A Farewell Feast

By / Photography By E. S. Bruhmann | December 03, 2016
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This is my last (at least for the foreseeable future) column in Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass. I’ve been a devoted fan of the Edible magazine concept since I first saw one in Seattle eight years ago, and being a contributor to Edible Louisville has been quite a highlight for this lover of great food. Hearing from so many of our readers when they love a recipe I’ve shared (or when they have a question about a recipe that didn’t make sense) have been some of the most rewarding experiences in my cooking life. Thank you all so very much.

I’m leaving you with some of my most favorite holiday recipes, perfect for a New Year’s Eve buffet. These are recipes that can (and should!) be made in advance, keeping your pre-party efforts to a minimum. They are kind of fancy, but nothing is difficult. Read through the recipes before getting started to see where the pre-work is, and plan your time accordingly. Bon appetit! 

Apple-Fennel Salad

Because we are not fans of creamy salad dressings, I don’t often have traditional Waldorf salad. A very simple vinaigrette dressing is light and bright tasting — just perfect for this combination since the other dishes in the buff et lineup are a little heavy. The dressing and nuts can be made in advance. Add the dressing right before serving.

3/4 cup pecans or walnuts
1 teaspoon honey
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
Dash cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt & pepper
3 celery ribs, sliced diagonally 1/4 inch thick
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, halved, cored and thinly sliced on a mandoline
2 crisp, tart apples, halved, cored and sliced
1 cup seedless grapes, halved
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn if large
A few handfuls arugula, if desired
Sharp cheese, if desired, such as Kenny’s Farmhouse Dry Fork Reserve asiago-style

Spread the nuts in a plate and microwave for 2 minutes. Stir, drizzle the honey over, sprinkle the cinnamon and pepper. Microwave for up to 2 more minutes, 30 seconds at a time, stirring at each increment. When the nuts have a fairly strong aroma, stop microwaving. (They will go from raw to burned quickly, so watch carefully.) Let cool, then coarsely chop the nuts. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil with lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Add the celery, fennel, apples, grapes, basil and arugula and toss to evenly coat. Transfer the salad to a serving platter. Top with the nuts and shavings of sharp cheese. Serves 6.

Spiced Pork Roast & Sauce

I am thrilled that Red Hog Butcher shop opened just as I was researching what recipes to share in this issue. Their meat offerings are absolutely sublime and the butchers are so knowledgeable about the various cuts and their uses. The pork I used for this recipe has to be the most perfect roast I’ve ever handled. I almost hated to add the spice rub since it was so perfect to start. In addition to the beautiful meat, I got the beef and chicken stocks from the Red Hog freezer case and they are also the most wonderful stocks I’ve ever tasted. I see a lot more soup in my future with these for the base.

The roast needs to have the rub applied at least a day in advance. This dish is heavily seasoned as originally written, but I’ve become hooked on using the smoked black pepper and sea salt from Bourbon Barrel Foods for even more nuanced flavor. The sauce is a little time-consuming, but not labor intensive. Start it the day before you plan to serve it to give it plenty of time for reducing. As the sauce reduces, you’ll have time to assemble the pasta dish.

For a bit of holiday fancy-ness, I stuffed the roast with figs, but you could certainly skip that part. I love the sweetness of the fruit with the smoky spices and I harvest them from my fig tree. You shouldn’t expect to find fresh figs mid-winter, however, but dried ones work. Mashed potatoes are great with this roast, but potatoes and carrots added to the roasting pan for the last 30–45 minutes of baking is easier and also delicious.

1 (3-pound) boneless center-cut pork rib roast
1 pint fresh figs, cut into halves or quarters, or 8 ounces dried figs, stems removed (optional)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 cup (packed) plus 1 tablespoon golden brown sugar
1 bottle fruity, dry red wine, such as Pinot Noir
1/4 cup chopped shallots or onion
1 3/4 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
1 3/4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, fine or whole grain/coarse
New potatoes and carrots
Butter as needed

Note: If using figs: Take a long chef ’s knife and make a slit from 1 end through to the other in the meatiest part of the roast to cut a pocket — don’t go through the ends. Push the handle of a long wooden spoon all the way through the slit to open it a little. Use the handle of the spoon to push the figs into the roast. You may want to work from both ends to get them end-to-end. Set roast aside.

In a small dish, stir together the cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Rub it all over the pork roast. Place in a glass dish, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator at least 12 hours, and up to 1 1/2 days before baking.

I recommend starting the sauce at this point: Combine wine, shallots/ onions and 1 tablespoon brown sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, and let it reduce to 1 1/4 cups, about 45 minutes. (Before starting, I also recommend putting 1 1/4 cups of water into your saucepan to get an idea what that looks like, so you know when your reduction sauce has reached that quantity. Pour out the water and start making the sauce.) Add both stocks, thyme and mustard. Bring to a boil and reduce again to 1 1/4 cups, about 45 minutes. Strain the sauce, discarding the shallots and thyme. Refrigerate the sauce.

