Beef Tenderloin Roast with Cognac and Rosemary Dijon Cream Sauce

New Years’ Eve used to be a performance night for me, so the fare was usually hastily-eaten and best-forgotten- usually a burger or sandwich courtesy of our host venue. Now that we’ve come to our senses and generally stay home on that most insane of party nights, I take the time to prepare a formal dinner for the family here at GreenWood.

As I was shopping for our holiday feasting a local market advertised a butchers’ special for beef, so I picked up an excellent beef tenderloin at a great price. Here at GreenWood we are serious about our beef: we don’t eat it often, so when we do I make sure it’s memorable. I also found a bottle of cognac that someone had gifted me some time back, and as I’m not really a fan of the liquor I decided I would use it in some way for our New Years’ Eve dinner. The recipe as follows is inspired by a couple of recipes I came across from home chefs and a meal I enjoyed some years ago in Chicago. Beef tenderloin is very easy to prepare, it has a rich and almost buttery taste that holds up extremely well on its own- but when coupled with a spice rub and a decadent sauce it becomes sublime. Suggested sides are potatoes of any sort, julienned carrots in an herbed reduction, broccoli with sesame or nuts, root vegetables such as parsnips and beets- basically any hearty vegetable which can hold its own with the beef and cream sauce. A spicy red wine such as a Tempranillo, a mature Shiraz or a fat-bottomed Cabernet will complement the meal. The recipe as posted will easily serve 6-8 hearty portions, or 8-10 when a full-course dinner is desired.

  • Beef Tenderloin Roast, approximately 5lbs, trimmed of tendon and excess fat.
  • 2 Tbsp Dry Mustard
  • 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • Cracked Peppercorns to cover the top of the roast
  • Whole Sage Leaves to garnish the top of the roast (approx 12 leaves)

Cognac Rosemary Dijon Cream Sauce

  • 1 Cup heavy whipping cream or creme fraiche
  • 1/3 Cup Cognac
  • 3 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Rosemary
  • Ground Pepper to Taste

Remove the roast from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature, about 1.5hrs. Heat your oven to 400F.  Rub the roast with the dry mustard and brown sugar and set aside for a few minutes. Heat a heavy skillet on medium-high heat, then brown the roast on all sides. Set the skillet aside, as you’ll use the browned bits and juices to make the cream sauce while the roast is resting after coming from the oven. Add the sage leaves to cover the top of the roast, then add the cracked peppercorns. Place the roast on a low rack in a shallow roasting pan and cook until rare or medium-rare at most, 125F-130F internally, for a 5lb roast begin checking the temperature at 20 minutes. Remove the roast from the pan and tent loosely to rest for 15 minutes. While the roast is resting, add about half the cognac to the pan to deglaze it. Heat the skillet on medium-high heat  until it gets fragrant and begins to barely smoke, then remove it from the heat and add the rest of the cognac to the skillet to deglaze. Add the cognac and juices from the pan to the skillet and return it the stovetop on medium heat, whisk in the cream and rosemary, then add the dijon mustard. Reduce by 1/3, whisking until the sauce has thickened a bit, remove from the stove and pour into a serving dish. Slice the roast according to the number of servings desired and spoon a generous amount of the sauce over the meat. Serve immediately with your chosen sides and enjoy!

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Moqueca – Brazilian Fish Stew

I had this dish many years ago while traveling, it was served as part a a “big dinner” by our hosts. The only fish soup I had tasted before was bouillabaisse (I hated it), and when our host Rolando announced that our second course was to be a fish stew my heart sank. I had to be polite, as my business – and perhaps my safety – depended upon this man’s good graces but I was not looking forward to fish in a bowl. I was proven wrong, much to my surprise. Our server brought a wide bowl to the table that had a bed of white rice, filled with coconut milk and brilliant peppers, with big chunks of white fish, scallions and a bright orange oil drizzled over it all. It smelled like something sweet and spicy, not fishy at all. After the first bite I was a fan, and although I had it a few more times on my trip I never looked for it when I came back home.

