The menu Tomato Ice Cold Braised Pork With Prunes Cold Broccoli Mimosa Rich Baking Powder Biscuits Fresh Blackberry-Currant Tart
The dishes in this "cold" meal have a range of temperatures that contribute almost as much contrast as do their flavors and textures.
The tomato ice is a refreshing beginning. Tomatoey, slightly tart and smoothed by cream cheese and egg whites, it is the best of all the recipes for this dish that I have tried. I serve it in flat champagne glasses, either in small balls formed with the Italian scoops that appeared in kitchen shops a couple of years ago, or in one large ball made with an ice cream scoop. The rounds of ice are garnished with fresh basil sprigs to suggest fresh tomatoes.
The coldness of this frozen soup nicely bounces off the warmth of the biscuits. And the buttery egginess of the biscuits adds substance without heaviness to the icy first course. The biscuit are equally successful with the main course, cold loin of pork slices studded with the pink of prosciutto or smoked ham which lards the meat. The slices of pork marching down the center of a large serving platter, surrounded by a dark madeira-rich jelly and plumped prunes, make a festive presentation.
At first I resisted broccoli, as it is a winter vegetable. But then I gave in because the broccoli in the stores is so fresh and pretty, and its bright green crunchiness and assertive flavor make perfect foils for the pork. Then, by dressing the broccoli in a mimosa (chopped hard-cooked eggs) mixed with fresh herbs, it becomes a summer dish. The broccoli is brought to room temperature to help the flavor.
The tart for dessert, which is best lukewarm, was inspired by magnificent baskets of blackberries an currants at the Farm Women's Market in Bethesda. Unlike raspberries, which for me are to be eaten with a smidgeon of sugar and lots of cream and no other fancying up, blackberries and currants ask to be cooked, although not too much. The tart is one I fussed into existence, using a Louisette Bertholle recipe as a base. The circles of purple-black blackberries surrounded by circles of bright red currants make a tart that is showier than it deserves to be, considering how easy it is to put together.
An ice cream maker produces a smoother ice with far less fuss than freezing in ice cube trays, beating and refreezing. I use an attachment to one of my machines, but so many ice cream makers are on the market that it would be hard not to find one within anyone's price range. And then if you have it, you tend to use it, or at least I do. If you use egg whites you have kept frozen, remember to put a couple of them into a bowl to defrost a few hours before you start the ice.
The boneless pork loins I look for are long, narrow and tightly rolled. (I also look for them on sale and put them in the freezer for later.) It is amazing how much mileage you can get from a relatively small amount of meat by slicing it thin. Of course, this is much easier to do when the meat is chilled. The pork in this recipe is remarkably moist because it is braised, rather than roasted, after it is browned.
The mustard and brown sugar coating on the pork gives it a deep rich glaze and a good underbody of flavor. Simca (Simone Beck), whose recipe this is, does not use the extra frying pan to brown the meat, but I find it easier to use two pans. This gets rid of both the browning grease and the burned bits of sugar that for me are inevitable. If you have never larded meat, this is a good time to start. Get the largest, simplest larding needle you can find (they exist in good kitchen shops), fill the hollow of the needle with a strip of meat, poke it into the roast lengthwise and retract. The meat stays inside, and it is almost as satisfying as cutting out paper dolls. You could forego this step, but don't. I sometimes use prunes that I have bottled at some point in cognac and madeira, with the liquor also going into the sauce.
The biscuits take no time to do. I have made them less than an hour before guests were expected, and with no hassle. I use unbleached flour for almost everything. However, should you refrigerate unbaked dough for more than a day or two, unbleached flour turns it a bit gray, although neither flavor nor quality is affected.
For thickening the fruit for the tart and anything else, I prefer potato starch because, unlike cornstarch, it never makes food gummy, and it has no taste. For some mysterious reason, I find potato starch (also called potato flour) among the specialty foods in one of the supermarkets I patronize. It can also be found in Oriental food shops.
