Now is time for warm memories, cool weather

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 22, 2011

When the weather turns cooler, I like to have friends over for an autumn meal. I just enjoy food more when it is somewhat cooler. Since we live out in the country, I invite people around 6 p.m., since I do not like staying up late. I guess you could say I am a party pooper! But enjoying the remains of the day with good friends is one of the delights of life, and if the friends haven’t been before or recently, we usually start the evening with a tour of our Devon while it is still light.

I usually go back to my favorite chef in Alabama, Frank Stitt, for inspiration. I tried something new and something old for my menu. Oysters are in season, so I started with an oyster course. I may have given this recipe before, but it is worth repeating, since I think it is my favorite oyster recipe. It is easy, but the ingredients just explode in your mouth and make for a wonderful appetizer. I bought some organic pork at Whole Foods, and decided to use it as my main course with some greens and polenta. Dessert was an Apple Crostata. Since I have just done an article on apples, I will not print this one, but it was wonderful looking and delicious.

Serve a glass of champagne with your oysters and a red wine likes Côtes du Rhône for your pork. Enjoy the evening! I like a desert wine with the apples, but you may want to end with coffee.

Taken from Frank Stitt’s cookbooks, Southern Table and Botega Favorita

Spicy Baked Oysters

with Caramelized Onions

Serves 4

1 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, quartered and thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rock salt for serving (I usually serve on oyster plates.)

24 oysters (can use freshly shucked and served in oyster shells that have been washed) 1 pint of oysters will be enough for four people

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

Coarsely ground dried hot chili or cayenne pepper to taste

6-7 very thin slices pancetta, cut into twenty-four 1 ½ -inch squares, or 6 slices bacon, preferably center-cut, cut into 4 pieces each

1 cup medium-coarse bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Make a bed of rocks salt on a baking sheet and arrange the oysters on top. Top each with a little of the sautéed onion-just enough to cover. Place a teaspoon of butter and a good pinch of chili on each, then top with a square of pancetta (or bacon) and a scattering of breadcrumbs to finish.

Bake until the pancetta is slightly crispy, the bread crumbs golden, and the oysters heated through, 10-12 minutes. I transfer mine to the oyster plates, six each.


Pork Scaloppine with Greens and Polenta

Serves 4

2-3 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed

1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Maui Maui, sliced

2 garlic cloves, 1 crushed, 1 minced

1 thyme sprig

4 cups roughly chopped turnip greens, Swiss chard, or mustard greens

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

Eight 3-ounce slices pork loin, pounded to 1/8 inch thick

1 shallot, finely minced

¼ cup dry Marsala

1 cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

3 cups creamy polenta (can make from scratch or buy the log to reconstitute) one could also use grits instead of the polenta

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the onion, crushed garlic, and thyme sprig and cook until the onion is lightly colored, about 12 minutes. Add the chopped greens, cover the pan, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the greens are soft. Then season to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl, and set aside to cool. (Set the pan aside.)

Season the flour with salt and pepper; spread on a plate.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Dust each scaloppini with flour, shaking off any excess. Working in batches to avoid crowding, add the pork to the pan and cook until browned on both sides and medium-rare, for one to two minutes per side. Transfer the slices to a rack as they are done, and cover loosely to keep warm; add more oil to the pan as necessary.

Add the minced garlic and shallot to the pan and cook for one minute more. Add the Marsala and simmer to reduce by half. Add the stock and reduce by half. Whisk in the cold butter bit by bit, and season to taste. Remove the pan from the heat.

Spoon a portion of the soft polenta into the center of each plate, place two scaloppine on top, and ladle the sauce over the pork. Serve with a generous spoonful of the greens, garnished with the pine nuts and cheese.

We had our dinner party last evening, and I thought everything went very well together. My friends enjoyed it also and did not leave until 10:30 p.m. I will need a nap today!! (But I usually have an afternoon siesta.)