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On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of aging high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, wealthy women) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Pork, on May 20th, 2014.

bacon_wrapped_pork_tender_sliced

If pork tenderloin is cooked just right, it can make a lovely entertaining entrée. And it will be doubly special if you serve it with the bourbon butter sauce to drizzle on top. But it’s also easy enough to do for a weeknight dinner, too. The bacon makes it special, but the sauce puts it over the top in the flavor department. I forgot to take a photo of a serving with the sauce. Just trust me on this one.

With a group of people coming over for dinner, I thought pork tenderloin would be a good one to serve. This was a week ago I did this, and we were in the midst of a blistering heat wave. We had 2 days with temps over 100° and a couple of days either side of that with temps in the high 90s also. And winds. Oh my yes, the winds. We get something in the California weather system – really only Southern California – called Santa Anas. It’s a hot wind that whips up and blows in from the desert and oh, does it blow. It can blow furniture around the patio, throw cushions 30 feet away, up into trees, stuck in shrubbery. In the previous house Dave and I owned we had a rolling metal trolley cart blow right into the pool. It didn’t break (had 2 pieces of glass too) but we had to ask our son to come over and dive down to the bottom of the pool to get the 2nd piece of glass that was just seemingly stuck to the deepest area. It was winter when this happened, so he donned his wet suit and did it for us, bless him! In years since we generally tie the rolling cart to a post somewhere so it doesn’t go wandering with the will of the wind. With these Santa Anas, about the only – ONLY – saving grace is that generally the humidity is low – this time about 10-15%, so if you stayed inside the A/C’d house, it was bearable. But it was way too hot to eat outside.

And I am going to admit something here that’s new . . . something startling . . . I don’t know how to barbecue. My darling hubby did all the grilling and barbecuing. Not that I didn’t give him some instructions with some frequency, but he did all that stuff. We have a gas barbecue that should be fairly foolproof. I just have to force myself to learn. My best friend Cherrie’s husband Bud has promised he will come one day and give me a lesson or two (they own the same barbecue), but I thought maybe I’d try doing something on my own first. Just to see how bad I am at this. Sometime soon. Stay tuned for that bulletin.

pork_tender_bacon_brownsugarOkay, now that I’ve got that big cooking character flaw out of the way, let’s get back to this great pork tenderloin that is BAKED IN THE OVEN. Not grilled. <BG> The recipe came from a great blog I read, The Runaway Spoon – sometime last year according to my notes. After removing the silverskin from the pork (a bit tedious, but necessary) I cut the thick slices of bacon in half lengthwise. The recipe calls for a pound of bacon – I didn’t have a pound of bacon. I had about 7 slices of thick bacon, so I made do, and it worked fine. First the pork is rubbed with Dijon mustard (a lot actually – and do use all that’s suggested – you’ll really not know it was there when you taste it). Then the bacon slices are wrapped around the pork tenderloin (you could use toothpicks if you’d like the bacon to stay neat and tidy). Then you pat on some light brown sugar – trying to stick it to the bacon if possible (not exactly a slam dunk – just do your best). The recipe recommended placing the pork in an iron skillet. I don’t have one big enough, so I used my Le Creuset, and slightly rounded them in my largest one, well oiled with grapeseed oil first.

bourbon_sauce_ingredThere at left is the uncooked sauce which I made about an hour or so ahead of time – it’s so very easy – mix good Dijon mustard, light brown sugar, bourbon, Worcestershire sauce in a saucepan, heat to a low simmer and cook until it thickens just a little bit, then you add in a copious amount of butter. A lot. 1 1/2 cubes to be exact (this served 8-9 people).bourbon_sauce_finished The butter is added in slowly when the sauce is just below a simmer. Then let it sit and rewarm it just before serving. The photo at right shows the finished sauce.

The pork is baked at 375°. If you like/want crispy bacon, you’ll want to turn on the broiler at the end – I didn’t want to overcook the pork, so didn’t do that step. The bacon was definitely cooked and tasted great, but it wasn’t crispy, just so you know. Everybody ate theirs even so. The meat took about 45 minutes, maybe a few minutes more, but the pork I had (from Costco) were big tenderloins, so that may be why. Cook it until it reaches an internal temp of 140°. Then, if you switch to broil, the meat will likely go to 145° which is what you want.

I made risotto to go with this and the meal all came together at the last minute. I reheated the sauce, sliced the pork and gave everyone some of the bacon, either still wrapped or loosely draped over the pieces of pork, drizzled each serving with the sauce and served up a big green salad, some very fresh sourdough bread and that was dinner.

What’s GOOD: everything – the bacon, yum. The sauce, extra delicious. The perfectly cooked pork – tender, juicy and barely pink in the middle. Just the way I like it. Being able to make the sauce ahead of time was a bonus. The pork took 45 minutes in the oven, so just plan ahead.

What’s NOT: nary a thing – loved the dish.

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Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon Butter Sauce

Recipe By: slightly adapted from The Runaway Spoon, 2013
Serving Size: 8 (maybe 9 if smaller portions)

PORK:
3 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin — (2 tenderloins)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 pound thick-sliced bacon — halved lengthwise (original recipe used regular bacon and a whole pound)
2/3 cup light brown sugar
SAUCE:
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup butter — cut into small pieces

