Christmas Eve Menu Continued

This is the first course, and the very special dessert from our Christmas Eve feast. The first course is a crab salad with a cucumber jelly, it’s very fresh tasting – after discussing it a bit, John I think it might be more amazing if madras curry powder was added to the dressing, so you may want to taste the crab and decide for yourself. The dessert is pears poached in Sauvignon Blanc, saffron and star anise. You serve it with a dollop of creme fraiche, and garnish with leftover roasted chestnuts.

Crab Salad with Cucumber Jelly, and Baby Arugula – 2 servings
1 cucumber, peeled
1 packet of gelatin
Few sprigs of dill
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon whole-grain dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces crabmeat
1 cup baby arugula
Olive oil

Slice a few rounds of cucumber, about 1/16 inch thick. Cut into narrow strips, and then cut diagonally, to make small cucumber diamond shapes. You need enough to garnish a plate, so not much. Food process the remainder of the cucumber, then strain in a very fine mesh strainer, over a bowl. Repeat this process if needed, reserve juice, and throw away pulp. Combine gelatin powder and about 1 cup of cucumber juice, whisk until powder dissolves. Divide gelatin mixture between two shallow dishes/bowls. Garnish with cucumber diamonds and sprigs of dill. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until firm.

In a medium bowl, whip the heavy cream until it forms ribbons (not peaks). Whisk in mustard, salt and pepper. Add the crabmeat to the bowl, and using a spatula fold gently to bind the salad.

Toss the baby arugula with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

If you have a ring mold handy, place ring mold delicately on gelatin, fill with the crab salad. Use stamper to even out, or use the back of the spoon to spread evenly. Top with baby arugula, remove ring mold. Repeat with the other dish, and serve immediately.

Poached Pear with Saffron, Star Anise and Creme Fraiche – 4 servings
2 star anise
2 cups dry white wine (sauvignon blanc)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
Kosher salt
4 firm pears, peeled, stems intact
Creme fraiche
Roasted chestnuts (if desired)

Combine the star anise, wine, sugar, lemon juice, saffron, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves, and bring to a simmer. Add the pears; add enough water to completely submerge pears. Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer for 15 minutes, flip pears, continue cooking until pears are tender, for another 15 minutes (total 30 minutes).

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a plate. Increase heat and boil poaching liquid until reduced to 1/2 cup, 20 minutes.

Spoon some of syrup into a bowl, top with warm or room-temperature pears, drizzle a little more syrup over. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche, and garnish with a roasted chestnut.

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Happy Cooking friends!


Christmas Eve Menu + Recipes

Christmas eve is feast night at the Vandike household. It stems from my family tradition, we would have our turkey dinner with grand-parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and whoever else we considered a relative, then head to church for midnight mass. When we got back, my grand-father, who would somehow beat us back home, would be sitting next to the tree wearing a santa suit.  Although I don’t get to celebrate Christmas with my entire family, this certainly keeps me busy enough not to think of the good times I might be missing out on.

So even though we don’t open our presents Christmas eve, we have our feast tonight, get into our stockings, and tomorrow morning we have a lovely breakfast and tear up all our gifts!

Since it’s just the two of us (and Chandon), I had time to document almost everything! In this post, I’m only including the recipe for the main course and the side dish. I will later post the first course, and dessert.

Duck Confit with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Cream Sauce – 2 servings
2 pieces duck leg confit
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 cloves garlic confit
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons creme fraiche

Follow the instructions given on removing the legs from the fat.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath. Blanch the Brussels sprouts, and place in the ice bath to cool. Keep salted water boiling, then add the sprouts back in and boil for about 4 minutes. Drain sprouts, and place in ice bath. Once cool, drain, and cut sprouts in half lengthwise, then set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degress F.
Heat a non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat, then carefully add the duck legs skin side down and lower heat to medium. Saute the legs for about 6 minutes, or until the skin is a golden brown color. Remove the legs from the saute pan, set the pan aside (saving the fat), and place in a baking dish. Transfer to the oven and bake for 8 minutes to heat them through.

Meanwhile, return the pan to medium-high heat, add the shallots, thyme and garlic confit. Allow the shallots to brown a bit, then add the chicken stock. Simmer for a few minutes, then whisk in the mustard and creme fraiche. Continue to simmer until slightly thickened.

Add the halved sprouts, and simmer until warm and sauce is reduced enough to coat sprouts. Remove from heat, and set 8 halves on each plate, cut side facing up. Remove garlic confit, and pour sauce over sprouts. Top the sprouts with a duck leg and serve. Best enjoyed with a glass of Veuve-Clicquot Champagne!

Pied du Cochon Mash – 2 to 4 servings
1 head of garlic
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 yellow potatoes, peeled
4 oz of cheddar cheese curds, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut off the top of the head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in a baking sheet, cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes, or until cloves are golden brown.
Remove from oven to cool, and set aside.

Boil the potatoes until cooked, remove potatoes, but do not turn off heat and reserve water. Place potatoes in a metal bowl larger than the opening of th
e saucepan containing reserved water. Smash as you prefer, I’m a potato ricer kind of gal, you get fluffier potatoes.

Put the potato puree into the metal bowl, stir in the cream. Remove the roated garlic from the skin, and add into puree, mix very well. Place bowl over the boiling water, and stir. Add 2 tablespoons butter and cheese curds. Mix vigorously until the cheese and butter melts, remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper. Pour potatoes into baking dish.

Place baking dish into larger dish, pour hot water into large dish, surrounding dish with potatoes. Top mash with 1 tablespoon of butter. Bake at 300 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Perfect for any occasion, but compliments the duck confit perfectly!

