Christmas Day Roast Pork Loin with Apples/Shallots

For years, we’ve enjoyed a roast pork loin recipe titled “Roast pork loin with roasted apple compote” that was originally published in Barbara Kafka‘s cookbook “Roasting-A Simple Art“.

Much of Kafka’s book involves roasting at high heat – typically 500 degrees – and her recipe of coating the pork loin in mustard, salt and pepper at the start and then roasting with apples at that high temperature has always worked out well for us. Sometimes (depending upon how clean your oven is), roasting at that high a temperature can result in some smoking – so it takes some care.

On this Christmas Day, though, we’re trying some variations – something a bit different.

First, I decided to try brining the pork loin. Not a full 24-hours worth – because, in this case, I decided to brine it at about noon today – so it’ll only have about 5 hours of brining.

Brining is easy – start with a mixture of something like 2/3 cup of salt combined with 2/3 cup of sugar in steaming hot water (we have one of those faucet water heaters – so that’s easy!) along with some pepper. Cool it down (adding ice and some cold water seems to do that nicely) before putting the brine and the pork loin into the plastic freezer bag and putting everything into the refrigerator for a few hours.

Next, I decided to brown the pork loin roast before putting it into the oven. I like the bits of extra flavor that browning meat seems to generate. By browning the roast in our Le Creuset 6-3/4 Quart French Oven, we can brown the meat and roast it in the same pot, minimizing cleanup. After browning and removing the roast, the apples, and shallots are placed into the pot with the roast then placed on top. Cover and into the oven it goes.

We just finished our Christmas dinner – and this dish was a hit! The pork, even with just a few hours of brining, was moist and not dry. The pork was ready earlier – only needing an additional 5 minutes after removing the top from the pot. We let it rest the full 15 minutes before carving – and it was just great. The apple/shallots/mustard/cream compote is the perfect semi-sweet complement to the pork!


  • Brine: 2/3 cup kosher salt, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp pepper
  • 2-1/2 to 3 lb pork loin roast – tied with string
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tart apples (Granny Smith, etc.), halved
  • 4 shallots, peeled
  • 1-2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp mustard


  1. Prepare the brine by mixing sugar and salt with 1 cup of piping hot water. Add pepper. Add ice cubes and 2-3 cups additional water to cool down brine. Place pork loin roast in 1 gallon freezer bag, fill with brine mixture, and seal bag. Place bag in bowl and place into refrigerator until time to cook (no more than 24 hours).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove roast from brine and pat dry all around. Season with salt and pepper (or your favorite rub).
  3. Place French Oven on high heat. Add olive oil, heat until shimmering. Sear the pork loin on all sides. Remove from heat and remove roast to plate.
  4. Place the three halved apples cut side down into French Oven along with the shallots, rosemary and bay leaf. Place the roast on top of the apple mixture, cover the pot and place into the pre-heated oven.
  5. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the lid and continue roasting until the roast’s internal temperature reaches 140 degrees – perhaps 10-15 minutes more.
  6. Remove French Oven from oven, remove roast to cutting board, cover roast with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes.
  7. Scoop out the apples and shallots into serving bowl. Deglaze the French Oven with a bit of white wine or brandy and add the apples back into the pot. Mix in the cream and the mustard and season to taste.
  8. Carve the pork loin roast and serve with the apples/shallots compote.

Originally posted December 25, 2008.

Christmas Eve Oven-Roasted Tri-Tip Dinner

Update (12/18/19): I’ve updated our tri-tip recipe to use a slow-roasting technique that I find delivers a more tender and flavorful roast. Here’s the updated recipe.

We’ll be hosting Christmas Eve again at our house this year – and we’re handling the just main courses while the rest of the family is bringing salads, side dishes, and desserts!

Last year, we were about to head for Hawaii for another family reunion – and didn’t cook anything! But, this year, we’re back with our favorites again: a combination of honey-baked ham along with our easy Lazy-S easy oven-roasted tri-tips.

We first shared our approach to this Christmas Eve menu back in 2005 – and we’ll be following the same approach this year. The honey-baked ham is basically just a warm up exercise – nothing complicated about preparing it.

For the tri-tips, we’ll have one plain (unmarinated) tri-tip along with a couple of marinated tri-tips. Our favorite local meat market (Bianchini’s Market in Portola Valley) highly recommends their Zinfandel-marinated tri-tips – so we’ll be giving them a try this year. But, the unmarinated version – with just lots of salt and pepper several hours ahead of roasting – is pretty special too!

See the directions here for how we like to prepare the tri-tips (in the morning) and then cook them (in the late afternoon)!

