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Eric Ripert's Elegant But Easy Holiday Recipes

Christmas dinner should be elegant and delicious, but that doesn't necessarily mean it has to be difficult.

If you're making one and haven't planned it yet, "The Early Show" offered help Thursday from world-renowned chef, author and TV personality Eric Ripert, of Le Bernardin restaurant in New York.

Eric pulled some excellent recipes from his latest cookbook, "Avec Eric," that will impress your guests but won't keep you in the kitchen all day. The book is a companion to his hit PBS series, "Avec Eric," which is just starting its second season.

"Early Show" Recipes Galore!

Roasted Pork Loin with wild mushrooms, garlic and sage
Spiced Butternut Squash
Chestnut and Brussels sprouts
Roasted potatoes (the little ones in different colors)
Spiced Hot Chocolate and Cinnamon Beignets


Roasted Pork Loin with Wild Mushrooms, Garlic & Sage Pan Jus

Serves 4

The Pork Loin and Jus:
2 pound loin of pork, trimmed and tied
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 head of garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled
2 bay leaves, lightly crushed
3 sprigs sage
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

The Mushrooms:
12 ounces wild mushroom medley, such as morels, porcini, chanterelles and/or oyster mushrooms
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 small shallot, finely minced
2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
2 sprigs thyme
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the pork: Tie the pork loin with kitchen string; once lengthwise and every inch crosswise. Season the loin generously with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Carefully add the pork loin to the hot pan and sear on all sides until golden. Add the whole garlic cloves and lower the heat to medium low, cover and continue roasting for 25-30 minutes, checking occasionally and rotating as needed to prevent burning.
While the pork loin is roasting, prepare the mushrooms by trimming and cleaning all of the mushrooms. Heat a sauté pan with the oil and butter, add the minced shallots, garlic and thyme, cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushrooms are tender about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Check the doneness of the pork loin by inserting a meat thermometer into the loin; it should register 150° F. (It will continue cooking while resting.) Transfer the loin to a cutting board and allow the meat to rest for 15-20 minutes.
Place the pan back on the burner over medium heat; add the bay leaves and sage and deglaze the pan with white wine. Reduce the wine by half then add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer and lightly reduce again. Add the sautéed mushrooms to the sauce and remove from the heat; let the mushrooms and sauce sit for about 5 minutes to infuse. Slice the pork loin into ½ - inch thick slices and lay 3 slices on a plate. Place the mushrooms over and around the pork loin, spoon the sauce around and serve immediately.

Roasted Chestnuts and Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds baby Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
1 1/2 cup roasted chestnuts, available canned or in jars in gourmet markets or see note below
3 tablespoons butter
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil and generously season with salt. While the water is coming up to a boil, prepare an ice water bath in a large mixing bowl. Add the Brussels sprouts to the boiling water and blanch until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the cooked Brussels sprouts and immediately shock in the ice bath to preserve the color.
Heat a large skillet over high heat and place the cooked Brussels sprouts, chestnuts and 2 tablespoons of the butter in the pan. Season the Brussels sprouts with salt and pepper and cook stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, about 6 to 8 minutes; glaze the Brussels sprouts and chestnuts at the last minute by adding the remaining butter along with 3 tablespoons of water. Serve immediately.

Chestnut Notes:
Fresh chestnuts are available every winter and are especially festive during the holiday season. And while the canned or jarred chestnuts are usually quite good, it is very easy and delicious to roast them fresh to use for this recipe. A pound fresh chestnuts will typically yield you about 1 cup after roasting and peeling.

Heat an oven to 450º F with a medium pan of water (about 3 cups)
Using a sharp pointed paring knife, make a cross hatch on the flat side of each chestnut and lay then out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast the chestnuts until tender and fragrant, about 20 to 25 minutes stirring the pan halfway through the cooking process. Peel and enjoy!

For more recipes, go to Page 2.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Garlic, Rosemary and Thyme

Serves 8

3 to 3 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, washed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 heads garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled
4 sprigs rosemary
4 sprigs thyme
3 tablespoons butter
Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400° F.
Cut the fingerling potatoes in half and place them on a large baking sheet with the garlic cloves. Drizzle the olive oil over the potatoes and garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper. Lightly toss the potatoes to coat then scatter the sprigs of rosemary and thyme over the potatoes and roast the fingerlings until golden brown and tender about 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and toss with butter. Serve hot.

Spiced Butternut Squash with Chestnut Honey

Serves 4

2 to 2 1/2 pound butternut squash
1 1/2 teaspoons cracked black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons chestnut honey
Fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Peel the butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut up the butternut squash into 1 inch pieces and transfer to a shallow baking dish. Toss the squash with the pepper, ginger, cayenne, nutmeg, butter and chestnut honey and season to taste with salt.
Bake the squash until tender and caramelized, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Spiced Hot Chocolate and Cinnamon Beignets

Serves 4

The Hot Chocolate:
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts
1 vanilla bean, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon panela or pilloncillo, grated ( panela or pilloncillo, is an unrefined palm sugar used in Latin America and is available at specialty markets, can be substituted with light brown sugar.)
1 tablespoon sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 piece star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 2-inch piece chile de arbol
fine sea salt
3 ounces dark chocolate

The Beignets:
3 cups canola oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
3 eggs

For the beignets: Pour the oil into a wide, shallow pot, place on a medium-low flame and allow the oil to heat until it reaches 375º F on an oil thermometer.
While the oil is heating, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish and reserve.
Bring the water, milk, butter and salt to a boil on medium-high heat. Using a rubber spatula stir in the flour, reduce the heat to low and stir continuously until mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball, 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure they are fully incorporated after each addition.
Transfer mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large plain tip. Using scissors to cut the dough, carefully drop 1-inch strips of dough into the oil. Fry until golden brown, turning once, about 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels then roll the beignets in the sugar and cinnamon mixture.
For the hot chocolate: Combine the hazelnuts, vanilla bean, sugar and orange zest in a food processor and grind to a course consistency.
In a medium sized saucepan, combine the hazelnut mixture with the cream, milk, star anise and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Whisk in salt and chocolate, stirring until melted. Simmer for another 10 minutes then strain through a fine mesh sieve and serve immediately with warm beignets.

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