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Merry Christmas friends and family! Happy Cooking!

Roasted Pork with Apples, Prunes, and Creamy Mustard Sauce

Inspired by an old issue of Gourmet, I made this for a last minute get together-dinner with friends. They loved it, and one of them actually had me reheat leftovers 2 hours later! I served it with an aged cheddar potato gratin, and blanched haricot verts.

I was so hungry I almost forgot to take a picture before eating! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Roasted Pork with Creamy Mustard Sauce – 4 servings
4 pound boneless pork loin roast, tied (look at photo)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoon olive oil
2 Granny Smith apples
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup packed dried pitted prunes
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons coarse-grain mustard
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Pat dry the pork tenderloing and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in a 12-inch saute pan over medium- high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown pork, turning once, about 3 minutes per side. Set saute pan aside for sauce. Transfer pork to an oven safe saute pan and roast pork for 40 minutes. Insert meat thermometer at least 2 inches into meat, cooked fully it registers at 150 degrees F.

Meanwhile, peel, quarter, and core apples, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges. Add the onion to the saute pan you used to brown the pork, over medium heat, until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add apples, prunes, stock, and water, then simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and mustard then simmer until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and keep sauce warm, partially covered.

Transfer pork to a cutting board and let stand 10 minutes. Add wine to the saute pan you cooked the pork in, and boil over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until reduced to about 1/4 cup, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir wine and pan juices into cream sauce and heat sauce over medium heat, stirring, until thickened – about 10 minutes.

Remove string from pork and slice. Serve pork topped with generous amount of sauce and chilled glass of wine.

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PS: John and I host a New Year brunch every year…typically I don’t post the menus for it. But I have decided that this year I would make sure to do so…the menus piece de resistance includes Cincinnati Eggs Benedict: A puff pastry shell filled with warm goetta and piperade, topped with a poached egg and homemade hollandaise. Be sure to stop by January 2nd!

Venison Pate

Now I don’t get any credit for this recipe – this was all my husband John. While he was working on venison pate, I was working on pork pate (that will be posted at a later date). He also took the photos of his pate, so be sure to take a look, he captured as many steps as he could. He also recommends halving the recipe, and using a 1-lb bread pan.

We love textured pate, also known as country pate for it’s not so smooth texture. We served this at our Christmas party, and half the loaf was gone after 4 hours. And most of our guests left with frozen slices and intructions on how to defrost. It’s delicious served by itself with lightly peppered toasted baguette slices, or garnish a platter with cornichons, mustards or even tart jams, like currant.

We had ours out with raspberry mustard, plenty of cornichons and pickled pearl onions. Of course this recipe makes a lot of pate so slice 1/2 inch thick, wrap individually in plastic, and place in a freezer bag.

Venison Pate – one 3-pound loaf
1 small venison tenderloin (about 1/4-lb)
3 tablespoons gin
12 juniper berries
2 large shallots, minced
1 cup chicken livers
2 tablespoons dry thyme
2 tablespoons dry rosemary
2 tablespoons allspice
2 pounds ground pork
2 pounds ground veal
2 pounds ground venison
2 eggs
Salt and pepper
13 slices of bacon
2 fresh bay leaves

Special equipment: terrine mold or 3lb bread pan.

Slice the venison tenderloin into strips. Marinate the strips overnight with gin and juniper berries in a ziploc bag, try to remove as much air.

The next day, in a food processor, mix together the shallots, chicken livers, thyme, rosemary, and allspice, and process into a puree. In a large bowl, mix together the pork, veal, and ground venison. Add the liver mixture and the eggs.

Pour the juice from the marinated strips, including the gin and juniper berries, into the meat mixture. Set the strips aside for later. Salt and pepper the mixture generously. Gently saute a tablespoon of the mixture to taste test. Pate must be well seasoned and spiced, because it will lose a little flavor as it’s cooked.

Preheat the oven to 300 degress F. Place a pan or casserole dish, large enough to hold the bread in the oven, filled 1/3 of the way with water. Line a 3 pound terrine with the bacon on all sides. Lay 1/3 of the ground meat in the terrine. Pack tightly by pressing down with your hands. Add the thin strips of marinated venison. Do not create a thick layer, push the strips into the meat. If the meat does not surround the strips, the pate will split when cut. Top with the remainder of the meat.

The terrine should be overfilled, as pate reduces in size after cooking. Cover the ground meat with bacon strips. Top with two bay leaves. Cover with aluminum foil. Set the terrine in the prepared pan of hot water. Bake for 35 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake for another 35 minutes. Check temperature after about 25 minutes using an instant-read thermometer. When the pate reaches 160 degrees F and juices run clear the pate is done.

Remove the terrine from oven, lay foil on top and place on a baking sheet. Place another baking sheet over the terrine, and top with a few heavy cans. Let the pâté cool on the kitchen counter. The more weight on the top the better to allow the fat to leave the pan. When the pate has cooled, cover it tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 day.

To remove the pate from the bread pan, place the bread pan in a casserole dish, add enough hot water to casserole dish to reach 1/2 way up bread pan, let sit for 3 or so minutes. Place cutting board over the bread pan, lift out of water, and flip. The bread pan should slide off. Clean off any excess fat on the pate using a paper towel.

Serve at room temperature or cold. Slice and serve on toast, accompanied by French cornichons. Pate can be kept tightly covered for up to three weeks in the refrigerator. Or freeze as intruscted above, and place in refrigerator night before enjoying to thaw.

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Bon Appetit!