Holiday Dinner for the Slacker

Putting the "ate" in "procrastinate"

photo by Sarah Evans

It's the holidays, and you want to relax. Rest assured, your family and friends don't care. They just want to party, and they're looking at you like you are a member of the Donner Party. Never fear – just because you're lazy doesn't mean you can't pull off a holiday meal. We're sorry, but you're going to have to go to the grocery store.

If you have to feed more than a couple of people, it's important that you don’t over do it. It all boils down to simple recipes, fresh and relatively inexpensive ingredients, and having fun. The first item to consider is your protein. Don’t kill yourself trying to make something that demands a lot of technique. And don’t bust your wallet buying rack of lamb or filet mignon. Pork tenderloin and flank steak are two inexpensive cuts of meat, which are hard to overcook and undercook, respectively. They are also to versatile enough to go with a variety of flexible starches and vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, and asparagus.

Simple sauces and butters add a richness to any dish. There are thousands of sauces, but the easiest ones involve reducing wine and stock. Compound butters are even easier. They may sound fancy, but there's no quicker way to give your holiday dish something extra. Combine softened, unsalted butter with any ingredient you want (such as fresh herbs, shallots or even a bit of blue cheese), then roll the compound butter into a sausage shape and wrap in plastic and freeze.

With these tips, you could go buck wild in the kitchen with your own recipes, but we bet you want something easier. Below is a basic menu that allows for your own tastes and variations.

photo by Sarah Evans

Pork Tenderloin
Blackberry Red Wine Reduction
Mashed Sweet Potatoes

The recipes below serve four to six people, but easily easily be doubled for larger groups. It takes almost two hours from start to finish cooking alone, but there’s no harm in employing an interested friend or guest as your sous chef. The tenderloin, the reduction, and the sweet potatoes go well together, but are flexible. For example, the blackberry red wine reduction could go very well with beef, and the mashed sweet potatoes would be be nice with breaded pork chops. The most important thing is to keep it simple – sip a cocktail while you cook and have fun with it.

1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup blackberries
1 ½ cups red wine
1 cup veal stock
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
3 large sweet potatoes
2 pork tenderloins
Salt, pepper, chili flake and olive oil

Blackberry Red Wine Reduction

• Sweat shallot and garlic in saucepan on low heat until soft and lightly colored – about 15 minutes.
• Add blackberries and cook on medium-low heat for approximately 12 minutes until soft and juicy. Break apart with a wooden spoon.
• Add red wine and boil until reduced by 1⁄3.
• Add veal stock and boil until reduced by half.
• Strain reduction through a fine mesh strainer and return to a clean saucepan. Reduce for about five minutes.
• Whisk in 3 tablespoons butter a little at a time. Add a little cornstarch slurry to thicken the reduction if desired. Whisk continuously to avoid clumps.

Pork Tenderloin

• Rub pork tenderloin with salt, pepper and chili flake until covered. Cut tenderloin into halves if necessary to fit into the skillet.
• Sear all sides of the tenderloin on a well-oiled skillet, on medium-high heat until golden brown -about 10 minutes per side.
• Place the tenderloins in the oven at 325° for about 25 minutes.
• Remove from oven and check to make sure pork is cooked through (should have an internal temperature of at least 145° F). Cut into half inch slices.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

• Peel sweet potatoes and cut into thirds.
• Place the sweet potatoes in boiling water and cover until soft.
• Strain the sweet potatoes and place in large mixing bowl.
• Add heavy cream and butter, little by little, and whisk until you have a smooth, desired consistency.
• Add salt to taste.

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Holiday menus, pork tenderloin, sweet potatoes, compound butter, blackberry

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