Snap Peas with Black Sesame

I don't think it gets any simpler. Wash and break off ends of snap peas, and pull off the side "tendrils". Melt butter in a pan on medium heat, throw in your peas and turn up the heat. Roast until sides are just turning color. Add black sesame and a touch of ponzu sauce.


Today's Tenderloin is Tomorrow's Shashlik

Poor hubby is all alone for dinner tomorrow night, while I am in meetings, so I made him something to enjoy without me. Cognac, a little diluted white vinegar, fresh bay leaf, green peppercorns, onions and black pepper marinated pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into large cubes.

If you're making this ahead, add no or little salt to the meat since it draws out the water. It's best to add the salt right before cooking. This is going to be delicious on the grill tomorrow!


Dinner with Friends: Duck Two Ways and the Bouchon Onion Soup

I am disappointed. I generally don't start posts with such pessimism but I think those of you that value your time will agree with me. If you dedicate yourself, truly, and find your hard work didn't produce the product you envisioned, you too, will be disappointed.

I have watched many friends enjoy french onion soup, I never had the pleasure. For whatever reason, I always found something else on the menu to tickle my fancy. Though I never had eaten a full bowl, I vaguely remember trying a bit of the melted cheese from someone else's. Suffice it to say when the opportunity presented itself to cook a comforting meal for friends on a cold day, I saw it a perfect chance to try creating this very hearty soup. That and the urge to use my new ceramic oven-to-table soup bowls.

I am ambitious in my cooking, so I decided if I were to make this soup, I'd make it the way one of the most award winning chefs makes it. I had leafed through the pages of the Bouchon cookbook by Thomas Keller wondering what his bowl of soup had to offer. Mainly, because of the time investment it took (5 hours to caramelize 8lbs of onion to down to 1.5 cups + 1.5 hours to marry the onions with the stock + 20 minutes to assemble and serve the soup) . To make a long story short, I once again watched my friends enjoy their french onion soup, while I sat turning my spoon in my bowl. Feeling very much like I did in kindergarten when I knew I was supposed to finish something, but with no intention to put another spoonful in my mouth. I did, really enjoy the melted Gruyere over the baguette topped with the sweet, deeply flavored onions, but something about the rest of the soup, when the croutons were long gone reminded me of being 7 years old. To add to my disappointment with having the epicurean maturity level slightly older then my daughters, I was in such a rush to serve this soup to a very hungry and early! set of friends that I forgot to photograph it. So there it is, my time invested with no proof of my accomplishment.

I did redeem myself to my inner child with duck two ways. I wanted to try a few different techniques in this preparation so I decided to 1) stuff the legs and 2) make sandwiched duck breast (lovingly called, "the sausage" by friends).
The legs I stuffed with figs and shallots that I let reduce in balsamic vinegar over low heat for about 1 hour, and chopped prunes to balance the acidity of the balsamic sauce. Roasted in the oven with a little orange juice in the pan at 350F for 25 minutes (basting every 5-7 minutes), they came out beautiful, served with parsnip puree.

The "sausage" was two duck breast fillets sandwiched together, skin out, with salt and pepper, trussed together overnight. I browned the sides during the dinner for about 7 minutes, placed in the oven at 350F for about 15 minutes, and let rest for 10. This was probably the most tender and juicy piece of duck I've had. Served with arugula salad and blackberries.

We finished the dinner with a black rasberry-apple tart, rich chocolate ice cream and cognac.


Cranberry Apple Stuffed Pork Loin

I cooked down fresh cranberries (covered with water) until they were just starting to pop, to prevent the fresh ones going bad. So when making dinner I was determined to use this unfinished chutney somehow. With some toasted bread cubes, sage, salt, pepper, chopped fresh mitzu apples and of course the cooked cranberries, I made a stuffing that I wrapped into the butterflied, seasoned (salt and pepper) pork loin, which I in turn wrapped in thick cut bacon left over from Thanksgiving. I roasted this tied with butcher's twine at 375F for 50 minutes or so. Served sliced with the leftover unseasoned cranberry chutney, it was just the perfect amount of tart to balance the imparted fattiness of the bacon and sweetness of the apples.


Thanksgiving Dinner

- amuse bouche of strawberry gelee with tomato coulis, Greek yogurt, whitefish caviar

-goat cheese and pear salad with black raspberry vinaigrette

-butternut squash soup

-cheese souffle

-apple stuffed sage chicken

-roasted vegetable stuffing

-pecan pie