Creamy Beet Potato Gratin

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The combination of beets and potatoes have been a favorite ever since I had a creamy potato salad with beets in the Cayman Islands. I recreated this salad in a post last year.

This gratin shows off beets and potatoes both, baked in cream with cheese and a little rosemary. I think this would be a great side dish any time of year! And look how pink it turned out!

From the look of the print on this copied, cut and pasted recipe, I most likely got it from a library cookbook. When I couldn’t afford cookbooks I would check them out from the library and copy recipes I liked. I never thought to record the sources, sadly.

I’m so glad I finally made this gratin. It’s fabulous, and pretty!

Creamy Beet and Potato Gratin

3 pounds beets, unpeeled (I used 6)
1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, unpeeled (I used 3)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated Gruyère
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup fine dried bread crumbs, preferably homemade

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the beets on a steamer rack over boiling water, cover, and steam until tender when pierced with a knife, 30-40 minutes. Remove from the rack and set aside. Steam the potatoes separately in the same way; they should also be tender in 20-30 minutes.

When the beets and potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 1/4” thick slices, still keeping them separated. A friend taught me how to remove beet peels using a paper towel years ago, and it works so well.

Select a gratin dish just large enough to hold three layers of the sliced vegetables. Grease it with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Arrange half of the beets on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 each of the Parmesan and Gruyere, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Dot with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

Arrange all of the potatoes in a layer atop the beets. Sprinkle with half to the remaining cheeses, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Dot with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

Layer the remaining beet slices on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, salt, pepper, and rosemary.

In a vessel with a spout, combine the cream and milk and pour the mixture evenly over the top. Strew the bread crumbs over the surface and dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

Place in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, 30-40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm, scooping out portions with a spoon.

Pair this fabulous gratin with a roasted chicken, or shrimp skewers. Obviously, I roasted chicken.

What a fabulous combination. I think any grilled meat would be good, as well as white fish and shrimp.

Monte Cristo Crêpes

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A Monte Cristo sandwich is a ham and cheese sandwich with a layer of strawberry jam, that is then egg-dipped and pan-fried in butter. The sweet and savory flavors, along with the melty cheese and crispy bread are heavenly.

I’ve only had a Monte Cristo once, but I remember it well. My stepfather had come to Santa Barbara, California, where I was attending college, and he took me to lunch at a well known Mexican restaurant downtown called El Paseo, which was housed in a popular fiesta venue known for its retractable ceiling. I found this photo on Pinterest!

How I came to choose the Monte Cristo sandwich that day is beyond me, but I loved the flavor combinations.

The traditional Monte Cristo sandwich recipe is generally the following:
Firm sandwich bread slices
Sliced Swiss cheese
Jambon de Bayonne or other good thinly-sliced ham
Strawberry jam (not preserves) or red currant jelly
Mayo mixed with some whole-grain mustard
Eggs whisked for dipping
Butter for pan frying

The Monte Cristo is always sliced in half before serving, so the beautiful layers show, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. This photo is from Bon Appetit, although it doesn’t show the layers.

Thanks to general pandemic googling, I came across Monte Cristo Crêpes from Serious Eats, by Morgan Eisenberg, WOW! I was so excited to make these. From the recipe’s creator, whose blog is Host the Toast: “It’s a masterpiece of the sweet-and-savory genre, and it turns out it’s just as good in crepe form.”

Monte Cristo Crêpes
adapted by Morgan Eisenberg

1/2 cup strawberry jam (not preserves)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
6 basic crêpes, unsweetened
6 slices Havarti cheese
Grated Gruyere, about 6 ounces
12 thin slices deli ham*
1/3 milk
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar, to dust
Assorted berries, for garnish (optional)

In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk together jelly and mustard. Spread a thin, even layer of the jelly mixture over each of 6 crêpes. Warm first if necessary.

Top each crêpe with 1 slice of each cheese and then layer the ham on top of the cheese.

Sprinkle some grated Gruyere around the outside of each crêpe to help everything to hold together – about 1 ounce each. I used my microwave on a very low setting to just get the cheese warm and slightly melted in order to hold the crêpes together before continuing with the recipe.

Roll the crepe up tightly and and set seam-side down. Press gently. Repeat for remaining crepes.

In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, egg yolk and salt. Have a non-stick skillet over medium heat, starting with about 2 tablespoons of butter melting. Using your fingers, briefly dip a crêpe into the egg mixture. Allow excess to drip off and transfer to the skillet, seam-side down.