Notes: If you have very hearty eaters, this might not serve 8. Mine actually served 9, but each person had a medium portion.
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Evenly coat a 12-inch cast iron skillet (I used a Le Creuset) with oil making sure it is all well covered.
2. Place the pork tenders on a cookie sheet or large cutting board. Tuck any thin ends underneath so you have nice, even logs of pork. Keep it tucked as you wrap. Brush 1 Tablespoon mustard evenly over each tender. Wrap the bacon around the tenders, starting the next piece where the first one ends and so on, so you have a nice little package mostly covered in bacon.
3. Sprinkle the sugar next to the tenders then start pressing it into the sides and top of the bacon. You can roll the tenders around in the sugar a little if needed. When they are nicely covered, tuck any bacon ends back in place and carefully transfer to the oiled skillet. Neaten up the bacon, but try not to let any stray sugar fall onto the skillet.
4. Cook the pork for about 45 minutes (or less if the tenderloins are smaller), until the internal temperature reaches 140°. Use a probe thermometer. Turn on the broiler to crisp the bacon on the top, and cook to 145°. Remove from the oven and transfer the pork to a cutting board. Pour a little water into the bottom of the skillet and scrape up any cooked sugar with a silicone spatula to make cleaner up easier. Tent the pork with foil and let it rest 5-10 minutes.
5. SAUCE: Mix the brown sugar, mustard, bourbon and Worcestershire sauce together in a small saucepan until it is all well combined. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a low boil, whisking frequently. Cook about 2 minutes, until the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove the pan from the heat, and when the bubbling subsides, return it to low heat and whisk in the butter a few small pieces at a time, letting each addition melt before adding another. When all the butter is combined, remove from the heat. Can be made an hour or so ahead of time, then gently reheat the sauce over low heat, stirring constantly.
6. Slice the pork slightly on the diagonal and on an angle (to make larger slices), then spoon the sauce over the sliced pork. Make sure each serving has some bacon around or on top of it.
Per Serving: 641 Calories; 38g Fat (55.7% calories from fat); 51g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 200mg Cholesterol; 912mg Sodium.

Posted in Pasta, Pork, on April 20th, 2014.

pork_shoulder_ragu

This is the dish I fixed earlier in the week. The first dinner I’d cooked since my darling DH passed away. I haven’t wanted to be in the kitchen much – I cooked a few breakfasts – made a few sandwiches for family, heated some soup from the freezer – but cook from scratch? Zippo. But the desire to cook is starting to come back, so you’ll be seeing some recipes as I make them.

With a semi-house-full of family staying with me, and no more already-cooked food to serve them, I knew I finally needed to get back into the kitchen. First, though, I had to clear my big island of the loads of flowers that were seriously over the hill. I hated throwing them away because they were all so beautiful. Kind people knew how much Dave loved roses, so there were many from the gorgeous sprays sent to our church for the memorial service. I left them intact for a few days, but with no easy way to water big sprays, we pulled the best of the flowers out and used every vase I had in the closet! But a week has gone by since the service, and with vases cluttering the island I just couldn’t seem to think straight about cooking. They’re all gone now and maybe that will clear the teary cobwebs from my eyes so I can enjoy the work in the kitchen, preparing a meal for family. It’s just that my greatest fan, my cheering section, my dear darling husband, is missing. I hope he was smiling down from heaven as he watched me prep and cook. And as I washed the dishes (although after dinner the two guys did the bulk of the dishes, bless them). Dave always said to me that he wondered if I’d do as much cooking if I had to wash my own dishes . . . I don’t think it will make a difference . . . but we’ll see.

Fortunately, this dinner was a big hit, and surprisingly it was also quite easy. I had a gigantic whole pork shoulder roast in the freezer. I should have halved it when I bought it and made two smaller roasts, but I hadn’t done that. So I started with over 8 pounds of pork shoulder. Sigh. That’s one heck of a big piece of meat. I did cut it in half before I began the cooking, and finally ended up dividing it into two separate batches of ragu. The recipe below is for about 3 pounds of pork shoulder (aka pork butt). I got the recipe online – you can find it in several places, but it’s from a cookbook called Big Night In: More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes for Feeding Family and Friends Italian-Style by Dominica Marchetti.

In a nutshell, the roast is salted and peppered, browned well on all sides in oil, removed, then a copious amount of onions are diced and sautéed, along with some garlic. Then you add fresh rosemary, bay leaves, red wine, canned tomatoes and a pound of Italian sausage. Then the meat is added back in and its simmered low and slow for several hours. The meat gets shredded (like for pulled pork), added back into the sauce and that’s really it. Oh, except for trying to skim off some of the fat. That takes a few minutes of patience. Ideally, make this a day ahead and chill it – then you could get nearly all the fat off the top. Serve on pasta (or rice) with grated Parmesan and I added a sprinkling of chopped Italian parsley. My cousin (the GF one) ate it with rice, and when some went back for seconds, I noticed they used rice also. It’s good with both. It’s intended as a sauce for pasta.

What’s GOOD: the flavor, first and foremost. Pork, especially pork with a bone, just develops a whole lot of flavor when it’s slow-braised and simmered. It was very easy to make – it probably could be adapted to a slow cooker, though I merely did it on the stovetop as the recipe indicates. This is a keeper. It also feeds a lot of people. Generally I don’t like to re-freeze meat, but I’m going to HAVE to with this recipe.
What’s NOT: nothing, really. If you don’t have time to cook it on the stove (and tend to it during its several hours of cooking), do try to adapt it to a slow cooker – that way you could start it in the morning.

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Pork Shoulder Ragu for a Crowd

Recipe By: Big Night In by Domenica Marchetti (Chronicle Books, 2008)
Serving Size: 12

3 pounds Boston butt roast — (pork shoulder) in one or two pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large yellow onions — diced (5 cups)
4 cloves garlic — minced or smashed
1 cup dry red wine
7 cups canned tomatoes — chopped, with their juices
4 whole bay leaves (I used Turkish just because I prefer them to California bay leaves)
Two sprigs fresh rosemary (each about 4 inches long)
1 pound Italian sausage — mild (I used half mild, half spicy)
About 3 pounds short pasta, cooked (I used penne rigate, my favorite)
1/2 cup Italian parsley — chopped (my addition)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese — (or more, as needed for serving)

