A Fall Dinner

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This time last year, my husband and I had our bags packed and were about to leave for Paris. He surprised me for my 30th birthday. This was a trip over 20 years in the making (of my dreams) and it lived up to everything I expected. Fresh, buttery croissants every morning, delicious unique French dishes for dinner (one on the Eiffel Tower) and the sights of a historical, inspiring, luxurious city.

For my 31st birthday I got wonderful gifts but I didn’t get a trip to Paris. To reminisce with my beloved friends, I decided to make a French fall dinner. We started with a rich and warming soupe au poitron, then had roasted garlicky potatoes with fresh herbs from my garden – still going strong – and pork tenderloin with sweet, ripe pears and caramelized shallots. We had a stellar birthday cake for dessert, not one I made but one I bought from a little hidden bakery in Thornhill that was delicious (and all the guests thought so too) and enjoyed an evening with friends and family as I entered this, my 32nd year.

A quick side note: here in Ontario, we have a little bit of an apple-picking shortage this year. Apparently the cool weather that came so quickly ruined a lot of our apple crops so apple-picking is either off or extremely expensive. The farmer’s market has some available but the pears have been amazing this year. I don’t know if the pears are more resilient to the cold, but in this house, they’re taking the place of apples… for this year anyway. Pumpkins and squash are cheap and everywhere too, and the perfect inspiration for a fall menu.

Soupe au Poitron

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 medium to small sized butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into cubes
  • 1 small pie pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and cut into cubes (or canned pumpkin, 1 can)
  • 1 large carton of no salt added vegetable broth (about 1 Litre)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup of half and half cream, optional
  1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add onion and fry until soft and translucent but not browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the squash and pumpkin, broth, salt and pepper (about 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper) and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat to low and simmer 30 minutes (or more) until the squash and pumpkin are tender.
  3. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup (if you prefer to wait until it isn’t hot, do that, as it can burn you if you are not careful). Before you are ready to eat the soup, add the cream if using, and gradually reheat to avoid burning the cream. If not using, the soup will not be as rich but it will be as delicious.
  4. Serve with shredded gruyere cheese or topped with toasted baguette.

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Shallots and Pears, adapted from this epicurious recipe

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 local garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 6 shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 5 ripe Bosc or Anjou pears, unpeeled, cored and quartered
  • 2 pork tenderloins
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  2. In a large bowl, add oil, garlic and thyme. First, add the pears and quickly coat, remove from oil leaving as much as possible in the bowl. Set aside, then add the shallots and pork tenderloins and marinate.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat and brown the tenderloins on all sides. Move the shallots around as the pork is browning to avoid burning. Once sufficiently browned, move to an oven-safe dish (ceramic) and place in the oven.
  4. Leaving the pan as it is, add the pears and quickly fry them in the remaining oil. Once they are nicely browned, add them to the pork dish and allow to roast until a meat thermometer inserted into the centre of the pork registers 160 F (well done). Check here for proper food handling and cooking instructions, if you are uncertain.

The epicurious recipe suggests making a sauce from the pan drippings, but once you have added everything to your ceramic dish in the oven, the pears give off a wonderful juice which serves perfectly as a jus or sauce. I wish I had skipped the sauce making because it just made me have one more thing to do before sitting down to eat, and no one even used it. The meat was tender and juicy enough as it was with the pears and shallots.

For a side, I made mini potatoes that I pre-boiled. I put the boiled potatoes in a small ceramic dish with some oil, garlic and salt and pepper and put them in oven while the pork was getting ready. Because I put a lid on the ceramic dish (similar to a pyrex), I didn’t have to worry about them burning. They roast and then right before they are done, I added some chopped parsley from my garden. This dish would also work well with mashed potatoes, or even Pommes Anna.

I also served this with a simple salad with an even simpler vinaigrette. I’ll save my favourite vinaigrette recipe for another post… and once you make it, it will become your favourite too.

This weekend, we’re going for a hike in the conservation area near our house and will try to capture some of the beautiful colours around us right now – another way we embrace fall!

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