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Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

Christmas Dinner Ideas with a Healthy Twist

In Art, Being Gay, Gay Business, holidays, NYC, recipes, religions on December 25, 2009 at 8:21 pm

 

Christmas is a time when you really appreciate what you value most in life, time spent surrounded by your closest friends and family reminiscing about the great times passed over a grand feast. Since the late 1600’s and earlier, there has been a Christmas celebration, and along with it a great feast. In the early 1700’s, the Christmas feast was of a grand scale and held by the aristocracy. This grandeur continued on into the 30s and 40s where The Great Depression and World War II made celebrating much harder and made the great feast of yesterday into a meal consisting of canned vegetables and jellies. The pheasants, oysters, consumé, and crown roasts were lost with the greatly depreciated economy. As time continued on, the 50s, 60s, and 70s brought back roast duckling, oysters Rockefeller, and standing rib roasts. Understanding tradition and why it is so important to keep the essence of the feast alive, will help you truly make an amazing meal this Christmas.

This year, mix tradition with a new approach to a healthy lifestyle. Create dishes inspired by classics but with a much lighter load on our bodies and our wallets.

Every Christmas feast was centered around a roast of an animal; pheasant, pork, beef, and duck are a few examples of traditional roasts served for dinner.

Because pork is so lean and high in protein, I chose a pork-based dish for this Christmas centerpiece.

Apple Cider Brined Pork Loin with Cider Mustard Sauce

Brine:

1-Gallon Apple Cider
10 Cloves Garlic
10 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
5 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
2 Cloves
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 T Mustard Seeds
1 T Fennel Seeds
1 Orange Peel
1-Cup Sugar
1-Cup Kosher Salt
2 T Whole Pepper Corns
1 Bay Leaf

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large pot. Turn the heat down and simmer for 2 minutes to dissolve sugar and salt and coax flavor out of ingredients. Cool down completely and then add your pork loin.

(It’s important to use kosher salt because kosher salt weighs about 5 ounces per cup and iodized salt weighs 10 ounces per cup. If you use iodized salt, only use a ½ cup.)

Acquiring your roast:

In the supermarket, you can usually find boneless pork loins ranging from 1-4 pounds. It takes about 30 minutes of cooking time per pound of pork loin, so you can gauge your cooking time based on the size of pork loin you can find and the size you need.

For this recipe, I use a 4 pound boneless pork loin roast, but again you can use any size. Place your pork loin in your cooled brine and make sure it’s completely submerged. If it’s sticking out you can place a plate on top to keep it down. Cover completely in plastic wrap and let it sit for 12 to 24 hours.

Preparing your roast:

2 T Olive Oil
1 T Salt
1 T Cracked black pepper
1 T Thyme, chopped finely
1 T Rosemary, chopped finely
1 T Orange Zest 

Remove your pork loin from its brine and place it on a wire rack on top of a sheet pan. Take paper towels and dry the pork loin completely. Drizzle olive oil on your roast and coat with all other ingredients.  Place your roast into a 425° oven for 20 minutes, or until nicely browned. Then turn the oven down to 400° and cook until roast has an internal temperate of 140°. You want your roast to be at an internal temperature of 145°, but the roast will still cook when you take it out of the oven. This is called carryover cooking. Carryover cooking will finish cooking the roast gently and redistribute the juices within the meat, keeping it nice and juicy when you cut into it. It should take about 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours of cooking and resting time. Take all your dripping from the pan and set aside for the sauce! Be sure to check the roast throughout its cooking time. There is nothing worse than a dry roast!

Apple Cider Mustard Sauce:

2 cups apple cider
2 cups chicken stock
1 shallot
4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
3 T whole grain mustard
Pan drippings

To start, slice your shallot thinly and mince your garlic finely. Sauté them in your pan drippings for a few minutes and then add all of the ingredients besides the mustard. Bring to a boil and then reduce down to a simmer and let it cook until it has reduced three-fourths and is a sauce consistency. When the sauce is finished, add the mustard.

To go along with your roast, you need a few delicious sides to compliment and complete your meal. Roasting vegetables really brings out a depth of flavor and naturally occurring sweetness.

Roasted Butternut Squash

2 large Butternut Squash
1 sprig Thyme
2 T Olive Oil
Drizzle of Honey
2 T Salt
1 T Pepper

Peel and seed your squash. Dice it into 1” cubes. Remove the tiny green leaves from the stem of the thyme sprig and chop it finely. Toss the squash with the olive oil, thyme, honey, salt, and pepper and place on a sheet pan. Roast at 400° for 15-20 minutes. Turn the squash every 5 minutes to avoid blackening. Check the squash with a knife to ensure doneness.

Roasted Fennel

4 large bulbs – Fennel
1 sprig -Thyme
1 whole – Lemon
4 cloves – Garlic
2 T – Salt
1 t – Pepper
2 T – Olive Oil

Wash, halve, and core your fennel. Cut each half into fourths. Remove the leaves from the thyme and chop finely. Zest the lemon and smash the garlic cloves. Toss all ingredients together and roast in a 375° oven for 20 minutes.

Haricot Verts with Shallot and Almond

2 T Olive Oil
2 T Salt
1 T Pepper
1 Pound Haricot Vert
1 Large Shallot
2 Cloves Garlic
½ cup Sliced Almonds

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt and drop your haricot vert in. Boil until just tender and then drain and set aside to cool. Slice shallot paper thin, and mince the garlic finely. Toast the almonds and set them aside. When ready to eat, sauté the cooked beans in a tablespoon of olive oil with the shallot and garlic. Add salt and pepper and cook through. Top with toasted almonds.