Notes: If using bone-in pork shoulder, you’ll want to have about 4 pounds. It will be more flavorful if you use the bone-in, but boneless works just fine too.
1. Season the pork shoulder well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the pork on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side, until it is evenly browned. This will take at least 15 minutes. Remove pork to a large bowl or plate.
2. Reduce heat to medium and add the onions, stirring well to coat with the oil. Saute until translucent, about 10 minutes, adding the garlic during the last minute of cooking. Add the pork back to the pot, raise the heat to medium-high, and pour in the wine. Let it boil for a minute before adding the tomatoes, bay leaves, and rosemary. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
3. If using bulk sausage, break it into little clumps and add it to the pot. If using sausage links, remove the casings and squeeze the meat into the pot, breaking it up well. Give a good stir, cover, and simmer very gently for 2-1/2 hours, turning the roast over at least once so the other half is submerged in the sauce. Test the meat for tenderness (I simmered this closer to 3 1/2 hours), and continue to cook until the meat is fork tender. Remove the meat to a cutting board and shred it. As you shred discard the chunks of fat still attached to the meat.) Return the meat to the pot and heat the ragu through. Adjust the salt if desired. The meat is much easier to shred when it’s hot or at least warm – once cold, you’ll need to slice and chop it – it will still taste fine, but you won’t have those nice shreds of meat. The shredding – if done by hand – will take about 20 minutes or so. Also beware you don’t over cook the meat – at a point when you simmer pork you will have cooked all the fat and juiciness out of it and it will be dry. So taste the meat as you go. If you use a fork to pull off some meat and it doesn’t just almost fall apart, it’s not cooked enough.
4. Serve with cooked pasta and top with grated Parmesan cheese and Italian parsley. The sauce is fairly “soupy,” so serve in a bowl if preferred. Cool any leftovers, and freeze, if desired, in quart-sized containers.
Per Serving: 431 Calories; 28g Fat (59.9% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 111mg Cholesterol; 703mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Pork, on March 10th, 2014.

swedish_meatballs_ala_ikea

Gee whiz – I sure should have photographed these delicious meatballs on a colored plate, eh? I darkened it a bit so you could see some contrast. Can you even tell they’re meatballs? No matter, though, if you have a hankering for Swedish Meatballs – it’s the taste that will win you over.

Only a couple of times have I dined on Ikea’s Swedish Meatballs. We used to have the store near us, but they moved to a much larger building about 15 miles away, so I don’t visit it very often. But I’ve not forgotten how delicious their meatballs are. For whatever reason I was craving comfort food, so with some defrosted ground beef on hand, I decided to make this rendition (from the Food Network) of Ikea’s Swedish Meatballs.

I do recall when I had Ikea’s version, the meatballs were very soft. To me, that means filler, and yes, I suppose these do have some (bread, in this case), but not enough to make them quite fall apart. Almost, but not quite. The onions and garlic are cooked separately (to make sure they’re  cooked through), then combined with some milk (so the milk soaks into the bread completely). I didn’t have any dry bread crumbs, but had fresh. I should have used less milk, so my meatballs were very wet. The baking process, though, cooked off the liquid.

Once you form the 1-inch meatballs, they’re refrigerated for about an hour, then baked in a hot oven for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile you make the sauce, which is really just a beef broth gravy and a bit of heavy cream at the end. The only unusual thing in it is Worcestershire sauce. Not in the recipe, but I did put in just a little bit of freshly grated nutmeg in the gravy. Allspice is the predominating spice in the meat, with a little bit of cinnamon and nutmeg, giving them that distinct taste. Just before serving, the meatballs are added into the gravy and heated through.

The pièce de résistance, though, is the jam. Traditionally it’s lingonberry (which you can buy at Ikea). I had some Montana huckleberry jam which was just great with it. Each and every bite should have just a tiny bit of the jam – it gives it a hint of sweetness. I served this with mashed potatoes (I think that’s traditional) though some serve it with egg noodles. You’ve heard me say before that I think Costco’s instant mashed potatoes are great. I wouldn’t serve them for Thanksgiving or a fancy dinner, but they’re amazingly true to home made mashed potatoes. And ever-so easy to make. In this case the gravy and meatballs are the stars of the show anyway. The potatoes are almost an afterthought, but a necessary one.

We had a friend over for dinner – Irene – who has Norwegian heritage. She swooned over these meatballs and said “oh, these taste just like my mother used to make.” You can’t get a more hearty recommendation than that, can you? I sent her home with some left overs.

What’s GOOD: Oh gosh, we thought these were wonderful. Absolutely mouth-watering delicious. Whether they’re true to the store’s version, I don’t know, but they’re very, very close and definitely worth making. Yes, I’ll be making them again, according to this recipe! I have another version of Swedish Meatballs on my site, but these are better!

What’s NOT: not a thing.

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Almost-Famous Swedish Meatballs

Recipe By: Food Network’s rendition of Ikea’s Swedish meatballs
Serving Size: 6

1 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup white onion — minced
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper, dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork — lean
1 large egg — plus 1 egg white, beaten
Vegetable oil — for brushing
GRAVY:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups low sodium beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons fresh parsley — chopped Lingonberry jam — for serving (optional)

1. Make the meatballs: Put the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the milk and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Pour the milk mixture over the breadcrumbs and stir to make a thick paste; let cool. Add the beef, pork, egg and egg white to the bowl and mix until combined.
2. Brush a baking sheet with vegetable oil. Roll the meat into 1-inch balls and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the meatballs until cooked through, about 20 minutes.
4. Make the gravy: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking, until smooth. Whisk in the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the cream and meatballs. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the gravy thickens, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Transfer to a serving dish; sprinkle with the parsley and serve with lingonberry jam, if desired. (Serve with mashed potatoes or over egg noodles.)
Per Serving: 584 Calories; 43g Fat (66.6% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 171mg Cholesterol; 293mg Sodium.

Posted in easy, Pork, on March 8th, 2014.

skillet_pork_chops_apples_onions

Did we have pork chops in the freezer? Check. Apples? Yes, one. Check. Onions? Yes, always one of those on hand. Check. Italian Parsley? Yup. Check. Lemon juice? Oh yes. Check.

I’m sure you’re all just like I am – we eat different meats in rotation. Sort of. Chicken, chicken, fish, chicken, pork, chicken, fish, and way down the rotation list, lamb. This particular night I was in the mood for pork and sure enough, we still had two more pork chops from the Berkshire pig. I think this dinner will be the last, however. We have a Berkshire ham, which we’ll probably have for Easter, and I think I have one more pound of ground pork. When those are gone, I’ll be completely empty of Berkshire. Sadly.

