to use as as sauce.  I kept the sides simple with haricots vert and roasted creamer potatoes.

This recipe is a keeper!

Marsala Pork Roast

 Ingredients
  • 1 small pork loin roast (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 2 Tbl dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
  • Salt and pepper
 Whisk together marsala, mustard, rosemary, and garlic.  Place the pork and the marinade in a large plastic bag.  Seal and let marinate overnight.

When ready to roast, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and remove the pork from the marinade.  Reserve marinade.  Sprinkle the pork roast with plenty of salt and pepper.  Place in a roasting pan and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile boil the reserved marinade in a small saucepan until it thickens a bit. 

Remove roast from the oven.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes.  Slice and serve with the sauce.