If you are uncomfortable about unmolding a tart from a pan with a removable bottom, use a dish that can be brought to the table. You can prepare all the elements of the tart the day before, but they should be put together a few hours before guests arrive. At least for me, no matter what I do, crusts get soggy if left too long with their filling. TOMATO ICE (8 servings) 1/2 tablespoon blue cheese 3 ounces plus 1 1/2 tablespoons cream cheese 1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce 2 tablespoons tomato paste 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2 cups tomato juice 2 stiffly beaten egg whites Sprigs of basil (optional)
Cream together the two cheeses. Beat in the onion, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Add the tomato juice gradually. If you are using an ice cream machine, fold in the egg whites, freeze and let ripen in the freezer for a few hours. If not, pour mixture into ice cube trays and freeze until all but a portion of the center is frozen. Then remove from trays, break up the mixture in a bowl and beat smooth with a chilled rotary beater. Then fold in the beaten egg whites and return to the freezer. Set in refrigerator 30 minutes before serving to soften. Scoop into champagne glasses and garnish, if desired, with a sprig of basil. Pass biscuits and unsalted butter. COLD BRAISED PORK WITH PRUNES (8 servings) 24 large prunes 4 cups beef bouillon 1/4 pound smoked ham or prosciutto, cut in thick slices 2 1/2 to 3 pounds boned loin of pork 6 tablespoons dijon mustard 1/2 cup dark brown sugar 2 tablespoons peanut oil 2/3 cup cognac Salt and pepper Bouquet garni of thyme, sage and parsley 1/2 cup madeira
Put the prunes to steep in 1 1/2 cups tepid bouillon, or to cover.
Cut the ham or prosciutto into strips to fit a larding needle and lard the pork along its length. Paint the meat with the mustard, then roll it in the brown sugar. (I do this in a long gratin dish to reduce the mess.)
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and brown the meat in it, turning it as each face is colored.The sugar will caramelize and this in turn may burn -- keep turning so that the sugar in the pan burns, not the meat. Remove the meat to a large cast iron pot or dutch oven and heat the pot. Then pour half the cognac over the meat and set it aflame. When the flame goes out, pour in 1 cup bouillon, cover the pot and set it into a preheated 375-degree oven for a total 1 3/4 hours.
After 50 minutes of cooking, turn the meat, season with salt and pepper, add the bouquet garni and lower the heat to 350 degrees. About 45 minutes later, add the prunes and their liquid.
When the pork is cooked, remove it and the prunes from the pot, cool and refrigerate.
Add whatever bouillon remains to the juices in the pot plus the madeira and the remaining 1/3 cup of cognac. Bring to the boil and stir to dislodge the sediments and incorporate them into the sauce. Set aside to cool, and refrigerate. Then remove the fat that will have risen to the surface. What will remain is a lovely jellied stock.
To serve, remove the strings from the meat and slice with a sharp knife into thin slices. Arrange in one or two rows down the center of a long serving platter. Chop the jelly and arrange this around the meat. Then arrange the prunes around and jelly. The dish can be garnished with watercress. COLD BROCCOLI MIMOSA (8 servings) 2 pounds broccoli 2 hard-cooked eggs About 3 tablespoons mixed minced fresh parsley, chives, chervil, basil and a little thyme (use only 1 teaspoon each of any herb that is dried) 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar 1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard 3/4 cup olive oil Salt and pepper to taste.
Wash the broccoli in a colander and separate the tops from the stems. Cut the stems into 3-inch pieces, peel them with a potato peeler and remove the bumps. Then cut them down the middle. Separate the tops into individual stalks. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and plunge the stems in. After 2 minutes, add the tops and boil for another 3 minutes, or until a sharp, thin knife pierces the stalk easily. Turn into a colander and run cold water over the broccoli until it is cool. Drain well and set out on paper towels to mop up any remaining moisture.
Separate the yolks from the whites of the hard-cooked eggs and put the yolks through a sieve. Chop the whites.Mix both with the herbs and set aside.