A few months ago I had some big fillets of ocean fish and was looking for a new recipe as an alternative to the obligatory deep-frying or baking with breading. Then I remembered: rewind twenty-five years or so, back to a tropical locale and the amazing fish stew I discovered: My Brazilian hosts called it Moqueca. Since I prepared it that first time it has become one of those indulgences that I make every few months. It’s tangy, creamy and spicy all at the same time with big chunks of fish marinated in lime to complement the peppers and coconut milk. I always make enough so it can be enjoyed as leftovers the next day, after the flavors have mingled overnight.

Moqueca by Mister C
Serves 4-6

2-3 Lbs White Fish Steaks (Cod, Halibut, Plaice, Sea Bass, etc)
1 Tsp Annatto Seeds
3 Tbsp Canola Oil
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 Cloves Garlic, minced (4 Tbsp)
3 Tbsp Lime Juice
1 Tsp Coarse Kosher or Sea Salt
1 Large Sweet Onion, diced
3 Tbsp Scallions, chopped
4 Medium Tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 Medium Sweet Bell Peppers, chopped (pick your favorite colors)
1/2 Medium Green Bell Pepper, chopped
14oz Coconut Milk (equivalent 1 can)
Black Pepper and Hot Sauce to Taste

Serve over rice in wide shallow bowls. Suggested serving portion is 1 cup of rice per bowl.

Heat the canola oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the annatto seeds and cook for 10 minutes until the oil turns bright orange. Strain and discard the seeds, then pour the oil into a small dish and set aside for plating. Start your rice and other sides you wish to serve with the stew.

Cut the fish into large pieces and put into a large bowl or dish. Add the lime juice, garlic and salt to the bowl and toss to coat the fish thoroughly. Set the bowl aside (countertop or refrigerator) to marinate while the rest of the dish is prepared.

In a large, deep skillet or saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion and peppers. Sautee 3-5 minutes, until the onions begin to soften and turn translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook another 3 minutes, then add the hot sauce and black pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and add the fish in a single layer. Pour the coconut milk over the fish, shaking the pan gently to make sure the liquids mingle and the fish doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Give it a gentle shake occasionally to keep things from sticking.

Plate the rice, then place a generous amount of the stew over the rice – I usually add a few spoonfuls of the coconut milk from the pan for extra goodness. Drizzle some of the annatto oil over the dish and garnish with a generous pinch of chopped scallions.

I consider this a complete meal, but it may also be served as a main entree with bread and salad. Although this is a fish dish, a hearty red wine complements the heaviness of the coconut milk and provides an interesting mix of tannins to the meal.

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The Final Countdown: Thanksgiving 2010

Soups and Hors D’oeuvres
Soup is usually an entrée in our home, whether a classic French Onion or a hearty meat and vegetable with chunks of bread on the side. Thanksgiving, especially if you’re entertaining for the day, offers a number of opportunities for soup to complement light hors d’oeuvres, and gives the gentle cook a reason to get some food in the belly while preparing the feast. Here is a quick-ish soup along with some complementary pre-feast nibbles for your consideration:

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (serves approximately 8)

This is perhaps the best-known Thanksgiving soup, and there are at least a few dozen recipes that will entice even the most hard-core Curcurbita-phobe to have at least a taste. My recipe is nothing too fancy, and can be prepared the day before and frozen in order to save time and space.
4lbs Butternut Squash (2 med squash), halved lengthwise, clean and set aside the seeds
2 Tbsp Olive Oil, divided
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Rubbed or Fresh Chopped Sage
4 Cups Chicken Broth
½ Cup grated Carrot
½ Tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ Tsp Ground Nutmeg
1 Tsp Salt
Ground Pepper to taste
½ cup Heavy Cream or Half-and-Half
2 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
Preheat your oven to 400F.  Dice the squash into 1-inch pieces and place into a baking dish with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and toss to coat. In a small saucepan on low heat add the carrots, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, stirring constantly until the sugar is melted and the carrots are soft and beginning to caramelize. Pour the mix from the saucepan over the squash chunks, toss thoroughly to coat and arrange the pieces in a single layer in the baking dish. Bake for one hour, tossing to recoat the squash after 30 minutes.  Mix the remaining olive oil, soy sauce and the sage in a small dish until well blended, then add the seeds to the dish. Stir to coat the seeds and lay them out on a cookie sheet or shallow pan in a single layer. Drizzle the remaining soy/sage mix over the seeds, then put them into the oven to bake with the squash until browned (usually 30-45 minutes), remove from the oven and allow them to cool.
In a large saucepan heat the chicken broth until just boiling, then add the cooked squash and stir until mixed. Simmer for 15 minutes and the allow to cool until just warm to the touch. Transfer to a food processor (or use a blender or hand-mixer in the saucepan) and blend until smooth. It will be a bit thick when you’re finished with the blending, then transfer the soup back into the saucepan and slowly heat on low, slowly stirring in the cream or half-and-half until rich and creamy. At this point you can cool the soup and refrigerate or even freeze it to be reheated just before serving. If serving immediately, pour into a tureen or individual small ramekins and garnish with the roasted seeds.
Chocolate Crostini (serves 8-12)

