The only drawback to being responsible for a festive Christmas dinner is that the normal seasonal turmoil makes it hard to concentrate on planning and cooking. So what to do? As usual, the best thing to do when the time crunch is on is . . . keep it simple.
After all, by the time the big day finally arrives, most of us are so sated with holiday sweets and other party food that a beautiful but relatively simple meal will be most welcome. So offer your family and friends a menu that will be special, but won't leave everyone overstuffed.
For a stunning, yet simple, Christmas meal, we suggest a rolled bone-in pork loin roast filled with a delicious apricot-flavored bread stuffing. Begin the meal with a delicate mushroom-flavored consomme and accompany the roast with warm poached pears served with a Cumberland Sauce.
A tangy broccoli vegetable dish and a crisp green salad will round out the main part of the meal nicely. And an easy to make chilled pumpkin souffle that can be whipped up early the day before will provide just the right touch of light sweetness needed to polish off a perfect holiday meal.
A pork roast prepared this way is a genuine showpiece. But for all of its glamorous appearance, it is surprisingly simple to fix. The secret to success is a good sharp butcher knife and a steady hand. Or you can ask your butcher to do it for you.
Begin with a pork roast that has the excess meat trimmed from the tips of the ribs and the backbone sawed through so it can be carved easily when cooked. From there on, it is surprisingly easy to slice the roast in spiral fashion until it has rolled out to a half-inch-thick flat rectangle that is about 12 to 14 inches long. (Photos showing how to do this are on Page 16.) The stuffing is spread over the meat and it is then rolled up jellyroll style and tied to hold its shape. The result is spectacular both in appearance and in flavor.
Most of this preparation can be done the day before. It is advisable, however, in the interest of food safety to refrigerate the stuffing and the roast separately until just before it goes into the oven. It will take about 10 minutes to spread the stuffing on the meat, roll it up and tie it, so allow that much extra time when figuring your roasting time. (And don't forget to allow an extra 10 to 15 minutes for the roast to rest when it comes out of the oven.)
If you prefer a beef roast for your holiday meal, we offer an alternate menu that is equally easy and simple. Again, much of the preparation can be done ahead, thus allowing the cook to enjoy the holiday festivities as much as anyone else.
CHRISTMAS MENU I
Fresh Mushroom Consomme
Pinwheel Pork Rib Roast or Chestnut-Stuffed Pork Roast
Poached Pears on Spiced Apple Rings
Crisp Green Salad Vinaigrette
Hot Rolls and Butter
Pumpkin Dessert Souffle
Coffee , Tea or Cider PINWHEEL PORK RIB ROAST
1 (6-ounce) package apricot halves
1/2 cup apricot brandy
1 7-rib pork roast, about 4 pounds
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon snipped fresh sage
1 tablespoon snipped fresh thyme
1 (1-pound) loaf day-old white bread, cubed
1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Soak apricot halves in apricot brandy overnight.
Have butcher prepare rolled pork roast by slicing flat away from ribs and trimming tips of bones for separated effect.
Melt butter in skillet. Saute half of garlic in butter until lightly golden. Add and saute onion and celery until tender. Stir in rosemary, sage and thyme. Remove from skillet.
Drain apricot halves and add brandy to garlic mixture. Reserve 8 apricot halves. Cut remaining into quarters and add to brandy mixture. Stir in bread. Add enough chicken broth to moisten stuffing.
Unroll roast and rub all over with salt and pepper and remaining half of minced garlic. Spread stuffing over meat. Arrange reserved apricot halves in row along edge of shorter end of meat. Roll up. Tie firmly.
Place roast, bone side down, on rack in heavy roasting pan. Place in 425-degree oven. Reduce temperature to 325 degrees and roast 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until meat thermometer registers 165 degrees. Remove roast and let rest 10 to 15 minutes before carving. Reserve about 2 tablespoons fat drippings to make Gravy. (Or skim off fat from drippings and serve pan juices with roast.)
Surround roast with Poached Pears on Spiced Apple Rings and sprigs of fresh herbs. Makes 6 to 7 servings. Gravy
2 tablespoons butter or pork drippings
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
Heat drippings in saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add chicken broth and cook and stir until mixture thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot with roast. FRESH MUSHROOM CONSOMME
1/2 pound mushrooms
2 (10 1/2-ounce) cans beef consomme
1 soup can cold water