Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Porcini Port Sauce

Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Porcini Port Sauce

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This recipe is worth celebrating. Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin has been selected as a winner  in this week’s Food52 contest for Your Best Holiday Roast. And that’s not the only reason it’s worthy of a party. Dried porcini mushrooms blitzed with fresh rosemary sprigs and black peppercorns create an umami-rich rub for the beef, forming a crust that melts into the meat while roasting. It’s stand alone delicious, yet when napped with a luxurious port wine reduction infused with more porcini and rosemary, this dish becomes an elegant dinner worthy of any holiday celebration. So go on, name a holiday – or just call it the weekend. This is a treat that your family and friends will be sure to enjoy. And that’s worth celebrating, too.

Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Porcini Port Sauce

Salting the  meat in advance ensures juicy results and a crispy crust. A combination of port and red wine is used in this recipe. Red wine may be substituted with additional port. Serves 6 to 8.

For the beef tenderloin:
1 center cut beef tenderloin, about 3 pounds
Salt
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Olive oil

For the Porcini Port Wine Sauce:
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in 3/4 cup hot water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 cup port wine
1 cup heavy-bodied red wine
2 rosemary sprigs
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1. Season the tenderloin all over with salt. Refrigerate 4 hours or up to 24 hours. Thirty minutes before roasting remove beef from the refrigerator.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the mushrooms, rosemary, and peppercorns in a spice grinder. Grind to a coarse powder. Rub the beef with olive oil, then coat all over with the rosemary porcini rub.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the beef and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes, turning as necessary. Transfer the beef to a roasting pan, and set the skillet aside without rinsing for the sauce.
4. Roast beef in the oven until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 125*F, about 30 minutes for medium-rare. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Tent with foil and let stand for 15 minutes.
5. While the beef is roasting, prepare the sauce. Strain the porcini water through an un-bleached paper towel into a small bowl. Reserve the strained liquid. Coarsely chop the porcini.
6. Add 1 tablespoon butter, the shallots, and porcini to the reserved skillet. Sauté over medium heat until the shallots are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the port, scraping up any brown bits in the pan. Add the red wine, mushroom stock, and rosemary. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered until the sauce is reduced by about half to approximately 1 1/2 cups. Add the salt and taste for seasoning. Strain through a fine-meshed seive into a small saucepan, pressing firmly on the solids; discard solids. Heat the sauce over medium heat. Whisk in 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Keep warm until serving.
7. To serve, carve the meat in slices. Serve on warm plates with the porcini port sauce.

Holiday Dessert: Chocolate Terrine with Orange Crème Anglaise

Holiday Dessert: Chocolate Terrine with Orange Crème Anglaise

Chocolate Terrine with Orange Crème Anglaise is most worthy of the holiday table. Not only is it appropriately elegant and sinfully rich, it may be prepared up to 3 days in advance, allowing you to get on with your Christmas shopping and preparations for house guests.

Also known as a Marquis au Chocolat, this popular French dessert is like eating a truffle in the form of a brick. I first made this recipe as a finale to a cheese fondue party, when I wanted a simple yet rich chocolate dessert with a French twist. I scoured my cookbooks and found inspiration in a recipe for Marquis au Chocolat by Thomas Keller in the Bouchon Cookbook. I  paired the chocolate with orange which proved to be a match made in heaven. Slivers of dark chocolate nestled in a pool of cool orange-infused crème anglaise, studded with Gran Marnier macerated fruit. Not only did the orange add a bejeweled touch, its citrus notes brightened the chocolate, elevating this classic to celebratory status, befitting the holiday table.

Chocolate Terrine with Orange Crème Anglaise and Gran Marnier Oranges
Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Cookbook

Serves 10 to 12

For the Chocolate Terrine:
Canola oil
12 ounces (350 grams) 70% dark chocolate
1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter
4 large eggs, separated
4 large egg yolks
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (125 ml.) heavy cream
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Lightly oil a 6 cup terrine mold or loaf pan.  Line mold with plastic wrap.
Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Add 8 egg yolks to cooled chocolate mixture, stirring to combine.  Sift together confectioners’ sugar and cocoa.  Stir into the chocolate mixture.
Beat cream in bowl of electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Transfer to another bowl and refrigerate until use.  Beat egg whites with sugar in clean bowl of electric mixer until soft peaks form.
Fold egg whites into chocolate mixture, then fold in whipped cream.
Pour into terrine mold and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate 12 hours.  (Terrine may be prepared up to 3 days in advance.)

