Holiday-time recipes stir entertaining inspiration

A dinner and dessert fit for your December party-hosting activities

by Cecelia Thompson    
Published: December 8, 2012 in Featured Stories, Holidays

Crowned pork roast over brussels sprout potato hash

Are you looking for a simple, seasonal, elegant and colorful meal for holiday dinner parties this December? This might be it! I’d like to say I’m selfless — testing out new recipes over Thanksgiving instead of cooking a traditional turkey — but, really, my family just doesn’t like turkey. This year we had a smaller crowd, so we didn’t go all out with lamb and rib roast. We bought a small(er) crowned pork roast that needed minimal TLC. You could brine this cut of pork, but really it will be juicy and tender without any advance preparation. That’s what is great about meat on the bone. I made up a simple honey, mustard and herb glaze for the meat and we roasted it to just medium. It was tender, juicy — and I’ll admit, there was some bone chewing (heck, it was just family!).

With extra potatoes from a (very successful) Domino Potato experiment and some seasonal pick-ups from the market, I threw together a colorful and super easy hash to compliment the pork. You could add any root vegetable you have on hand but I’m a sucker for any brussels sprout this time of year. Purple potatoes would be a really fun addition if you can find them! So, have fun with this and experiment. If its colorful and cooked in bacon fat, your guest will most likely love it.

Mustard, Honey and Herb Crusted Crowned Pork Roast

Crowned Pork Roast (4 to 5 bone)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon grain mustard
4 to 5 cloves of garlic confit — or roasted garlic
1 teaspoon fresh sage, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoons local honey
salt and pepper
olive oil

Bring the pork roast to room temperature. In a food processor, combine mustards, garlic, herbs and honey. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Season with salt and pepper. In a hot skillet with a splash of olive oil, sear and brown the roast on each side. Add the mustard, honey and herb mixture to the pork roast. Roast until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Allow to rest and then cut between the bones to serve.

Brussels Sprout and Potato Hash

1 package brussels sprouts, halved
3 sweet potatoes, cubed
3 Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 shallot, sliced
4 slices of bacon
butter
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook bacon in a large skillet. Remove bacon and keep fat in the pan. Meanwhile, microwave the sweet potatoes in a bowl for about 5 minutes or until tender. At this point, you want to sauté the sprouts and potatoes like you’re making hash browns. Add oil and butter as you need — remember butter adds flavor and oil raises the smoking-point. Sauté the brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and yukon potatoes separately on medium high. Add the shallots when you have room. They will all cook at different speeds. Once everything is brown, put them all on a baking sheet, add the bacon back in, and cook until tender.

 

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Low Country Christmas bowl

Another winter is coming to the southeast forcing all Southerners to reach for comfort foods and head towards the fireplace. And, what could be more comforting to a Southern girl than a big bowl of cheese grits? I think they even created a cliché acronym about it.

This recipe for “Low Country Christmas Bowl” was inspired by a recipe collection titled “Comfort in a Bowl” in the January 2011 addition of Real Simple Magazine. Their recipe is a sautéed mixture of andouille sausage and collard greens over cheese grits. After a literal panic over the idea of purchasing and preparing collard greens (which questions the ”S” in my “GRITS”), I grabbed some baby spinach. I also added a couple of tomatoes and garlic cloves that I had around the kitchen.

Low Country Christmas Bowl

1 cup low-fat milk
3/4 cup quick cooking grits
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (or to taste)
1 tablespoon butter
12 ounces andouille sausage, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, sliced
2 roma tomatoes, quartered
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 bag of baby spinach
salt

In a large cast iron skillet, saute the sliced andouille sausage over medium high-until crispy. Move the sausage to the side, lower the flame to medium and add garlic and shallot. Saute until slightly soft and add the tomatoes and peppers. Meanwhile, bring the milk and a pinch of salt to a boil. Whisk in the grits on low heat about 6 minutes until soft and creamy. Add the butter and cheese. Taste for seasoning (at this point, you will be tempted to add more cheese — and I don’t blame you)! Once the sausage and vegetable mixture is soft, add the spinach and allow to wilt. Serve hot on top of piping hot cheese grit!

 

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Salted dark chocolate and pecan pie

You know the father character in the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” that believes that Windex can cure anything? I find it so funny that almost every paternal figure identifies with a cure-all. For my grandfather it’s Noxzema. We practically bathed in the stuff as kids. He claimed it would cure any wound, burn or bug bite — not to mention blemish! I’m not sure it worked, but I have very few scares from my days spent in his home on the Withlachochee River. This Thanksgiving my Dad may have found his cure-all in edible format — golden syrup. The man would not stop talking about it! He recently saw a television show hosted by Alton Brown about golden syrup and, thank god, found a jar at the Harris Teeter or I’m not sure what we would have done!

Golden syrup is basically a sweetener like corn syrup but made from cane sugar. It’s a great replacement for honey — although I’m not sure why anyone would want to substitute honey. The best way to describe the flavor difference is by tasting an American Coca-Cola and a Mexican Coca-Cola — you’ll be able to tell that the Mexican variety tastes so much better and natural with cane sugar. Try it, or the golden syrup, it does make a difference.

We tested the Golden Syrup in a recipe for a Chocolate Pecan Pie. I adjusted the recipe to use dark chocolate, golden syrup and sea salt. It’s basically a flourless brownie in a pie shell and that is nothing to complain about. Try it, use the golden syrup and maybe you’ll be cured of something (?) that ails you?

Salted Dark Chocolate and Pecan Pie

1 pie crust — either homemade or store-bought
1 and 1/2 cups pecans, toasted
4 tablespoons butter
6 ounces dark chocolate
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup golden syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
sea salt

Bake your pie shell in advance. Heat the oven to 375. Melt butter and chocolate together. Add brown sugar, golden syrup and vanilla. Stir to combine and then add toasted pecans. Pour into the pie shell and bake for about an hour or until set. Once set, remove from the oven and sprinkle with sea salt.

— Mod Meals on Mendenhall was started by Greensboro’s Cecelia Thompson in 2009 in an effort to seek creativity and expression outside the workplace. Learn more at modmealsonmendenhall.com.

Content reprinted with permission.

Photos Credit: Cecelia Thompson/ModMealsonMendenhall.com