Some readers may think that chocolate should wait until dessert, but this is Thanksgiving- I say “why wait?”  This recipe is super-quick and easy to make with ingredients most people always have on hand, and chocolate as an appetizer is usually greeted enthusiastically:
1 Crusty Baguette, cut into ½- to-1-inch slices
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Bar Dark (Bittersweet) Chocolate, divided to match the bread slices
Turn your oven to broil, or set your toaster oven to high. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place the bread in a single layer, not touching. Place under the broiler for no more than two minutes until lightly browned and toasted. Flip the bread and toast the other side in the same manner. Remove from the broiler or toaster oven, turn off the heat but leave the oven closed (more about why in a moment) and flip the bread again without allowing it to cool too much. No, I’m not compulsive- the side that was toasted first will have an indentation from toasting, and acts as a little “dish” to hold the chocolate. A chef-friend of mine- a real chef – taught me that about twenty years ago. Next, drizzle a bit of the olive oil over each piece of toast, enough so each piece has a decent amount. Next, place a piece of the dark chocolate in each little indentation on the toast. It will begin to melt just a little from the warm bread, and put the tray back into the warm oven (not on, but still hot) for a couple of minutes. Remove from the oven and set it down firmly on the countertop; if you should drop it a few inches it would do the same trick. Why? It “sets” the chocolate in that little dent in the toast, plus it will make your guests wonder what you’re about in the kitchen.  For an added kick, add the merest pinch of red pepper or a couple of red pepper flakes.
I’m no fool: There are so many variations of sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, casseroles and the like which find their way to the table at Thanksgiving that I will not insult you or your ability to make your own. However, it’s a good idea to have a few quick and interesting recipes that will satisfy the need to add something a bit different to the menu- but not so different that it seems incongruous.  I love green beans, parsnips, potatoes and carrots: I grew up eating lots of them, and my Dad still grows beans and potatoes in his garden.  Here are three fairly quick and very simple sides to toss into the Thanksgiving fray:

Honey Almond Green Beans (serves 6-8)
These are always a favorite with kids: It’s very colorful, crunchy and sweet.  It takes about 10 minutes from beginning to end if you’re practiced at cutting vegetables, so it can also be whipped up at the last minute as long as you have room for another pan on your stove.
8 Cups Fresh Green Beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ Tbsp Butter
¼ Cup Sliced Almonds, toasted or raw
1 Tsp Pepper, coarse ground or cracked
2-4 Tbsp Honey (depending on taste)
Salt to taste
Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted and hot, add the almonds and toss until they are just beginning to brown. Add the green beans and bell pepper and toss until coated. Add the honey, salt and pepper and toss to coat again. Increase the heat to medium-high and sautee 5 minutes, tossing to assure even cooking. Place into a covered dish to keep warm until serving.
Orange Ginger Beets
We love beets. We love the greens, the roots, everything about them. We especially love the way it looks like a massacre has just concluded when they’re sliced up for cooking.  Unfortunately, beets by themselves are a bit bland for all their sweetness. So, we use the sturdy root as a foundation on which to add orange and ginger and then cook them to tender perfection. This recipe assumes 3-4 beet slices per serving, adjust more less as you desire:
6 Medium Beets, greens removed, scrubbed or peeled and beards (roots) trimmed
1 Cup Orange Juice, with pulp (fresh squeezed is best, just save some of the pulp)
2 Tbsp Fresh Grated Ginger or Ginger Paste
1 Tbsp Olive Oil or Butter
In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil or butter on medium-low heat. Slice the beets into ½-inch thick slices, cut to fit the pan in as few layers as possible. When the oil/butter is hot, place the sliced beets into the pan and coat with the hot oil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. While the beets are simmering, mix the orange juice and ginger together until well-blended. When the beets have begun to soften a bit, increase the heat to medium, stir the orange-ginger mixture once more and add it to the pan, stirring to mix the beet juice and the orange juice. Cover and simmer another 15 minutes or until the beets are tender, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. For a thicker sauce, simmer uncovered until the liquid is reduced by one-third. Place in a serving dish and serve warm.
Parsnips and Carrots in a Rum Butter Rosemary Glaze (serves 6-8)

