Merry Christmas! Even in these Covid times in late 2021 we celebrate this special holiday – although with a much, much smaller get together of family and friends!
This morning’s walk at Sharon Park was beautiful with low clouds, early morning sun and still air. A restful respite in between recent rains with more rolling in later today.
For today’s Christmas dinner we are making one of our favorite recipes: Scott’s Favorite Slow Roasted Chipotle Pork. I first posted this recipe back in 2005 – over 15 years ago. We’ve made it many times over the years since. Slow roasting is perfect for those days when you just want a dinner that’s very tasty but super easy to prepare. It’s always been a hit with our guests too. This year pork prices have spiked (what inflation?) but even so pork shoulder is perhaps the least expensive main meat course you can make.
Last night for Christmas Eve we had cracked Dungeness crab (from Cook’s Seafood) with sourdough bread and melted butter. A real San Francisco Bay Area holiday treat!
A few weeks ago I went for a walk at Menlo Park’s Allied Arts Guild – one of my favorite local places. It’s good therapy for mind and soul to just walk the gardens there.
The Guild had their holiday decorations up – and this particular image has become one of my favorites. Shot with my Fujifilm X-E2 and post-processed in Photoshop CC with the Oil Paint filter to add some texture. I love the range of colors and lights/shadows in this image. Peaceful.
I hope that you and your family have a wonderful – and peaceful – Christmas season this year!
The day after Thanksgiving I stopped by Menlo Park’s Allied Arts Guild with my new Fujifilm X-E2 camera. I wrote a brief article about it over on InMenlo.com.
Allied Arts was decorated with holiday ornaments – and this particular one caught my eye. There’s a distant reflection of another red ornament in the window in the upper right – purposely out of focus in this shot.
Post-processed in Lightroom 5 with VSCO Film and in Photoshop CC with a touch of the Oil Paint filter.
Tonight, we’re making a pork loin roast for Christmas dinner – using one of our old favorite recipes tweaked just a bit for this year’s event. (Isn’t recipe tweaking what fun cooking is all about?)
We’re trying dry brining the pork loin for a few hours in advance of cooking. The advocates of dry brining suggest that a day or so is the ideal timing for it – but I didn’t decide to try it until just a few hours before we need to serve dinner! So, it will be an abbreviated version.
To do the dry brining, I covered the pork loin (a 3.3 lb roast this year) with salt and put it into the refrigerator uncovered. When it’s time to cook, I’ll rinse the salt off the roast and then season it with salt, pepper and Penzey’s Bavarian Seasoning. From there, it’s back to our original recipe!
This pork loin roast turned out REALLY GREAT! Even though the dry brining was abbreviated, the roast came out great – moist, not dry at all – and a perfect compliment to the apple/cream/mustard topping. To add a bit more complexity to the topping, I also included a couple of rosemary springs and a layer of sliced red onion. This combination added beautiful flavor and complexity to the topping.
We’ve cooked this recipe many times over the years. Today’s treatment makes us want to come back to it again soon. Try it for your family – it’s a huge favorite with ours!
We just finished our family Christmas Eve celebration – and the fourth birthday celebration for granddaughter Lucy. We hosted a big crowd – and, fortunately, the weather cooperated to make it easy.
We cooked up a simple dinner – using our favorite oven roasted tri-tip recipe (eight pounds – of which we managed to eat almost six tonight), sautéed green beans, oven roasted small potatoes with rosemary and olive oil, a mushroom side dish, and a wonderful salad. We had lots of help in the kitchen making for a busy but fun late afternoon celebration.
Hope you’re enjoying your Christmas celebration – enjoying this special season and time for family!
Update: Christmas dinner – We’re roasting a pork loin with apples for our Christmas dinner this year. It’s an old favorite of ours – this year we’re trying an abbreviated bit of “dry brining” ahead of roasting it. More info here! Today’s version of this old favorite pork loin roast recipe was perhaps the best we’ve ever made!
Our family celebrates Christmas Eve together – and the whole gang was at our house today for a great dinner and lots of fun singing carols, catching up, and just being together. Our two grand-daughters and Lily had fun and were the center of attention much of the time. As I said last year, family, great food, and sharing – it doesn’t get any better than that!
