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Easy dinner serves variety of guests

March 13, 2012

Let me start by telling you that I am not a chef. I do love to cook, but this is a relatively new-found love. Eleven years ago when Bill and I bought our first house, I didn’t even open our oven to see how big it was. We eventually got tired of eating out, and I wanted something to serve our out-of-town football guests. I started reading cookbooks before bed on Sunday, planning dinners and loving being in the kitchen. Later our girls were born, and I still made elaborate dinners, but we would wait to eat until they were in bed. Of course we ate at 9:30 p.m. some nights, and some were a complete flop. When our oldest started kindergarten, we decided it was time to grow up and have family dinners. With soccer, gymnastics and an 8:15 p.m. bed time, there isn’t much time left for leisurely cooking. I do have a few saving graces that help me get my “Top Chef” on a semi-regular basis. First, I love to throw a party just to plan a menu and set the table. Second, I am a member of a monthly cookbook club that forces me to challenge myself to try something new. Third, I’ve got some dear friends who are magic in the kitchen, and I fully intend to use my charm to get you their secrets.
Most of the recipes in this column will be something easy to cook on a week night, something new from my cookbook club, a make-ahead idea for a party or a donation from a friend. The meal I am sharing this month is my favorite go-to meal for a group. We have made this for most of our guests from our rowdy college friends in town for a concert or ball game to the ladies of Junior Auxiliary and everyone in between. The pork tenderloin is from my Uncle Bob Stone in Martha’s Vineyard and the Swiss Grits are from “Come On In!” but with added cheese. I always double these recipes so it serves 16 generously. I love making this tenderloin because it is marinated the night before. The aforementioned oven turned out to be the size of an Easy Bake, so a grill is handy. The grits, although messy, bake for an hour and stay the temperature of the sun for a good 45 minutes covered. This gives the hostess plenty of time to have a glass of something calming before her guests arrive. I serve this meal with Sister Schubert’s yeast rolls and a salad of mixed greens with strawberries, walnuts, feta and Ken’s Steak House raspberry walnut vinaigrette. I suddenly want to have people over.

Uncle Bob’s Grilled Pork Tenderloin

(2 tenderloins serves 6-8)
1/2 cup peanut oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 T fresh lemon juice  (tip: microwave lemons for 10 seconds for more juice)
2 T Worcestershire
1 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 T dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp cracked pepper

Mix ingredients. Place in shallow pan or zip lock and chill at least four hours or overnight. Grill 12-14 minutes with a medium flame. Meat temperature should be 145-165 F, depending on your preference.

Baked Swiss Grits

(serves 8; I always double so I put it in a larger casserole dish)

1 qt whole milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, in pieces
1 cup regular quick grits (not instant)
1 tsp kosher salt
8 oz Swiss cheese, shredded, sometimes I do 12
2 oz grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Bring milk to a boil. Be careful. I have boiled the pot over just by turning my back for a second too many times. If the milk starts rising too fast, spray it with some Pam and it will buy you some time. Add butter pieces and stir to melt. Gradually blend in grits, stirring constantly for one minute. Remove grits from heat and add salt, pepper and cheeses. Beat with portable electric mixer for three minutes. Pour mixture into a greased 1 1/2 quart casserole and bake 1 hour.

Email Susan Ford at susanlovesharp@hotmail.com.

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