Festive recipes to tantalize taste buds: roasted pork, sauteed rapini, trifle

By on December 8, 2015

(Photo from Flickr/jeffreyw)
(Photo from Flickr/jeffreyw)

The first rule of thumb when entertaining is keep mum about how the food was supposed to appear or taste.

“Don’t come to the table with your food complaining, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, it’s a bit overcooked, it’s undercooked, it was supposed to be…’” says celeb chef Ricardo Larrivee.

“Your guests don’t care. They don’t know what you wanted to do. Just put it on the table and be proud because you took time, money, effort, all that, and sincerely they’re not coming for that. They’re coming to be with you and the rest of your group.”

Make your table festive with simple inexpensive touches, such as a big bowl of cranberries and some leaves or evergreen branches from the yard or garden centre, he adds.

“Simple is always better and it’s cheaper also and it looks nice,” he says.

Here are some recipes that are sure to dazzle your guests this festive season.

Pistachio and white chocolate spread

This decadent spread is an easy-to-make gift that will earn you brownie points from the recipient.

“Of course it’s easy to bring a bottle of wine or something, but sometimes to do something yourself expresses also the friendship you have for these people because you took the time and effort to do it,” says Larrivee. “It’s nice to do things that are uncomplicated but will say, ‘Hey, I thought of you.’”

Package it in a small mason jar with a decorative ribbon.

It can be spread on crostini or crackers as an appetizer or on breakfast toast. Add a bit of heavy cream and garnish pancakes or put it between two cake layers with whipped cream or on top of cupcakes.

Preparation: 10 minutes

125 ml (1/2 cup) unsalted shelled pistachios

125 g (4 oz) white chocolate, coarsely chopped

45 ml (3 tbsp) cold water

In a food processor, finely chop pistachios and white chocolate, then grind until a firm paste forms. Add water, 15 ml (1 tbsp) at a time, and puree until smooth. Transfer to a jar.

The spread will keep for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Makes 175 ml (3/4 cup).

Source: Ricardo Magazine, www.ricardocuisine.com

Sauteed rapini with toasted garlic

Rapini is also called broccoli rabe. With its bitter flavour profile, it needs a sidekick to balance it. Here, garlic assumes that role. Graham Elliot, who includes this recipe in his new book “Cooking Like a Master Chef,” added some raisins for a little sweetness.

If the garlic burns, start over, he cautions. There is no way to get rid of the horrible flavour and acrid smell, and the extra labour is well worth it.

Preparation: About 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 12 to 18 minutes


1 kg (2 lb) rapini (broccoli rabe)

30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

250 ml (1 cup) golden raisins

15 ml (1 tbsp) red pepper flakes

1 lemon, sliced

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. It should be salted enough so that it tastes like the ocean. Set a large metal bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water near the stove. Drop rapini into boiling water and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes or until bright green and tender. It will be slightly undercooked. Lift rapini from boiling water and immediately plunge it into ice bath to stop cooking. Remove from ice bath and set aside.

In a saute pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and saute garlic just until crispy and golden brown. (Take care that it does not burn.) Add rapini and saute for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it is soft and just about melts in your mouth. It will seem overcooked.

Season with salt and serve rapini garnished with raisins, red pepper flakes and lemon slices.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: “Cooking Like a Master Chef: 100 Recipes to Make the Everyday Extraordinary” by Graham Elliot with Mary Goodbody (Atria Books, 2015).

Roasted pork loin with orange sauce

Turkey doesn’t have to be the centrepiece of the festive dinner. Here’s a recipe for a roasted pork loin that is not only elegant but delicious.

Preparation: 30 minutes

Cooking: 1 hour

Pork Loin

15 ml (1 tbsp) whole-grain mustard

15 ml (1 tbsp) honey

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 pork rack (6 bones), about 1.8 kg (4 lb)

15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Squash Puree

1 onion, chopped

45 ml (3 tbsp) butter

1.5 l (6 cups) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

50 ml (1/4 cup) water

Orange Sauce

15 ml (1 tbsp) cornstarch

30 ml (2 tbsp) water

50 ml (1/4 cup) lightly packed brown sugar

30 ml (2 tbsp) red wine vinegar

1 small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 orange, grated zest only

125 ml (1/2 cup) orange juice

300 ml (1 1/4 cup) veal stock

Pork Loin: With rack in middle position, preheat oven to 200 C (400 F).

In a bowl, combine mustard, honey and garlic. Set aside.

