It’s been a whirlwind year. I feel very blessed to have all of you in my life. It would be so grand to meet you in person one day. Perhaps some day!! But for now, being “blog/pen pals” is just great too.
Thank you for your support of MARY’s secret ingredients. It is my dream to make MSI into a really big business to be able to feed folks on both ends of the spectrum. To inspire home cooks of all experience levels with exciting new ingredients to spice up their cooking and to be able to help eradicate worldwide hunger, as we will donate 10% of our profits to Feed The Children, is what this business is all about. I hope we can succeed.
We all want to eat great food and making it at home assures that we know exactly what we’re putting into our bodies. My boys, having been raised around home cooking from all sides, are now quickly surpassing and teaching me new things every day. You know, when you’re young, you’re totally fearless and that’s where they both are now. They text me pictures of what they’re making, what they’re eating, how to do something better. It’s exciting to be constantly pushed by them to do new things. Now one of them is deep into bread making and trying to teach me actual “tests” to see if the dough has risen enough, rather than my seat-of-the-pants “feel” I learned from my mother.
And then don’t forget that intentions are just as important as actions. If you make your food with loving intentions, it will always taste better. It’s a bit of magic. Try it and you’ll see.
Our Christmas day dinner was shared with Agata’s family (Zach’s girlfriend). Her father came here from Poland in the early eighties when breadlines were the norm over there. He speaks English, the mother, not so much, so Zach said. And my Polish is limited to a few choice curse words that Zach says I even pronounce those wrong too, along with a few common phrases, learned from my parents. Agata, kind as she is, says I speak “old Polish.” (Zach has learned to speak Polish fluently.) This was our first meal of both families together and nervousness was running high, which was all totally unnecessary. It was a delightful evening without a pause in conversation. Her mom understands (seems to me) everything and was totally engaged the entire evening. Her father loves to tell stories and was a fan of my cooking. Her sister has a five year-old boy, named Justin, who couldn’t have been better behaved. Angelic, (which I’m told is not always the case) and just delightful!! He spent some time on the floor by the Christmas tree, drawing, explaining that there are green emeralds and red emeralds and that he was drawing a red emerald. (don’t you love it?!) A great time was had by all!
I made a fake porchetta, somewhat following a Melissa Clark New York Times recipe, but my older son recommended this method of cooking – and you know what? He was right. This pork was tender, juicy and delicious!! Some of us had thirds!
PORCHETTA PORK ROAST – serves 12
One 9 lb. bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder roast
¼ cup chopped fennel fronds
¼ cup chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage leaves
7 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with the salt
1½ Tbs. kosher salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 heaping tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Score skin and fat all over pork, taking care not to cut down to the meat.
In a food processor, combine fennel fronds, rosemary, sage, garlic, lemon zest, salt, fennel seed, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Pulse together. Pour in oil. Pulse again until it forms a paste. Rub all over pork, making sure it gets into all crevices. Cover the roast with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Remove pork from refrigerator 2 hours before you want to cook it. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Unwrap and transfer pork to a covered Dutch oven and roast for 2 hours and check on the moisture level in the bottom of the pan. You may need to add a little water. This method produced the juiciest meat! At approximately 4 hours, check with a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat. It should read 180 degrees, and the roast should be fork tender or check with a paring knife. Uncover the roast and place under the broiler to crisp the skin – watch carefully.
Transfer pork to a cutting board or platter and let rest 15 to 30 minutes before serving. Skim the fat off of the juices left in the pan. Taste and correct seasonings. Serve the juices warm with the meat. Make sure everyone gets some of the cracklings.
And then I served this salad with the pork, which was really divine. Persimmons are in season right now so find these flat bottomed beauties and be sure to make this soon as it will not disappoint. Different, with the bitter greens contrasting with the sweet sugared walnuts, pomegranate seeds and persimmons, this was an exciting alternative to sautéed apples with pork. This was also originally a New York Times recipe from David Tanis, but I have changed the greens to be mainly frisee replacing a lot of the chicory he calls for, as I thought that would just be way too bitter. Young chicory from the summertime might work, but not now – too tough and bitter for my taste. Everyone LOVED this salad so give it a go.
PERSIMMON, POMEGRANATE AND FRISEE SALAD – serves 10
4 oz. walnuts, about 1 cup
4 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. fleur de sel or other coarse sea salt, crumbled
2 shallots, finely minced
¼ cup sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper
6 Tbs. walnut oil
6 – 7 medium Fuyu persimmons, peeled
12 – 14 oz. frisee and radicchio leaves including a handful of chicory leaves, chopped into bite size pieces
1 cup pomegranate seeds
Make the sugared walnuts: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put walnuts in a small bowl. Pour very hot tap water over the walnuts for 1 minute, then drain. Add sugar and fleur de sel. Mix to coat nuts evenly, then spread them on the parchment. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until crisp and caramelized. Cool, then break walnuts apart. (May be prepared up to 5 days ahead; store in the cupboard in an airtight container.)
Make the vinaigrette: Put shallots in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and the sherry vinegar. Let mixture steep for 10 minutes. Whisk in walnut oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Core and cut persimmons into 1/2-inch-thick wedges and transfer to a large platter with a well. Salt persimmons lightly, then dress with some vinaigrette. Add the frisee, radicchio and chicory leaves and gently toss with hands to coat leaves, pulling persimmon pieces to the top. Scatter pomegranate seeds over the top, along with any collected juices. Garnish with sugared walnuts and serve.
Our plate was rounded out with a sautéed polenta square.
We started with a bowl of Carrot Ginger Soup and finished with
a plate of Holiday cookies, Polish Poppyseed cake and Gingerbread. It was a great meal!!
Happy New Year to all!!!