An All-American Sunday Dinner
Cider-Braised Pork Loin with Sautéed Apples
Rutabaga Potato Purée
Peas with Celery and Shallots
Quick Cloverleaf Rolls
Toasted Almond Angel Food Cake
Wine: Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyards Finger Lakes Riesling
The Sunday Dinner
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is past us, and January can be a pleasant, quiet refuge. The holidays served to remind us of the importance of family. Family has many different configurations and meanings to people, while some still pretend that there is one set definition. One strong idea, however, runs through the concept of family and that is love or some unknown bond that is common to a set group of people. I think of myself and my cousins, some of whom I have only met once as a small child, yet I keep in touch with them and I know most, if not all would open their door to me in an instant, as I would to them. If the opportunity presented itself to have just one Sunday dinner with them, that would only strengthen our bonds. Family is more to us than what a group photo depicts (we have no such photo anyway)–there is a tie that cannot and will not be cut.
When I was preparing for this dinner my first thought about Sunday Dinners was from the TV show Blue Bloods, in which the “Sunday Dinner” figures prominently and is in fact one of the more memorable moments in the show. Every Sunday the whole extended TV Blue Blood family comes to their father’s home for a large traditional sit-down meal. I loved watching the behind-the-scenes YouTube clip about shooting these dinners. But the fact remains that the Blue Blood version of the Sunday Dinner is, indeed, a fiction.
In contrast, Don Draper from Mad Men realized that the advertising world’s idea of the “family” was a lie and that the American people were not fooled any longer by that “Leave it to Beaver” style sit down meal. Times had changed, families had changed, even what people were eating had changed. Don and Peggy’s new ad campaign reinvented the concept of “family.” To these fictional characters, the realization of this cultural shift in the “family meal” is actually quite poignant. The show cleverly juxtaposes this cultural shift with the exceptionally mid-Century event of the first Apollo 11 moon landing, overlaid with the genius of Don Draper’s ad campaign for Burger Chef, giving the whole scene not just poignancy but the weight of social critique. Watch this clip first and then this one to understand.
Don recalls his own family dinners and realizes that not only has it changed, but perhaps it never existed. His children live with his ex-wife and her new family, Don’s new wife lives in California and he in New York, so they don’t sit down to dinner together on any regular schedule. Peggy reveals that most nights she eats alone or with her neighbor’s 10 year old son who sits in front of her TV. Burger Chef provided the proverbial family table and the Apollo 11 mission provided the bonding American family experience. While people ate in front of their TV watching the astronauts land on the moon, America dined together.
The Sunday Dinner in Blue Bloods is a fiction because today with our upward mobility, only rarely do families all live in the same town, have the same schedule, and have no other obligations, so they can sit down EVERY Sunday to eat and drink together. The show does however have some great awkward scenes that really highlight family tension. Mad Men and Blue Bloods both understand that family centers around food–whether it is a burger from a burger chain or 250 homemade meatballs–food is a focal point. Food welcomes us, reminds us of our grandparents, or a simple meal that created a special bond between unlikely individuals.
My family is all over North America, but for many members of my extended family food is a major part of their life. One of my cousin’s who lives on the East Coast and has developed a love for urban organic gardening has started a Facebook group: The Urban Farm Report. Another cousin lives in Maine and they tap their Maple trees and set up a sugaring operation in their backyard to make their own maple syrup. In Michigan I have a pig farming cousin and his wife sells her own homemade dog biscuits at the local farmer’s market. And in Canada lives another cousin who in his spare time is an organic chicken farmer. I hope to have to opportunity to share just one Sunday Dinner with each of them someday!
For my January Menu, I was lucky enough to have Sunday Dinner with some members of my husband’s extended family, including their very well mannered dog, who got to share her dinner with my dog. It was a joy to open my home to them and get to know them just a little more. We also had the presence of another family branch–my brother-in-law’s family, the Stivalas, who resides in Upstate New York. Their presence was in the form of art and music. Oscar Stivala provided the art in some of the photos and our music for the evening. His CD is not only tremendously enjoyable to listen to, but it was also fitting to have family entertain us at a family-centered meal.
Thus, the Sunday Dinner need not be every Sunday, but it can serve as a symbol of bonding and love. It can be spontaneous or planned, frequent or infrequent, but make an effort to share your food adventures with the ones you love. The Sunday Dinner is a simple everyday celebration of family.
I would love to hear about your family’s food adventures and I invite you to share in the comments. Now, on to this month’s food and wine. Classic flavors are found in this homey menu that is fairly easy to prepare with a little preparation and planning.
