Monday, May 26, 2008

Celebrating Birthdays with a Legendary Recipe

I have mentioned in the past how I credit The Frugal Gourmet with teaching me how to cook. It was the first cookbook I ever bought for myself and some of the recipes are permanently in my repetoire (particularly Jeff Smith's chicken piccata).

For my 21st birthday my mother bought me a copy of The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine. A month later my grandfather's birthday came up. I broke out my new cookbook for the occasion. I found a recipe in the French section called Pork with Wine and Grapes. It sounded interesting, so I made it for Grandpa's birthday. Although there were only four of us at dinner that night (my grandparents, my brother, and me) we managed to finish off an entire pork roast. Then we took slices of bread and began soaking up the remnants of the sauce. Considering my elderly grandparents didn't have big appetites, it was pretty amazing. I made the recipe a couple more times for family occasions and it always received rave reviews.

Over the years I acquired more cookbooks and then came the internet, which is a major recipe source for me, and The Frugal Gourmet books were sort of retired. I didn't make the Pork with Wine and Grapes for quite some time (especially since my husband won't eat pork). Still everyone remembered the recipe. My brother even asked to borrow the cookbook once so he could make it himself. It's one of those recipes that once you eat it, you never forget it.

I decided to resurrect the recipe for a birthday party I gave for my mother and uncle this weekend. They were born two years apart almost to the day. He is one year and 364 days younger than she is. The long weekend was the perfect time to have a party for both of them. I wanted to make the dinner memorable, so I decided that everyone would love to see that pork dish again (chicken cutlets for Kevin).

The dinner started with an antipasto that will be discussed in a separate post.

I made my own version of stracciatella soup as a first course. This one consisted of homemade stock with leeks and spinach. The eggs were clumpy rather than strandy, which was a bit disappointing for me, but the soup was pretty tasty. It actually tasted better than I expected it to.

Then there was the pork. Oh that lovely pork. I knew we had to have something green and nutrtious to counteract the guilt from all of that cream and booze, so I threw in some roasted asparagus on the side.
Looking at these photos it seems the color green was the theme for the food this night.
Dessert was Emeline's Amore Chocolate Cake, which was incredibly rich and tasty. I served it with homemade caramel ice cream on the side.

It suffered a bit from Short Bundt Cake Syndrome, but was very delicious. (Thanks for putting this recipe on your blog, Em.)

Think there is enough ganache on this? Maybe I should have put some more.

Now for the recipes:

Stracciatella Al Breve Cuoco Di Disordine

1 Gallon chicken stock (homemade if you have it) - I was serving 10 people at this party.
1 Leek, washed and thinly sliced
1 Package baby spinach leaves
2 Tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Eggs
1/4 Cup freshly grated parmesan

Heat stock to simmering. Add leeks and cook till soft. Add spinach. It should soften quickly. Mix eggs and parmesan together and add to soup, stirring to create ribbons. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Jeff Smith’s Pork With Grapes and Wine Sauce

3 Pounds pork Butt boned and tied

1 Onion peeled and sliced
2 Garlic cloves peeled and sliced
¼ teaspoon rosemary, whole
1 bay leaf
¼ Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ Cup brandy
2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl olive oil
1 Cup dry white wine
½ Cup whipping cream
2 Pounds white seedless grapes removed from stems

Prepare the marinade and marinate the meat 2-3 hours, turning several times.

Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Heat a pot or dutch oven large enough to hold the roast. Melt the butter and add the olive oil and brown the meat, turning several times. Strain the marinade and add it to the pot. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 2/2 – 2 hours or until meat is tender. You may need to add more wine. Add ¾ of the grapes to the pot and cook 5 more minutes. Remove the meat from the pot. Stir the cream into the pan juices and cook 2 minutes. Adjust the salt if needed. Slice the meat on a platter, pour the sauce on top and garnish with the remaining grapes.

Frugie recommends you serve with polenta, but I like to just take some nice crusty bread and sop up the extra sauce with that.


Sue said...

Very nice menu. I hope everyone appreciated all the work.

I can't help thinking about the Frugal Gourmet's rather inelegant fall from grace. Was any of that even true?

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Smith always maintained his innocence, but there was something like six witnesses, so it sounds as if the truth wasn't in his favor. He and his wife were also estranged.

My theory was that his profession (the minister part, not the cook part) forced him to spend his life in the closet and deny his sexuality and he just got to an exploding point.

We Are Never Full said...

I love this! I really appreciate you finding a recipe you like that's different and trying it. Me and my husband's birthdays are exactly one year and one DAY apart (366 days)... can you come over and celebrate our birthdays? Oh well, they just passed.