Fry crepes until golden all over, turning once. Everything is already cooked, so you’re just looking for some nice browning.

Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining crepes, frying one or two at a time and adding butter as needed.

Serve any remaining jam-Dijon mixture.

Dust crepes with powdered sugar, if desired.

Serve warm with berries. See the beautiful layers?

I might have made these extra cheesy, because the cheese “juice” as my husband calls it, just poured out of these!

But so did the cheese, which was lovely.

I have a lot of experience with crêpes, but with all of the ooziness, I didn’t think they looked very pretty free-form. I might make these again more in casserole form, even though I detest that word! I also think larger diameter crepes would have been easier to manage.

*Since I used Serrano ham, which is similar to prosciutto, I only used 6 slices total.

Aligot

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Recently I was looking something up on the internet, and came across photos of melted cheese. That is exactly the way to get my attention – melted cheese. It didn’t look quite like raclette or fondue, and I read that it was Aligot. Why have I never heard of this?

Aligot (ah-lee-go) is a specialty of the Auvergne region of central France. It’s not melted cheese. It’s a potato purée beaten with cheese to make a stretchy mixture. Stretchy indeed!

The following photo is from the French cooking blog Papilles et Pupilles.

From a New York Times article, “somewhere between buttery mashed potatoes and pure melted cheese lies aligot, the comforting, cheese-enhanced mashed-potato dish.”

The recipe I’m using is from the book, The Food of France – a journey for food lovers, published in 2001. I was gifted this book but used it mostly as a coffee table book because it’s so beautiful. This recipe and the one from Papilles et Pupilles are very similar.


Aligot
Slightly adapted
Printable recipe below

1 1/2 pounds floury potatoes, cut into even-sized pieces
4 ounces butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 ounces cream
10 ounces Cantal, grated

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 20-30 minutes, or until tender. I weighed both the potatoes and cheese to make sure I had the correct ratio, not knowing if it was that critical or not.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat and add the garlic.

Mash the potatoes using a ricer or food mill; don’t use a food processor or they will become fluent.

Place the riced potatoes in the saucepan over gentle heat and add the cream.

Mix together well and then add the cheese, handful by handful, beating vigorously with each addition.

Once the cheese has melted the mixture will be stretchy.

Season with salt and pepper before serving.

It starts out a little lumpy, but indeed, with serious stirring, the potato and cheese mixture becomes smooth.

This dish is meant to be a “backdrop” side dish, so yes, stronger aged cheeses like a cave-aged Gruyere can be used, but I think it’s important to stick with authenticity. By using the proper cheese, aligot is similar to a plain polenta, that lets the sausages, or daube, or coq au vin “shine”.

Serve as quickly as you can, because it does stiffen when cooling.

I served the aligot with sausage and a lightly dressed green salad.

Aligot is basically cheesy mashed potatoes on crack! Crazy good. And a fabulous cheese that I’d never tried before. So much excitement on this end!!!

And now I need to travel to the Auvergne region of France to see what else I’ve been missing.

 

 

Burnt Flour Soup

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While growing up, my mother would occasionally make a simple soup by browning butter and adding flour that burned in the butter. I didn’t know this was how the soup was made as a youngster, I just knew I loved it. She’d always told me it was her mother’s recipe.

Many years ago I asked my mother for the recipe, and she wrote it down. It began like this:

My mother was born and raised in the city of Nancy, in the Provence of Lorraine in northeastern France. Unfortunately, because of the proximity to Germany, my mother experienced WWII first hand as an adolescent, even to the extreme of her family’s home overtaken by Nazi officers.

It was this reason that, after hearing my mother’s literal war stories, especially when it came to the lack of food, I always presumed that her mother’s burnt soup recipe was a classic “peasant” recipe, made with what little butter and flour could be purchased or bartered for at the black market.

Recently I was looking at cookbook called Savoie – The Land, People, and Food of the French Alps, which was published in 1989. (I bought the book after visiting the Savoie and Haute-Savoie regions of France, where I first discovered some of my favorite stinky cheeses, like Reblochon and Raclette.)

But there it was in the cookbook – Burned Flour Soup.

The author, Madeleine Kamman, wrote that the “soup is probably of Germanic origin since it is also a specialty of the southern Alsace and the area of Basel and several other cantons of Switzerland.”

Because Eastern France borders Germany, Switzerland, as well as Italy, it’s probably impossible to pinpoint the exact origin of burned flour soup. It’s a given that it was a peasant recipe, but obviously had a wider range than my mother’s home kitchen in Nancy.