Preheat oven to 375°. Transfer roast to large roasting pan (especially if you are going to add carrots and potatoes). Add 1/4 cup water or stock (whatever you have on hand) to juices in glass dish, stir to combine and scrape into a measuring cup. Add enough water to make about a cup and add it to the pan. Roast the pork until internal temperature reaches 155°, about 1 1/2 hours. Add carrots and potatoes, if desired, after 45 minutes. Baste with reserved pan juices about every 30 minutes during cooking time.

When the pork is done, move vegetables to serving dish and keep warm. Carefully pour any pan juices into the sauce. If the roast had a good layer of fat, you will probably want to remove as much of the melted fat as you can — I let it sit for a few minutes for the fat to rise to the top, and then remove it with my turkey baster. If your roast had very little fat, you may want to add a tablespoon or 2 of butter to the sauce. Gently heat the sauce, taste it and season with salt and pepper if you need it, but I have never needed to add anything more at this point.

Cut the roast into slices, and serve with the sauce, potatoes and carrots. Serves 8.

Blue Cheese Pasta & Vegetables

Because I usually have several vegetarians at the table, I always like to offer a special dish (from an ancient Bon Appetit) that they’ll enjoy as much as the meat-eaters like the roast. I’ve been making this annually for 20 years, and it is always a huge hit.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
3 large red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch slices
3 cups half-and-half (preferably from JD Country Milk)
1 pound blue cheese, crumbled (preferably Kenny’s Farmhouse Kentucky Bleu)
1 teaspoon celery seeds
Cayenne pepper, to taste
3 large egg yolks
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped celery leaves
1 pound penne or other similar shape pasta
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)

Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add peppers and celery, toss to coat with butter. Put the lid on the skillet and let the vegetables steam for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer the vegetables to a large bowl to cool. Season lightly with salt and pepper (the blue cheese will be salty; use caution). Combine the half-and half and blue cheese in the same skillet. Stir over medium-low heat until the cheese melts. Remove from heat.

Add celery seeds, cayenne and a little salt and pepper. Beat yolks in a small bowl to blend. Add a few ladles of the cheese mixture to the yolks, stir to combine well. Scrap the egg mixture into the skillet and whisk to blend thoroughly. Add the celery leaves and keep warm. Butter a 4-quart baking dish (about 13 by 10 inches). Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until just barely tender (it will cook more in the oven in the sauce.) Drain and return to the same pot. Add the sauce and vegetables; stir gently to blend. Scrap into the prepared baking dish. You can cool and refrigerate at this point—if you do, let it come to room temperature before baking. Preheat oven to 400°. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake until sauce is bubbling and top is lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Serves 12.  

Apple Crumble

Before we moved to Louisville, a favorite restaurant we frequented had a pear-cranberry cobbler on the menu that we just loved. They took it off the menu, and I’ve been searching for the perfect replacement ever since. Th ough not the same, I found the recipe below, which has become THE favorite winter dessert in our house. I like to use a combination of pears instead of all one variety (same thing for my apple pies.) In a perfect world, serve this the day you make it. However, it warms up beautifully in the microwave or can be served at room temperature if you want to bake it a day ahead. You can also make the fruit and crumble mixtures a day in advance and refrigerate them separately. Let the mixtures come to room temperature for about 45 minutes before assembling prior to baking.

2 pounds ripe but firm pears, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Finely grated zest from 1 orange
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
3 tablespoons plus ⅔ cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger
1/2 cup sliced almonds or chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries (soak in hot water if very dry. Drain well before using in crumble topping.)
Ice cream (for serving; optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix pears, orange zest, ginger, cardamom, pepper, cranberries, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons melted butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl until pears are coated. Scrape into an 8- by 8-inch glass baking dish or a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan.

Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat oats, vanilla, and remaining 3/4 cup fl our, ⅔ cup brown sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, candied ginger and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl until mixture just comes together (it will resemble a crumbly cookie dough), about 2 minutes. Add nuts and dried cranberries and mix on low speed until just incorporated.

Evenly sprinkle crumb mixture over pear mixture. Place a baking sheet on lowest oven rack to catch any bubbled-over drippings. Cover the crumble loosely with foil and bake 40 minutes in center of oven. Uncover and continue to bake until filling is bubbling and topping is browned, 15 to 20 minutes more.

Serve crumble topped with ice cream, if you like.  

Article from Edible Louisville & the Bluegrass at http://ediblelouisville.ediblecommunities.com/recipes/farewell-feast
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