Monday, December 22, 2008

Apple-Cranberry Stuffed Pork Loin

The traditional Christmas dinner in France is a stuffed Turkey, or Capon, or any other kind of stuffed bird, served with chestnuts and a few other side dishes. But here in the United States, Christmas comes so quickly after Thanksgiving that we are ready for something different.

I found a really nice alternative to the bird: a stuffed pork loin. The ingredients are festive, it is relatively easy to make and tastes absolutely delicious!!

Apple-Cranberry Stuffed Pork Loin

one 4 lbs pork loin, butterflied
4 Macoun apples, chopped
1 medium-size onion, chopped
1 cup dried Cranberries, chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
2 cups seasoned croutons, or dried bread
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup Maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Butterfly the pork loin or have your butcher do it for you.
Pat dry and season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, soften the croutons with the chicken stock. And set aside.

In a medium size bowl, mix the apples, onion, dried cranberries, rosemary. Add the softened croutons and the maple syrup. Mix well to combine.

Spread the apple stuffing on the pork, patting it down tight. Roll the loin and secure by tying it with cooking twine. Transfer to the baking dish with any stuffing that may have fallen out of the roast and bake at 450F for about 15 minutes. Then reduce oven temperature to 350F for another hour or until temperature at the center of the roast reaches 145F.

When ready, take the roast out of the oven and let stand for 10 minutes to allow the juices to settle.

Cut into 3/4 inch slices and serve with rice and string beans.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Truffes au Chocolat - Chocolate Truffles

Now that we have taken care of Christmas dessert, let talk sweets!

My favorite this time of the year is the infamous Chocolate Truffle!! You may have guess, I love chocolate!

Truffles are a great gift to bring to a party, or for friends and school teachers...I know they are always appreciated!

These are relatively easy to make, and you may flavor them with your favorite liqueur, or coffee...

Truffes au Chocolat
Chocolate Truffles

1 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp butter
2 Tsp light corn syrup
18 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 Tbsp Grand Marnier, or other liqueur
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

In a medium heavy saucepan, bring the cream, butter and corn syrup to a full boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Gently swirl to cover the chocolate with the cream, but do not stir. Add the liqueur and let stand for 5 minutes.

Slowly whisk to combine. Refrigerate the mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon every 10 to 15 minutes. After about 45 minutes, the chocolate mixture will thicken and you'll have to stir more frequently, every 3 to 5 minutes.

When thick enough to scoop, use 2 small spoons and scrape the chocolate to form into a ball. Transfer balls to cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate again for at least 15 minutes. Then roll balls in the palm of your hand to shape and drop them in a bowl filled with cocoa powder. Roll into the bowl until Truffle is completely covered.

They keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks! Merry Christmas!!

You may forgo the liqueur: just reduce the chocolate quantities from 18 oz to 16 oz.

If you want white truffles, replace the cocoa powder by confectioner sugar.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Buche de Noel - Yule Log

This is my favorite time of the year! Everyone is in such good spirits, town squares and shops are decorated. It is getting cold and we are all waiting anxiously for snow, although here on Cape Cod there is seldom any snow for Christmas, but we keep hoping!

White or green, Christmas is a time for decorating the house, inside and out, a time for shopping and party-hopping!

Christmas is also a time when I spend many an hour in the kitchen!!

On Christmas Eve, we usually have a late light dinner of Smoked Salmon over Blinis.

The feast is on Christmas Day! We might have an appetizer of more smoked salmon, with blinis if there are any left, otherwise on pumpernickel bread. We then have Duck Breasts, also known as Magrets, with Pomegranate Sauce, and a side of Mushroom Risotto.

And for dessert, the famous French "Buche de Noel", or Yule Log. It is a cake shaped as a log, filled with a cream and covered in a chocolate ganache. The log is then decorated to look like a real wood log you'd find in the woods. I sift powdered sugar over it for snow and decorate with small meringue mushrooms to give it an authentic look!!!

It seems like a lot of work and I will not lie, it does take some time to put it together. But the result is really worth it!!

Buche de Noel
Yule Log

Cake (Genoise):
6 large eggs, separated
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
12 Tbsp sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder + 1 Tbsp

Vanilla Mousse:
3 dl milk
3 dl heavy cream, or whipping cream
100 g sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 vanilla bean
2 tsp gelatin powder (10g)

Chocolate ganache:
8 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
300 g heavy cream
50 g butter
5 cl liqueur (your choice!)

Make the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 15x10x1 - inch jelly roll pan, or a cookie sheet. Line the bottom with parchment paper, allowing a 1-inch overhang on the short sides. Butter and flour the paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the Cream of Tartar and whisk until soft peaks form. Add 6 Tbsp of sugar and whisk until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with 1/3 cup cocoa powder and the remaining 6 Tbsp of sugar until thick, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/4 of the egg whites to lighten the batter. Fold in the remaining whites. Gently spread the batter in the prepared pan.

Bake the Genoise until the cake springs back when you press the center, about 15 minutes. Transfer pan the rack and let cool completely.

Unmold on a slightly humid kitchen towel. Peel off the parchment paper.
Sift remaining cocoa powder over the cake and roll tightly, lenghtwise. Set aside.

Make the vanilla mousse:
We start by making a "Creme Anglaise", or vanilla custard.

In a heavy medium saucepan, heat the milk with the vanilla (cut lenghtwise and scraped), and half the sugar. Stir frequently to prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

In a small bowl, mix the gelatin with a couple of tablespoons of the warmed milk. Stir to dissolve.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, mix the remaining sugar and the egg yolks until light and fluffy. Add half the warm milk mixture; stir and return to saucepan.
Cook over medium low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until thickened, or temperature reaches 85 degrees Celsius.
Remove the vanilla bean, add the gelatin, making sure there are no clumps. Let cool.

Finishing the mousse:
In the chilled bowl of an electric mixer - whisk should be chilled as well - whip the cream until stiff peaks form (you have now mastered a Chantilly!). Add it delicately to the custard.
Set aside while you get back to the cake!

Slowly unroll the cake and spread delicately the vanilla mousse on top. Roll the cake back. Cut a piece of the roll at an angle, about 3 inches. Place the bigger cake on a serving plate and place the short piece angle side touching the big cake. It should look like a real log. Set aside in a cool place.

Now prepare the ganache:
In a medium heavy saucepan, heat the cream. Add the chocolate, butter and liqueur. Whisk and remove from the stove. Let cool, whisking regularly. The chocolate mixture should thicken.

Finish the Buche de Noel:
Spread the chocolate ganache over the cake. With a fork, draw lines lenghtwise to make it look like a log.

It is ready and just needs decorations!!!