Blend the vinegar and the mustard, and then gradually whisk in the oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the broccoli on a large flat platter, drizzle the sauce over it and sprinkle with the chopped egg and herb mimosa. Chill, then bring to room temperature before serving. DELORES CASELLA'S BISCUITS (Makes 16 2-inch biscuits) 2 cups sifted flour 1 tablespoon baking power 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup butter 2 large eggs Milk (if needed)
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork. Add the eggs and stir. If the dough does not hold together, add up to 1/2 cup of milk. (I have never had to do this.) Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured board and knead very lightly, no more than 10 times. Less is preferable. Pat the dough out to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Cut into 3-inch rounds and bake on unbuttered cookie sheets in a 450-degree oven for 12 to 15 minuts. These biscuits can be frozen in a plastic bag and reheated. This recipe can be doubled or tripled. FRESH BLACKBERRY-CURRANT TART (8 servings) 10-inch sweet tart shell, unbaked (see recipe below) 1 quart fresh blackberries 4 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar 1 quart fresh red currants 1 tablespoon potato starch (or potato flour) 5 tablespoons red currant jelly Whipped cream flavored with sugar and cassis, and confectioners' sugar for garnish (optional)
Cover the bottom of the tart shell with foil or parchment paper, pour beans, rice, clean pebbles or pie weights over it to keep the pastry flat and bake in a 350-degree oven for 12 minutes. Set the shell (in its pan) on a rack to cool. (Can be made up to this point the day before -- refrigerate the shell.)
Rinse the blackberries in cold water, discard any that have mold or are spoiled, drain well, place them in a heavy enameled pan and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Stem the currants, pick them over, rinse under cold water, drain well, put them into another enameled pan and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Set each pan over low heat and cook, without stirring, for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the berry juices are released.
Line two strainers with 3 thicknesses of paper towels and set them over separate bowls. Turn the berries into the strainers and let them drain until they are cool. Turn out the berries into separate bowls and add 1/2 tablespoon of potato starch to each bowl. Mix lightly. The berries can be refrigerated until the next day, if desired. Combine the juices of both berries in a saucepan and add the reamining 1/2 cup of sugar. Cook for 10 minutes or until the syrup falls in drops when poured from a spoon.
Remove the syrup from heat and stir in the red currant jelly until it is dissolved. Set the syrup aside to cool and thicken. (It can also be refrigerated until the next day.)
To asemble the tart, paint the bottom of the partialy baked shell with some of the syrup. Arrange the berries on the shell, beginning in the middle with a small mound of blackberries. Then surround this with a circle of currants, then a circle of blackberries, until the shell is filled. Spoon 4 or 5 tablespoons of the syrup over the berries, but put more on the blackberries since the syrup is dark and will kill the red color of the currants. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is lightly browned. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool. Spoon the rest of the syrup over the top of the tart.
If you have used a pan with a removable rim, unmold the tart and remove the rim when it is cool, but leave the tart on the base of the pan. Slide the tart onto a cookie sheet and warm it in a 325-degree oven for about 10 minutes before serving. If the tart does not want to slide off the base, simply put it, base and all, on a flat round serving dish, preferably with a rim.
Serve if desired with stiffly beaten whipped cream flavored with a little sugar and a bit of cassis. If you wish, sprinkle some confectioners' sugar over the tart just before serving. SWEET TART SHELL (Makes a 10-inch shell) 2 cups sifted flour 1 tablespoon sugar Pinch of salt 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
Put the flour, sugar, salt and butter, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces, in the container of food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process on and off for a few seconds, or until the mixture takes on the texture of oatmeal. With the motor running, add 3 tablespoons of ice water. Turn the motor off the second the dough gives some sign of massing and do not wait for it to form a ball. Turn the dough onto a board and, if necessary, add another tablespoon of ice water to hold it together. Form into a ball, flour lightly, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling out.
To roll out, place the dough on a floured surface and flatten it a bit with the heel of your hand. Flour the rolling pin and roll, always away from yourself, turning the dough a quarter-turn after each roll so that an even circle is formed. The final circle should measure about 13 inches in diameter and the dough should be about 1/8-inch thick.
Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and then unroll it onto the pan. Use either a 10-inch tart or quinche pan with a removable base or a 10-inch porcelain tart dish (from which the tart can be served). Pat the dough into the edges and against the sides of the pan. Roll back the top edge of the dough and crimp to make a lip. Refrigerate the shell for at least half an hour before baking.