Thursday, January 1, 2009

Pork Fat Rules!




Happy New Year!  I hope you had a delicious New Year's Eve and Day.

Astute readers will recall that my traditional New Year's Day menu calls for Hoppin' John (the recipe was posted in my December 26 blog). And true to my word, I did whip up a batch today.  I was going to make this yesterday (New Year's Eve) just in case I wasn't "up to the challenge" today, but our New Year's Eve plans got re-routed due to the weather and I didn't get to it yesterday.  So after a lazy start this morning I set about to get this on the stove. 

Non-meat eating readers should skip the next paragraph and jump to the salad...although the title of this post was probably a pretty good indication of what was to come.

Yesterday during the snow storm, we ran around gathering up the remaining ingredients - some of which you see pictured above. There are a couple of wonderful butchers in the area (Haledon Pork Store and Stefan and Son Butcher in Clifton) and that's where we headed to get the andouille and smoked ham.  In addition, we bought a small piece of smoked, cooked bacon on the bone to saute the onions and celery in. These meats were incredible and really gave the Hoppin' John a wonderful, smoky flavor.  The house smelled di-vine!  There really is nothing like the aroma of sizzling pork fat cooking on the stove.

All we needed to go along with the Hoppin' John was a nice green salad.  I had some lovely Bosc pears that were just perfect for a pear, pecan salad-type thing. I found a great recipe (see below) on the web. I didn't have the goat or blue cheese called for and I wasn't running out for it in 17 degree weather. It also called for endive - wasn't going out for that either. The salad was great without either of these items.

We served a hearty Zinfandel with dinner (7 Deadly Zins), some delicious Polish rye bread from Stefan and Sons, and for dessert an Almond Banana Bread (thanks to Joy the Baker (www.joythebaker.com). When I was rooting around yesterday for a recipe, I really wasn't thinking of needing a dessert for New Year's Day. I just wanted to use up the four very ripe bananas on my counter (rather than freezing them, which is what I usually do with our over-ripe bananas). Love this recipe - a) no mixer required, b) it uses melted butter so you don't need to wait for the butter to come to room temp, c) it calls for bourbon. Need I say more?  Recipe below.

May 2009 bring you health, happiness, and fabulous food!

Pear, Endive, and Caramelized Pecan Salad

2 endives
a nice handful of green salad medley, such as mesclun or mache (I used Bibb)
2 red Anjou pears
3.5 oz fresh goat cheese or blue cheese
1/3 C pecan halves
2 TB butter
dash of cinnamon
1 TB honey

Vinaigrette

1.5 TB balsamic vinegar
3 TB walnut oil
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 385F.  Take a non-stick frying pan and melt 1 TB butter. Coat the nuts in it and add 1 TB honey. Continue to coat for 1-2 minutes. Place pecans on a baking sheet and cook for about 10 minutes in oven, checking to be sure they don't turn too dark. Place on a cooling rack.

Wash, peel, core the pears. Cut in quarters and then cut once more in half. Coat them gently in cinnamon. Heat 1 TB butter in non-stick frying pan and cook the pears over high heat for 1-2 minutes each side. Remove and keep on the side.

Wash the endive and salad greens. Dice the cheese. Remove the cone base of the endive and their yellow leafy parts. Cut them in long sticks. Place the endive sticks and salad in a bowl and season with the vinaigrette. Toss well. 

Take individual plates and assemble your salad. Lay the salad greens on the plate, then add a few slices of pear, the pecans, and cheese. Serve immediately.

Almond Banana Bread

3-4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 C melted butter (or in a 1/3 measuring cup measure out half almond oil and half melted butter)
3/4 C brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 t vanilla
1 TB bourbon
1 t baking soda
pinch of salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
1-1/2 C flour
3/4 C coarsely chopped almonds

No mixer required. Preheat oven to 350F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter (and almond oil if using it) into the smashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla, and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour, mix. Add the almonds and stir until just incorporated. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.



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