Image courtesy McCormick’s
Those readers who know me well are aware that I have a fondness for working spiced rum into many dishes. Here’s one that you can prepare while making sure the rum is properly spiced, in your glass as well as in the pan. I don’t shy away from the butter in this one, because it adds such a savory counterpoint to the sharpness of the parsnips and the greenness of the rosemary:
1 Pound Medium Parsnips, scrubbed and trimmed
1 Pound Medium Carrots, scrubbed and trimmed
2-3 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Rosemary (more if you like)
4 Tbsp Butter
½ Tbsp Olive Oil (to keep the butter from burning)
2 Oz Silver or other Spiced Rum
2 Tsp Salt, divided
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Slice the parsnips and carrots into 1-inch pieces and add them to the pan, tossing to coat with the oil. Add 1 tsp salt to “sweat” the vegetables and cover for 5 minutes, tossing occasionally to keep from sticking. Add the butter slowly, tossing the vegetables to keep it from burning, then add the rosemary. Toss until the rosemary is mixed into the vegetables, and then add the rum. Cook until the liquid begins to thicken, then increase the heat to medium-high. Toss or stir until a glaze begins to form, then remove from the heat. Place in a serving dish and serve hot.

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Mister C’s Thanksgiving Menu 2010, Round Two: Stuffing vs. Dressing

Stuffing vs. Pan Dressing
There’s always been a debate between aficionados of stuffing and dressing. Stuffing is more or less self-explanatory, while dressing seems to have a more varied definition based upon regional influences. One would tend to think that there’s not much in the way of comparison, as the only thing stuffing and dressing have in common is bread, but my ears have been burned by the vehement opinions of friends and family. My take on the matter is that stuffing can be prepared either stovetop or baked inside the bird whereas dressing is baked in a pan separate from the main entrée. Here are a couple of recipes that you can add to your Thanksgiving Day table, to quell the strident opinion that may arise should one or the other be left out of the day’s offerings.

Mrs. Pat’s Pan Dressing
When I was growing up my Mom always made pan dressing with Thanksgiving dinner, many times her mother- Grandma Ruby- would also show up with a slightly different but still-substantial pan of dressing. It was dark and savory, more like a casserole or bread pie with cornbread and chicken. It was actually a meal in itself, and Mom always makes an extra pan for late-night leftovers when the munchies set in. I find pan dressing to be the perfect complement to the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special we always watch later in the evening. It’s my comfort food of choice, and I will eat an entire pan of this stuff if I’m not prevented from doing so. As an entrée-type offering I’ve added instructions for the extra step of adding chicken to the recipe, but as listed below it is offered as a competitor or alternative to the side of stuffing. This is best prepared the day before and left to chill in the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors mingle. Just take it out and let it return to room temperature before baking so it won’t go soggy.

