Thanksgiving... and a warm thank you to Pax House

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Thanksgiving. Herbs. Fruits. Nuts...

These are all the beautiful fall colors of food that work their magic in dishes for the Thanksgiving table.  

I remember walking through the indoor food market, Mercato Centrale, in Florence, Italy a few years ago and seeing the many varieties of prepared roasts.  

Each was adorned with herbs, dried fruits, and nuts.  They were so beautiful in appearance but I could only imagine how they tasted after roasting in the oven.

I love the pairing of fruit, herbs, and wines with meats.  I think there is no better aromas that can emanate from the oven while all of these flavors are working their magic (well...perhaps brioche).

I was admiring the beautiful blog, What Katie Ate, and I saw she had a recipe for a "Cider Roasted Pork with Herbs, Prunes, and Pine Nuts".  

If her recipes are anything as delicious as her photos are gorgeous, I knew this would be a pork roast that would remind me of that special time in Florence, as well as meld the flavors and sights of the beautiful fall season.

Sage and Thyme are the herbs used in the stuffing of bread, apples, prunes, and pine nuts.  Just mixing up the stuffing and breathing in the scents was enough to convince me that this was going to be a new favorite.

What was a real treat was the Apple Cider Cream Sauce that is made with the drippings from the pork after it has been roasted in the oven.

I put the entire roasting pan on my double burners and cooked it down until it was a thick creamy consistency.  The smells that wafted all over the house from the cider, apples, onions, and herbs was heady.

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time of year to stop and reflect on the fortunate times in our lives, gather with family, and celebrate the seasonal change from fall into winter.

For me, it trumps all other holidays.  From hanging my fall wreath on the many doors we have had, to laying out small seasonal tokens like this acorn soap that I picked up at Whole Foods this year, I am most content  during the fall months.

I adore hot apple cider and apple cinnamon donuts....

However, Williams-Sonoma did it again.  They have a beautiful magazine that arrives in the mail ~ always to delight me.

This November issue fell open to these adorable "Apple Dumplings".  

"Oh, Mom, those look incredible!" Madeleine sighed.  "Yes, wouldn't that be fun to try?" I agreed.

If you're 55 in their November issue.  Drool.

Or just follow along here...we just couldn't resist making these pouches of fall goodness.

Sweet Honeycrisp apples are cut in half, filled with a butter-cinnamon-brown sugar mixture, and wrapped in a flaky pastry crust.

Rolling out the pastry crust and carefully pulling it up and around the apple was a tricky part.  It was difficult because the dough is soft and trying not to tear the dough required diligence...not quite my forté.

I read that string isn't required.  Just pinching the dough at the top will work.  Well, it didn't work for me.   

I found that using the string to hold the dough around the apple greatly helped while they baked in the oven.  Otherwise, the dough sagged and the entire "pouch" affect was lost.

The result was a fabulous dessert that was both delicious and whimsical.  Each person was delighted with their own bundle of apple, butter, cinnamon-y goodness. 


With that feast of Thanksgiving goodness to sample, I certainly didn't forget that the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland was the delight to end all delights of our trip.

For those of you have left such sweet messages that you are following along on our journey through Ireland, let's continue on to the wonderful B&B where we stayed on the Dingle Peninsula.  

This is the fourth post in a series of travelogues that began in London.

Because frivolous sightings such as rainbows, gorgeous lake views, and sweeping vistas kept us hopping out of the car while discovering the magic of Killarney National Forest, we arrived on the Dingle Peninsula ~ in inky darkness.

It wasn't until the next morning that we woke up, peered out the window of Pax House and saw the stunning emerald view pictured above.  

The soft morning rays of the sun just rounding the horizon played with the water of the Dingle bay creating tiny sparkles of light that contrasted with the emerald of the land.

Looking to the left was one absorbing and inspiring view but then again looking to the right was another lush green hillside view overlooking the Dingle Bay.  

It was indeed within this first hour of daylight that I stood in the back yard of Pax House in Dingle, breathing in the cool air that I saw this astounding rainbow {above} form right over the bay.

What can I say?  Just what can I say?  It was so beautiful sounds trite compared to the overwhelming sweep of color in front of me.

Pax House became our home away from home for the next four days.  What a wonderful retreat this bed and breakfast is on the edge of Dingle on this wild and gorgeous peninsula.

"We don't need to leave from Dingle"  I told Patrick.  "It will take four days just to soak in all of this beauty and scenery."

There is something special about Pax House.  The owner, John, has little idea of the special place he creates for travelers.  He is humble, attentive and so kind...and that is part of the charm.

I can't wait to bring in pictures from the back roads of the Dingle Peninsula and the picture perfect charm of the little village of Dingle.  

But first, highlighting Pax House and saying a warm thank you to John is my priority.  

The breakfast room was comfortable and relaxed.  John insisted on having a hot selection and not just a cold breakfast.  Out he would come from the kitchen with creamy scrambled eggs layered with smoked salmon.

However, it was this  delight {above} that captivated the kids.  This precious plate of soft boiled eggs arrived at the table all snug in their little knitted green sweaters.  They were accompanied by "soldiers" to dip into the warm eggs.  As much as teens tend to react to life in often times "blasé" manners, John succeeded in bringing big goofy grins to their faces!  They were delighted!  It was adorable!

These are the many small touches at Pax House that didn't go unnoticed or unappreciated.

As much as we felt so fortunate for the crisp blue sky days that were bestowed on us and we flitted from one end of the peninsula to the next, I secretly hoped for that one rainy Irish day when we could push the maps aside, park the car for awhile and snuggle into the wonderful eclectic and cozy living room of Pax House.  This room has enormous windows overlooking all of that breathtaking landscape reaching out to the bay  beyond.

