Do-ahead menu means cook, too, can enjoy meal


Maybe it's the shorter days or the chill of the evenings, but whatever the impetus, entertaining ranks high on the season's agenda.

Here's a menu designed for make-ahead preparation. The cook simply roasts a succulent pork loin, reheats the side dishes, tosses the salad and opens the wine. Easy.

Roast Pork Loin With Thyme and Garlic

Makes 6-8 servings

3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon minced lemon peel (zest), colored part only

1 (3-to 4-pound) boneless, center-cut pork loin, see cook's notes

salt (kosher salt preferred) and pepper to taste

optional garnish: fresh bay leaves or sprigs of fresh thyme

Trim excess fat off the top of the roast, leaving a thin layer of fat to ensure the roast isn't dry. Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, combine thyme, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and lemon zest. Rub mixture over all sides of the pork.

Place on roasting rack in a roasting pan, fat side up, and season well with salt and pepper.

Roast for 10 minutes in a 425-degree oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast an additional 50-60 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in center of pork reads 160 degrees. Remove meat from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

The topping mixture can be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated, airtight.

Line serving platter with Wild Rice Pilaf (recipe follows) and arrange pork slices, overlapping in a fanlike arrangement, on top of pilaf. Garnish with sprigs of fresh thyme.

Wild Rice Pilaf

Makes 6-8 servings

6 cups chicken stock

2 cups wild rice

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and diced

1 large clove garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring chicken stock to a boil. Add wild rice and reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Add raisins and simmer for 10 more minutes or until rice is tender, adding water if needed.

While wild rice is simmering, heat butter and oil in a medium skillet. Cook onion and garlic on medium heat until onion is transparent.

When rice is tender, pour off any liquid remaining in pan and add onion-garlic mixture to rice. Stir in thyme and season to taste.

If preparing in advance, do not pour off liquid. Add onion mixture and season with thyme, salt and pepper. Cool and refrigerate, airtight. Reheat either on top of the stove on low heat, adding more water if necessary and stirring frequently, or in the microwave (just long enough to thoroughly reheat the mixture). If there is liquid in pan, drain rice in colander or scoop out with a slotted spoon. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Baby Carrots in Ginger Marmalade Glaze

Makes 6-8 servings

1 (1-pound) bag trimmed and peeled baby carrots

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

3 tablespoons ginger marmalade, such as Robertson's Ginger Preserve

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add carrots and boil until carrots are cooked tender-crisp. Drain and refresh carrots in cold water.

Melt butter or margarine and ginger marmalade in a large skillet or Dutch oven on medium heat. Add carrots and shake pan to coat carrots with butter-marmalade mixture. Cook on low until carrots are heated.

Carrots can be cooked and cooled and stored, airtight, in the refrigerator. Melt butter and marmalade and reheat just before serving.

Tossed Green Salad

Makes 6 servings


1 cup olive oil, extra-virgin

4 ounces crumbled blue cheese

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon garlic salt


1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground fennel

2 cups pecan halves


8 cups mixed greens, torn into bite-size pieces

2 oranges, peeled and sliced, slices cut in quarters

If you can't find ground fennel, grind fennel seed in a mini-processor or place fennel seeds in a heavy, zipper-style bag and pound with a skillet or rolling pin. Combine oil and cheese in a small bowl or 4-cup measuring cup. Using a fork, press some of the cheese against the side of the container to mash. Stir in vinegar and garlic salt. Set aside.

Place a jelly-roll pan next to the stove; when the nuts are cooked you will need this pan to immediately transfer the nuts. Combine sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper and ground fennel in a small bowl. Heat a wok or large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add nuts and stir until nuts are warm. Add sugar mixture and toss over heat until sugar dissolves. Transfer nuts to jelly-roll pan. Cool.

Place lettuce in a large bowl. Stir dressing and add enough to lightly coat the leaves. Add the nuts and toss again. Garnish with orange slices.

Dressing can be made 1 week in advance and stored airtight in the refrigerator. Nuts can be made 1 week in advance and stored airtight at room temperature. Oranges can be sliced 1 day in advance and stored airtight in the refrigerator. Mix salad just before serving.

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