4 cups Cornbread, Crumbled
2 Cups White or other Loaf Bread, Torn
1 Large Onion, Diced
4 Stalks Celery, Diced
2 Tbsp Fresh Chopped or Rubbed Sage (fresh for a stronger flavor)
2 Tbsp Butter or Olive Oil
2 Tsp Poultry Seasoning
2 Large Eggs, Beaten

Put the bread into a large mixing bowl. Heat the butter or olive oil at medium heat, then sautee the celery and onion until translucent. Add the broth, sage and poultry seasoning and stir for 2 minutes. Add the broth and vegetable mix to the bread, stir and allow to cool a bit. Then mix in the eggs until the mixture is lumpy and pourable but not soupy. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (preferably overnight) to allow the flavors to mix, then allow to return to room temperature. Pour into a greased (or sprayed) 9 x 12 baking or casserole dish. Preheat your oven to 350F and bake until crisp on the edges and a toothpick comes out clean. Cut into squares in the dish and serve.
Entrée Option: Bake whole small chicken, cut meat from breast, legs and thighs into strips and boil the bones and carcass for broth.  Add the chicken meat to the mixture and bake as usual.

Some of you who have been fans of Cookin’ With Mister C for a while will recognize the stuffing recipe I’m reproducing here as the Fruited Nut Stuffing I use for Cornish Hens. Stuffing generally takes two forms: Stuffing made in a pan and stuffing that’s actually stuffed into the bird. They are very different dishes: one is fluffy and kind of crisp and the other is dense and very complex with the juices of the bird cooked into the bread mix.

Mister C’s Fruited Nut Stuffing
4 Cups Stale Bread, cut into small cubes (whole grain or multigrain is good because it’s very firm)
1 Cup Chopped Celery
1 Cup Chopped Onion
2 Tbsp Butter (just enough to moisten the bread)
1/4 Cup Chopped Walnuts, Almonds or Pistachios
1/4 Cup Dried Apricots, finely chopped
1/4 Cup Dried Cranberries, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Olive Oil and Butter, combined equal parts (1 Tbsp each, warmed and mixed)

Before you start preparing the stuffing, preheat the oven to 350F.
In a large sautee pan or cast iron skillet heat the olive oil/butter mixture and add the onions and celery, sauteeing until just soft then remove it to a bowl. In the skillet add the remaining butter and bread chunks, moving the bread until it is moistened then stir until the bread is very slightly browned. Then add the onions, celery, nuts and fruit to the bread and stir on medium-low heat until it’s thoroughly mixed, steamy and soft. Then increase the heat to medium-high or high and toss until the bread is lightly browned and just barely toasty. Remove the stuffing from the heat and cover it to keep it moist until time to move it to a bowl for serving. If you are making this to stuff the bird, triple the ingredients (dividing the portions as needed to accommodate pan size)- trust me, you’ll be surprised how much stuffing it takes to stuff a turkey! If you make more than you need, just plate the rest and use it as garnish when the bird comes from the oven.

Tomorrow: Soups, Cheeses and Other Hors D’Oeuvres

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Thanksgiving With Mister C: Turkey Baste and Glaze

Turkey for the Holidays

Hello friends- it’s that time of year! Cooks and nervous Significant Others will once again begin the planning and fretting over the Thanksgiving Day dinner: How large a turkey should I bake? Should we have ham? What about both? Dressing or stuffing? Sweet potatoes or mashed? Gravy? Soups? Green Beans? Desserts? Wine and Cheese? Oh dear…
I wouldn’t be Mister C if I didn’t offer at least a few suggestions, completely unsolicited (like advice from your old Auntie, who manages to hover at your elbow while sitting in the recliner in the den) but this is the season for unsolicited and vaguely helpful… er, help.  So, I decided to publish a half-dozen recipes that you may enjoy or decide not to prepare for that all-important day of family togetherness, heavy social drinking and reminding oneself of why you all live so very far away from your relatives.

Turkey: So, with much further ado- we’ll start with the Big One- the turkey. Now, I’m not going to get involved in issues of whether frying or baking makes for a moister or more tender bird. Let’s just say that I’ve fried my share of turkeys, but for tradition’s sake I’ll stick to the baked variety. Oh, yes: and whatever size turkey you decide to bake, cook it at 350F until it reaches 165F in the thickest part of the bird. It will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven, although USDA recommends 180F I find that the turkey dries out as the internal temperature can rise as high as 220F before beginning to cool. That makes for one dry bird.