The photo on the left shows the province of Lorraine, the one on the right, Savoie.

I recently asked my mother about the soup, and all that she could remember is that her mother made it.

The cookbook recipe is more involved than what my mother made when I was growing up; I don’t mind the upgrade of bacon and cheese! Here is the recipe from the cookbook.

Soupe À La Farine Brûlée
Or Burned Flour Soup

5 ounce slab bacon, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 1/2 pounds onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 quarts hot water or broth
1 teaspoon Maggi seasoning
Salt
Pepper
1 cup light cream
1/2 pound Tomme, or Gruyère

In a large sauté pan, render the bacon cubes slowly; let them color to a nice golden without crisping. When the bacon is ready, remove it to a plate.

In the bacon fat, slowly sauté the chopped onions until mellow and brown. Mix the bacon into the onions.

In another saucepan, heat the butter well. Add the flour and cook slowly – at least 20 minutes – until nice and dark brown (two shades deeper than a hazelnut shell).

Whisk in the hot water or broth, bring to a boil, and pour over the onions and bacon.

Add Maggi seasoning, salt, and pepper. Simmer approximately 45 minutes, or until tasty and reduced to 5 cups.

Add the cream and mix well.

Serve in hot plates or bowls with a dish of cheese slices “for your guests to help themselves.”

The tomme is to be slivered into the soup.

The Tomme really adds something to the soup. I think I prefer it over Gruyere.

Sadly, though, this is not my mother’s soup. It’s quite different, even though it’s “better” with the upgrades.

The recipe could easily be made with fewer steps, but it was fun to make.

Fresh and dried mushrooms would be an incredible addition, sautéed along with the onions.

 

 

Cabbage Rolls, Deconstructed

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I am completely aware that the term “deconstructed” is overused these days, but that’s exactly what innocently came to mind when I first thought about this recipe.

Cabbage rolls have always been a favorite of mine – mostly because of all the varieties of stuffings potentially hiding inside. Ground pork with rice and raisins, reminiscent of dolma, or sausage rolled in cabbage, smothered in red sauce – all delicious, comforting, and reliable.

There’s nothing tedious or challenging about making cabbage rolls, but it’s easy to run out of the nice big cabbage leaves.

So I was staring at a cabbage the other day, and thought I could simply parboil the cabbage, and create a layered “casserole” of cabbage and sausage. But I also needed a white sauce and cheese.

I not only was thinking of traditional cabbage rolls, but also a recipe I made which was bacon and mushrooms in béchamel and wrapped in cabbage leaves – more of a side dish than a meal, and deliciously rich.

So here’s what I did, combining the components of both recipes.

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls
printable recipe below

1 large head of white cabbage, about 3 pounds
1-2 tablespoons oil or bacon fat
2 pounds Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground pork
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Approximately 4 cups of bechamel, double this recipe
Grated Gruyère, about 16 ounces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Have a large pot of slightly salted water heating on the stove. Slice the cabbage in half and remove the core.

When the water comes to a boil, add the cabbage halves and keep them submerged. I used a plate with a weighted lid.

Cook the cabbage for about 6-7 minutes, or until the leaves soften a bit. Place the cabbage in a colander to drain and cool. When you can handle the leaves, separate them slightly and let them drip dry on a dish towel or paper towels.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage, pork and onion over medium-high heat, along with some oil, until barely any pink shows; don’t overcook.

Add the fennel seeds and white pepper. Taste for salt.

Lightly grease a 9 x 13″ baking dish.

Begin with adding cabbage leaves to the bottom of the dish.

Next add one-fourth of the sausage mixture, topped by one cup of bechamel, and sprinkle with about 4 ounces of grated cheese.

Repeat these layers three times or, if your baking dish is shallower, form only three layers, using thirds of the sausage mixture, bechamel, and cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Serve with some buttered potatoes for a really hearty meal!

One could certainly add celery, carrots, and parsley to the meat mixture.

Or, go a different direction with seasoning the meat component to make it Italian-inspired. There are so many options.

note: This deconstructed cabbage roll casserole would be just as good with a red sauce instead of a cheesy white one, and definitely less caloric, if you worry about that sort of thing.

 

 

 

Mushroom Toasts

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My readers know that, maybe because of my advanced age, or perhaps because I’ve always been on the stubborn side, food trends turn me off. But I do know that stubbornness can get in the way of experiencing good food.