Lucky is the word for me when it comes to pleasing my hubby – Dave never complains no matter what I serve him. Only when we’ve had the same leftovers 3 times does he grumble a little. I rarely do that – I try to insert something else in between, or I try to re-invent the dish somehow. But with some things that’s not possible. When I’ve defrosted meat to begin with, made something, I don’t like to re-freeze it. It’s already been frozen and I’ve read that meat just loses flavor when you do that. I’ve been known to do it with soup, when the protein comprises very little of the taste in the soup itself. Like tonight, for instance, as I’m typing this, I have meatballs in the refrigerator, chilling. From a couple of pounds of defrosted ground beef. (I’m making something close to Ikea’s Swedish Meatballs – if it’s good, I’ll post it in a few days.) I made a big batch – bigger than I should have I think – and my only hope is that we’ll have a guest over to help eat it up. Because I don’t want to freeze them.

Okay, back to pork chops. I’d saved this recipe in MasterCook – and so my notes say, I found it on Oprah’s website, although it’s a Mark Bittman recipe. Must have been awhile ago. But I searched for pork chop recipes within my to-try recipes and this one just seemed the best fit. And talk about easy!

The chops were seasoned with salt and pepper, browned in a skillet. Some vermouth was added to the pan along with a minced-up shallot. The chops are removed, and then you add the sliced apples and onion and cook that for awhile with some chicken stock, then the chops go back into the pan for a little while – maybe 10 minutes – while the sauce reduces down a bit. That’s it. Add a tidbit of butter (as a finish to the sauce) and garnish with Italian parsley. Done. I had a smidgen of rice left over from the chicken tikka masala I’d made the other night, so I added just enough to give the plate a rounding-out. It was enough for the sauce to soak into, which was delicious.

What’s GOOD: how quick and easy the dish was to make. My DH loved it – but then, he loves pork chops just about any way I’ll make them. Loved the interplay between the savory sauce and the sweet apple. Apple and pork really do go together well.

What’s NOT: nothing at all, really. Liked the dish a lot.

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Skillet Pork Chops with Apples

Recipe By: Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Basic (via Oprah’s website)
Serving Size: 4

2 pounds pork chops — preferably bone in (6 to 8 ounces each) 1″ thick [I used chops that were 1/2″ thick so cooked it for less time]
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine — or light-bodied beer [I used vermouth]
2 tablespoons chopped shallot — or red onion
3 medium apples — peeled, cored, halved, and sliced [I used less]
1 large onion — halved and sliced
1/2 cup chicken stock — or more as needed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons parsley — chopped fresh for garnish

1. Blot the chops dry with a paper towel. Put a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When it’s hot, add the chops, turn the heat to high, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When they brown and release from the pan easily, turn the chops, season again, and cook this side the same way. The whole process should take about 2 minutes per side or 3 to 5 minutes total.
2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the wine—be careful here; the wine may splatter a bit when it hits the hot oil—and the shallot and cook, turning the chops once or twice, until the wine is almost evaporated, 1 or 2 minutes. Transfer the chops to a plate and return the pan to the heat.
3. Add the apples and onion to the hot pan and stir until they start to stick, 1 or 2 minutes. Add the stock, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chops to the pan, along with any juices accumulated on the plate. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat so it bubbles steadily, then cover.
4. Cook, stirring occasionally and turning the chops once or twice, until the chops are tender, 5 to 10 minutes; add another 1/2 cup stock or water if the apples start to stick. When the chops are done, they will be firm to the touch, their juices will run just slightly pink, and when you cut into them the color will be rosy at first glance but turn pale within seconds. By this time the apples and onions will also be soft. Stir in the lemon juice and butter and taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve the chops with the sauce on top, garnished with the parsley.
Per Serving: 535 Calories; 32g Fat (56.7% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 119mg Cholesterol; 390mg Sodium.

Posted in Grilling, Pork, on January 25th, 2014.

grilled_pork_chops_spanish_adobo

Years ago, when I was in the advertising biz, we had a very talented art director on our staff from the Philippines, named Dolf. He was an American, but so loved his native country’s cuisine. A couple of times he brought chicken adobo to our festive potluck lunches – his version from the Philippines, a wet braise kind of dish. But this post is NOT about the Filipino version, which is altogether different. Not just a little bit different, but a lot different.

SPANISH ADOBO is a spice mixture, and is meant to be liberally applied to pork chops (and allowed to sit there, so it becomes a marinade) and grilled – it’s cinchy easy to make. I saw a blog post from one of the varied ones I read, and it was called pork chops adobado. Since I’d not heard the adobado (rather than adobo) part before, I started sleuthing. Adobo is the spice mixture, but once you put it on some kind of meat and grill it, it becomes a food preparation, so it’s the adobado or adobada. I read what wikipedia had to say about it, then did a search and came to a recipe at epicurious that sounded just right.

In the explanation, wikipedia says of ancient cooking:

Animals were usually slaughtered in the coldest months of winter, but surplus meat had to be preserved in the warmer months. This was facilitated through the use of adobos (marinades) along with paprika (a substance with antibacterial properties). Paprika gives a reddish color to adobos and at the same time the capsaicins in paprika permit fats to dissolve to the point of allowing tissue penetration, going deeper than the surface.

spanish_adobo_pasteIf I interpret what that says, it means meat was marinated for long periods of time, like months – yikes. From winter to summer? So, by using a paprika-based marinade, they were able to preserve meat without refrigeration (obviously) and the capsaicins (that’s what gives heat to peppers) in it allowed for better absorption. Spanish (or Mexican) Adobo is a oil and spice paste that’s spread on the pork up to a couple of hours ahead of grilling. It’s a mixture of oil, paprika, dried oregano, fresh garlic, ground cumin, hot chili flakes, fresh lime zest, salt and pepper.

