Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Roasting grapes for a savory dinner...

While we love potatoes in most every form, I think our favorite has to be the always comforting mashed potatoes. For the side to tonight's meal, these Smashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Chives ramped up ordinary potatoes with a creamy tang.

As usual, chunky pieces of potatoes, Yukon gold in this case, are boiled in salted water until the pieces can easily be pierced by a knife. Once drained, the potatoes are added back into the pot and left to sit over low heat, with a few stirs, for a minute or so - this step evaporates any of the liquid that clung to the potatoes or didn't drain away. Softened butter, along with a generous dose of salt and fresh ground black pepper are blended into the fluffy potatoes by smashing them with a potato masher.

They will look very dry and stiff now - the first step to smooth them out is a handful of tangy goat cheese. Still over low heat, half-and-half is stirred in, and the potatoes transform into luscious, creamy potatoes that still have some texture to them. We enjoy potato skins, so I didn't peel our potatoes first, but don't let me stop you if that isn't your thing. Right before serving, we added a fresh note by stirring in the last bits from our chive plants that I clipped Monday night... thankfully I did that then because the last two nights have been wicked cold (19 degrees early Tuesday morning!). You could certainly even make these ahead of time - just stir in some warmed chicken broth, or milk, before serving to loosen them up.

Have a need to use up a mess of grapes? Then you'll have to try out this Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grape Sauce that I served as the main dish tonight.

Making efficient use of the oven, a few cups worth of grapes are roasted on the bottom rack until the juices begin to flow and their skins shrivel. I had red grapes on hand, but a mix of red and green would make a lovely presentation. While those were working, we browned one side of the lean tenderloin in a skillet, gave it a flip, and then slide it on a rack over the grapes to finish cooking through. Once the pork had tested done, we moved it onto a cutting board and started the next step of the sauce by adding a couple finely chopped shallots into the fiery hot skillet (don't forget the handle will not be quite h-o-t! - put a towel or potholder over the handle to remind you). To inject a mellow sweetness, a half cup of Madeira is poured into the shallots and allowed to reduce. If you don't happen to have that fortified wine on hand, white wine would be acceptable - if you absolutely don't want to cook with alcohol, extra broth would also be ok, but you'll loose some sharpness.

For volume, a bit of broth, along with pungent Dijon and thyme is stirred in - to add body and thicken the sauce, a slurry of cornstarch and water are the next ingredients. The caramelized grapes are swirled in to finish the sauce. The tender pork, with a juicy pink hue in the center, is sliced and served over the unique sauce. We both thought the intensified sweetness in the grapes was a brilliant pair with the more savory pork. While the grapes did loose their fullness in the roasting process, they still had enough zest to pop while eating, giving some extra satisfaction. Jeff thought it may end up being a bit too sweet with the wine and grapes, but the zing from the Dijon seemed to keep it in check.


  1. Those smashed potatoes look wonderful! Potatoes are my desert island food.....

  2. We really liked the tenderloin with grapes as well. I used all chicken broth instead of using wine and it turned out well. Afterwards, it occured to me that a tiny drizzle of balsamic vinegar tableside would have reigned in the sweetness just a touch more.

    We used black grapes too for a really stunning looking sauce. :-)

  3. Quinn - Yeah!

    Erika - Oh... black grapes would have been a fantastic color addition. Good call!