Monday, February 20, 2017

18 February 2017 – Les Marmitons Gala

Last night, I had the honor and privilege to serve as the Guest Chef for the Les Marmitons of Canton's Valentines Gala. I did the same a couple of years ago, and I was lucky enough to be asked again this year. Les Marmitons is an international gastronomic and social club of gentlemen who have a common interest in fine food, wine and the culinary arts. The Canton chapter is headquartered at Soleil of Laurel Canyon, and these guys know how to cook! Ron Laird, the chapter president, and his friends Mike Travis and Doug Connor, hosted the event, and there was a team of cooks for each course. I met with Ron, Doug and Mike a few times to plan the menu and discuss the logistics. Once the menu was finalized, I compiled all of my recipes and sent them to the Les Marmitons. They shopped for all the ingredients, and I supervised the preparation of the courses with each team. Their prep began a couple of days before the Gala, and I came in on Saturday afternoon to work with them, tasting and adjusting the seasoning. The members invite their spouses and significant others, and the ladies did some beautiful table decorations.

Jeff and I were fortunate to be seated at Ron's table, along with his delightful wife, Brenda and other wonderful people from Soleil. I loved hearing their stories of cooking, military service, work careers, family and a few personal insights into my role as a City Councilman! The Soleil community is a treasure trove of humanity, and I love spending time with these incredible individuals. Their spirit is contagious, and their love of community and the city is encouraging. In addition, they know how to have a good time, and I always have to do my best to keep up with them.

I started the dinner with an amuse bouche to set the tone for the meal. It was a pimento cheese phyllo cup with cayenne pepper jelly and parsley. Each course had a combination of slightly sweet and earthy, savory ingredients. The pimento cheese was the only item I prepared on my own, and that's because I have a strong aversion to mayonnaise. I make mine with cream cheese, sour cream and sometimes a little Greek yogurt. The pimento cheese was a big hit, so I was happy to get the meal off to a good start. The first course began with a pear and prosciutto carpaccio, and each dish got a little richer as the meal progressed. The pears were followed by my Creamy Loudmouth Mushroom Soup. Once again, my friend Scott Branch came through for me with some of his amazing blue oyster mushrooms from Loudmouth Farm in Talking Rock. Everyone enjoyed the soup, and they are looking forward to buying products from Loudmouth once the Canton Farmers Market opens in the Spring. The main course consisted of a bacon wrapped pork tenderloin with a cherry thyme sauce, and it was served with garlicky green beans and some heavenly mashed potatoes with celery root and marscapone cheese. It turned out great, and we made Mexican chocolate Pot de Créme with cayenne and cinnamon whipped cream for dessert. Needless to say, no one left hungry, and we had a great time.

Cooking with the Les Marmitons is such a gift. Their collective wisdom, love of cooking, and respect for others is truly inspiring. Like last time, felt the spirit of my dad in the kitchen with us last night. He was a chef for the Army and he would have enjoyed being a part of this group. I did manage to use a couple of his culinary tricks, so in a way, he was cooking right beside me. Thank you, Les Marmitons of Canton, and everyone at Soleil for your wisdom, kindness and support.

The Valentines Gala Menu:

- Amuse Bouche – Pimento Cheese and Cayenne Jelly Phyllo Cups

- Pear and Prosciutto Carpaccio

- Creamy Loudmouth Mushroom Soup

- Bacon Wrapped Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Thyme Sauce

- Mascarpone and Celery Root Mashed Potatoes and
Garlicky Green Beans with Pine Nuts

- Mexican Chocolate Pot de Crème

The Recipe – Bacon Wrapped Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Thyme Sauce

Ingredients for 8 servings:

2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup dried cherries, chopped
1 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
Bacon slices for wrapping tenderloins
4 pork tenderloins, app. 1 lb each
2 tablespoons red currant jelly
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, thinly sliced lengthwise (about 2 cups)
20 sprigs thyme
2 1/2 cups dry red wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed, halved (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove the silverskin from the pork tenderloins with a
sharp knife. Pat the tenderloins dry with paper towels.

Combine allspice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub pork with spice mixture.

In a small bowl, combine the dried cherries, parsley and mustard. Spread evenly in
thin layer over the top of each tenderloin. Lay the bacon slices crosswise over the pork, overlapping slightly and tucking ends underneath the tenderloins.

Combine the currant jelly and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside.

Roast tenderloins for around 20 minutes, then remove from oven and brush bacon with the jelly/vinegar mix. Return to oven and roast another 10-15 minutes or until pork reaches 145 degrees. Do not overcook!

Remove tenderloins from oven to a cutting board and let stand 10 minutes before slicing while making the cherry thyme sauce. Slice tenderloin into 1/2 inch medallions and spoon sauce over the top.

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