Yum! And, Merry Christmas!

Scott’s Less Famous But Still Tasty Homemade Turkey Noodle Soup

It’s late on Thanksgiving weekend (back to work tomorrow – ugh!) and time to use up some of those turkey leftovers making homemade turkey noodle soup.

Unlike us, braver souls actually make turkey stock from the bird’s carcass on Thanksgiving evening (frankly, we were falling asleep after dinner and struggled to get just some of the dishes cleaned up that night!). But, if you’re looking for that real turkey noodle soup make from real homemade turkey stock, be sure to checkout Elise’s Mom’s Turkey Soup!

In our case, we took the easy way, just slightly modifying our Scott’s Famous Homemade Chicken Soup with Pasta recipe by replacing the chicken with turkey.

In our just made Sunday afternoon version, we also tossed in some left over green beans and sauteed some special cremini mushrooms that we also had left over from the Thanksgiving feast. They all went into the pot.

We also used rotini pasta again – rotini is turning into our favorite pasta in soup for its ability to fit easily into a soup spoon when eating! So much easier to eat than real noodles!

So, that’s it. Our “less famous”, easy homemade turkey noodle soup. Still delicious – and very helpful in cleaning out some of the refrigerated leftovers from Thanksgiving!

Scott’s Famous Homemade Chicken Soup with Pasta

chickensoup.jpgThis year, as the cool fall weather has moved in and the daylight is fading faster, we’ve been experimenting with various chicken soup recipes to find one that really “hits the spot.” There is something special about chicken soup – for both health and attitude! After several tries and variations, we think this one is just about perfect – and now it’s famous!

It’s a great Saturday or Sunday late afternoon treat to make in the fall and winter months. Hope you enjoy it – let us know by posting a comment!

To make it easy, you can purchase the key ingredients from Trader Joe’s and make relatively quick work out of putting the soup together. Plan on 35-40 minutes or so to get this soup ready – with some additional time afterwards to let the soup’s temperature cool down enough for eating.


  • 1 carton of Trader Joe’s Mirapoix (14.5 oz of diced carrots, onions, celery)
  • 1/2 package of Trader Joe’s Diced Onions (5 oz of 10 oz package)
  • 10 oz package of cremini mushrooms
  • 48 oz of Trader Joe’s organic free range chicken broth (1 + 1/2 32 oz. cartons)
  • 12 oz of diced chicken breast (either prepackaged or cooked chicken tenders)
  • 8 oz cooked of your favorite small pasta (we cook a 1 lb. package of
    pasta – put half into the soup and save the other half for pasta salad, etc.)
  • 1 Tbsp Herbes de Provence
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 cup non-fat milk
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Mini-saltine crackers to accompany


  1. Bring a large pot filled with water and 1 Tbsp salt to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook for recommended duration – in parallel with the steps below. Strain and set aside.
  2. In another large pot (this one ends up holding the soup!), melt 1-1/2 Tbsp butter and mix with 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat.
  3. Add the Mirapoix and the diced onions. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft (10-15 minutes)
  4. With the Mirapoix and diced onions are cooking, in a 10-inch fry pan, melt 1-1/2 Tbsp butter and mix with 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp minced garlic.
  5. Add the mushrooms to the fry pan and sauté over medium heat for 8-10 minutes – then add mushrooms to large pot.
  6. When the Mirapoix, onions and mushrooms are done, stir in the Herbes de Provence and the flour.
  7. Add the chicken broth, diced chicken, garlic powder and onion powder. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.
  8. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes then reduce heat to low. Add the milk, lemon juice, and cooked pasta. Bring back up to a simmer for a final 5-10 mins.
  9. Serve in soup bowls with mini-saltine crackers. Suggestion – save your tongue: wait at least 5 minutes after serving before tasting!

Added: November 15, 2008 – Menlo Park, California

Hawaiian Style Cafe – Hawaii’s Kona Coast

hawaiistylecafe.jpgIf you’re visiting the Kona coast on the big island of Hawaii, you might enjoy having breakfast or lunch at the Hawaiian Style Cafe. Way too much food, way too cheap, but so much fun! Escape the resorts and eat with the locals! Bring a big appetite and plan to skip a meal! Just be sure to get there before closing – 1:30 PM – and bring cash (no plastic accepted!). While you’re driving up to Waimea, get in the Big Island mood with KAPA Radio on 99.1 FM.

Winter All-Afternoon Onion Soup

istock_000001245149xsmallOut our way, the fall was warm and sunny this year – with the shortening days eventually delivering on cooler days and cold nights only over the last week or two.

