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"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

2014. Here it begins with trying to tidy up and pack up the old year, looking back to reflect, and making resolutions, of course… New projects, fresh ideas, daydreams, decisions.

And celebrations. This is our first, with our dear friend and talented chef, Jessica O’Brien. These recipes are delicious and lovely to look at, as well. Gather your friends, toast the new year, and tie on that apron.

About our charming guest…

Occupation: Private chef

Culinary background: The Spotted Pig, Le Cirque, Tasting Table to name a few

Residence: West Village, NY

Most humiliating moment in the kitchen: When Chef April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig threw a bowl of salad across the kitchen room because she said it was over-dressed.

Most rewarding moment in the kitchen: When I got promoted to the Grill Station at the Pig. It meant you’d made it to the top.

Favorite food to cook at home: In the fall and winter I cook a lot of soups and stews for their heartiness and comfort. In the spring and summer I like to cook fish or shellfish for their simplicity and lightness.

Favorite takeout: Chinese, for sure. I order almost everything off the menu.

Favorite thing to cook for company: Surf & Turf. Best of both worlds.

Tip for entertaining at home: Shop and prep as much as possible in advance.

About these recipes: A menu that is simple, delicious, and elegant. Perfect for any occasion. And can prepare so many of the steps in advance.

Favorite drink: Jameson. Straight and to the point.

Music at your parties:  Pop or dance music. It has to be fun and upbeat. It’s a party after all.

New year traditions:  Spending the first day of the New Year with my husband.

Resolutions:  I like to set myself up for success, and resolutions usually end up being a disappointment so I don’t make any.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

HERB-CRUSTED PORK LOIN WRAPPED IN PANCETTA

2 pounds boneless pork loin
Kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper
Olive oil, as needed
¼ cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped, plus 1 whole sprig
¼ cup fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Dried red chili flakes, to taste
1 pound assorted small potatoes, such as fingerling, Peruvian, and Yukon Gold
½ pound baby carrots
1 baby fennel (about ¼ pound), or 1 regular fennel, cut into 6 wedges
¼ pound small Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed and exterior leaves removed
½ cup dry white wine
1 pound thinly sliced pancetta (about 20 slices)

– Remove pork from refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.

– Pat pork dry with a paper towel and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat about 1 tablespoon oil (enough to coat) a large skillet over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Sear the pork on all sides until deep golden brown, then transfer to a plate and allow to cool.

– In small bowl, stir together chopped rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemon zest, and chili flakes. Stir in 6 tablespoons oil. Rub half of the herb mixture all over the pork and once again, season with salt and pepper.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

– Cut kitchen twine into four 2-foot-long pieces and two 3-foot-long pieces.  Lay the 4 pieces horizontally, a few inches apart from each other, then the 2 longer pieces crosswise.  Arrange 12 slices of pancetta on top of twine, overlapping them slightly in a rectangular shape about 3 inches wider than the pork on all sides (since you want the pork to be completely wrapped).

– Place pork loin in center of pancetta slices and roll pancetta slices over it using the parchment paper as a guide. Place remaining pancetta on top of pork to fully cover, then, lay rosemary sprig on top. Tie shorter, horizontal twine pieces first, then tie longer ones. Transfer pork to a roasting pan.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

– In large bowl, toss vegetables with remaining herb mixture and season with salt and pepper. Arrange vegetables around the pork and pour wine over them.

– Roast, basting occasionally with wine and pan juices until an instant read thermometer registers 138°F, 40 to 50 minutes. Allow pork to rest 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

ROASTED TOMATO TARTS

2 pounds (10 to 12 medium), plum tomatoes halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped, plus additional leaves for garnish
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions
All-purpose flour, for work surface
½ cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reddiano cheese, plus ¼ cup (.5 ounce) shaved for garnish
Aged balsamic vinegar, as needed
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed backing sheet with parchment paper.

– In large bowl, toss the tomatoes, oil, 2 teaspoons of the chopped thyme, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and toss once again to combine. Arrange tomatoes in single layer, cut-side up, on prepared baking sheet.

– Roast 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to 325°F and continue to cook until the edges of the tomatoes are slightly browned, about 1 ½ hours.

– While the tomatoes are roasting, prepare puff pastry. Lightly dust a clean, dry work surface with flour, unfold pastry, and cut crosswise into 3 rectangular pieces (the creases will be your natural guide to where you should cut).  Lightly flour a rolling pin and roll each rectangle pieces into 11- by 4.5-inch rectangles.

– With a sharp pairing knife, score around the edges to create a ¼-inch border. Using a fork, prick wholes inside the border (to release steam while cooking). Repeat with remaining 2 pieces pastry.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

– Whisk egg and water together in small bowl and brush all over pastry. Sprinkle the center of pastries with grated cheese and remaining chopped thyme. Carefully transfer to parchment paper-lined trays and refrigerate at least 20 minutes.

– When tomatoes finish roasting, return oven temperature back up to 400°F. Bake pastry until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Top each tart shell with shaved cheese while still warm, then top with roasted tomatoes, cut sides down. Sprinkle more cheese to taste and thyme leaves, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Cut into pieces and serve.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

SPICED BAKED CHICKPEAS
Makes about 3 cups

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

– Pat the chickpeas dry with paper towels and transfer them to a medium bowl. Toss them with the oil, rosemary, garlic, cayenne, cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour chickpeas onto prepared baking sheet, spreading out into single layer. Bake until crisp, 45 to 50 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to ensure even baking.

– Transfer baking sheet to a cooling rack and cool completely. Serve, or store them in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

ZUCCHINI LATKES WITH APPLE-BEET COMPOTE

For the Zucchini Latkes
1 ½ pounds russet potatoes
1 ½ pounds zucchini
1 medium Vidalia onion
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup fine plain breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch ground cumin
Generous pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
Schmaltz, bacon drippings, or canola oil, as needed

For the Apple-Beet Compote
2 pounds firm apples, such as Granny Smith, Gala, or Pink Lady, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound red beets, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch kosher salt

For Serving
Crème fraîche (optional)

– For the Zucchini Latkes: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325°F.  Set a cooling rack inside a rimmed baking sheet.

– In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all the ingredients.

– Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop the vegetable mixture in 1-tablespoon-sized spoonfuls  into the skillet and lightly flatten with a spatula, being careful to not overcrowd the skillet.
Cook the latkes until light golden brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer the finished latkes to the prepared cooling rack and baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm and crisp.

– Repeat cooking procedure with additional oil and remaining batter.

– For the Apple-Beet Compote: Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and arrange on platter. Dollop latkes with compote and (optional) crème fraîche.

Comments

3 Comments

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  1. January 13, 2014

    Such gorgeous tomatoes!

  2. January 13, 2014

    Oh my, will most definitely try the chick peas soon as they seem like a great healthy snack! The pork loin will be after that!

  3. January 17, 2014

    Yum!! Everything looks delicious!

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