25 December 2010

CHRISTMAS DINNER #1 : Roast Pork Loin

Merry Christmas! We’ve almost finished off the day—just spending a bit of time decompressing in our hotel room. A lovely Christmas morning with JA and LE, along with their mommy and daddy, and Gigi, followed by a fine afternoon with more family and friends.

We leave the hotel early enough this morning to arrive before 7:00am—JA has been awake since 5:45am, but his parents keep him upstairs and occupied until LE is awake and the grandparents (that’s us) arrive.

Under the tree, along with all the beautifully wrapped gifts, are LE’s pink wooden kitchen and JA’s Leap Frog computer and a blue bass guitar! Blue is a very important color for JA. LE can barely tear herself away from her kitchen with its IKEA pots and pans, utensils, veggies, and basket of fruits. She’s busily arranging and rearranging everything onto shelves, into the microwave and refrigerator-stove, and baskets.

JA’s role-playing swords are wrapped and hidden behind the tree because his mommy says that once he discovers these, everything else will fall by the wayside. He’s very into fighting and bad guys these days. This morning, he takes great delight in discovering and opening all his gifts—looking for more! LE has to be cajoled and prodded to even consider looking away from her kitchen, but the new baby bottles catch her attention and she’s off to find her baby doll. Soon, she finds a new baby doll under the tree from big brother JA.

Earlier this week, JA opened a gift from Uncle ES—a hoodie from George Washington University, and promptly pitched it away and onto the floor. He wasn’t impressed. So, we’ve been forewarned that clothing won’t score and are even amused when he opens his new French shirts, which we carefully selected in St. Raphaël and Nice, and quickly tosses them aside, too. Oh well. 3-1/2 year old boys are never excited about receiving clothing.

But, 21-month old little girls like clothing, and before long LE is dressed in her darling red and blue corduroy wrap dress with striped tights and t-shirt. Adorable. And, her mommy is suitably intrigued by the details on the precious little bird shirt from La Compagnie des Petits in St. Raphaël.

All of our stockings are stuffed to overflowing and are clustered by the fireplace (too heavy for the stocking hangars) until all the gifts are open and CA has cleared the debris. Then, the fun begins again. There are magazines and coloring books, chocolate, suckers, and sables; small clothing items and socks, kitchen utensils and toiletries. Each of us has a bounty of small gifts. And, CA has stuffed my stocking with an array of chocolate bars which he suggests I taste test to determine where my true chocolate loyalties lie. I’ve been a dark chocolate fan forever, but have lately claimed to be in the milk chocolate camp. We’ll soon see. JA's favorite is the huge sucker he found stuffed in his stocking.

This is a special Christmas for all of us—our first Christmas Day in Omaha, and Gigi gets to share the day with her darling great grandchildren. In addition to savings bonds, she has Little Einstein videos for the kids, and a special book, too.

Some of us inappropriately eat chocolate and sables and suckers (at least JA does) before breakfast, and then some strong French Press coffee and bagels hit the spot later.

Today’s menu:
Mustard and honey glazed roast pork loin
Potatoes Dauphinoise
Green Bean casserole (made with haricot verts!)
Caramelized cinnamon apple slices
Gigi’s homemade noodles
From scratch dinner rolls and bread w/honey-cinnamon butter

Last night I put together a tall New York-style cheesecake, and it’s chilling in the frig and will be topped with fruit at dessert time. We’re going to be jockeying oven space all morning today, so the plan is to get the potatoes in ASAP and then mix the bread dough and set it to rise, by 9 – 9:30am. It’s actually after 10:00 before any of this happens…

CA is sous chef, and JA and Gigi are on red-alert for assistance. Soon the green bean casserole is ready to bake—we decide the timing is off to use the oven, so we opt for the crock pot and then default to the microwave. I use JE's handy-dandy Mandoline to swiftly and evenly slice the potatoes and that casserole is soon baking in the oven. CA and I prepare the pork roast. Did I mention that we’ve never prepared a 4-1/2 pork loin roast previously? And, we’re kind of winging it with a recipe from the latest Gourmet Quick Kitchen Special Edition cooking magazine that RvH passed on to me just a few days ago. We skip roasting it over fresh herbs, but we do salt and pepper the roast, and then brown it on all sides in its roasting pan set over two burners of JE’s gas stove. Then we mix together 3 T. of Dijon and spicy brown mustard, ½ cup of finely minced shallots, 2 large cloves of garlic- finely diced, and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, which we spread evenly over the fat (top) side of the pork loin.

It takes about 1-1/2 hours to roast the pork, during which time we jockey the green bean casserole and potatoes around a bit, worry about whether the bread and rolls will actually rise, and Gigi simmers her homemade noodles in chicken stock.

M+J’s guests (MA’s parents and brother, and their friend SS) arrive around 1:00pm, and when the pork reaches 140˚on the instant-read thermometer we remove it from the oven and immediately pour honey over the top. We let the meat rest so that all the juices can settle down, and miraculously by 1:30pm all the sides are appropriately hot and we’re sitting down to say grace with special Christmas thanks.

Um-m-m… The dinner rolls and bread aren't done rising, but with noodles and Potatoes Dauphinoise we’re set for carbs, and decide to enjoy the hot rolls later in the day. You plan for perfection, and have to be content to settle… [During late afternoon one after another of our guests finds his/her way to the kitchen and samples the yummy rolls with honey-cinnamon butter or Plugra.]

The pork loin is perfect, the side dishes are raved over, and our tummies are full, full, full. There’s hardly room for cheesecake, so we take a break and then JE and her mother-in-law put together the blueberry sauce and we divvy out the portions to a very appreciative audience.

Today everything tastes wonderful. We’re keenly aware and appreciative of our blessed Savior, kind and loving family and friends, a warm home, delicious food, and two darling pre-schoolers to keep us entertained and on our toes!

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