I slathered this mixture onto 2 pork chops and 2 steaks. It’s a heady mixture – not only with spices, but it has some heat. If you’re averse to hot spicy food, eliminate the chili flakes. I used half-sharp paprika (a mixture of mild and hot), so it was plenty hot for me. The recipe calls for mild paprika. The paste marinated on the chops for a couple of hours (in the refrigerator), then Dave grilled them. First they’re browned – and I mention this only because with the reddish paste on them, it may be hard to tell when the chops are truly browning as they’re already brownish red before you put them on the grill. After they’re grilled on both sides just to get grill marks (if you can see them), you move them over onto an indirect area of the grill, loosely cover them with an upside-down foil pan, or with foil itself to finish cooking. Use a meat thermometer and take them off when they’re just done!

You can vary the heat depending on what kind of paprika you use. Please don’t use grocery store paprika – it doesn’t cut the mustard. (Oh, ha! I made a joke . . . 🙂 Here is a link to Penzey’s page for Hungarian paprika. Many high end markets now carry premium Hungarian paprika – do seek it out. And do refrigerate it. Penzey’s also sells Spanish paprika, but that is the smoked variety. Perhaps cooks in Spain do use the smoked, but I’d try it without the first time. And if I tried it, I’d use half regular and half smoked. The smoked goes a long way.

Be SURE to use a meat thermometer – the chops took much less time than anticipated. Ours were about 3/4 inch thick, and only took about 10 minutes cooking time. And?

What’s GOOD: the adobo spices were a big hit. I loved it; so did Dave. We have found a new, local purveyor of pork, and this first try was great – the meat was tender and juicy. The paprika and other spices hit a great flavor note for both of us. It was a quick preparation – and some nights that’s exactly what’s needed. I’ll be making this again and again.
What’s NOT: I can’t think of a thing. We loved this, big time.

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Grilled Pork Chops with Adobo Paste

Recipe By: Adapted from Epicurious
Serving Size: 4

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika — (can use half-sharp)
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano — crumbled
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes — or more if desired
1 1/2 teaspoons lime zest — finely grated, from a fresh lime
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds bone-in pork center rib chops — 3/4″ thick, or thicker

1. Heat grill to medium-high for direct-heat cooking.
2. Stir together all ingredients except pork chops in a bowl to form spice paste, then rub paste all over pork chops. Allow to rest for 20 minutes to 2 hours in refrigerator.
3. Oil grill rack, then grill chops, turning over occasionally and moving around if flare-ups occur, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes total.
4. Move chops to indirect heat, then cover loosely with heavy-duty foil, turning chops over once, until thermometer inserted horizontally into center of a chop (do not touch bone) registers 140°F, 6-10 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Per Serving: 405 Calories; 29g Fat (65.3% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 89mg Cholesterol; 770mg Sodium.

Posted in easy, Pork, on January 1st, 2014.

milk_braised_pork_chops

Surely you’ve heard somebody talk about milk braising a pork roast. I know I had, but somehow, even though I’d read and heard it was a really tasty way to prepare pork, I’d never actually done it. Plus, I’d simply pictured a curdled gloppy sauce. Who boils milk with any expectation of something pretty!

What I had were pork chops, not a roast. Time was at a premium that day (when I made this a couple of weeks ago I was deep in a quagmire of gift wrapping and Christmas card mailing), I quickly scanned through some recipes for pork and stopped at milk-braised pork. Hmmm. The original recipe I had would take too long, so I researched online and came across this extra-easy and quicker method (although it does take about 1 1/2 hours from start to finish) that was perfect for my timing.

I didn’t even print out the recipe – it was that kind of simple, although I did double check the cooking time and the last-minute saucing. The recipe came from about.com. the Southern Food section of that site, from Diana Rattray, who has provided most, if not all, of the recipes. And this is simple with a capital S! First you make a flour, salt and pepper mixture (and there is very little flour) and coat the chops. You shake off any excess. Into a hot frying pan they go (with a little oil and butter). Meanwhile, you use whatever amount of flour is left over from the dipping (not much) and use a whisk to combine it with some milk. You want to remove all the lumps. Once the chops are browned for about 3 minutes per side, you pour off most of the drippings, and add the milk/flour mixture, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover. It cooks for about 30 minutes or so, stirring every so often. You don’t want the sauce to reduce-down too much and burn.

Not realizing the nuances of the flour, I’d put a bit too much in the bowl, so I had to add additional milk so this mixture was soupy, not thick. If it’s thick it will likely burn and/or boil away. It won’t be pretty! If you have a low-enough burner, it’ll cook very gently. That’s the goal. After 20-30 minutes, you turn the chops over and add more milk. The amount can vary because of the flour amount used. I added just a little bit of my Penzey’s chicken soup base to add more flavor. Again, stir it around, cover and simmer for about another 30 minutes. During this time, check the sauce – if the gravy is too thick, add more milk, but don’t add too much. I added some dried thyme to this, as it’s my go-to herb when I want to add some flavor. Then you take off the cover and allow the pork to continue bubbling away, but the sauce will reduce and get thicker. In that time I quick-like made a salad and some mashed potatoes.

My DH thought he was back home as a kid. Growing up, his mother and dad had a housekeeper named Sarah, a loving Black woman who cooked and cared for the family nearly her whole life. She was from the South, and often cooked kale, turnip greens, black eyed peas and the like. This dish just reminded him of the meals she used to prepare. He wanted to sop up every single bit of the gravy (since I don’t make this kind of a meal very often).

What’s GOOD: how easy this was to make, although it does take more than an hour of just simmering – you want that pork to be fork tender. The sauce was lovely. It’s NOT a fancy sauce – it’s just milk, flour, salt and pepper, so don’t expect some deep character kind of gravy here. Do make some kind of carb (rice would be fine too, or even noodles) to eat with the sauce. I’ve added a note in the recipe about throwing in some mushrooms to this. I didn’t, but if I’d had any, I’d have used them in the sauce. Definitely a keeper of a recipe. Comfort food, for sure.
What’s NOT: probably the lengthy cooking – for pork chops, 1 1/4 hours is a long time to simmer. Hard to do with a table full of hungry children waiting. If you can plan ahead, by all means do it.

