I’m devoting my first posts this month to giving you main dish ideas for holiday entertaining.
I’m not sure how your thinking goes about what to make for your significant gatherings but I go back and forth between doing a more formal sit down or a more casual buffet style dinner gathering. You need to consider the guests, how much you want to spend and of course a menu that will allow you the most enjoyment as the cook.
Did you happen to read the article in the New York Times Dining section a few weeks ago called In the End It’s Not About the Food by Corey Mintz? It’s a good reminder that although we all like good food it’s your guests – whether they are family or friends – that are most important. Which is exactly why I endorse recipes that can mostly be made ahead, that don’t create stress for you during your party or that don’t make you feel your guests are a distraction to you while you’re in the kitchen.
So my next two posts offer you something from either end of the spectrum of entertaining. A reposting of two classic, traditional meat roasts – Herb Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Sauce and Fennel Orange Roasted Pork Loin with Cranberry Currant Sauce. Next week I’ll do a new post featuring raviolis with two sauces and my well loved herb garlic butter for baguette bread.
Fennel Rosemary Orange Roast Pork Loin with Cranberry Sauce (first posted December 2012)
Fresh rosemary, fennel seeds and orange zest form a savory herb rub for this pork loin roast and slivers of garlic randomly poked into the meat before it is roasted guarantee each slice is savory and flavorful.
I like pork loin roast because it’s an affordable alternative to beef and it’s mild flavor takes on the flavors of whatever you are seasoning it with. This recipe involves just a few ingredients to make the rub and a fresh cranberry sauce enhanced with currants, dried apricots and a pinch of orange zest and rosemary to compliment the pork roast rub.
If you’re not familiar with pork loin roast, it comes from the center of the pig so it’s more tender than other cuts like the shoulder that get lots of movement and have connective tissue. Connective tissue needs liquid and heat to break down for the meat to be tender. But not with the loin roast. Dry heat is all that is needed.
If you’re worried about how to tell when the pork is done, invest in an instant reading food thermometer. They are available at kitchen stores and many grocery stores. How they work is by poking them into the center of a meat roast they instantly register the interior temperature taking any guesswork out of testing for doneness.
For cooking pork safely, the official recommendation is an end temperature of at least 145 degrees F. with a 3 minute resting time. So I cook mine to 145 to 150 degrees F. and let it rest several minutes under a piece of foil to keep it warm. Remember, the internal temperature will continue to rise as your meat “rests” under a piece of foil. Resting helps settle the juices in the meat so they don’t end up all over the cutting board when you slice it. I begin checking the internal temperature after about 45 minutes of cooking. Then I can estimate about how much more time it needs.
Fennel Rosemary Orange Roast Pork Loin with Cranberry Sauce
|Serves||6 to 8|
Rub for Pork
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 3lb boneless pork loin roast
- 3 cloves garlic
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 cup Water
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 cups fresh cranberries (12 ounce bag)
- 1/3 cup currants
- 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
|For the rub, stir together olive oil, rosemary, orange zest and fennel; set aside.|
|For studding the pork with garlic, cut each garlic clove into thin slivers, there should be about 12. Using the tip of a paring knife make random pokes in the top and sides of the pork (pokes should be the length of the sliver of garlic); insert garlic all the way into slits.|
|Season pork all over with salt and pepper. Rub fennel rub on top and sides of pork (pork can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated several hours ahead before roasting. Remove pork from refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes before roasting).|
|Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Put pork on a rack and set rack in a roasting pan or put pork directly in pan.|
|Roast pork for 15 minutes, then turn heat down to 325 degrees F and roast until the internal temperature when measured at the thickest part is 145 to 150 degrees F., about 1 hour (check internal temperature of pork after 45 minutes).|
|Remove pork from oven and cover loosely with foil, allowing it to "rest" (resting allows juices to settle in meat before slicing).|
|For the cranberry Sauce, bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan and add cranberries; reduce heat to low and simmer until cranberries are opened and softened, about 10 minutes (sauce will thicken as it cools to room temperature). Remove from heat and stir in currants, apricots, rosemary and orange zest.|
|Slice pork and serve with Cranberry Sauce.|
Herb Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Sauce (first posted December 2011)
Few cuts of beef have the ability to inspire anxiety for the cook like beef tenderloin. The anxiety begins the moment you take out a small mortgage paying for it at the grocery store. All the way home you wonder if it is worth what you just paid for it considering you may not have the skill needed to cook it to the medium rare doneness most people desire. But once at home those feelings get stashed in the refrigerator along with the beef and you move onto other tasks.
Out they return the moment you go to prepare your tenderloin for roasting. Yes, sipping on a glass of wine does help take the nervous edge away, but I think my suggestions will do a better job to calm any worries you may have.
Get yourself an instant reading food thermometer. If there ever was a confidence builder this little gadget is it. Available at most kitchen stores, they register the temperature of what you’re cooking when you poke it in taking the mystery and anxiety of whether you’ve cooked whatever it is you’re cooking to the desired doneness.
I prefer beef tenderloin medium rare and that means cooking the beef to 135 degrees F. when inserted in the thickest part of the meat. The interior of the beef will still increase in temperature about 5 degrees F. after it is removed from the oven. Remember to allow time for the beef to “rest” at least 15 minutes after you remove it from the oven and before you slice it as this will keep the juices in the meat and not running out onto the cutting board when you slice it.
Herb Roasted Beef Tenderloin
|Serves||6 to 8|
- 1-1/2 cup sour cream or light sour cream
- 1/3 cup prepared horseradish
- 2 tablespoons chopped Italian or curly parsley
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
For the beef
- 3lb center cut beef tenderloin
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tablespoon
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
|For the Horseradish Sauce, stir together sour cream, horseradish and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until using.|
|Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.|
|Stir together rosemary and thyme.|
|Sprinkle beef all over with desired amount of salt and pepper. Spread butter evenly over beef then sprinkle with rosemary thyme mixture pressing to adhere (beef can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated several hours before roasting. Remove beef from refrigerator 20-30 minutes before roasting).|
|Put beef on a rack and in a roasting pan or directly in the pan. Roast for 15 minutes then turn heat down to 375 degrees F. and roast until an instant reading food thermometer inserted in the thickest part of meat reads 135 degrees F. for medium rare, about 35 minutes.|
|Remove beef from oven; cover lightly with foil and allow "resting" in a warm place 15 minutes.|
|Slice beef and serve with Horseradish Sauce.|