We love to make onion soup on cool days like this – see my earlier “Scott’s Favorite French Onion Soup” recipe for one of our favorite recipes. The problem with that recipe is that it’s one of those “stand over the stove and stir” recipes – and, if you get a bit impatient and over eager with the heat, you’ll subtly char the onions and have a bitter result. It’s frustrating – you’re looking for a great soup but it just takes a bit longer than it should.

A recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated included a new “Best French Onion Soup” recipe that took a new and different approach – what I call an “all-afternoon” recipe. The workload is light at the beginning – after peeling/slicing the onions. It involves almost 3 hours of oven roasting of the onions – and then about 30 minutes of repeated deglazing at the end to finish it up. If you’re doing other things in or near the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, this recipe delivers a great result. You need to not be in a hurry, working on other things, and just enjoying the day! We’ve made this recipe a couple of times recently – here’s our adaptation.


4 lbs yellow onions, sliced
into 1/4 inch slices

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup dry Sherry

2+ cups water

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups beef broth

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp dried thyme

Kosher salt, fresh ground
pepper to taste


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Using a large Dutch oven, spray the inside with non-stick cooking spray. (We use a La Cruset 5 qt oval French oven and it’s worked fine – although Cook’s Illustrated recommends at least a 7 qt.)
  3. Place the butter in the Dutch oven along with all of the sliced onions and 1 tsp salt. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
  4. Remove from oven, stir, and return to oven for 1 hour.
  5. Remove from oven, stir, and return to oven for 45 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and place on stove over medium-high heat. Scape the sides and bottom of the pot while the onions brown further for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Add 1/4 cup water to deglaze, scrape the bottom and sides. When the water has boiled off, repeat two more times. This repeated deglazing takes 20-25 minutes total.
  8. Add the 1/2 cup dry Sherry and stir while letting it evaporate (4-5 mins).
  9. Add the 4 cups chicken broth, 2 cups beef broth, 2 cups of water, the bay leaf, and the dried thyme.
  10. Bring the heat up to high, when simmering, reduce to low, cover and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf, season with salt and pepper to taste.

(Added: December 16, 2007 – Menlo Park, California)

A Time For Winter Pot Roast

It’s been – brrr cold – here over the last couple of days – so a pot roast sounded just perfect for dinner last night. Rather than making our usual Perfect Pot Roast recipe, we ended up trying the super simple pot roast recipe from Elise – and it turned out just perfect. Highly recommended – just be sure you’ve got something to do for the 3-1/2 hours you’re waiting while the aromas are wafting through the house! Yum! I used a Handley 2003 Mendocino County Zinfandel for the red wine and cooked the roast in our small Dutch oven using the smallest of our gas stovetop burners at the lowest possible heat setting as Elise recommends.

Elise’s Super Simple Poached Salmon

salmon-160.jpgOver on Simply Recipes, Elise has a great – and super simple – recipe for great poached salmon.

Our local Farmers’ Market has a Half Moon Bay-based fisherman who sells every Sunday. We picked up a wild king salmon filet yesterday and were wondering how to cook it tonight when I found Elise’s recipe.

We left out the onion and dill – and seasoned ours after cooking (because we were lazy and didn’t want to slice the onion and didn’t have fresh dill handy!) Still turned out great and – as she points out – the best part is there are no “fishy” kitchen smells afterwards!

This recipe is definitely a “keeper”! And, that salmon is oh so healthy for us too – especially poached like this without any additional oils, etc.!

Scott’s Roasted Potato Salad

The August/September 2006 issue of Fine Cooking has an article on roasted potato salads – with recipes for making the salad three ways.

Here’s my modification – based upon what we had around the house yesterday! This is a great, quick recipe for a potato side dish – without the mess of the mayonnaise-based potato salads. Roasting adds a great potato flavor to the dish (vs. the boiled/peeled potato approach).

Continue reading “Scott’s Roasted Potato Salad”

Scott’s Lazy Sunday Tri-Tip Caesar Salad

This Sunday dinner is perfect when BBQ season has arrived. This afternoon in Menlo Park was ideal – light up the Weber BBQ (charcoal version) and go! The ingredients are super simple: a Santa Maria-seasoned Tri-Tip from Trader Joe’s (or your favorite alternative) and a package of one of those Caesar Lite pre-packaged salads.

For a 5:30 PM dinner, start this at about 4 PM. You’ll have plenty of time to read the Sunday papers in between while things are happening. Add a bottle of Bogle’s Phantom and you’re truly good to go! Serves 2.

Continue reading “Scott’s Lazy Sunday Tri-Tip Caesar Salad”