Season meat with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, brown meat in oil. Brush with mustard mixture and place in skillet with bone side down.

Roast for about 55 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into centre of meat reads 57 C (135 F). Transfer rack of pork to a serving plate and loosely cover with aluminum foil. Let rest until temperature reaches 63 C (145 F).

Squash Puree: In a large saucepan over medium heat, soften onion in butter. Add squash and continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add water. Cover and continue cooking for about 30 minutes or until squash is tender, stirring occasionally. In a food processor, puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Orange Sauce: In a bowl, dissolve cornstarch in water. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, vinegar, onion, garlic and orange zest. Bring to a boil and let simmer until brown sugar starts to caramelize. Add orange juice and simmer for 1 minute. Add veal stock and cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice rack of pork between bones. Serve with squash puree and orange sauce.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Ricardo Magazine, www.ricardocuisine.com

Roasted pears and grapes (pere e uva al forno)

For dessert at Christmas, Lidia Bastianich likes cookies that can be made in advance.

“But I like fruit for dessert. Baked tarts. Even I do grapes and pears baked. You can do them in the morning and put them aside and then you just put some ice cream on top and the syrupy delicious pears and grapes on top and everybody seems to love that,” she says.

500 ml (2 cups) seedless red grapes

250 ml (1 cup) sugar

Juice of 2 lemons, freshly squeezed

150 ml (2/3 cup) Moscato

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

30 ml (2 tbsp) apricot jam

3 firm but ripe Bosc pears, halved and cored

Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F). Place grapes in a baking dish. In a bowl, combine sugar, lemon juice, Moscato, vanilla bean and apricot jam and stir until blended. Pour over grapes. Nestle pear halves, cut side up, into grapes.

Bake until pears are tender and liquid around grapes is thick and syrupy, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove pears and let stand for about 10 minutes. Discard vanilla pod. Serve with some of the grapes and their liquid spooned around them.

Variation: Pears and grapes are a great marriage of flavours, but Bastianich also like this preparation with quince and fresh cranberries. To try this, cut peeled and cored quince in quarters (they take longer to bake than the pears), and substitute fresh cranberries for grapes. It will take more sugar since cranberries are not as sweet as grapes.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: “Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Great Italian Cook” by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Appetite by Random House, 2015).

Cranberry and raspberry trifle

Dessert is the crowning touch to the meal and a trifle, which can be prepared ahead, looks spectacular.

If you don’t have a trifle bowl, use a large glass salad or punch bowl or even a vase, suggests Larrivee. You could also do individual portions in cereal bowls.

Preparation: 1 hour

Cooking: 20 minutes

Cooling: 2 hours

Resting: 12 hours

Raspberry Curd

175 ml (3/4 cup) sugar

30 ml (2 tbsp) cornstarch

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

175 ml (3/4 cup) raspberry puree

30 ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice

Cranberry and Raspberry Compote

750 ml (3 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries

250 ml (1 cup) sugar

15 ml (1 tbsp) water

500 ml (2 cups) fresh raspberries


625 ml (2 1/2 cups) 35 per cent whipping cream

50 ml (1/4 cup) sugar

5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

16 ladyfinger cookies, each cut in half

125 ml (1/2 cup) milk

Raspberry Curd: In a saucepan off the heat, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add eggs and egg yolks and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Stir in raspberry puree and lemon juice. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring continuously and scraping bottom of saucepan, until mixture thickens.

Strain curd through a sieve into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Let cool and refrigerate for about 2 hours or until completely chilled. When ready to use the curd, stir with a spatula to soften it.

Cranberry and Raspberry Compote: In a saucepan over medium heat, bring cranberries, sugar and water to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until compote is syrupy. Let cool, then refrigerate for 30 minutes or until completely chilled. When ready to assemble, stir in raspberries.

Assembly: In a bowl, whip cream, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.

At the bottom of a 3-l (12-cup) glass serving bowl, spread 125 ml (1/2 cup) of the whipped cream. Place 16 half-cookies against sides of bowl and arrange 8 half-cookies, briefly dipped in milk, on surface of cream. Cover with half the raspberry curd, half the whipped cream and half the cranberry and raspberry compote, then finish with remaining half-cookies, briefly dipped in milk. Continue with remaining raspberry curd and remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate for 12 hours.

When ready to serve, drain remaining cranberry and raspberry compote and spoon on top of trifle to form a crown.

Makes 10 servings.

Source: Ricardo Magazine, www.ricardocuisine.com