pork loin stuffed with dried apricots and cranberries in Sauterne and tied with dental floss…

No culinary disasters to speak of occurred this holiday however it was not without its hair-raising, stress-inducing, blood-vessel-bursting, screaming-for-wine moments. Bare with me here….

Freak-out #1: 4:30pm Start cooking for 11 people who are arriving at 8:00pm. Yes, start. Luckily, we had already shopped…well sort of. Two more people joined the festivities at the last minute so that morning I ran to the market for more veggies, to Pascal the baker for the baguettes and brioche, and to my blue-eyed butcher Serge for another pork loin. We were all tres jetlagged so an afternoon nap was a must to get through the night. I re-woke up around 4:15pm, and began chopping and blanching and peeling and melting and whisking and grating like a mad woman.

Pierre arrived back around 6pm and I immediately started barking orders. “Toast the brioche, juice and zest the lemon, mix the blue cheese, assemble the endive, help me tie up the pork, turn off the carrots, make the potatoes, oh and by the way we are out of olive oil, butter and Roquefort and it’s Sunday night and no stores are open. AAAAAK!” John made two market runs before the first guests arrived. I don’t know why I stress over these things. Two years ago, we didn’t shop for food until 6pm that night(!!!) and everything turned out great. Pierre and John are so low-key in the kitchen I should just follow their lead but I guess it is the perfectionist or more likely the control freak in me coming screaming out…

Freak-out #2: 8:15pm First guests arrive and I am still in the kitchen in my big, brown, fuzzy robe (one of Oprah’s “favorite things” and God love her for it) and matching big, brown, fuzzy slippers, resembling a bear more than a human according to Pierre, with wet hair and no make up. Not a sight I would wish on anyone. I heard one of the guests in the hallway ask “Should I bring the wine in the kitchen?” to which I promptly replied (read: screamed) “NOOOO!” Needless to say, no one dared approach the kitchen until after I had slinked (slunk? slunked?) off to my room to get ready.

toasted brioche cooling on the dish rack 🙂

A few minutes into drying my hair, I realized that I needed to relax if I was going to enjoy the evening so I opened my door and called (read: screamed) to John for a glass of wine, emphasizing the “now” part of the request, as in “Can you please bring me a glass of wine… NOOOOW?!” Five minutes later no wine and still cranky, I stomped down the hall, still bedecked in Oprah’s favorite things with half a head of wet hair, to secure my glass of happy juice. I went back to my room, cranked iTunes, sipped my wine, finished drying the other half of my hair, and attempted to make myself look presentable…

Now in spite of what you have just read above, John, Pierre and I actually have a great time cooking together and it’s always a collaborative effort of some sort usually involving much laughter and many cocktails. We had three pork loins (filet mignon de porc) so we decided to make it two different ways. John makes an ethereal herb-mustard pork tenderloin while I thought I’d try something new (new for me anyways) and stuff it with dried apricots and cranberries cooked in Sauterne. It was dental floss to the rescue, again, as I discovered I had used all my twine to secure my suitcases over the past few months of travel. Pierre held the meat together as I tried to keep the fruit from gushing out while tying knots with the slippery floss. It wasn’t pretty but it got the job done.

John browning the pork and Eric the Actor mugging for the camera as usual…occupational hazard I guess 🙂

John made a sauce of the mustard-herb “sucs” (from my cooking school workbook, sucs are the caramelized proteins that form on the bottom of a roasting or saute pan as items are browned) from the roasting pan and cooked it with a healthy heaping or two of creme fraiche. Sublime. I cooked my pork loins in 2 cups of sauterne surrounded with the rest of the dried fruit. I made a sauce of the cooked fruit with a little more, ok a lot more Sauterne, some water and a few tablespoons of flour to thicken. Both were spectacular, mine much to my amazement!

New Year’s Eve dinner kicked off with a delicious pepper foie gras made by a small farmer who sells his treats at a fromagerie off rue Montorgueil. The label reads: foie gras, sel (salt), poivre (pepper). C’est tout! That’s all. No nitrates, coloring, etc. Pure, silky, meltingly fabulous foie gras speckled through with black pepper. We served it with grilled baguette slices and sides of oignon confit and fig confit along with a smooth Sauterne to lasso all the flavors and textures into a surreal ‘degustation’. We were so hungry we forgot to take photos.

For the baby carrots, I simply blanched them first then a quick saute with butter to glaze them and warm them through. The haricots-verts I also blanched then finished sauteing with toasted sliced almonds and tossed with a snow flurry of Roquefort. I froze the Roquefort that easily grated on my microplane, resulting in a bunny slope of blue and white fluff. For the Gratin Dauphinois, I peeled and cut while Pierre assembled the layers of potatoes interspersed with blobs of creme fraiche (we later added cream to thin it out and make it more spreadable) and shredded Comte cheese. Baked for an hour, we gave it a final shot under the broiler to brown the top layer of ooey gooey cheese. I ate it for the next two days! Dessert was my standard flourless chocolate decadence hearts with raspberries, once again too frenzied to take a picture but you’ve seen it many times here before. Bonne Appetit et Bonne Annee 2007!