It happened.  The mist rolled in over the hills and the bay.  The rain began pouring down and pelting the huge windows at the back of the house.

John has thick soft blankets piled in a basket for guests to use.  I met a lovely woman from Canada, Kathleen, who had two teens close in age to mine.  We curled up on the comfy couches, chatted together as if we had known each other for years, and watched the rain pour down over the valley below.

As we were enjoying this relaxing afternoon together, John quietly carries out to us the most charming tray of coffee and shortbread cookies.  What is sweet is many of his serving pieces come from local artisans on the peninsula and each piece carries an amusing story.

Pax House was truly a find on this trip and one day I would love to return again.  When we would come home in the evenings, exhausted from a day of trekking over hills, John would have a stuffed animal waiting on Madeleine's bed.  It was filled with a bag of warmed liquid for her to tuck in her bed to make it all nice and toasty.  

Tell lovely and thoughtful is that?

One night, we were delighted with little glasses of Bailey's Irish Cream.  I had never tried this dessert liqueur. After one little sip, I was rolling my eyes with pleasure over this creamy aperitif.

On the morning of our departure, I knew I might sob like a baby when it was time to tell John and Pax House goodbye.  This would not bode too well in front of teens so I bravely swallowed my tears, gave him as big of a hug as I could and told him how much we appreciated our warm stay at his house.

From the Kenney family, we send a heartfelt thank you to John of Pax House on the Dingle Peninsula in lovely Ireland.  You charmed us, your land beguiled us, and our hearts are all the more gladdened because of it.

Cider Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apple, Prune & Pine Nut Stuffing

(Servies 8-10)
2 Pork Tenderloin fillets
2 cups white breadcrumbs
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1/2 cup (firmly packed) pitted prunes
1/2 cup pine nuts
3 Granny Smith apples, grated or finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, plus a sprig or two extra
1 tbs fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
Salt & Black pepper
500ml (2 cups) bottle apple cider
300ml (@ 1 cup or less) pouring cream
olive oil

Add the bread crumbs, onions, prunes (chop these into small pieces first), pine nuts, grated/finely chopped apple (remove peelings), thyme, sage, salt, and freshly ground black pepper into a bowl with 1 Tbsp. of cider.  Mix it all up together.

Lay out 5 or 6 pieces of cooking twine horizontally on a cutting board.  Place the pork filet vertically on top of the strings.  (The strings must be long enough to tie around the pork fillet.)

Using a long thin knife, make a slit in the middle of the pork roast.  Imagine a tunnel or pocket that you will stuff in the filling. (Snippet's Notes:  I completely opened the pork roast, filled it with stuffing and then tied the strings around the pork and the filling.  However, I think the filling would be moister if the filling is  inside a cavity of the pork roast and not as exposed while cooking.) Repeat this with the second pork roast.

Place the pork roast on a baking sheet and season it with salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pour of apple cider over the two roasts.

Roast in the oven at 350˚ for 1 hour or until the meat is cooked (use an instant read thermometer) 145˚ minimum.  Halfway through the cooking time, pour another splash of apple cider over the pork roast.

Apple Cider Cream Sauce:

Remove the pork roast from the tray and put it on a side plate loosely covered with foil to keep warm.  Place the tray used to cook the pork on the burners of your stove top.  Begin to loosen any bits that are stuck to the tray.  Pour in all of the remaining cider (**I added a bit of extra cider).  Bring the mixture up to a boil in order to "deglaze" the pan.  

Reduce to a simmer and pour in the cream.  Salt and pepper the sauce and add a few torn thyme leaves.  Stir well, heat thoroughly.  When it reaches a nice creamy consistency, transfer sauce to a serving bowl and add to the table alongside the pork roast.

Apple Dumplings
(from Williams Sonoma Nov. catalog by Chef MacGregor Mann, Amada, Philadephia)


For the dough:
2 tsp. fine sea salt
2/3 cup ice-cold water
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
4 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
For the apples:
4 honeycrisp apples, each 6 to 8 oz.
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. kosher salt
12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water
Warmed cream for serving (optional)
Caramel sauce for serving (optional)

To make the dough, in a small bowl, dissolve the salt in the water. In a food processor, pulse together the flour and baking powder until combined. Add the chilled butter pieces and process until the butter resembles the size of small peas. Gradually drizzle in the ice water mixture, pulsing to combine. Remove the dough from the food processor. Divide the dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a disk. Wrap separately with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

To prepare the apples, peel and core each apple, then cut each apple in half crosswise. (Snippet's Notes:  do not try to wrap an entire apple...the dough just can hold up while baking)  In a bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Rub each apple evenly with the sugar mixture. Combine the remaining sugar mix with the butter and set aside.

Remove 1 dough disk from the refrigerator and let stand for 5 minutes (Snippet's Notes:  remember dough takes a long time to come to room temperature so 5 min. may not be long enough). Divide the disk into 4 equal pieces. Working in batches, on a floured surface, roll out a piece of dough 1/8 inch thick and about 8 inches square. Place an apple half, cut side down, in the center of the dough square and fill the core with some of the reserved butter-sugar mixture. Pull the dough around the apple to create a beggar’s purse and gently tie the corners together with butcher’s twine. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and apple halves.

Transfer the wrapped apples to a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush the dough with the egg mixture. Bake until the dough is golden brown and cooked through, about 25 minutes. (Snippet's Notes:  my dumplings took more like 45 min. to brown up nicely)  Remove the apple dumplings from the oven and let cool slightly. Serve with warmed cream and caramel sauce. Serves 8. (Snippet's Note:  I served my dumplings in tiny shallow bowls because the delicious juices can be scooped up with a spoon)

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