Monday, November 10, 2008

On Plums, Dried Cherries, and a Feeling of Anticipation

The holidays are here.

What? you say, No they aren't. Thanksgiving is several weeks away and Hanukkah and Christmas haven't even poked their noses around the corner at us.

I know that, okay, but stay with me on this one. The holidays have crept upon us on little mouse-feet and I will tell you how I realized it.

Take, for example, the surplus of ruby-colored fruits in your grocery store, the apples, the plums, the pageant-pink beets. Walking through the produce section makes you want to call your mom and bake 9x13 dishes of cinnamon-spiced treats.

And then there is the uptick in social engagements. Have you noticed this? I'm finding that I'm getting "it's been ages since we got together" e-mails from friends, followed by lunches, Saturday afternoons of shopping, and cozy evening dinners. There's nary a Christmas tree in sight, but I'm telling you, it's there, just out of sight.

Then, finally, there's just that certain feeling you get when the days shorten and the nights lengthen. When there's that sharp angle to the sunshine at three o'clock in the afternoon and the air is a bit crisp in the morning. Makes you want to hang a wreath on your door.

Some people take a hard line regarding when the holidays should begin. My mother, for example, will not, will not tolerate the encroachment of Christmas upon Thanksgiving's territory. She disdains the way American commerce crams Christmas down our throats in November.* The woman has never woken up at dawn the day after Thanksgiving in order to stand in line outside the mall doors, waiting for the stores to open. For her, the day after Thanksgiving is the season-opener for eggnog and Christmas cheer, not sharp elbows and shopping-cart-games of chicken.

When my sister and I were kids, the family would spend the day after Thanksgiving decorating our house with the scent of pinon wood in the air. Now that I am grown, I look forward to that day all year, almost more than I look forward to Christmas itself. I have continued my family's tradition in my own house, hauling my ornaments out of our back closet and listening to Christmas carols as I unwind long strings of lights.

This year, I'm convinced that the holidays arrived early. I've seen the signs, even though I haven't decorated my tree yet. In spite of my conviction that we've been given a green light to be festive, I'm going to stick with family tradition and wait to buy some eggnog. Be ready, though; after we clear away the turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving day, I'll be decking the halls with my wreath and my good cheer.

Pork Tenderloin with Spiced Plum Chutney
Adapted from this recipe at

The chutney in this recipe is a harbinger of the holidays. With sweet plums, tart cherries, and a healthy dose of cinnamon, you'll be seeing dancing reindeer before you know it.

For the chutney

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
3 cups of plums, pitted and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup (generous) chopped red onion
1/3 cup dried tart cherries

For the pork

1 trimmed pork tenderloin, weighing no more than 3/4 pound
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh cilantro sprigs

To make the chutney
Combine the first 8 ingredients in a heavy, large Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the plums, onion and dried cherries, then increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.)

To make the pork
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rub the cumin and a pinch of salt and pepper into the tenderloin. Heat the oil in heavy oven-proof skillet over high heat. Add the tenderloin and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and brush the pork with 1/2 cup of chutney. Place the skillet in the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 155°F, brushing occasionally with another 1/2 cup of chutney, about 25 minutes. Slice the pork into medallions. Garnish with cilantro and serve with remaining chutney.

Serves: 2, with leftovers for lunch

*For those of you who haven't been to a mall this month, the holiday decorations are up, the choo-choo train is chugging, and you can all but sit on Santa's lap. My mother would not approve.


Foodycat said...

That looks delicious! I keep getting emails reminding me to order my turkey etc for Christmas and I can't believe how soon it is! So I am going to stick my head in the sand and ignore the whole thing.

Aggie said...

Look at that chutney!! This meal looks delicious!

I am the same way about the day after Thanksgiving...I'm all about relaxing and enjoying it - not going out into that chaos!!

Grace said...

i have to say, i'm with your mom. however, i make up for the delay in decorating by leaving my tree up until mid-january. :)
great piggy dish, by the way. your chutney sounds fantastic!

Sarah said...

Foodycat: thank you, and yes, I keep reminding myself to order my turkey for T-giving even though I can't believe it's that time of year already!

Aggie: Totally with you on that; there's nothing better than putting your feet up the day after cooking T-giving dinner and just hanging out with the family. Who in their right mind goes the mall??

Grace: Ha! Me too, I'm sorry to say it. And thanks; I love good piggy!