Since we’re still deep in winter, this is a good time to get together with friends or family to banish those winter blues over a lovely meal in front of the fire.
Following are a couple of fairly simple meals that are fit for company: one that’s rustic and mellow and the other that’s more elegant and sophisticated.
Whenever you dig up recipes you’ve used before, consider the possibilities of changing them up a bit by using a different meat or adding new vegetables or seasonings.
This pot roast recipe comes from a favourite combination of flavours we’ve enjoyed with a roasted duck, but it was delicious with the pot roast, and would probably work just as well with chicken or with a pork roast.
In particular, I’ve found that a recipe for chicken will quite often work equally well with pork as both are relatively mild-flavoured meats.
Whenever a recipe calls for beef stew or strips, you could try making it with lean ground beef as well. For instance, I’ve made beef stroganoff with meatballs instead of strips of beef and it’s simply delicious.
Of course, it’s not like it’s anything new: chicken cacciatore is very similar to spaghetti with meatballs, but with pieces of chicken substituted for the meatballs, isn’t it?
So, go ahead and do a little experimenting. Be creative and make something old into something new.
Jan’s sole dish was fabulous as the starter for our New Year’s meal, but easily could have stood as the main course too. It looks terrific and tastes just as good as it looks.
For more seasonally-inspired recipe ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks for family and friends, pick up a copy of my book, Jude’s Kitchen, wherever books are sold, including Mosaic Books, both downtown and at the new Rutland location, as well as in wine shops and boutiques.
Pot Roast with Orange & Ginger
This doesn’t taste strongly of the orange and ginger, but it gives it a lovely, mellow, slightly-exotic flavour and small, whole potatoes are delicious cooked in the juices. I made this in a slow cooker, but you could also make it in a Dutch oven on top of the stove, or in the oven.
3 lb. (2.5 kg) beef pot roast
salt, pepper & flour
2-inch knob of ginger
1 garlic clove
1 large onion
2 celery stalks
8-10 small, whole potatoes
drizzle of oil
1 c. (250 ml) beef stock
1/2 c. (125 ml) orange juice
10 whole peppercorns
salt & pepper, to taste
Dredge a pot roast such as chuck or cross rib in flour after sprinkling with salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
Skin and roughly slice a large chunk of ginger and chunk a clove of garlic. Remove large slices of the orange peel until it’s almost all used from an orange.
Quarter an onion or cut in smaller pieces if you prefer. Chop celery, carrots and mushrooms into bite-sized pieces.
Clean small, whole potatoes.
Layer the bottom of the slow cooker with most of the carrots, celery and onion, reserving a few to fit in around the roast. Add slices of ginger and a few slices of orange zest.
Brown the roast in a drizzle of oil in a deep pot on all sides, then transfer to slow cooker.
Add beef stock and orange juice, plus the juice from the peeled orange, to the pot you browned the roast in and scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pot to become part of the cooking liquid.
Arrange remaining onions, celery, carrots, ginger, orange zest and the mushrooms around the roast, along with the small whole potatoes and the black peppercorns.
Sprinkle with a bit (not too much) of sea salt and pour the beef stock and orange juice mixture over it all.
Cook on low in the slow cooker for about 8 hours. Do not peek.
You could also make this in a Dutch oven on top of the stove, simmering for a couple of hours or so; or in a 325 F oven for a few hours.
Remove the roast and vegetables to a serving dish and thicken the sauce, if desired, with a mixture of cornstarch and cold water (1 tbsp. each) or serve as is, pouring the juice over the roast and potatoes.
Serves 4 to 6.
Jan’s Sole with Cranberries & Mushrooms
This is a really special meal or first course that looks terrific as well as being full of flavour, so it would be great to serve friends. It can be made up ahead of time and reheated too, so is a good choice for when you have company coming.
1 c. (250 ml) fresh or frozen cranberries
½ c. (125 ml) water
1 tbsp. (15 ml) sugar
¼ c. (60 ml) oil (divided)
1 c. (250 ml) mushrooms
¼ c. (60 ml) green onions
2 tbsp. (30 ml) fresh parsley
6 sole fillets
Salt and pepper
1 c. (250 ml) white wine
½ c. (125 ml) stock (chicken or fish)
¼ c. (60 ml) plain yogurt
1 tsp. (5 ml) cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp. water
½ tsp. (2 ml) dried tarragon
1 c. (250 ml) whipping cream
2 tbsp. (30 ml) chopped pistachio nuts
Bring cranberries, sugar and water to the boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Cool slightly and puree.
Mince about a half-pound of mushrooms and the white part of the green onions, as well as the parsley.
Heat 1-2 tbsp. oil in a frypan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and green onions. Cook, stirring occasionally for about three minutes. Add parsley (half the amount if dried) and mix well, cooking for a couple of minutes more.
Sprinkle skinned sole fillets with salt and pepper. For a main course, use fillets that are about six ounces each.
Gently mix cranberry puree into mushroom and green onion mix and spread over the fillets. Loosely roll fillets and, if necessary, secure with toothpicks.
Heat a large frypan over medium heat and add the remaining two tbsp. of oil. Arrange the rolls so they do not touch each other. Add the dry white wine and chicken or fish stock.
Cover the pan and poach the rolls just until the flesh starts to flake (10 minutes or less, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Remove fish and tent it with foil to keep it warm.
Dissolve the cornstarch in water and stir it into the yogurt, then stir it into the stock.
Add tarragon. Over medium heat, bring it to a boil, stirring until it begins to thicken. Blend in the whipping cream.
Spoon the sauce over the fish rolls and top with chopped pistachios.
Serve warm or cold.