Friday, January 8, 2016

Dinner, French style

I knew this would happen. I just knew after seeing The Hundred Foot Journey a while back that I'd not only want to live in France but I'd be dragging out the French cookbooks and reading the recipes, cooking the food, dreaming my dreams. As predicted, the first thing I wanted to do was bake crusty, artisan bread like those you might find in a boulangerie. Then I wanted to drag out all the herbs, smell them, taste them, crush them between my fingers and release the aromas. I want to chop up vegetables, saute the mirepoix and roast something fabulous.

A baker at heart, I also wanted to bake. Dessert, that is. Tarts and gateaux, profiteroles and eclairs, palmiers and macarons. Meringues filled with creme anglais and beautiful fruits. I have so many cookbooks with beautiful pastries and cakes and tarts, inspiring pictures, amazing techniques and ingredients, some complex, some very simple and homey. Of course, the typical French cook wouldn't bother with making such things. They would buy dessert and put their focus on the rest of the meal. 

I might be tempted to host a dinner party, French style. We would start out with a nice glass of wine and some light nibbles- olives, some nuts, maybe a dip and some crostini for dipping. Dinner would be spectacular, of course. Like the French, we would follow dinner with a salad course, and then that amazing dessert from the patisserie. Just because I'm not throwing a party right now doesn't mean I won't still make the perfect French dinner. We will just have leftovers. Lots of them.

Tonight's French dinner is utilizing a BIG shortcut- canned beans. While you certainly CAN soak, simmer and use dried beans, canned beans are a super quick way to get that long, slow cooked flavor and appeal with a minimum of fuss. I would normally choose cannellini beans for this dish but I grabbed the wrong cans so small white beans it is. I also highly recommend fresh herbs for this dish. I do use dried in a pinch but really, fresh rosemary that's just cut moments ago from the garden just cannot be beat with a beautiful piece of pork and those rich and hearty beans.

French-style Herbed Roast Pork
  • 1 2-3 lb boneless pork loin roast
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bottle dry white wine
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • one yellow onion, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 lb carrots, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • good sized sprig of thyme
  • small hand full parsley
  • a couple stems of rosemary
  • 2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
Preheat a large dutch oven. Rub the roast all over with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Sear the meat on all sides over high heat. Remove to a plate.
Add the onions and carrots to the pot. 

Cook, stirring every once in a while, until onions begin to sweat. Add the garlic; stir and cook one minute. Add the herbs and give them a good stir until they are fragrant. 

Add the entire bottle of wine to pot, scraping up the crusty browned bits on the bottom. Return the meat. Cover and roast at 300 degrees for about 3 hours, adding the beans for the last hour, and roasting uncovered.

If you don't want to use wine, just use some chicken broth or stock instead- it's just as delicious, about 3 cups is what you need.

To put this all together, carefully remove the roast from the pot and place on a deep platter. Cover with foil to keep warm. Scoop out the beans and vegetable with a slotted spoon, discarding the bay leaves, thyme and rosemary. Place the pot over high heat and cook down the pan drippings until reduced and flavorful; stir in a bit of butter if you like. 

Surround the roast with the beans and spoon a little sauce over the meat, pass the rest at the table. Serve with crusty bread for soaking up the sauce. The roast will be tender and juicy, the beans flavorful and substantial. Great food for chilly autumn days, or semi-chilly rainy gloomy summer days like today, and daydreaming......about a quaint village with cobblestone streets, shutter-clad windows and window boxes filled with flowers and herbs.....and me.