A friend of ours just came back from a week in the wilderness. He shipped himself out to the middle of nowhere in Utah and along with ten or so others spent a week torturing himself with no clean water, miles of hiking everyday, and whatever Mother Nature saw fit to throw at him. Definitely not my bag - I'm pretty sure you couldn't pay me to do any of it. But, since he survived, and since I was so damn proud of the guy, I thought a proper Sunday Dinner was in order. Nuts and berries NOT included.
I've mentioned before how much I love my slow cooker. It's a true marvel to me. You take a hunk of a cheaper cut of meat, you throw in a some simple ingredients, set the timer, and by dinner time you have something tender and scrumptious. If you don't have a slow cooker, I'd like to try to convince you to get one. They're not expensive (mine was just about $40), and although they take up room, they are easily stored on top of the china cabinet - just like ours.
Slow-Cooked Pork Loin
3lb boneless pork loin
1 sweet or yellow onion, sliced in rounds
6 cloves of garlic, thickly sliced
3 heaping tbs Dijon mustard
1 bunch of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 pint of mushrooms, sliced (I used Shitake)
1 1/2 cups beef broth
Salt & pepper
-Place onions in slow cooker, scatter half of the fresh thyme across onions.
-Place pork loin on top of onions & thyme, and using tip of a knife, cut little slits across the loin. Stuff garlic slices into slits. Scatter remaining garlic around pork.
-Salt & pepper the loin well. Spread mustard on top and sides of loin. Spread remaining thyme leaves over loin. Add mushrooms, bay leaf, and pour in broth around the loin
-Set on high for 1 hour, then on low for 6.
-Take out the loin, removing any loose fat from the bottom of the loin, and place on serving dish. Remove thyme and bay leaf then scatter onions and mushrooms around the loin.
-Pour off drippings into a pot. Spoon out about 1/2 cup of liquid into a smaller bowl and add 1 tbs of cornstarch - mix very well. Add cornstarch mixture back to pot, whisk well, and let heat until thickened. If you like a thicker gravy, repeat the cornstarch process.
Acorn is my favorite squash. This is a salty preparation, but you can also roast them with butter and brown sugar for something sweeter.
Rosemary-Roasted Acorn Squash
3 small acorn squash, cut into quarters, seeds removed
12 tsp butter
1/4 cup finely chopped rosemary (fresh or dried)
-Preheat oven to 425. Spray a baking dish with non stick spray or a spread a little olive oil.
-Place squash in dish, sprinkle with salt and chopped rosemary.
-Put 1 tsp of butter on each quarter. Roast for 40-45 minutes until flesh is cooked and nicely browned.
2 Brioche loaves, crusts removed, cut into about 1" cubes (you can also use Challah, but might only need 1 1/2 loaves of it)
3 cups half and half
2 whole extra large eggs
2 extra large egg yolks
1 vanilla bean
2/3 cup sugar
1 large pinch of salt
1 cup chocolate chips
Butter (for baking dish)
-Pour half and half into a small pot on stove top. Split the vanilla bean, scape out seeds into the pot, and add the entire bean as well. Heat until steaming and bubbles form at the edges, mixing occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool completely. If you don't have or can't find vanilla beans, skip this step and simply add 1 tbs of good quality vanilla extract to the half and half.
-Place rack in lower third of oven. Preheat 350. Butter a 9x13 baking dish, set aside.
-Whisk eggs, sugar, and salt until well combined. Remove the vanilla bean from the half and half, discard. Slowly add the half and half to the egg mixture, whisk well.
-Add bread to the buttered dish, then pour over the custard. Let the bread soak up the custard for about 10-15 minutes until well saturated.
-Sprinkle on the chocolate chips (I like using mini chips, but use whichever you have), then bake in oven for about 40-45 minutes or until bread is toasted, and custard is cooked.
-It is very important that you let this sit for a good 15 minutes before you cut into it. This lets the custard finish setting up and the bread pudding settle, (it will have puffed up in the oven then collapse slightly as it cools).