For the Orange Crème Anglaise:
Makes about 2 cups

1 cup (250 ml.) heavy cream
1 cup (250 ml.) whole milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 teaspoons grated untreated orange zest
5 large egg yolks

Combine the cream, milk and 4 tablespoons sugar in a medium saucepan.  Add the vanilla bean with seeds and orange zest.  Heat to a simmer, stirring.  Remove pan from heat, cover and let sit 30 minutes to let flavors infuse.
Whisk egg yolks with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl until mixture thickens and lightens in color.  Whisking constantly, pour 1/3 cream mixture into egg mixture.  Return egg mixture to the saucepan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon, about 10 minutes.  (To check if done, run a finger down the back of the wooden spoon.  The line should remain clearly intact without the custard running.)
Strain custard through a fine meshed sieve into a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water.  Cool custard, stirring occasionally.  When completely cool, pour into a container.  Place plastic wrap over surface of custard.  Cover container and refrigerate.  (May be prepared up to 3 days in advance.)

For the Gran Marnier Oranges:
2 navel oranges
2-3 tablespoons Gran Marnier or Cointreau
1 teaspoon sugar

Cut away peel and pith of oranges with a knife.
Slice oranges horizontally, about 1/4″ thick
Cut out orange segments.  Toss segments with Gran Marnier and sugar in a bowl.  Let sit at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. (Cover and refrigerate until use.)

To serve:
Remove terrine from mold.  Run a knife under hot water and wipe dry.  Slice terrine in 1/4 inch slices.  Arrange 1-2 slices on a plate.  Drizzle Orange Crème Anglaise around terrine.  Garnish with Gran Marnier Oranges.

Holiday Entertaining: Salmon Gravlax

Holiday Entertaining: Salmon Gravlax

You say Christmas, and I say Gravlax. The holiday season is not complete without executing a recipe for home-cured salmon gravlax. Don’t be daunted. This is an entertainer’s dream. The salmon is easily prepared in advance and stowed in the refrigerator to cure for 2 days. All you need to do is unwrap and remove the spice cure, slice and serve. The results are the essence of Nordic cuisine: minimal and elegant. Fennel, dill and pepper fleck the meltingly soft salmon which tastes of the sea. How can you argue with that?

Gravlax (gravlaks in Danish and Norwegian or gravad lax in Swedish) literally means salmon in a grave or hole.  During the middle ages fisherman would salt salmon and let it ferment by burying it in a hole above high-tide line. Nowadays it’s not necessary to bury salmon in sand, but, rather in salt and sugar and banish it to the refrigerator.  The salmon will cure over several days, during which the salt and sugar will turn into liquid, creating a brine.

Salmon Gravlax

Serves a party.

Salt and sugar are necessary ingredients for curing, while fresh or dried herbs, peppercorns, citrus or spirits are frequently added to the brine for additional flavor. This recipe adds dill, fennel, peppercorns and akavit for flavor and spice. Choose a fish which is very fresh with a firm consistency. I use an Atlantic fish, such as Loch Duart Salmon.

One side of salmon, about 3 pounds (1.5 kg) with skin, pin bones removed
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
10 ounces (350 g) sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup fresh dill sprigs, chopped
1 cup fennel fronds, finely chopped
1/4 cup Akavit or vodka

Lightly toast the peppercorns and fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until aromatic, about 1 minute. Transfer to a mortar and finely ground to a powder. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the salt and sugars. Rub the fish all over with the spices mix.

Line a long baking pan or dish with plastic wrap.  Place half of the dill sprigs and half of the fennel fronds over the plastic wrap.  Arrange the salmon, skin-side down on the herbs.  Sprinkle the Akavit over the salmon. Top with the remaining dill and fennel. Cover with additional plastic wrap, sealing the fish.  Place a heavy pan or tray on the fish. Weigh down the pan with cans or bottles.  Refrigerate for 2 to 3 days.

To serve, remove the fish from refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap. Pour off the collected juices and wipe off excess brine and dill.  Slice diagonally from one corner of the salmon towards the center of the fillet.

Fold a slice of gravlax on toasted brioche bread or white bread.  Squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon juice and smear a spoonful of Honey Dill Mustard on the fish.  Garnish with a dill sprig.

Honey Dill Mustard

1/4 cup honey mustard
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup chopped dill sprigs
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk the mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl.  Slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify.  Stir in the dill, pepper and salt.