Parsnip Puree

5 large parsnips
6 cloves Garlic
1 liter Chicken Stock
1 sprigs Thyme
1 Shallot

Peel parsnips and cut into large chunks of equal size. Smash garlic cloves and roughly cut the shallot. Remove the leaves from the thyme and put all ingredients into a pot. Bring the pot to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook until fork tender, or about 15-20 minutes depending on the size. Once cooked, strain the parsnips but keep the liquid. Blend the parsnips and add the liquid slowly until you have a nice smooth mass, with a texture similar to mashed potatoes. Although it’s more work to blend them this way, you want to do this to make sure that that texture is correct and not too watery.

Naval Orange Marmalade

2 oranges
3 cups water
2 cups sugar

Cut the ends off of you oranges and then halve them. Slice the oranges as thin as you can. Put your oranges, sugar, and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t scorch.  Once it has thickened and the fruit is completely softened, pull it off of the heat and cool.

Wine Pairing:

For this meal I would serve a light red wine that would compliment the pork and not compete with it. A pairing that would be great would be a Beaujolais Noveau!

This wine is made from the Gamay varietal of grapes and is very light and easy drinking. It is also special to have it with this meal because it is only released the third Thursday of November every year and needs to be consumed soon after because it doesn’t have the ability to age. On another note, it should be served slightly chilled to enhance its fruity flavors.

Now it’s time for the finale to this fantastic meal! Traditionally the dessert course is full of heavy puddings, tarts, and pies. This year, try something different and end the meal with a light and seasonal dessert. A Pavlova is a pastry that is made from a meringue base and is baked until it’s light and crispy. The inside stays chewy like marshmallow, and then there is a cream filling and it is topped with fruit. The dessert was named after the famous ballerina Anna Pavlova and is a holiday tradition that started in the 20s.

Pavlova with dried fruit compote

Filling:

1 cup Ricotta
1/4  Chevre
¼ Greek yogurt
2 T Honey
½ t Vanilla

For the filling, blend all ingredients until smooth. This filling is delicious and much healthier than the regular filling, which is made of cream and sugar!

Fruit Compote:

2 oz Dried Apricots
2 oz Dried Cherries
2 oz Golden Raisins
2 oz Dried Cranberries
2 oz Dried Figs
1 T Orange Zest
1 T Lemon Zest
1 cup Brandy
1 cup Orange Juice
1 Cinnamon stick

Cut your apricots and figs into smaller pieces, and zest your orange and lemon. Put all ingredients into a saucepot and cook until the fruit is soft and the juices thicken, about 20 minutes.

Pavlova:

4 Egg whites
¼ t cream of tartar
1-cup brown sugar
4 t cornstarch
2 t white vinegar
1 t Vanilla

Put your egg whites and cream of tartar in a bowl and beat it until small peaks form. Add the sugar slowly with the mixer on low until it is thick and glossy. Add the cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla. Mix for 30 seconds just to blend all ingredients.

Bake on a parchment-lined sheet pan and form it into a disc in the middle of the pan. Smooth the top of mass so that it cooks evenly.

Bake at 250° for an hour and a half.  After the total baking time, turn the oven off and let it cool completely in the oven. This will form the crisp texture and prevent it from becoming sticky.

Only assemble this dessert right before you are about to eat it! The Pavlova should be room temperature, the cream should be cold, and the compote should be just warmed through.

Top the Pavlova with the goat cheese mixture and compote and serve!

This dessert is so impressive and so easy! It is an indulgence and a lot healthier than most desserts. Although there are eggs and sugar in this recipe, you are using the white of the egg, which has no fat, and a small amount of sugar. There are lots of textures and flavors going on, which will be a great end to a fantastic meal. Try something new this year, and start a new tradition with your friends and family!

Merry Christmas!

Sean Gallagher

Photo Sources 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

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New Relationship Tips and How to Act

In Art, Being Gay, Clothing, Clubs, Dating, Gay Business, Gay Celebrity, Gay Weddings, holidays, Hollywood, Night Out, NYC, Relationships, sex on December 21, 2009 at 11:23 pm

I haven’t had the greatest run with relationships. My love life has been sucky for a while, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from it, it’s how to act while your relationship is still young, tender, and fresh. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts:

DON’T be annoying! A stage 5 clinger is the last thing your partner needs. Try to space out text messages and phone calls. Don’t check on them every 5 minutes. This will lead to serious attachment issues, believe me.

DO play hard to get! Everyone likes a challenge, so why not? DON’T, however, be too defensive. Try to find a happy medium that suits you and your other half.

DON’T make the relationship all about gifts. Sure, flashy things and nice clothes are great, but not at the beginning of a relationship. Save those for when things get serious. Remember, love cannot be bought.

DO make compromises! Don’t make it all about you, and don’t let your partner take all the spotlight. If you find that the other person tends to be an attention whore, stay away! This will only make you feel you belittled, and that should never happen. An occasional expensive dinner or splurge is appropriate, but don’t make your partner go bankrupt!

DON’T break-up because of a few fights. Conflict is natural and in some cases, necessary. Occasional verbal arguments and disagreements will always occur. If you are looking for the perfect relationship, get ready for disappointment. Not everyone can agree on the same things, so don’t expect it to happen with your partner.

DON’T expect your partner to pay for every date! If he insists, convince him to switch things up a little bit and treat him to dinner and a movie once a month. You must give him a break once in a while!

Now, I’m not guaranteeing that these tips will apply to all relationships. These tips were formulated from my own experiences in the dating jungle. Winter is the best time to spread love, so go out there and find your perfect match!

Matt Scotto

Photo Sources 1, 2, 3, 4