Earlier this year, I started to get more serious about sharing an online portfolio of what I think of as my best work. You can find it here: photos.sjl.us. Hope you enjoy it!
Note: the image above is from this year’s Christmas tree at Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park.
We had a wonderful family afternoon and evening at our house yesterday for Christmas Eve. Our two grand-daughters were the center of much of the attention – Christmas really is for kids! Dinner included a 6 lb boneless turkey breast – 2 hours at 325 degrees – delish! and a Niman Ranch ham – along with a bunch of side dishes brought by family members including root vegetables, Brussels sprouts, and Julie’s Petite Potatoes. Family, great food, and sharing – it doesn’t get any better than that!
For fun this morning, I used Scout from Big Huge Labs to create a poster of my “best” photos on Flickr. Scout uses Flickr’s “interestingness” results to rank the photos.
If you want to see a specific photo, click on the “continue reading” link and you’ll find a row by row list with a link to each photo included in the poster.
For years, we’ve enjoyed a roast pork loin recipe titled “Roast pork loin with roasted apple compote” that was originally published in Barbara Kafka‘s cookbook “Roasting-A Simple Art“.
Much of Kafka’s book involves roasting at high heat – typically 500 degrees – and her recipe of coating the pork loin in mustard, salt and pepper at the start and then roasting with apples at that high temperature has always worked out well for us. Sometimes (depending upon how clean your oven is), roasting at that high a temperature can result in some smoking – so it takes some care.
On this Christmas Day, though, we’re trying some variations – something a bit different.
First, I decided to try brining the pork loin. Not a full 24-hours worth – because, in this case, I decided to brine it at about noon today – so it’ll only have about 5 hours of brining.
Brining is easy – start with a mixture of something like 2/3 cup of salt combined with 2/3 cup of sugar in steaming hot water (we have one of those faucet water heaters – so that’s easy!) along with some pepper. Cool it down (adding ice and some cold water seems to do that nicely) before putting the brine and the pork loin into the plastic freezer bag and putting everything into the refrigerator for a few hours.
Next, I decided to brown the pork loin roast before putting it into the oven. I like the bits of extra flavor that browning meat seems to generate. By browning the roast in our Le Creuset 6-3/4 Quart French Oven we can brown the meat and roast it in the same pot, minimizing cleanup. After browning and removing the roast, the apples, and shallots are placed into the pot with the roast then placed on top. Cover and into the oven it goes.
We just finished our Christmas dinner – and this dish was a hit! The pork, even with just a few hours of brining, was moist and not dry. The pork was ready earlier – only needing an additional 5 minutes after removing the top from the pot. We let it rest the full 15 minutes before carving – and it was just great. The apple/shallots/mustard/cream compote is the perfect semi-sweet complement to the pork!
Originally posted December 25, 2008.
Brine: 2/3 cup kosher salt, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp pepper
2-1/2 to 3 lb pork loin roast – tied with string
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 tart apples (Granny Smith, etc.), halved
4 shallots, peeled
1-2 sprigs rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup cream
1-1/2 Tbsp mustard
Prepare the brine by mixing sugar and salt with 1 cup of piping hot water. Add pepper. Add ice cubes and 2-3 cups additional water to cool down brine. Place pork loin roast in 1 gallon freezer bag, fill with brine mixture, and seal bag. Place bag in bowl and place into refrigerator until time to cook (no more than 24 hours).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove roast from brine and pat dry all around. Season with salt and pepper (or your favorite rub).
Place French Oven on high heat. Add olive oil, heat until shimmering. Sear the pork loin on all sides. Remove from heat and remove roast to plate.
Place the three halved apples cut side down into French Oven along with the shallots, rosemary and bay leaf. Place the roast on top of the apple mixture, cover the pot and place into the pre-heated oven.
Roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the lid and continue roasting until the roast’s internal temperature reaches 140 degrees – perhaps 10-15 minutes more.
Remove French Oven from oven, remove roast to cutting board, cover roast with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes.
Scoop out the apples and shallots into serving bowl. Deglaze the French Oven with a bit of white wine or brandy and add the apples back into the pot. Mix in the cream and the mustard and season to taste.
Carve the pork loin roast and serve with the apples/shallots compote.