It was fitting that this menu features a wine from New York (Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyards) since our art and music which entertained us originated from that state, but out here in California there is not a New York Riesling to be found! That did not stop us from having a wide array of Rieslings from Washington, Germany, France, and Mendocino. These also spanned the tasting profile of the Riesling variety–from sweet to dry. Having these menus is such a fun excuse for tasting these wines and different wine regions.
In doing my research for this variety, I discovered that the Finger Lakes Region in New York produces ice wine. I have never tried an ice wine and I am completely intrigued by this specialty wine. If you have tried some from this region please tell me all about it and which vineyards have some stand out examples.
None of the recipes from this menu can be found on the Epicurious.com web site, so I will also include the recipes for each along with my comments. All of these recipes can be found in The Best of Gourmet: Volume Two (1987).
Cider-Braised Pork Loin with Sautéed Apples:
Meat preparation is not my strength in the kitchen. I was a vegetarian for a good portion of my adult life and so, understanding how different meats should be prepared and even taste is something I am still learning. Thus, there were two very important things I needed to know to prepare this very simple dish: What is a rib-end boneless pork loin? and What does it mean “rolled and tied.” The second question really stumped me because if it is a big cut of meat, why is it tied?
The Cooks Thesaurus’ page on Pork Loin Cuts really helped me a lot. I purchased a boneless pork loin from Costco and on the back of the package there is a diagram showing the various parts to that cut of meat. That along with the Thesaurus explained everything I needed to know.
The tying of the pork was explained very nicely in this four minute video from Fine Cooking. This is so super simple to do and it makes the pork come out perfectly. What I don’t understand is why did it take me so many years to spend four minutes to learn this technique? I tied my pork and rolled it in the herb mixture the night before. Here are some photos of my tied pork:
Now go and make yours. Here is the recipe originally published in the 1987 Gourmet Compendium:
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
- a 3-pound rib-end boneless pork loin, rolled and tied
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- sautéed apples (recipe follows)
- fresh sage leaves for garnish if desired
In a small bowl combine the salt, the pepper, the sage, and the thyme and on a large piece of wax paper rub the mixture on the pork, coating the pork well. Wrap the pork in the wax paper and chill it for at least 2 hours or overnight. Pat the pork dry with paper towels. In a heavy flameproof casserole heat the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking and it it brown the pork. Transfer the pork to a plate, pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat, and in the fat remaining in the casserole cook the onion and the garlic over moderate heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Return the pork to the casserole, add the cider, and bring the liquid to a boil. Braise the pork, covered, in a preheated 325 degree oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a meat thermometer registers 155 degrees, for juicy, barely pink meat. Transfer the pork to a heated platter, discard the string, and let the pork stand for 10 minutes. Spoon off the fat from the pan juices and in a blender or food processor purée the pan juices and solids remaining in the casserole. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and serve it in a heated sauceboat, straining it through a fine sieve if desired. Arrange the sautéed apples around the pork and if desired garnish the platter with the sage leaves. Serves 6.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 12 wedges
- 1 large red apple, cored and cut into 12 wedges
In a large skillet melt the butter with 2 tablespoons water over moderately low heat and in the mixture cook the apples, covered, in one layer, in batches if necessary, for 2 to 4 minutes, or until they are just tender. Increase heat to moderate and cook the apples, seasoned with salt and pepper, uncovered, turning them, until they are tender and lightly golden.
Rutabaga Potato Purée and the Cloverleaf Rolls
I have never cooked or eaten a rutabaga before. They are very easy to prepare, a wonderful alternative to potatoes, and a perfect complement to the pork and apples. I kept thinking there must be something wrong with the recipe because it requires no liquid when mashing them. But the rutabagas are quite most and creamy on their own and no additional liquid is needed.
For the cloverleaf rolls I used a roll recipe from Bread Machine Magic by Linda Rehberg. I made the rolls a week ahead of the dinner and put them in the freezer. I made the rutabaga potato purée the morning of the dinner and I used the microwave to reheat them for serving. It worked out well. Here is the rutabaga recipe as originally published in the Gourmet compendium from 1987:
Rutabaga Potato Purée:
- 2 pounds rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 pound boiling potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes, and reserved in a bowl of cold water
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
In a large saucepan combine the rutabaga with enough salted cold water to cover it by 2 inches, bring the water to a boil, and boil the rutabaga, covered, for 40 minutes, or until it is just tender. Add the potatoes, drained, simmer the vegetables, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are very tender, and drain them well in a large sieve or colander. While the vegetables are still hot force them through a ricer or food mill into the pan or mash them with a potato masher in the pan, add the butter and salt and pepper to taste, and stir the purée well. Reheat the purée, if necessary, over low heat, stirring constantly, until it is hot, transfer it to a heated serving dish, and spread it decoratively with a rubber spatula. Serves 6.