I’m a big fan of glazes and various basting concoctions for all manner of fowl. It helps to keep the meat moist and adds an additional layer of flavor in what’s usually reserved for a gravy platform. Do yourself a favor and save the gravy for the rolls and potatoes, and whip up a nice baste or glaze for the bird. Here are a couple of each to try out next time you think the turkey was a little boring.

Mister C’s Orange Ginger Sweet Turkey Baste
4 Large Juice Oranges, peeled and sectioned
¼ Cup Red Wine
¼ Cup Dark Honey or Brown Sugar
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Tbsp Butter (not margarine)
2 Tbsp Grated Ginger or Ginger Paste

This makes a sweet, tart essence as a baste – actually it’s very light so be sure to season the bird with salt and pepper or better yet, brine the day before. In a food processor, add everything except the butter and pulse until chunky but not smooth. Heat the mixture in a medium saucepan (except the butter) to just boiling and remove from the heat. Add the butter, stirring until it is completely mixed. Pour the warm mix into a small dish or bowl and baste the bird with a brush before placing in the oven. As the bird bakes, baste with the mix every 20 minutes until the skin turns golden or you’re out of baste, then place foil over the pan and continue baking until done. It helps to keep the basting bowl on the stovetop or other warm place so the butter won’t thicken. Before carving, spoon out a quarter-cup or so of the juices, mix them in the basting dish with whatever’s left over and give the turkey a final baste so it’ll glisten for your efforts.

To make a glaze, double the oranges, honey and wine, then reduce by at least half or until it’s thickened. Rub the bird with a thin layer of olive oil and then use half the glaze to cover the bird before baking. Baste again in one hour, making sure to cover the entire bird. This should caramelize and make a sticky glaze when the bird is done.

Mister C’s Rosemary Sage Baste
The idea behind a baste is to keep the skin of the bird moist by flooding it with juices and other savory stuff until just before the turkey is done, then browning the skin the last half-hour or so. A baste takes a lot more effort, but it does make for a more “marinated” taste and is pretty much guaranteed to give you a tender bird.

¼ Cup Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, Crushed
¼ Cup White Wine
3 Tbsp Chopped Rosemary
3 Tbsp Rubbed or Fresh Sage

This is easy: Put everything in a food processor or blender, puree until smooth or it resembles Italian dressing- your preference. Some people don’t like the texture of herbs so process according however you like, it won’t affect the flavor. Pour the mix into a small dish or cup, and either brush onto the bird before baking or use a bulb. A brush will use less to cover the bird so you can use up the basting mix while the bird is baking. If you use a bulb, use no more than half the baste before baking- you’ll want to add a bit of the fresh baste each time you open the oven, and it will slowly infuse the juices cooking out of the bird. When you baste (every 20 minutes or so), first baste with the juices from the pan, then a bit of the fresh baste. This baste is very light, more of an herb essence for those who prefer their turkey less rich and ready for the gravy or cranberry sauce.

Tomorrow: Stuffing vs. Pan Dressing

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Grilled Lemon Rum Pork Chops with Toasted Coconut and Almonds

Desperation is the mother of invention- after a long week and a weekend benefit at the tony East Lake Golf Club in Decatur, GA I wasn’t exactly in sharpshooter form this morning.  Before coffee, I set out a pack of assorted boneless pork chops to thaw and promptly forgot about them until mid-afternoon. Now, on what passes for a normal day at GreenWood I have at least an idea for dinner by lunchtime- but I’m not as resilient as I once was, and a couple weeks’ worth of 12-hour days take their toll.

So, I found these boneless pork chops in my sink. Thawed, but without purpose. In the middle of the afternoon; actually I didn’t remember them at all… What did I do? Pull another miracle out of my ass? Sort of, in a slacker sort of way:  I posted my dilemma on my Facebook page, and friends of Mister C came from far and wide to suggest everything from Asian to Southern comfort food. I was overwhelmed with the possibilities, so I fled to the pantry and unearthed some dried coconut and a bag of almonds. Halfway home, I noticed some black beans, then remembered the bell peppers in the crisper that were in danger of going soft. The brussels’ sprouts were hanging out next to the bell peppers like a third wheel at a nightclub so I invited them along for the ride. Suddenly, I had dinner, and it could still be prepared in an hour. It turned out well, and it was super easy to prepare.