Bonne Annee! Happy New Year!
31 decembre 2006 – 1 janvier 2007
chez Laura, John et Pierre

Veuve Cliquot Champagne

Tomates Cerises, Noix de Cajou et Amandes – Cherry Tomatoes, Cashews, Almonds

Saumon Fume sur Brioche Grillee avec Citron Creme Fraiche – Smoked Salmon on Toasted Brioche with Lemon-Creme Fraiche

Endive au Roquefort Creme Fraiche et Framboises – Endive with Roquefort Creme Fraiche and Raspberries


Foie Gras au Poivre
Baguette Grille, Oignons Confit, Figues Confit

Vins de Bordeaux

Filet Mignon de Porc aux Fruits Secs avec Sauce aux Fruits Secs et Sauterne

Filet Mignon de Porc aux Herbes de Provence et Moutarde avec Sauce a la Moutarde et Creme Fraiche

Gratin Dauphinois

Carottes Sautees avec Beurre – Sauteed Carrots with Butter

Haricots-Verts avec Amandes et Roquefort – Green Beans with Sliced Almonds and Roquefort

Gateau Chocolat avec Framboises – Chocolate Decadence with Raspberries

et plus de Champagne……

Cheers! Happy New Year! Bonne Annee 2007!

(FYI, this menu above was proof-read by a real French person so please refrain from any snarky comments about my French spelling or grammar. Accents I can’t help, tell blogger.com)

Filet Mignon de Porc aux Fruits Secs

I made this up on the fly so take my instructions with a big grain of salt, pun intended.

1. Cut pork loin in half but not all the way through and leave about 1-2 inches on each end.

2. Fill with chopped apricots and cranberries. Tie with kitchen twine or dental floss in a pinch. sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Place in roasting pan and spread the rest of the dried fruit around it and add 2 cups of sauterne to the pan.

4. Roast in a 400F oven for 20-30 minutes.

5. Take out and set roast aside to rest. Scoop fruit into a small sauce pan.

6. Add a cup of Sauterne and water each and reduce. Add 1-2 tablespoons of flour slowly to thicken.

7. Remove string (or dental floss) from pork. Slice pork on the bias and spoon fruit sauce over each piece.

Gratin Dauphinos

1. Peel and slice potatoes about 1/4″ thick

2. Grate cheese (we used Comte) and thin out creme fraiche with a little bit of cream.

3. Layer potatoes then cheese then creme fraiche. Repeat until about an inch from the top of the dish. Stop with the cheese on top.

4. Cook in a 400F oven for an hour. If the top isn’t brown and bubbly, put it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the cheese.

Bonne Cuisinez!

Bonne Année 2007 de Paris! 6 January,2007Cucina Testa Rossa

  • Robert (French food lover)

    What an amazing feast!! It reminds me of why I moved to France. Of course one doesn’t have to live in France to eat like this, but I find that I’m much more inspired to. When I lived in the UK, food was always second behind work. It is the famous quote “The English eat to live, the French live to eat”. Anyway, loved this post. I had never though of freezing Roquefort, so that is another handy tip too.

  • Jann

    Oh-my-gawd!This was a feast not a dinner!You really know how to live and so do your friends-“and” they come and cook “and” you are in your bathrobe with guests arriving “and” you ring for wine while putting on your face-why wasn’t I invited? I could have set the table for you!

  • cucina testa rossa

    Thanks Robert! The French most certainly live to eat ~ one of my favorite aspects of their culture, that and the very civilized evening aperitif 🙂

    Jann 😀 you’re always invited. My friends who cook with me are actually my flatmates so we cover each other. Ohe shops while one chops while the other primps and then we switch off…

  • Anonymous

    Nicely done!

    I’ve never tried tying roasts with dental floss. I’m going to assume you used the unwaxed kind. Something to remember.

    – Chubbypanda

  • cucina testa rossa

    merci chubbypanda ~ yes, it was unwaxed and we’ve used it more than once in a pinch. we tied two lamb shoulders together around a spit on a rotisserie as well as trussed chickens and now our pork loin. just like my dish rack has doubled as a salad spinner and a cooling rack 🙂

  • Michele

    I am kind of obsessed with the recurring roquefort/endive/raspberry apero snack and have vowed to make it for an upcoming cocktail party. By the way, I study at the FCI too and reading your blog always makes me feel hopeful for the future.


Cucina Testa Rossa

After a decade in Silicon Valley, Laura traded her keyboard for a cutting board and moved to New York City to immerse herself in food and wine studies and restaurant operations. She graduated from the French Culinary Institute where she studied under Master Chefs Jacques Pépin, André Soltner, Alain Sailhac, and Master Sommelier Andrea Immer. While in New York, Laura cooked with some of the world’s most highly acclaimed chefs including Mario Lohninger (Danube), Morimoto, Mark Franz & Emily Luchetti (Farallon), Michael Romano (Union Square Café), Mario Batali, Marcella Hazan, Jonathan Cartwright (White Barn Inn), Martin Heierling (Bellagio), Dave Pasternack (Esca), Richard Reddington (Redd, Auberge du Soleil), and the legendary Alice Waters (Chez Panisse).

After working as the Back Kitchen Chef of Jacques Pépin’s PBS cooking show, “Fast Food, My Way”, Laura moved to France to cook her way around the country. She cooked at the Cannes Film Festival, then to the northwest corner of France, to Britanny, to cook on a lobster boat, then east to Paris to the world famous Pierre Hermé Patisserie where she made thousands of his macarons every day! Laura cooked for the fabulous Olivia de Havilland and interned at 3 Michelin Star Le Cinq under Chef Philippe Legendre and Pastry Chef Fabrice Lecleir. Laura was the executive chef and cooking instructor at the DaVinci Code chateau outside of Paris where she was on set during the filming of the movie.

In Fall 2007, Laura worked on Jacques Pepin’s most recent PBS television series as prop and food stylist. “More Fast Food, My Way” should air in the Spring of 2008. “My Keyboard for a Cutting Board ~ Adventures in a French kitchen v1.0”, Laura’s first book highlights her first three months cooking in France, was published in Summer 2006. Convivialité is her second book and will hopefully be published in the fall.

Laura now splits her time between Paris and the San Francisco Bay Area doing private chefing, teaching cooking classes and leading market tours when in Paris. Bon Appetit!

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