Case in point – avocado toast. Perhaps avocado toast didn’t excite me much because avocados are my biggest source of protein, not being a huge meat eater. I didn’t need to serve them on grilled bread to appreciate the wonderful food that they are.

Until I did have avocado toast, that is, and I have to say that they were thoroughly enjoyable!

Recently online I saw a headline for the “new” avocado toast – mushrooms on toast. I immediately envisioned sautéed mushrooms that I top my husband’s steaks with occasionally.

So that’s what I did to make my version of jump-on-the-bandwagon mushroom toast.

Mushroom Toast

Bread slices, like sourdough or French
Olive oil
Mushrooms, sliced, about 1 pound
Butter, about 1/4 cup
Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
2 cloves garlic, minced
Cognac or brandy, optional
Garlic pepper
Dried thyme
Salt
Pepper
8 ounces Crème fraiche

Brush some olive oil on the bread slices and toast them, either over fire, in a skillet, or in the oven. They should be crispy. Set them aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over fairly high heat until bubbling, then add the mushrooms.

Keep the heat high, and stir only occasionally while getting some color on the mushrooms. If they stick at all, add a bit more butter, but keep the heat high. This keeps the mushrooms from requiring an inordinate amount of fat.

Once there is good caramelization on the mushrooms, turn the heat to medium, and add the garlic. Stir well for a few seconds.

Immediately add a splash or two of cognac and let it ignite. Shake the pan until the flames extinguish.

Turn the heat to the lowest setting and cook until most of the liquid has cooked off, if there is any.

At that point, season the mushrooms to taste.

Remove the skillet from the heat, let it cool a bit, then stir in the crème fraiche. Heat through.

Place some mushrooms on the toasts using a small, slotted spoon, then pour a spoonful of cream over the top. Serve immediately.

If you want decadence, sprinkle a little finely grated Gruyere, Fontina, or Parmesan on top of the toasts.

Top the toasts with some fresh thyme, parsley, or chives, if available.

If you’re serving these for company, don’t put too many out; they must be warm. There’s nothing much worse than cold mushrooms.

Not only would these be good for hors d’oeuvres, they would be wonderful served with soup. So much better than plain bread!

Verdict: These toasts are fabulous, and any mushroom lover will love these. The toasts would work with finer chopped mushrooms, or even a duxelles.

Flamiche

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A flamiche is somewhat related to a quiche, but with the addition a a generous amount off caramelized onions. It is good.

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Unfortunately, I can not give you the source for the recipe, because it was from the days when I copied recipes out of cookbooks that I borrowed from the library.

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I changed the recipe by adding cheese to the quiche. Why not?!!

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Served with a green salad, it will definitely please you for lunch or a light dinner. You could always add bacon or ham to it.

Flamiche

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces Gruyère
Nutmeg, white pepper, salt

Baked pie shell

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the onion slices and sprinkle on the sugar. Sauté the onion slices until they are caramelized. This should take about 20 minutes, trying not to burn the onion.

Set aside the onions to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, and cream. Add your desired amounts of seasoning; I used 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper, approximately 1/3 teaspoon of nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

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Place your pre-baked pie crust pan on a jelly roll pan. Place the grated cheese on the bottom. Top with the caramelized onions.

Add the seasoned egg and cream mixture.

Bake the flamiche for about 40 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 325 degrees and continue cooking for another 20 minutes. You can test its doneness by using a cake tester, which should come out clean.

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Let the flamiche rest for a bit, then cut into slices and serve.

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It’s good warm or at room temperature.

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You could use a dip-dish pie pan; the one I used is quite shallow.

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A Winter Potato Salad

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I absolutely love cooking with the seasons. It seems like the only way to cook, in spite of our modern American grocery stores supplying us year round with just about every fruit and vegetable that we demand. I’m so stubborn about this, I can’t even remember when I last bought a tomato, although I do purchase cherry tomatoes in the winter.

The concept is smart – stemming from the peasant way of preparing food, which involved using what you raised and what grew around you, whether you lived amongst olive groves in Italy, or on the coast of Greece. But it’s also a more fun way to cook. Cooking the same dishes using the same ingredients for me would get so boring month after month. It’s also less expensive using in-season produce.

I was recently at a hip, small-plates and shared-plates restaurant, and one of the vegetable offerings was asparagus. I, of course, had to make a comment about it not being in season, which was most likely met with silent snickers. In the end, I was outvoted. And it was terrible. Well, not terrible, but you could tell it wasn’t just-picked springtime asparagus. It may have been grown in a greenhouse nearby, but there’s still a difference.