Mister C’s Baked Lemon Rum Port Chops with Toasted Coconut and Almond

2 Lbs Boneless Pork Chops or Pork Loin, sliced 1″ thick
Lemon Rum Wash
1/2 Cup Spiced Rum
2 Tsp Lemon Zest
1 Lemon, Juiced
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Cups Shredded Coconut, dried or fresh
1/2 Cup Almonds, crushed or sliced
Preheat the oven to 350F

This is so easy and quick it’s best to save your cocktail until this dish is in the oven, when you’ll have time to make a couple of quick sides and reward your hard work with a shared aperitif while the oven does all the work.

Add the rum, oil lemon zest and lemon juice and whisk until mixed well. Divide the mixture into halves and set aside one half for drizzling, dipping or tossing with a cooked vegetable or salad. Pour the remaining half into a shallow dish and add the pork to marinate or dredge as a wash. While the pork is in the wash, mix the coconut and almonds and dump into another shallow dish or deep plate. Roll the chops in the coconut almond mix, pressing into the meat until the entire chop is coated. Place the chops into an ovenproof dish and bake for 30 minutes or until the coconut is toasty brown and the meat is at least 140F.

I served this with brussels’ sprouts tossed with the other half of the lemon rum mixture, and sauteed the black beans with the peppers and scallions. It was tasty, easy to prepare and looked great on the plate.

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Fruited Stuffing and Garlic Parmesan Whipped Potatoes

We try to have Game Hen at least every couple of months, and so at the beginning of an unbelievably busy three weeks’ work I decided to put on a good feed to start us off right.  I have an “Old Faithful” recipe for the stuffing and the requisite mashed potatoes that no one ever complains over, and so I consider it vetted for you. The hens are cooked at 350F for an hour to and hour-and-a-half with your choice of glazes (or just olive oil and pepper)- tonight was a Strawberry Rum glaze. The stuffing assures moistness to the baked hens and adds a sweetness that accumulates in the dark meat of the bird. The Garlic Parmesan Whipped Potatoes are pure indulgence, no excuses offered; that’s why I don’t make them often.

Mister C’s Fruited Stuffing

4 Cups Bread Chunks, 1-inch cubes

1 Medium Onion, finely chopped

4 Stalks Celery, finely chopped

1 Medium Apple, thinly sliced and chopped

2 Tbsp Oilve Oil, separated

1 Tbsp Butter, separated

6 Dried Apricots, finely chopped

1/4 Cup Dried Cranberries

1/4 Cup Slivered Almonds or Pine Nuts(optional)

In a large skillet heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil and Buttter over medium heat, then sautee the onion, celery, apple and nuts (optional) until the fruit is just beginning to soften then remove from the pan to a bowl and cover to keep warm. Add the remaining olive oil and butter, then toss the bread, apricots and cranberries until the fruit is just soft and the bread is toasty. Add the onion mixture back to the pan and toss until it’s mixed well. Stuff the hens while the stuffing is still warm, then close their little vents with toothpicks and bake. While the hens are baking the potatoes will come together in a jiffy.

Mister C’s Garlic Parmesan Whipped Potatoes

3 Lbs Russet Potatoes, roughly chopped

1/2 Cup Half-and-Half

1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

4 Tbsp Butter

6 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced or 6 Tbsp Minced Garlic

Boil potatoes and drain. Add the remaining ingredients to the potatoes and mix thoroughly until smooth and without lumps. This is very high in fat, calories and eveything else that’s bad for you, so garnish with chopped scallions and pepper and take a picture for posterity.

These are a one-two combo which will work with every kind of fowl, and I’ve used one or the other with the other three meat groups. In an hour or so you can have a nice cocktail and make a great meal for your family or friends- relaxe es desfruite…

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