Peas with Celery and Shallots
If you have the celery and shallots chopped up in advance of your dinner this dish comes together in a snap. I copped the celery and shallots into pea sized pieces. I like everything to be the same size in a dish like this. I did not add the minced celery leaves nor the sugar–totally forgot, but I don’t think they were missed much. My vegetarian daughter ate a lot of peas and rutabagas and she said they were fantastic together. She really liked the flavor of the shallots. Here is the recipe as originally published in the Gourmet compendium from 1987:
Peas with Celery and Shallots:
- 1 cup thinly sliced celery
- 1/3 cup minced shallot
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- two 10 ounce packages frozen peas, thawed
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds if desired
- 2 tablespoons minced celery leaves
In a heavy saucepan cook the sliced celery and the shallot in the butter, covered, over low heat, stirring occasional, for 5 minutes, or until the celery is softened. Add the peas, 2 tablespoons water, the sugar, the celery seeds if desired, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer the mixture, covered, for 3 minutes, or until it is hot. Sprinkle the mixture with the celery leaves and toss it. Serves 6.
Toasted Almond Angel Food Cake
It is a real tragedy that this recipe is not on Epicurious.com. I thought it was easy, had a wonderful presentation (even with my problem as you will see), and tasted like it was inspired by the angels in heaven! The flavor is similar to a gourmet marshmallow with the crunch of toasted almonds. The fluffy white cake is light, springy, and moist.
I made the cake two days prior to our dinner. That did not effect the quality of the cake, however, the presentation suffered from gravity. I am not sure if I should have made my frosting a little stiffer or if the almonds were too heavy for the frosting, but the frosting started to, very slowly, slide off my cake. My husband said it looked like one of the Queen’s hats. Here are the photos:
In any event, the cake was very tasty and everyone loved the frosting despite the “slide.” Once the cake is cut and plated you cannot tell one way or the other. Here is the recipe as it was originally published in the Gourmet Compendium from 1987:
Toasted Almond Angel Food Cake
For the cake:
- 1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
- 1 2/3 cups sugar
- 1 3/4 cups egg whites (about 13 large egg whites) at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon almond extract, or to taste
For the icing
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 2 large egg whites at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, or to taste
1 1/2 cups toasted sliced almonds
Make the cake: Sift the flour 3 times onto a sheet of wax paper. In the sifter combine the sifted flour and 2/3 cup of the sugar and sift the mixture onto another sheet of wax paper. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites until they are broken up, add the salt and the cream of tartar, and beat the whites until they are frothy. Beat in the remaining 1 cup sugar, a little at a time, and the almond extract and beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Sift one forth of the flour mixture over the whites, folding it in gently but thoroughly, and continue to sift and fold the remaining flour mixture into the whites in the same manner. Spoon the batter into a very clean, ungreased tube pan, 10 by 4 1/4 inches, preferably with a removable bottom, smoothing the top, and rap the pan on a hard surface twice to remove any air bubbles. Bake the cake in the middle of a preheated 300 degree oven for 1 hour, or until it is springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean. If the pan has feet invert the pan over a work surface; otherwise invert the pan over the neck of a bottle. Let the cake cool for at least 1 hour or overnight. Run a thin knife in a sawing motion around the edge of the pan and the tube to loosen the cake from the pan and invert the cake onto a cake stand. Slip strips of wax paper under the edge of the cake to cover the cake stand.
Make the icing: In a small saucepan combine the sugar, the corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water, bring the mixture to a boil, covered, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, and boil the syrup, uncovered, until it registers 240 degrees F. on a Candy thermometer. While the syrup is boiling, in a heatproof bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt and the cream of tartar until they are frothy and as soon as the syrup reaches 240 degrees F add it to the whites in a thin stream, beating constantly. Beat in the vanilla and beat the icing until the bowl is not longer hot. (If the icing is too stiff beat in 1 to 2 tablespoons hot water, or enough to form a fluffy, spreadable icing.)
Spread the icing over the top and sides of the cake, including the inner cavity, cover the cake with the almonds, and remove the wax paper strips carefully.
An All-American Sunday Dinner: A Design Collection
This Ebay collection is inspired by the table and room design pictured in “The Best of Gourmet: Volume Two” (1987) from the menu titled, “An All-American Sunday Dinner.” I wanted to include only pieces that either reflected an American table or pieces that were made in America. What could be more American than a silver dessert set made by one of our Patriots?
For your Sunday dinner table pull out one or two heirloom pieces to reflect the continuity of the family. Or check out my Ebay collection and choose a new addition for your table.
The best part about doing these menus is knowing I get to make one again next month! Until then, enjoy your food and your family!