Gløgg: Scandinavian Spiced Mulled Wine

Gløgg: Scandinavian Spiced Mulled Wine

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It’s nearly December which means one thing:  It’s time for Gløgg. Gløgg is the Scandinavian version of spiced mulled wine. From a corner of the world where winters are defined by brief grey days and long dark nights, fire and warmth are woven into the Nordic lifestyle and winter celebrations.  Candles provide cosiness and light, adorning windows, tables and the holiday tree. Pelts and fur soften cold surfaces and soothe the skin. Socializing and rituals enliven the home and brighten the spirit. And hearty meals with fortified drinks warm the belly and feed the soul.

From now until Christmas, gløgg is prolific in Scandinavia. Hot, spiced and boosted with wine and spirits, this liquid pick-me-up is an elixir worthy of the vikings. Served in cafes and restaurants, from city street carts and at social gatherings, it’s the season’s antidote to the cold and dark. Most home cooks will make their own brew, whether enabled by a mix or from scratch. This recipe is my version of gløgg from scratch, and I encourage you to try this method. It avoids the cloying sweetness often found with mixes and is easy to prepare. As it simmers, the aromas of wine and spice will fill your home hinting at Christmas to come. Never mind any inclement weather outdoors. Inside it will be warm and cosy – a perfect complement to the winter day.

Gløgg

Makes 8-10 servings

For the garnish:
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup Cointreau or rum
1/2 cup whole almonds

For the gløgg:
1 – 1/2 cups Port wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/3 cup brown sugar
zest of 2 oranges, cut in strips
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bottles inexpensive dry red wine

Fresh orange slices

Prepare the garnish:
Combine the raisins and Cointreau in a small bowl. Let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours. (Raisins can be prepared up to one week in advance.  Cover and refrigerate until use.)
Toast the almonds in a dry skillet on the stove. Remove from heat and coarsely chop in large pieces.

Prepare the gløgg:
Combine all of the ingredients except the 2 bottles of red wine in a heavy large pot with a lid.  Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until reduced to 2 cups, 12-15 minutes.
Add red wine and warm over low heat with the lid on the pot. Do not boil.
Add a spoonful each of raisins and almonds to a glass or mug.  Strain gløgg into glass.  Garnish with fresh orange slices.

Pumpkin Pecan Roulade

The holidays are upon us, and it’s time to get dressed up. The silver needs polishing, the shoes need shining and the kids need scrubbing. Even our food gets dressed up, with stuffings and dressings, garnishes and twists, crystal and porcelain. Nothing escapes scrutiny, including dessert where dustings and dollops are par for the course. And in the spirit of fancifying, what is known as the ordinary cake roll, becomes an elegant roulade at the Thanksgiving table.

What is the difference between a cake roll and roulade, you may ask. Well, nothing. Both terms describe a light cake which is rolled in a spiral with a creamy filling. Yet the blandly descriptive cake roll is what I might consider as an afternoon snack. For my Thanksgiving dinner, I am inviting the roulade, a French term which elegantly and aptly sums up the nature of the dessert as the word itself rolls off the tongue. I want that dessert at our dressed up dinner table.

Language aside, there are other reasons to include a roulade on your menu. It’s elegant yet uncomplicated, remarkably easy to prepare with stunning results. It’s a no-fail recipe, which is a welcome relief during the holidays and frees up more time to dress up for our guests.

Pumpkin Pecan Roulade with Orange Mascarpone Cream
Serves 8-10

For the cake:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin or butternut squash puree
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the filling:
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

Prepare cake:
Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.) Butter a 12 by 9 by 1 inch sheet pan. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper and dust with flour.
Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg together in a medium bowl and set aside. Whisk eggs and sugar in a large bowl or with an electric mixer until light and thick. Add pumpkin and vanilla; mix until smooth. Stir in dry ingredients until just combined without over mixing. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle pecans over batter. Bake in oven until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 12-15 minutes. Remove and cool on wire rack 5 minutes. While the cake is cooling, lay a clean kitchen towel on the work surface. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup sifted confectioners sugar. Invert cake onto the sugared towel. Carefully peel away the parchment paper and discard. Starting at the long end, carefully roll up the cake, jelly-roll style, in the towel. Cool completely on the wire rack.

Prepare filling:
While the cake is cooling, combine mascarpone, confectioners’ sugar, cream and vanilla in bowl of electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Stir in orange zest.

Assemble roulade:
Gently unroll cake on the work surface. Spread the filling evenly over cake. Carefully roll the cake back up in the same direction, using the towel. Arrange seam-side down on a platter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Cut in 3/4 inch slices to serve.