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Milk Braised Pork Chops

Recipe By: Adapted from about.com, Diana Rattray
Serving Size: 4

4 pork loin chops — about 3/4 to 1-inch thickness
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper — or more, or seasoned pepper
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme — [my addition]
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk — added at the end (may not need all of it)
1/2 teaspoon Penzey’s chicken soup base — or other paste-type chicken base
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (optional)

1. Trim excess fat from the pork chops.
2. Combine flour, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large food storage bag. Add chops; shake to coat them with the seasoned flour mixture. Remove chops from bag; pour remaining flour mixture in a medium bowl and gradually whisk in 2/3 cup milk. Whisk to remove any and all lumps.
3. In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter with the vegetable oil. Add pork chops and cook for 3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Pour off all but 2 teaspoons of the drippings. Add milk and flour mixture to the skillet. Stir well until it’s smooth, adding more milk if needed, so it’s a soupy sauce, not a thick one or it will burn during the braising process.
4. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Turn the chops over. Add remaining milk and chicken soup base (paste); stir to dissolve; cover and cook 20 to 30 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms, if you’d like to during this section of cooking. If the soupy sauce boils away too soon, add more milk and reduce heat.
6. Uncover skillet and cook the chops for about 15 minutes longer, or until the liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup, or to your desired consistency.
Per Serving: 235 Calories; 12g Fat (48.1% calories from fat); 22g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 64mg Cholesterol; 309mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, Pork, on December 11th, 2013.

italian_sausage_breakfast_bread_pudding

In 1987 this recipe (called Tahoe Brunch back then) was published in our neighborhood weekly newspaper. I clipped it out and prepared it numerous times over the years – often when we did a brunch on our sailboat because it can be prepared the day before, then baked the day-of. (We have a smallish oven on the boat, and I did have one pan that would fit in it.) A month or so ago I went to a Phillis Carey cooking class, and she prepared it too, with just a couple of modifications. It was then I realized that I’ve never posted this recipe here on my blog. That mistake is now fixed!

It seems that I don’t entertain for brunch anymore. I think it’s because every Sunday morning we’re busy attending morning services at our Presbyterian church, and to try to put on a brunch after that, when we don’t even get home from church until about 11 is just not feasible. Do people have Sunday brunches on Saturdays? I suppose I could – I just haven’t ever thought of it.

So this delicious recipe has been updated just a little bit – I reduced the amount of Italian sausage, tried to quantify the amount of bread called for, have given options for the cheddar or Provolone, and options for either parsley or basil. And gave you options for adding the mushrooms (I used to) or fresh tomatoes (Phillis’ recipe). I’m a bit staggered by the calorie count on this recipe – I may have never noticed it before.

What’s great about it is the fact that it’s made the day before, and over the years I’ve made this numerous times for Thanksgiving morning, Christmas morning, or New Years Day morning. It’s the Italian sausage in it that I like so much. Spicy sausage just gives this a wonderful flavor. Mix that with the cheese, and it’s kind of like pizza in a breakfast dish, I suppose.

It’s very easy to put together once you cook the Italian sausage and onions. Phillis’ recipe had you cube up the bread. My old recipe calls for buttering bread in slices. Either way works.

What’s GOOD: It’s the Italian sausage in it that I like the best, but then I’m a fan of the stuff. The recipe just has lots of flavors abounding in it from the mushrooms, cheese, tomatoes and the seasonings. Love that it can be made 24 hours before. Do bake in a glass or ceramic dish, not metal. You’ll hear lots of mmmm’s and sighs when you serve this.
What’s NOT: nothing really except that it’s rich and high in calories! But it’s a special occasion kind of dish.

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Tahoe Brunch (Bread Pudding Breakfast Casserole)

Recipe By: A 1987 Tustin News article
Serving Size: 10

4-6 cups french bread — crusts removed
2 tablespoons butter — softened
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces fresh mushrooms — sliced (optional)
2 cups yellow onions — thinly sliced
salt and pepper — to taste
1 pound Italian sausage — sweet (mild)
3 cups cheddar cheese — grated (or Provolone)
6 whole eggs — extra large
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons fresh parsley — chopped (or basil)
1 cup fresh tomatoes — chopped (remove some seeds if possible)
3/4 cup cheddar cheese — grated for topping (or Provolone)

Notes: don’t use a really soft bread in this or it will just turn to mush.
1. Butter the bread with the softened butter, cut into cubes and set aside. In a 10-12 inch skillet, melt the 1/2 cup butter and brown the mushrooms and onions over medium heat for 5-8 minutes or until onions are golden. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside. Crumble the Italian sausage and cook until the meat is no longer pink.
2. In a greased 11 x 7-inch ceramic or Pyrex casserole, add all the bread cubes, top with the onion and mushrooms, sausage and cheese.
3. In a medium-sized bowl mix the eggs, milk, both mustards, nutmeg, with salt & pepper to taste (about 1 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper). Pour over the sausage and cheese mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
4. At least 30 minutes before baking, remove casserole from refrigerator. Bake uncovered in a preheated 350° oven for 45 minutes, then sprinkle top of casserole with fresh tomatoes and some additional cheese. Bake 15 more minutes until mixture is bubbly. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
Per Serving: 885 Calories; 45g Fat (45.9% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 82g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 233mg Cholesterol; 1579mg Sodium.

Posted in easy, Pork, on November 29th, 2013.

pork_tenderloin_tangiers

Pork Tenderloin is such a versatile meat and is also very quick and easy to prepare. We needed to eat dinner by 6pm (to leave to go to a concert) and I started dinner at 5 and everything was done at exactly 6:00. This version is quite simple and very tasty.

This time I searched at Eat Your Books to find a pork tenderloin recipe that would be (1) easy; and (2) quick. Success on both counts. I have Barbara Kafka’s book that’s all about roasting any kind of meat. It’s one I refer to whenever I’m doing some hunk of meat, so when her book popped up on the list, I looked at the ingredients needed – oh good – I had them all. If you’re at all tentative about the process of roasting, you might consider having her book in your repertoire: Roasting: A Simple Art.

