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Cooking for a Holiday Crowd Made Easy (Peasy)
|ARA) - The holidays. A time for loads of family, gifts and good cheer. Unfortunately, the holidays also can be a huge headache when it comes to cooking a holiday dinner for a house filled with people. Plus, youíre probably sick to death of turkey and wish you could serve something a little different to your holiday guests. Hereís the thing: you can!
They call me the Naked Chef because I like to prepare easy, no-fuss meals. I reckon the same should go for holiday meals. The perfect holiday dinner can be prepared pretty easily, without a whole lot of extra steps -- especially when you have the right range to work with. Lucky for me, Amana has given me one of their new ranges, and it works just great. You should see it -- this range is the largest one for its size on the market, with 5.22 cubic feet of capacity -- which is large enough to let me prepare an entire holiday meal at once. Itís the size of Royal Albert Hall! On the outside, though, itís a standard 30-inch range so it fits perfectly in your kitchen with no problem. Itís also easy to use, which is terrific when your kitchen is crazy and overflowing with holiday guests. The U-shaped EasyRack oven rack keeps you from getting burned when taking out a pizza pan or cookie sheet, while the self-cleaning oven makes clean-up a piece of cake. Thereís also a warming drawer where I can heat up plates before serving the great meal. Brilliant.
Hereís one of my favorite holiday meals. Itís got it all -- a nice piece of pork, loads of veg and a tasty dessert. Thanks to my Amana range, I cooked the entire thing at once . . . and it was delicious.
Pork Loin with a Great Herby Stuffing
This pork recipe is great for holiday entertaining. You can serve it as a conventional roast, or let it cool, slice it and serve it as part of a buffet. Hereís what youíll need.
1/2 a pork loin, preferably the rib end, off the bone
1 small handful of rosemary leaves, picked
3 heaping teaspoons of fennel seeds
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound, 2-ounces sourdough or rustic bread
2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
1 small handful fresh sage leaves, ripped up
1 handful of pine nuts
Extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place your pork loin in front of you and score across the skin with a sharp knife about 1/2-inch deep and about 1/2-inch apart. Using a mortar and pestle, pound up the rosemary and fennel seeds with a tablespoon of salt -- bash the mixture up until really fine and then rub it into all the score marks on the pork. Remove the crusts from the bread and slice it up. I like to toast the bread in a toaster or on a griddle until lightly golden, as this gives the stuffing a really fantastic smoky flavor. While the bread is toasting, slowly fry the onions, garlic, sage and pine nuts in a little olive oil for 10 minutes, until the onions are sweet and soft. Season with salt and pepper, add the balsamic vinegar and put the mixture in a bowl. Rip your bread into pieces and add to the bowl. Squash everything together, really squeezing the onions into the bread. Have a taste -- it may need a little more seasoning. Put to one side and allow cooling.
Insert your knife into the eye meat of the pork loin and make a cavity for your stuffing. Pack in the stuffing, then roll the pork over and tie it with a few pieces of string. Place the pork on a roasting pan and cook in the oven for just over an hour, until crisp and golden or until pork reaches 160 degrees.
Now, as your pork begins cooking, you can prepare these terrific veg dishes. Once youíve prepared them, pop them in your range alongside the pork and allow everything to cook at once.
Stir-fried Savoy cabbage with garlic and Worcester sauce
This is a really simple and amazingly tasty thing to do with a Savoy cabbage. Worcester sauce (pronounced ĎWoosterí in England -- donít ask me why!) is worth looking for. You can find it in the States, but if itís not in a store near you try using a strong spicy steak sauce instead.
1 head of Savoy cabbage
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons of Worcester sauce
Cut your cabbage in half and cut out the stalk. Place the halves Ďcut sideí down on a chopping board and slice the cabbage up as finely as you can.
Heat a large flat low-sided pan or a wok and add the oil. When the oilís hot, add the garlic, fry for a few seconds until it turns light brown. Add the shredded cabbage and stir-fry for a minute coating all the pieces of cabbage in the garlicky oil.
Add the Worcester sauce, lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to stir-fry for another minute or two until the cabbage has wilted slightly and soaked up all the lovely sauce, but it should still have just a little crunch.
Wicked roast vegetables
Roast veg has never been so good! If you canít find parsnip, try using wedges of pumpkin instead.
4 medium size potatoes
2 red onions
A handful of garlic cloves
Some rosemary sprigs
Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Peel or scrub all the root vegetables and cut them in half, lengthways. Put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with salted water and place on the heat. Peel the onions, cut them into quarters and toss them with the carrots and parsnips in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper and spread out in a roasting tray. Cover tightly with foil and place in the pre-heated oven.
When the potatoes come to the boil, carefully lift them out and place in a colander to drain. After the vegetables have been in the oven for 30 minutes, take the tray out of the oven and take the foil off. Add the potatoes, garlic and rosemary and shake everything around a little. Return to the oven without the foil and roast for another 30 minutes or until cooked through and crispy brown.
Baked Pears Stuffed with Almonds, Orange and Chocolate in Flaky Pastry
Last, but not least, the holiday dessert. Hereís one your guests will come back for next year.
4 perfectly ripe pears
1-1/2 ounces blanched almonds
5-1/2 ounces butter
1-3/4 ounces sugar
Zest of 1 orange
Seeds of one vanilla bean
1-1/2 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate
16 sheets of filo dough, defrosted if frozen
Carefully peel the pears and carve out each core from the bottom. This will give you a hole about 1-1/2 inches deep. Put the pears to one side.
Put your blanched almonds into a food processor and whiz up until really fine (or bash with a rolling pin). Put them in a bowl with 5 tablespoons of the butter, the sugar and the zest of the orange. Add the vanilla seeds to the bowl, then mix everything up until nice and smooth. Bash up the chocolate into small pieces, adding these to the mixture as well. Divide into 4 balls and put to the side.
Melt the rest of the butter in a little pan for brushing onto the filo dough. Dampen a clean dish towel and wring it out -- use this to cover the unused filo dough so it doesnít dry out. Working with one piece of filo dough at a time, spread it out in front of you and brush the sheet with melted butter. Lay the next sheet of filo dough on top and repeat until you have four brushed layers of filo dough. Cut the layered pastry down to an 8-by-8-inch square.
Take a pear and one ball of almond mix and fill the hole in the base, packing the excess filling around the base of the pear. Place in the middle of the filo square, then gather up the pastry around the stalk and pinch tight. You can leave it looking nice and rustic and flopping all over the place, as this will look really good when itís cooked. Repeat this process with the other pears. Brush the outside of the pastry with any remaining melted butter, then bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 25 to 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden and crisp. Serve with the rest of your lovely holiday meal.
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