Thursday, October 13, 2011

Family Dinner

My entire family was in town last weekend. Since I am taking cooking classes, they wanted me to cook dinner for them one night, so I agreed. I had to make sure I cook something traditional that my grandma’s would like. After talking it over with my parents, I came up with the following menu:

Pinwheel Pork Tenderloin

Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Carrots

Sautéed Green Beans

For the “pinwheel” pork tenderloin, I bought a 4 lbs tenderloin and filet it open so that it went from a roll to a flat piece so I can stuff it, but not with a bread stuffing. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and let it sit for a few hours in the fridge. For the stuffing, I sautéed mushrooms, onions, garlic and spinach. I let it cool down a bit. While the filling was cooling, I seared the pork in a mix of bacon fat and canola oil. I learned that bacon has a low smoke point so you have to add a higher smoke point oil like canola or grape seed. Once the pork was seared and cool enough to handle, I added the mushroom, onion, & spinach mixture to the seared pork. I also added a layer of feta cheese. One all evenly spread, I rolled the pork back into its original shape and tied it up with butcher twine. I put it in a pre-heated oven at 375 F until the internal temperature of the pork was around 180F. That took almost an hour. Once cooled, I cut it and with the way it is stuffed and rolled, it looks like a pinwheel, hence the name.

Now on to the mashed potatoes. When the pork was cooking, I pealed and large diced 4 medium sized Russet potatoes and boiled them like you would to make mashed potatoes. One trick that I read is that you need to start with cold water and put in the potatoes before you put them on the stove, then bring the water up to a boil. If you wait for the water to boil, then add the potatoes, the outsides will cook but the middles will be rock hard. This might seem obvious to some, but this is something I wasn’t aware of until a few years ago. While they were boiling, I put a few cloves of garlic in the oven to roast them for the potatoes. Once the potatoes were cooked and garlic roasted, I mashed them together, added whole milk, butter, sour cream and salt and pepper. Potatoes are now done.

Now for the vegi’s. For the carrots, I quartered them into roughly 3” long strips. The key is to get them all about the same size so they cook evenly. I added some diced onions, and fresh rosemary and thyme from my garden. I put them in a pyrex dish with salt, pepper and olive oil and roasted them for about 40 mins.

For the Green beans, I trimmed off the stems, then blanched them in boiling water for about 2 minutes then immediately put them in ice water to stop the cooking. Then I diced up 4 pieces of hickory smoked pepper bacon and cooked it until the bacon was crispy and there was a nice coating of bacon fat in the pan. I then added the green beans and sautéed them until they were hot, roughly 5 minutes. Once done, I added a little butter and coated them.

I was able to time out everything almost perfectly so that everything was done at the same time. This can be the most difficult part of planning a larger meal like this not only from a timing standpoint, but also a burner/oven capacity standpoint. Everything turned out great and the grandma’s enjoyed it very much. I only had enough leftovers for 1 serving of everything so I planned out the volume almost spot on. The one thing I would do differently is the gravy for the potatoes, which I did not talk about it. I totally forgot about gravy so at the last minute when shopping, I just bought a pre-made can of turkey gravy. It was kind of slimy and not that great. I will never do that again. I’ve never made gravy from scratch before so since I didn’t test it out before, I went for the can. If you have a good gravy recipe, please share.

Please feel free to add any comments, tips, criticism, your mom’s phone #, or whatever you feel like.


  1. I bet you "rue" your decision to buy that canned gravy...

  2. Gravy's a pain in the ass; last time I made it was last Thanksgiving. I browned the gravy in bacon fat, rendered the pan drippings with red wine and chicken broth, and mixed the two to make the gravy. Salt and pepper to taste. The end product was mehhh. Let me know if you find a better method in time for the holidays.

    What are you using to check the internal temp? My polder thermometer just bit the dust and I'm looking for a replacement.

  3. Your Mom told me about your blog so I had to check it out. I have to tell you Nana raved about your pork roast and now I see why. I think you need to come down for Thanksgiving and cook for us. Any ideas for a different side dish for Thanksgiving. I am thinking about making Emeril's cauliflower and brocolli casserole in a white sauce with cheddar cheese and his special spices. What do you think?

    Aunt Felicity

  4. Ok Danny-D,

    I waited to reply because I didnt have an answer, but now I do. My parents bought a prime rib for Christmas and I helped cook it and wanted to make an Au Jus for the drippings. First off, they paid top dollar for the meat at Butcher in Paramount, so of course it was a Mexican Butcher. They took the entire prime rib, removed the bone and top fat, seasoned all the meat, then put the bone and fat back into its original locations and tied it up. They told us to just roast it at 375 for 2-3 hours. I didn't settle for that so I cut up carrots, onions, and celery, fresh rosemary (or any other fresh herbs you have) and placed it on the bottom of the roasting pan, then put the meat right on top of it. Cooked it until the internal temp was ~135. The key is to let it sit for 20 mins and let the juices settle and fall out of the meat into the pan. I removed the meat then put the roasting pan on both burners, aded 1/2 cup of beef broth & 1/2 cup red wine. Cooked it down while scraping the pan to get all the bits off. I added S&P to taste. Once reduced by 1/2, strain it and poured it into one of the fat skimming pourers. It came out AWESOME! I also made Beef broth for my parents from the leftover bones and meat bits.