Mom’s Menu

Dinner party two last week was for one of Ben’s favorite professors, his wife, and our friends Brian and Liz. I’ve been on such a Suzanne Goin kick lately, but with Easter the day before I simply didn’t have time for a bunch of three day projects, so I consulted with Mom and decided to make a menu of her standbys.

To start I made a warm goat cheese salad, using a recipe from Epicurious. It uses panko instead of regular breadcrumbs, which makes the coating extra crispy. These needs to be made early in the day so they get a couple hours in the fridge; otherwise they will melt everywhere when you try to cook them. They get pretty fragile anyway, so handle them gently once they’ve been heated.

I cut up a big log of mild goat cheese and forced the pieces into nice rounds:

The rounds get dipped in egg whites, then the mixture of panko and herbs:
I made a variation on the salad dressing in the recipe (basically my usual vinaigrette, but I did microwave the oil and garlic as they suggested, which worked very well). A few minutes before we sat down to eat I cooked off the cheese, and while it was crisping up I dressed and served the salad and heated up some bread. The timing worked out really well, actually.
Unfortunately I had forgotten that the professor doesn’t eat cheese; Brian was kind enough to eat the extra round. I’m not the biggest goat cheese fan but this is really nice. Mild, creamy, and the little crispy coating is great.

For the main course I roasted red potatoes, steamed beans (dressed with a bit of olive oil and lemon juice) and made my mom’s grilled pork tenderloin. We ate this ate a lot of dinner parties when I was growing up, and it remains a favorite. I had never cooked tenderloin, and was grossed out by the process of cleaning the meat (the silverskin or whatever it’s called…well, yuck), but the marinade is easy and properly grilled tenderloin, tender and flavorful, is a real crowd pleaser.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary, from Kate’s Mom

2 pork tenderloins
2 T Dijon mustard
2 T honey (Note from Mom: I do a little less ‘cause honey can make marinade burn)
1 T fresh rosemary needles, diced
S & P to taste – make marinade salty
2 T olive oil

• Clean t-loins and butterfly; pat dry & lay in glass dish
• Combine mustard, honey, rosemary, s & p, and oil in glass measuring cup until it emulsifies
• Slather marinade over both sides of meat & marinate for 1 hour and up to overnight
• Grill over hot coals until just cooked – still pink – do not over cook!
• Let rest 5 minutes before slicing thinly, on the diagonal.

Note from Kate: Mom advises trimming the fat and skinny ends off the tenderloins and saving those for stir fry. That leaves a nice even tube of meat (gross), much easier to grill perfectly than if the thin and thick parts are still attached. I made 3 tenderloins for 6 people and we ate every scrap. To butterfly the tenderloins, after you’ve trimmed and cleaned them lay them out flat and put one hand on top of the meat. Using a sharp chef’s knife carefully cut into the middle of the side, cutting the tenderloin open but not all the way through. When you’re done you should have turned your tube of meat into a nice flat rectangle. Did that make any sense?

The finished plate looks a bit meager, but that’s because it’s mine and 1) I wasn’t too hungry; 2) I had just dropped most of the remaining beans on the floor due to a tongs malfunction.

Nothing about this dinner was complicated or time-consuming, but it was one of my favorites that I’ve made yet. I guess Mom really is onto something…(As if I didn’t know that already!)

For dessert I made yet another Beth Special, an apple crostata. If you aren’t familiar with them, crostatas are Italian fruit tarts. The dough is super easy and SUPER delicious—buttery, crispy and flaky—and you just pile the fruit in the middle, top it with a butter/sugar mixture, and pull the pastry up over the sides. It’s very rustic, less stressful than pie, and absolutely delicious. This is getting recipe-heavy, but you’ll thank me (and Mom) if you try this. It looks complicated but the directions are just detailed; the dough took 5 minutes to make:

Apple-Crisp Crostata – from Cucina Simpatica

Crostata Dough

.5 lb (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
2 Cups unbleached flour
.25 Cup superfine sugar
.5 teaspoon kosher salt
.25 Cup ice water

• This recipe works best with very cold butter. Cut the butter into .5” cubes; return to fridge for at least 10 minutes.
• Place flour, sugar, and salt in food processor (steel blade). Pulse a few times to combine.
• Add butter and toss quickly with your fingers to coat each cube with flour so the butter breaks apart and combines more evenly with the flour.
• Pulse 15 times; butter should be no smaller than small peas.
• With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Process only 10 seconds, stopping motor before the dough becomes a solid mass.
• I divide the dough into separate small Ziploc bags and form into flat round discs, about 11 oz. each.
• Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. Freeze for up to1 month. Thaw in fridge overnight.

Crostata Filling

11 oz. dough (.5 batch above)
.25 Cup unbleached flour
.25 Cup superfine sugar
.5 stick (4 T) cold unsalted butter
1.5 lbs (about 3 large) baking apples

• Roll dough into 11” circle, transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and return to fridge.
• Combine flour, sugar in a bowl. Blend in butter until mixture crumbles and holds together in irregular clumps.
• Peel, core, and slice apples into thin slices. Cover dough with apple slices, leaving a 1.5” border.
• Cover apples with the butter mixture and raise the dough border to enclose the sides of the tart, letting it drape gently over the fruit. Press down on the dough at the baking sheet, securing the sides and bottom. Gently pinch soft pleats that form from the draping.
• Brush dough edge with egg white and sprinkle with coarse sugar. (Note from Kate: I forgot to do this and it was fine.)
• Bake the tart at 350 for about 20 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are soft. Check the tart after 12 minutes; if the topping is browning too quickly, place a sheet of foil loosely over the top of the tart for the rest of the baking time.
• Cool the tart for about 10 minutes and serve warm.

Here’s the tart, right out of the oven:
And plated with some ice cream:
crostata plate

The best part? I have the other half of the dough in the freezer, ready for another time!

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