In any case, because I cook seasonally, I bring you a winter version of potato salad. It contains red potatoes, Polish sausage, and Gruyere with a creamy vinaigrette, served at room temperature.

A few months ago I published a late summer potato salad with corn, because corn was abundant. I love creating seasonally different potato salads. Why not?!! In fact, they can end up being a meal, instead of a side.

So this is what I did.

Winter Potato Salad with Kielbasa and Gruyere

Salad:
8 small red potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces Polska Kielbasa, or Polish Sausage, sliced
1 large shallot, diced
8 ounces diced Gruyere, at room temperature

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Creamy dressing:
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon yogurt, sour cream, or half and half
Approximately 1/3-1/2 cup prepared dressing*

To begin, quarter the potatoes and steam them until they’re just tender, or about 8 minutes. This, of course, depends on the size of your potato pieces. You just don’t want them so soft that they fall apart.

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Let the potatoes cool in the steamer basket. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, half and half or whatever product you want to make the vinaigrette creamy.

Then whisk in the vinaigrette. You can make it creamier, with a smaller amount of the vinaigrette, or stronger with more. It’s up to you.

Pour the olive oil into a skillet over high heat and brown the sausage slices on both sides. Using a slotted spoon, place the sausage in a small bowl and set aside.

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Just for fun and flavor, I gently tossed the cooling potatoes in the remaining oil in the skillet. Then I placed them in a medium-sized bowl.

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Add about 1/4 cup of the creamy vinaigrette to the potatoes and toss gently. Set the bowl aside so the potatoes can cool further. However, if later you see that the potatoes have absorbed all of the vinaigrette, add a little more, or a little olive oil and toss gently.

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When the potatoes have completely cooled, add the sausage and about half of the diced shallot and stir gently. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Regarding the Gruyere, you can toss it in to the potato-sausage mixture, or sprinkle the dice on top just before serving, which is what I did. Just don’t add the cheese too early or it will melt. The texture of the room temperature cheese is a nice texture compliment with the potatoes and sausage.

Then sprinkle the remaining shallots and some parsley, if desired, for color.

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* The vinaigrette I used I’d prepared with olive oil and a combination of apple cider and balsamic vinegars. It also contained a little Dijon mustard, which goes so well when sausage is involved. I don’t typically toss any kind of salads with balsamic vinegar, because of the dark brown color; I tend to offer balsamic on its own. However, because the balsamic was cut with the apple cider vinegar, plus the mayo and half and half, it wasn’t too brown.

Festive Pork Loin

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This pork loin isn’t festive in that it’s holiday-oriented, it’s just festive because it’s a perfect dish for a celebration. The more correct name would be Moscato-Braised Pork Loin with Prosciutto and Gruyère.

The recipe came from the book Rotis, by Stephane Reynaud. I had previously purchased his cookbook Barbecue & Grill, and enjoyed it, so I decided to try another one of his books. He’s quite the prolific cookbook writer if you check him out on Amazon. He has one book called Tripe.

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In any case, I’ve bookmarked many recipes from Rotis, and decided to make this pork loin first. It’s prepared quite simply – browned and braised along with white port. I couldn’t find white port, so I substituted a syrupy moscato I’ve used in sangrias, called Electra, by Quady Vineyards.

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I also really liked the addition of bacon and Comté in this roast, but American bacon isn’t the same as the European bacon, so I substituted Prosciutto. Canadian bacon would probably be a more exact substitution. Furthermore, I used Gruyère in place of the Comté.

The presentation is very pretty. It would be a good dish for company if you use an in-the-oven temperature probe. Then there’s just a melting of the cheese and you’re ready to serve.

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Moscato-Braised Pork Loin with Prosciutto and Gruyere
Adapted from Rotis by Stephane Reynaud

4 tablespoons bacon fat, divided
2 purple onions, thinly sliced into rings
Pork loin, approximately 2 pounds 10 ounces
Salt, pepper
7 ounces Moscato, or any dessert wine
6 slices Prosciutto
12 ounces Gruyère, sliced into 6 pieces
Thyme, fresh or dried

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

First, sauté the onion rings in 2 tablespoons of bacon fat over medium heat in a large skillet until they’re caramelized. Set them aside.

Next, have your pork loin close to room temperature. Trim a little of the fat if necessary. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in a roasting pan over high heat. Have your ventilation on. Roast the pork loin on one side. Then turn over and sear the other side until well browned.

