Sunday, October 9, 2016

October is Celebration Time!

Ah Fall!  The cooler weather!   The changing leaves .  The apple orchards.   The cute boots and sweaters! The pumpkin pie.

Dear Lord, I hate it!

The reality?

The cooler weather!  (Hey, it's cold outside and I can't go swimming.)

The changing leaves! (Those gosh-darned leaf peepers create traffic jams every weekend.)

The apple orchards! (I would laugh at the apple pickers fighting for parking spaces at the orchards and then paying for the privilege of doing manual labor while the owners of the orchards laugh, but they are also responsible for those traffic jams.)

The cute boots and sweaters!  (Why would I want to confine my body in heavy clothing.  Can I have a sundress and some cute sandals please?)

The pumpkin pie!  (Do I need to explain this one?)

I'm also tired of the hype of Halloween.  The older I get, the less into Halloween I am.  I couldn't figure out what made me such a Halloween Grinch.  Then I read this article.  Item number one was the reason in a nutshell.  Halloween is too much investment of time and money with too little return.  

I don't really hate the season.  I have stated this on both of my blogs many times before.  I have three issues with the season called autumn.  The first is that it's not summer. I love warm weather (SWIMMING), long days, and farmers' markets filled to brimming.  I hate seeing summer end.  The second is I hate the hype.  I'm just sick of hearing people (and maybe I should just bluntly say women) doing the basic blather about how wonderful fall is and how it's their favorite season and all the accompanying drivel about cozy sweaters and changing leaves (no one seems to notice how short the days are).  Then of course there is my distaste for that giant nasty-tasting orange squash known as pumpkin.

For any other fellow pumpkin haters out there, I want to reassure you this blog always has been, and always will be a pumpkin-free zone.  On this blog you will not see any pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin jam, pumpkin pickles, pumpkin salad, pumpkin candles, pumpkin deodorant, or pumpkin mouthwash.  Consider this blog a "safe space" for pumpkin haters.

I remain convinced most pumpkin lovers don't really love pumpkin.  It's the stuff used to flavor pumpkin that most people love.  They love cinnamon and nutmeg and allspice and brown sugar.  Does anyone gut a jack-o-lantern and think, "Yum.  This looks delicious?"  My guess is they feel as nauseated as I do when I'm gutting a pumpkin.  It's pretty nasty stuff.

So fall foods may not be my favorites, but at least the next few weeks will still have choice products at the farmers' markets.  While I am losing some of my favorites (corn), I'm gaining a few others like carrots, peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower.   I can still have big family occasion dinners filled with farm fresh produce.

October may be tragically dark (although not as tragic as November and December) and not very warm, but it does have a bounty of celebrations.  October is my wedding anniversary, my father's birthday, my nephew's birthday, and Kevin's birthday.  There are so many occasions to celebrate in October and that's why I am writing this post today.  I'm not just here to complain about the changing seasons.  I'm here to introduce some new seasonal recipes I used in Dad's birthday dinner.

What is more comforting than a hearty pork roast?  It's one of my favorite dishes.  I cooked my pork shoulder in the oven with a sweet-spicy rub and then slathered it with a new twist on barbecue sauce.  My sauce included my most favorite soft drink of childhood - root beer.

After a slow roast for 5 hours, I turned up the oven and slathered my sauce on top to glaze it.  Once it was glazed, I pulled it and let my guests add extra barbecue sauce to it.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the completed pork.  I only have the phone photo of it from when I took it out of the oven and posted the photo on Instagram.

Dessert was made from that delicious fall staple, the apple.  To me, apple is the king of fall fruits.  No pumpkin can ever compare.   My apples were sauteed with butter, brown sugar, and brandy and added to a charlotte made from a brown sugar caramel mousse.  I seasoned the mousse with a gentle pinch of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger, to get that seasonal "pumpkin spice" flavor without any actual pumpkin.

A good party starts with a good cheese tray.  I tried to have my cheese reflect the heartiness of the season and the rest of the dinner.  I used a sharp English cheddar, smoked Gouda, and a soft Brie.  On the side I had marcona almonds, fresh figs, and dry sausages.  One was a simple and mild French sausage.  The other was a spiced duck sausage, flavored with cinnamon, clove,  and allspice.

Dad enjoyed his birthday dinner immensely, and so did the rest of the family.  Try this pork for your favorite October celebrations.

Pulled Pork with Root Beer Sauce

  • 1 4.5-5  pound bone-in pork shoulder
For the rub
  • 2 Tbl brown sugar
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbl salt
 For the sauce
  • 12 oz root beer
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder, divided
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbl salt
  • 1 Tbp  mustard*
  • 1 tsp onion flakes
Mix together rub ingredients.  Rub this all over the pork and let stand for an hour or two until it comes to room temperature.

Heat oven to 275 degrees.  Place the pork in a dutch oven and cover.  Roast 6 hours.

To make the sauce, boil the root beer in a small saucepan for several minutes until reduced and syrupy.  Mix together the tomato paste, mustard, and vinegar along with salt, paprika, brown sugar, mustard, and onion flakes.

Add the mixture to the root beer and simmer 30 minutes or until thick.

When pork is done, you can spread a bit of the sauce over it and place it under the broiler uncovered  for 3 minutes to give it a bit of a glaze.

Let the pork stand 15 minutes.  Slice or pull and serve with more of the root beer sauce.

Caramel Apple Charlotte

  • 4 firm apples, sliced thin
  • 4 Tbl  butter, divided
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbl brown sugar, divided
  • 2 Tbl brandy
  • 2 packages Ladyfingers (or more if you are using a bigger baking dish)
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 Tbl cold water
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Line a baking dish with plastic wrap (I used a round souffle dish).  Lay a layer of ladyfingers in the bottom, breaking them up to fit as necessary to cover the bottom.  Stand the ladyfingers up vertically around the perimeter of the dish.

Heat 2 Tbl of butter in large skillet.  Cook apples in the butter until they soften.  Stir in the brown sugar and continue cooking until it is dissolved.  Add the brandy and cook until it is evaporated.  Lay the apples in the bottom on the baking dish.

In a small saucepan heat the evaporated milk and brown sugar over medium heat bringing to a boil, swirling the pan occasionally.  Cook until the mixture is thick and a dark amber color.  Remove from heat and add butter, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.  Allow to cool, but not completely.

Place cold water and gelatin in a small dish and allow it to bloom.   Add to the warm caramel and stir until melted.  Cool it completely.

Best cold cream in a chilled bowl until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in about three quarters of the caramel.   (Drizzle the extra over the apples or save it for your ice cream tomorrow.)

Spoon the mousse on top of the apples in the baking dish (It won't all fit in the dish, if you have a small dish, so you may have some left over to snack on).  Chill several hours or overnight.  When ready to serve, invert over a plate and carefully remove plastic wrap.

*A good foodie always has some hotty-totty dijon mustard lying around.  Well, I always say I'm a failure as a foodie.  I took it for granted that I had mustard in the house when I made this.  There aren't any grocery stores in my neighborhood anymore, so going out to buy mustard would have taken more time than I had available.  There is, however, a convenient CVS with a small grocery section.  The only mustard they carry is the yellow bottle of French's (which I admit I rather like on a hot dog or a bologna sandwich).  I don't think the cheap mustard negatively affected the sauce.  I also don't think a better mustard would affect it either.  What I'm trying to say here is it really doesn't matter what kind of mustard.  Use what you have or what you prefer.