Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Recipe Is Just A Place To Start

I didn't make any photographs of the food from dinner last night. I wish I had but I don't seem to be able to cook and photograph at the same time anymore. Last night I started with Pam Anderson's cookbook, Perfect Recipes for Having People Over. I like this book because she gives some great hints on how to do things ahead of time for a party so that you aren't stuck in the kitchen and missing out on all the good conversation with the guests and the recipes are usually very fresh and crisp tasting with distinct flavors.

My menu was: roasted pork tenderloin, poblano mashed potatoes, green bean and tomato salad, and bittersweet flourless chocolate cake.

Everytime I roast pork tenderloins I make some kind of a marinade. It usually depends on which herbs I have growing on the terrace. I doubt if I have ever made exactly the same one twice. This time it was some minced garlic, olive oil, dijon mustard, finely chopped rosemary, oregano and thyme and of course salt and pepper. I roasted them at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes and then let them rest for a while before cutting. They were juicy and had a pale pink center. I thought they were cooked just right. I also made a quick pan sauce with dried cherries soaked in a port, chicken broth, cornstarch and a bit of butter. It was okay but not outstanding.

Although Anderson doesn't have a recipe for poblano mashed potatoes she does have several variations on mash potatoes and a technique for making them earlier, even up to a day or so ahead of time, then finishing them off when you are ready to serve. Instead of one of her variations I roasted and cleaned three poblano peppers, chopped them into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces and added them to the potatoes. Somewhere years ago, I found a recipe for pureeing the poblanos and adding that to the potatoes but I prefer the texture of having the pieces in the potato and I also think it is more interesting looking dish than just having pale green mashed potatoes.

Anderson also had a recipe for a green bean and cherry tomato salad. I really liked her technique for cooking the beans. You put them in a skillet with some salt and a small amount of water, maybe 1/2 cup. Put a lid on and stay near by because the water will evaporate rapidly and your beans are cooked to tender crisp in less than 5 minutes. But what I really liked about the recipe was that instead of running cold water over them to stop the cooking she recommends spreading them out on a paper towel on a cookie sheet and they cool very quickly but you don't wash off the taste. I can't remember her dressing recipe exactly but it doesn't make any difference because I did a variation on it. About 1/4 cup of sour cream, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of seasoned rice wine vinegar, a big heaping tablespoon of horseradish, one clove of garlic finely minced, and 1 or 2 tablespoon of chopped basil.

The dessert was easy and I made it a day ahead of time. Once again it is a Fine Cooking Magazine recipe. This time it was a bittersweet flourless chocolate cake. It is almost like a chocolate truffle melting in your mouth but what made it even better was the Terra d'Oro Zinfadel Port from Montevina Vineyards in Amador County in California. Whenever we can we smuggle in one or two bottles from the USA. It is just an amazing wine/port to serve with anything chocolate, especially any bittersweet chocolate.

This dinner was a little different for me because I skipped a first course of a soup or salad. I'm going to try cutting back on having a first course and simplfying dinner parties. God knows with all the eating and visiting that goes on around this house, we and our guests will not go hungry. And I certainly do not want to give up desserts so soup or salad was the one to go. My plan last night was to have simple food that is well prepared but it does put a bit more pressure on menu choices.

Of course, if I could always serve a chocolate dessert with the Terra d'Oro Zinfadel Port no one would remember the rest of the dinner.

9 comments:

pitchertaker said...

I would have added a little cognac to the sause....:-)

Billie said...

Pitchedtaker, I added in the port that the cherries has been soaking in. But Cognac would have worked too. I agree with you, a little "spirit" is a good thing.

1st Mate said...

Bobbie, it sounds so delicious. I don't suppose you'd be willing to supply the recipe for that cake...? Pretty please?

jillian said...

Am I a complete moron for thinking (and being horrified) that this is the Pam Anderson of Baywatch notoriety? Wow, do I feel silly. But also a little sad.

Billie said...

Jillian, it isn't the same Pam Anderson. Check out the Amazon link to my Anderson's book. But that is a funny thought.

Billie said...

1st Mate, see if you can get the recipe from Fine Cooking site. It may just ask you to sign up for their website. Let me know. I can't copy it and I'm hoping that I don't have to type it all up.
http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/flourless-chocolate-cake-chocolate-glaze.aspx?ac=fp

Joanna said...

That dinner sounds just amazing. I'd like to have seen a photograph too. I'm going to try to find the cake recipe. Thanks for the description.

glorv1 said...

That really sounded delicious. I like the marinade, can smell it from here. :D Have a great Friday and I will take some chocolate cake please.

jennifer rose said...

Billie, what we really need to hear about are culinary disasters you've witnessed. Not necessarily caused, mind you. Your deft touch at these dinner parties has created cadres of those who're now deathly afraid to cook anything for others!