Enjoy time with family, not in the kitchen

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tonight is Christmas Eve when we all go to church to sing carols and await the coming of the baby Jesus. A very special night indeed! I will be singing in the choir, and we are doing Ava Maria, which is nine pages long but only two words to sing, but the trick is knowing when to sing those words. Ha!! But it is a beautiful song, and I feel lucky to get to take part.

Tonight is also my 36th wedding anniversary. Who would marry on Christmas Eve? It was the only time my husband had in his residency, so we went for it. The service was in Nashville, Tenn., with candlelight and red velvet dresses for the attendants! We spent the honeymoon night in a hotel in Nashville (cannot remember the name) where the country stars went to have some privacy. All I remember about the night was that we had steak. Now, what does that say? I guess it was always about the food for me. After church tonight I am doing a special meal with steak, but it has to be simple since we will not eat until after 10 p.m. The potato dish will be done ahead, so all I have to do is cook the tenderloin and some simple green like broccoli. No dessert this late.

So, Merry Christmas to you, and happy anniversary to me!


From Saveur magazine, October 2011.

Rosemary-Rubbed Beef Tenderloin

1 2-lb. beef tenderloin, trimmed of sinew and excess fat, and tied with kitchen twine

¼ cup canola oil

3 tbsp. finely chopped rosemary (If you don’t have rosemary in the garden, put it on your New Year’s list.)

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Place beef tenderloin on a sheet of aluminum foil, and rub all over with 2 tbsp. oil, the rosemary and the garlic. Season the tenderloin generously with salt and pepper, and then let the beef sit at room temperature for one hour, to allow the seasonings to penetrate the meat and form a flavorful crust on the exterior of the roast. (This resting period also takes the chill off the meat, which allows it to cook more evenly in the oven.)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Heat the remaining oil and the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully add the tenderloin to the skillet and cook, turning as needed until the beef is browned on all sides, about seven minutes.

Transfer the skillet to the oven, and cook the tenderloin until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the beef reads 125 degrees for medium rare.

Remove the tenderloin from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes. (During the resting period, the tenderloin will continue to rise in temperature to produce a perfect medium-rare interior, and the tenderloin’s juices will have enough time to distribute evenly throughout the meat.)

When you’re ready to serve the tenderloin, remove the twine and use a long slicing knife to cut the beef into half-inch-thick slices. Transfer slices to a large serving platter, and pour any accumulated juices from the cutting board over the meat to moisten it. Serve immediately or at room temperature with the potato dish given below, and with a green salad or broccoli.


Potato, Mushroom, and Gruyère Gratin

Serves 6

2 tablespoons butter, divided

4 ounces wild mushrooms, stems discarded, cut into ¼-inch slices

4 ounces cremini mushrooms, cut into ¼-inch slices

¾ cup heavy cream

¾ cup whole milk

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

½ teaspoon finely chopped rosemary

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 ½ pounds starchy potatoes (such as russets)

1 cup freshly grated aged Gruyère cheese

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter the bottom of a shallow 2-or 2 ½ -quart baking dish.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the wild mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they soften and any liquid evaporates, about eight minutes. Work in batches, if necessary, to avoid crowding the mushrooms in the pan so that they can brown well and stay firm instead of getting slimy and lost in lots of liquid. Pour the cooked mushrooms onto a plate and set aside.

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the skillet, and cook the cremini mushrooms the same way. Transfer them to the plate and set aside.

Stir together the cream, milk, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary and nutmeg in a large saucepan.

Working with one potato at a time, peel the potatoes and cut into even slices that are no more than 1/8-inch thick and stir them into the cream mixture. A vegetable slicer is ideal, although the slicing can be done with a sharp knife. To make the process easier and safer when using a knife, cut a thin slice off one of the long sides of the potato so that is sits flat and does not wobble on the cutting board.

Bring the potatoes just to a simmer over medium-high heat, then remove the pan from the heat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer half of the potatoes to the prepared dish, spreading them evenly. Top with the cooked mushrooms but leave any accumulated mushroom liquid behind. Spoon the remaining potatoes over the mushrooms, spreading evenly. Pour the potato cooking liquid evenly over the top and sprinkle with the cheese.

Bake until the top is browned and the potatoes are very tender and bubbling around the edges, 45-55 minutes. If the top gets too brown before the potatoes are done, lay a flat sheet of aluminum foil over the top. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.