When guests come for dinner, it’s good to have a meal in your repertoire that doesn’t cost a fortune or keep you in the kitchen all day.

This menu even includes an appetizer to have with a glass of your favorite white wine. I could easily write an entire cookbook with all the ways I use frozen puff pastry.

This recipe is a favorite, as is anything that has caramelized onions in the mix. Add sautéed mushrooms and cheese and you have the perfect tasty tidbit to nibble while putting together Pork with Fruit. You know how I love a recipe with flexibility; I hope you’ll experiment with different fruits and herbs to get the combination you like best.

For the chocolate pudding, use the best quality dark chocolate you can afford and farm-fresh eggs. If you don’t have a double-boiler, you can combine the ingredients in a stainless steel bowl then place it over a saucepan of simmering water to gently melt the chocolate.

Entertaining friends and family should be something to look forward to and enjoy. With this menu, you should be able to do just that.

Caramelized Onion Bites with Gruyere and Mushrooms

4 tbsps. butter, divided

2 tbsps. vegetable oil, divided

5 oz. mushrooms, sliced

2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced

1/4 tsp. thyme

1 tbsp. sugar

1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

4 oz. Gruyere cheese

1 (1-lb.) pkg. frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten

In a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil with 1 tablespoon butter. Add mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside in a bowl.

Heat remaining 3 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon oil and sauté onions and garlic for 5 minutes. Add thyme and sugar and continue to cook for 25 minutes on medium- low heat, stirring every few minutes. Add balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan. Turn off heat. Add onions to the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool to room temperature. Mix in cheese.

Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat to 400 degrees Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut cold pastry into 2-inch squares and place them on baking sheet and brush with beaten egg. Place a tablespoon of caramelized onion mixture in the center of each. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp and golden brown, rotating the pan halfway in between. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Yield: 30 squares.

Pork with Fruit

Six (4-ounce) thin pork cutlets

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 tbsps. butter

2 tart apples, 2 firm pears, or 4 plums or peaches, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges

1/2 -1 tsp. cinnamon

3 tbsps. sweet white wine

3 tbsps. olive oil

6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

16 fresh sage leaves

Season pork with salt and pepper and set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter then add fruit and cinnamon. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally. (Timing will depend on type of fruit.) Stir in wine and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate.

Add 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil to skillet. Stir in half the garlic and sage leaves and cook for 15 seconds. Add 3 pork cutlets and sauté until well-browned and cooked through. Add a few spoonfuls of water or more wine to the skillet to help scrape up any browned bits from the bottom. Transfer pork to serving plates and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Place fruit on pork and drizzle with pan sauce. Yield: 6 servings.

Braised Red Cabbage with Carrots

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 head red cabbage, sliced into 6 (1-inch thick) rounds or half-rounds

2-3 tbsp. water

1-1 1/2 cups shredded carrot

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Warm oil and place cabbage in skillet to sear on both sides. Turn heat to medium and add water. Cover and simmer until tender-crisp. Add shredded carrots during last 2-3 minutes of cooking time. Yield: 6 servings.

Chocolate Pudding

4 eggs, at room temperature

12 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

Sea salt

Heavy cream

Separate the eggs. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold very stiff peaks.

Combine chocolate, water, sugar, butter, and a pinch of salt in the top of a double-boiler. Stir until smooth.

Remove from heat, and beat in egg yolks. Gently fold in egg whites until smooth. Spoon into small serving glasses and chill for a few hours. Top with cream. Yield: 4-6 servings.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected].

Pork with Fruit served atop Braised Red Cabbage Rounds.

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