This recipe required no more than combining a simple rub that went on first, then I gently rubbed olive oil into the meat as well. The spices are Moroccan in culture – hence the Tangiers in the title, but the spices are available everywhere. Nothing all that exotic – the recipe called for salt, cinnamon and cardamom. I added some turmeric and smoked pepper. Into a roasting pan it went, into a hot oven and in 20 minutes flat it was out of the oven and cooked perfectly. I tented the meat with foil and while the meat rested, I made a very simple sauce from the few pan drippings, adding some white wine and stock, and lastly adding in just a little bit of butter. So very easy. We’re trying to eat less and less red meat (although pork tenderloin is really, really lean to begin with), so this one tenderloin actually provided enough for us for 3 dinners. I sliced the meat thinly and widely diagonal, so we had the illusion of eating big pieces of meat, but it really wasn’t. Each serving had just a tiny bit of the sauce drizzled on top.

What’s GOOD: how quick and easy it was to make. Including the sauce at the end. I got everything ready so when the meat came out of the oven everything was right there to whisk together the sauce on the stove top. I quick-like made a vegetable and a salad, and dinner was ready. Love it when that happens. Taste was nice – this isn’t an off-the-charts kind of dinner, but it was good for sure.
What’s NOT: nothing, really.

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Pork Tenderloin Tangiers

Recipe By: Adapted from Roasting, by Barbara Kafka
Serving Size: 3

1 pound pork tenderloin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon smoked pepper — (Schilling)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped (for garnish)
SAUCE:
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup pork stock — or water, or chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Remove silverskin from pork tenderloin. Preheat oven to 500°F.
2. Combine turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper and salt in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle the spices all over (all sides) of the pork. Pour half the olive oil into your palm and gently smear it all over the pork. Repeat with remaining oil. Don’t rub, just gently spread the oil all over. Place the tenderloin into a shallow roasting pan with low sides (that’s just slightly bigger than the roast), tucking the thin end under by an inch or two.
3. Roast tenderloin for 10 minutes, turn the roast over and continue roasting (about 5-10 minutes, depending on your oven and the thickness of the pork) until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F.
4. Remove pan and place on your stovetop. Remove pork to a heated platter and tent loosely with foil.
5. SAUCE: In a measuring cup combine the wine and broth. The pan will be intensely hot – turn on vent and slowly add the liquid. It will steam and boil. Do NOT touch the pan. Turn on the heat under the pan and simmer the liquid, scraping up any browned bits from the pork. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Taste for seasonings (salt and pepper?). Turn off the heat and allow mixture to stop boiling. Add half the butter and gently stir until it’s melted, then add the remaining butter. Pour into a pitcher to serve.
6. Slice the pork across the grain and on the diagonal (to get larger slices) and drizzle the sauce on top. Add some minced Italian parsley if desired.
Per Serving: 306 Calories; 15g Fat (51.2% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 114mg Cholesterol; 747mg Sodium.

Posted in Pork, on September 24th, 2013.

pork_chops_apple_rum

No, this isn’t a commercial for All-Clad. I do have these adorable little single-serving ramekins, though, that my friend Cherrie gave me a year or so ago and I forget to use them. They were just perfect for this dish. You could also use just a regular pan for both servings.

While we were on our trip I got a nice email from the folks at Frieda’s Produce. It’s apple season again (hooray) and they wanted to send me some. We got them a few days after our return, and after eating one out of hand right away, I tucked them away in the refrigerator because I knew I wouldn’t use them immediately. But some nights later, once I got back into the routine of fixing dinner (gosh, it was so nice to be on vacation and eat out every meal – no prep, no planning, no cleanup), I was ready to start using some of those organic apples. They sent me baby Cortlands, Cox’s Orange Pippins and Ribston Pippins. If you’re interested, at least the Cortlands are available at some Sprouts markets. Maybe not all. Call and ask. They’re an unusual apple because when you cut them up, they don’t turn brown. All of these are heirloom types: Cortlands date to 1898, the Cox’s from the early 1800s and the Ribston from 1708.

It was so nice of Frieda’s to send the apples to me. I just love apples. Ordinarily I would make dessert with them, but I talked myself out of that since we’d had ample desserts on our trip. I wanted to give ourselves a little break. Not that we had dessert every day – we did not, but even every other day is more than we do at home. If I did my favorite apple dessert, I’d be making my Mom’s Crisp Apple Pudding. I just don’t ever seem to tire of that one. And maybe I will still make that one of these days.

One day before we went on our vacation I decided to clean out one shelf in the freezer. It just wasn’t packed very well, and items kept falling off the shelf and onto my tender sandal-clad toes. Ouch. I found a package of 2 small thick-cut pork chops in there that I’d forgotten I had, so I placed them strategically in the front so I’d see them when we got back. Once we returned, I reached into the freezer for something else, and gosh, wouldn’t you know, those pork chops fell OUT and landed on my toes again. So, that made my decision – I’d cook them.

pork_chops_apple_rum_ingredientsMaking these was not difficult or all that time consuming, really. Once I seared the chops, removed them, then cooked the onion, then the apples and re-inserted the pork in the 2 pans, I stuck them in the oven (covered with foil) and baked them for about 20-25 minutes, until the pork was not quite fork tender.

Pork chops have a habit of either being too chewy, or once they reach a point of tenderness, and you continue to cook them, well, they get dry and hard to eat.

Actually, I didn’t serve them in the little pans – my DH wanted me to, but the All-Clad ramekins are nonstick, and  using a knife might have gouged the nonstick surface. So I removed them to a plate. We had cabbage to go along with it (my recipe for sweet and sour cabbage) which was just very tasty with it. If I’d been better prepared I would have made some rice to put beside the pork because there was a lot of very tasty juices running all over the plate.

What’s GOOD: apples and pork are a perfect pair, like salt and pepper, meatloaf and potatoes; you know what I mean. This wasn’t an over-the-top kind of dish, but it was relatively healthy and had enough flavor for a satisfying dinner. If you have apples on hand, use almost any variety – just don’t use the types that fall apart when cooked (like Delicious). You want the apples to stay in their perfect slices. It was easy enough to make and while the pork cooks you can slap together the rest of your dinner.