I also brown the “sides.” After all the browning is complete, pour in the Moscato.

Place the roasting pan in the oven. Use an oven probe if you have one, and set it for 145 degrees. This took about an hour, but I would use a thermometer to prevent overcooking.

About 4 times during this hour I basted the pork with the ever-reducing Moscato jus.

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At the point where the thermometer registers 145 degrees, remove the pork from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes. Have your slices of cheese and Prosciutto handy.

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Using a sharp knife, cut into the pork in 6 evenly-spaced crosswise slices, about 2/3 down.

Stuff the prosciutto into the openings.

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Then stuff the sliced cheese, and top everything with the caramelized onion rings.

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Return to the oven until the cheese melts, which took about 15 minutes.

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Remove from the oven, place the pork on a cutting board, and drizzle on any remaining jus from the roasting pan.

Let the pork rest for at least ten minutes, and then cut the 7 slices of pork loin for serving.

Because of the more involved recipe of this pork loin, I served it simply with steamed Brussels sprouts.

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Make sure the serving of pork includes some Prosciutto, Gruyère, and onions. Sprinkle the servings with fresh or dried thyme, and add a little more black pepper.

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note: The above doesn’t show the pork quite like it was when I first prepared the serving on the plate, because I had to keep microwaving the cheese to get it to re-melt for the photos! It was a cold evening, and I guess I just wasn’t fast enough with the camera. Plus it had already gotten dark outside; lesson learned. But if you don’t allow pork to cook beyond 155 degrees, it will be moist, and slightly pink.

A Chopped Salad

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The first time I learned about a chopped salad, it was because of Wolfgang Puck. I don’t know if this is fact or fiction, but in my cooking lifetime, he was the chef with whom I first associated the concept of a chopped salad. Coarsely chopped deliciousness, topped with a vinaigrette. Oh, and with cheese!

I only have only one of his cookbooks; he wasn’t a chef I admired greatly, but I didn’t have anything against him, either. He popularized pizzas way back when, and was one of the first to fuse cuisines, like French and Asian.

Once on our way to Hawaii, my family spent the night in Los Angeles, and we went to Spago for dinner, which was his first restaurant. And that’s where I had my first chopped salad. For reasons unbeknownst to me, that restaurant closed, so I feel lucky to have had that dining experience. But he still has restaurants everywhere, endorses products, and seems to be pretty active on television as well. So bravo to him for his tenacity!

So, what is a chopped salad? The one I remember having was crunchy, because of endive and crispy salad greens. Plus it contained lots of different similarly-sized pieces of vegetables, either fresh or blanched, and also feta cheese crumbles. It’s the perfect salad to play with, because the ingredient options are basically endless.

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So for my chopped salad today, I’m using endive, radicchio, raw zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and gruyere, for a more chewy cheese option than feta.

For my vinaigrette, I’m including parsley and basil. Easy and fresh. A perfect salad for late spring and summer.

A Chopped Salad
Inspired by Chef Wolfgang Puck

Romaine lettuce, chopped
Endive, chopped
Zucchini, chopped
Cherry tomatoes, because those are the highest quality in existence right now, sliced in half
Gruyere

Vinaigrette
Apple cider vinegar
Olive Oil
Dollop of Greek yogurt, if you want a creamy vinaigrette
Fresh garlic cloves
Fresh parsley
Fresh basil
Salt

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To make the salad, toss all of the ingredients into a serving bowl. I have not listed an exact recipe, because the ratio of vegetables is completely up to you.

I’ve had chopped salads at restaurants, where the ingredients were very finely chopped. And those were good as well. You just don’t get the same crunch as you do with larger pieces. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

If you are throwing this salad together ahead of time, I would add the tomatoes at the last minute, or just leave them whole.

For the vinaigrette: In a small blender, add an equal amount of vinegar as olive oil, the garlic, herbs, and salt. Blend, and then add the desired amount of yogurt. Blend again until smooth.

Just before serving, pour in the desired amount of vinaigrette and toss the salad. I’m constantly writing “desired amount” because I like very vinegary vinaigrettes, and I also like a lot of vinaigrette in my salads. Many people do not!

chop5

Save any remaining vinaigrette and refrigerate.

note: Think about all of the fun ingredients that can be used in a chopped salad. Protein like chicken cubes, pieces of shrimp, or avocado. Different veggies, of course, croutons, and even chick peas. You could also make a vinaigrette containing goat cheese, so you get that flavor, without the crumbles. So many choices!