What’s NOT: nothing really. Next time I might sprinkle just a bit of flour on the chops, which would help thicken the sauce a little bit – that would be nice, then you could drizzle the sauce on top.

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Braised Pork Chops with Apples

Recipe By: Adapted from Just Braise blog
Serving Size: 2

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 pound boneless pork top loin chops
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander pepper to taste
2 whole apples — (Granny Smith, Empire, Rome, Cortland), sliced into 16 wedges
1/2 medium yellow onion — chopped
1/3 cup dark rum
1/2 cup pineapple juice — or apple juice/cider
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — minced

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. In a deep oven-safe pan (or dutch oven) over high heat, warm butter and olive oil (to barely coat bottom of pan).
3. While pan is warming, prepare the pork chops: Wash and fully dry the meat. Coat evenly on both sides with cinnamon, cumin, coriander and pepper. Carefully place meat in pan and sear both sides until thoroughly browned; about 4 minutes each side. The spices will brown quickly – just don’t burn the meat, but dark brown is desirable.
4. Remove the pork chops from pan and reduce heat to medium. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until they are translucent. Deglaze by adding rum and scraping bits that have stuck to the pan. Add pineapple juice and apples. Braise the apple wedges in the juices until they are limp and have absorbed some juice; about 4 minutes.
5. Return pork chops to pan and move apples around the meat to cover sides and top (some may remain under the chops).
6. Cover pan and place in oven for 10-15 (or 20-25 if you’ve used thicker chops) minutes until pork chops are juicy and succulent and liquid has reduced. Serve with the apples on top and around the sides with the sauce all around. Garnish with Italian parsley. Ideally, serve this with some rice to soak up the juices.
Per Serving: 484 Calories; 16g Fat (35.2% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 85mg Cholesterol; 69mg Sodium.

Posted in Grilling, Miscellaneous, Pork, on September 6th, 2013.

pork_chop_spicy_pesto_finger_lime_caviar

As a food blogger, it’s so fun when a company contacts me – gee, little old me – asking if they can send me some food product to try. No charge. No strings attached. Actually, Freida’s contacted me about Hatch green chiles, but almost as an afterthought, they threw in a box of finger limes.

Prior to this, I’d only read about finger limes. Before our trip to Australia 2 years ago, I thought I’d scour the food markets there (if I could) to find some. I wanted to taste them. (Alas, it was the wrong time of year for finger limes, so no, I didn’t see a one.)  The whole idea of the finger limes is so bizarre, in a way. Let’s backtrack . . . finger limes were developed in Australia. The limes are small, some pink, yellow, green and off white. When you cut them in half and squeeze them, the little balls of encapsulated lime juice roll out, almost like a roll of fluff. But they’re not fluff, they’re these little sacs of lime juice. Here you can see what they’re like. finger_limes2

The average finger lime, uncut, is about an inch long. I cut several in half and gently squeezed. As I was working , I cut several of the limes more lengthwise and tried to extract the little juicy gems. Hard to do, actually, but once I cut them in half crosswise, and did the squeeze technique, they came right out. I have yet to try these on a piece of fish – that will be the ultimate test, I think, with a bunch of these adorable things scattered on top of a sizzling hot swordfish steak. Some marketing type came up with the “caviar” name, but it’s actually very apt as the sacs kind of pop in your mouth.

The origin of the relish came from Southern Living. It is called a Peanut-Basil Relish. The basil is chopped up finely, then you add green onion tops (only), some fish sauce, garlic, sesame oil (a tiny amount) and olive oil. Serrano pepper was in the mixture, but I didn’t have one, so I substituted some chipotle chile. And then I got the idea about using the finger limes. Peanuts have a role in this – I kept them separate until I was ready to serve (because they absorb liquid easily). It took about 5 minutes to make the relish.

Meanwhile, I sprinkled about a teaspoon of light soy sauce on the pork chops, then a bit of olive oil and some Montreal pepper seasoning. Those went on the grill until the meat reached 150° and they were perfectly done. I spread the relish on top and we chowed down. It was delicious. I happen to have a bumper crop of basil at the moment and this made good use of it. The relish recipe suggested if you have left overs, to mix into pasta.

What’s GOOD: the relish is ever-so easy to make, and the chops were simple to season and grill. Loved the Asian flavors – they’re not overwhelming at all (either the soy sauce on the meat or the fish sauce in the relish) but gave it a piquant taste altogether. The relish would be delish on other things – it does need to be used right away, I think. The little bit that was left in the bowl when I got done was turning black, which is what basil does when it’s bruised and wet. I could have whizzed it up in the food processor and made a paste (with more oil, probably) but I liked it as a kind of rough relish.
What’s NOT: really nothing at all. Liked everything about it.

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Grilled Pork Chops with Spicy Basil Relish and Lime Caviar

Recipe By: Partly my own ideas, part adapted from Southern Living.
Serving Size: 4

PORK CHOPS:
2 1/2 pounds bone-in pork sirloin chops — or any cut of pork chops
4 teaspoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
Montreal seasoning pepper to taste
BASIL-PEANUT RELISH:
4 tablespoons green onion tops — (green part only)
1 1/2 cups basil leaves
2 cloves garlic — crushed
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
4 teaspoons finger lime caviar — or fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted peanuts — chopped

1. Dry pork chops with paper towels. Spread soy sauce on pork, then olive oil, followed by a moderate amount of Montreal pepper seasoning.
2. Grill pork, searing both sides, until the interior temperature reaches 150°. Remove to a heated platter, tent with foil and set aside for just a few minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the green onion tops, chopped basil (use a ceramic knife if you have one, so it doesn’t bruise the basil), crushed garlic, fish sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, lime caviar (or lime juice) and add the peanuts last (or sprinkle them on top when serving). If you have left over relish, add a bit more oil and use it to season rice or pasta. Use it within a day, as the basil will turn black and look very unpalatable. Spread the relish on top of the grilled pork chops.
Per Serving: 476 Calories; 34g Fat (64.0% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 293mg Sodium.

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