Oliver Twist

Nope this isn’t a book review! It’s actually a twist on a recipe by Jaime Oliver that I saw recently over at the Food52 blog. ( I can’t never resist a word pun – no matter how corny!)

His recipe used chicken legs, cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil. I used pork, cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. I think my twist worked out pretty good!

I used a 3-4 lb center cut roast that I sliced into chops for serving. (bone-in roast – this is where center cut “pork chops” come from) I also used a heavy cast-iron pot, that way I could generously salt and pepper the outside of the meat and sear it over high heat to create a bit of a crust. Then in the style of Jaime oliver I simply threw in a pint of cherry tomatoes, a handful of basil, 6-7 medium size whole cloves of garlic, tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a 1/2 cup of warm water just to make sure I had enough “juice.”

And like Jaime I simply put it in a 350 degree oven and undisturbed for 1 and half hours. But I used a meat thermometer to check and determine when my pork was cooked. (145 degrees for medium-rare and 160 degrees for medium)

Author’s Note:

I often have to reheat portions for my husband and this one worked out pretty good over the mashed potatoes! Just note if you plan to reheat you may want to consider cooking the chop to medium-rare the first time, that way you have a little margin for additional cooking.

 

 

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Arroz con carne de cerdo

Rice with pork.

Not an expert here by any means – in fact had to look this title up – so hopefully we can trust the internet on this translation!

Anyway, that is what I made the other day. Some “spanish style rice” and some grilled pork chops to go along with it. A true “Arroz con carne de cerdo” or its cousin “Arroz con pollo” (chicken) would have the meat browned and finished with the rice. My variation was separate items, but still very yummy if I say so myself!

arroz con pork

I started with butter, onion, diced sweet red pepper and garlic in a pan. I added the dry rice to the pan after things were browned up nicely to toast it a bit. I also threw in my dry spices at this point to also “toast” them a bit. Adobo seasoning, ground cumin, smoked paprika, chile powder and ground annatto seed along with black pepper. A few mins after that, the liquids went in. I used both stock and a small can of tomato sauce. Simmer covered for 35-40 mins or until the rice is cooked and the liquid evaporated. Add some frozen peas in the last 10 minutes or so of cooking. Before serving, taste for seasoning. (you may want to add more salt or a bit of hot sauce)
As for measurements… just use your basic 2:1 ratio of dry rice to liquid and just sprinkle in a teaspoon or two of each seasoning depending on how much rice you are cooking.
Shhhhhhh.. I used healthy whole grain brown rice since the color was going to be hidden from my husband anyway!

“Shake then Bake”

As a child of the seventies, my husband grew up with all the conveniences of “modern food” that were being introduced at that time. Gourmet popcorn for the microwave, help for your hamburger meals, stuffing for your stove top and Mr and Mrs everything you can imagine. Also very popular and somewhat new (introduced in mid to late 60s) was the coating mix for your pork chops. 

It is this product that he stills requests at dinner time. Often.

As for me…since my mother was way ahead of the curve in terms of natural foods, I spent my childhood wondering about these mystery foods I saw on TV and who ate them.

Now-a-days I find myself creating my own coating mix more often than opening a box of his favorite. And guess what? He likes it just as much!

Standard breading technique and a few ingredients are all you need!

std breading technique

I used plain breadcrumbs mixed with grated parmesan cheese and Penzey’s Northwood seasoning to create the crispy outside coating. To make it stick, I first dredged the chops in plain flour and swiped it through a beaten egg before coating it in the crumb mix. If you really wanted to keep the dirty dishes down you could “shake” on the flour in a plastic bag and also do that with the crumb mixture. ( might be kinda messy to do that with the egg:-)

Just  line them up on a rack to allow the hot air to circulate and crisp all sides. ( I lined mine with sprayed foil for easy clean up) and bake at 375 in a pre-heated oven for 30-45 mins depending on the thickness of the chops.

shaked

You can’t even tell the difference between mine and the commercial product!

And no pork chop would be complete without some apple sauce!

baked

“In A Pinch” BBQ Sauce

Let’s just say you have already started re-heating the baked beans from the weekend and searing some thin cut chops when you realize you don’t have any BBQ sauce around. What’s a hungry, working girl to do? Especially when she has an even hungrier man in the next room expecting BBQ smothered chops?!

Improvise!

So I used a cup (or what was left of the bottle) of “Cole farms Old-Fashioned Sweet N Sour” dressing. This is a regional brand dressing from a family run diner up in Maine. We are able to get it in our local grocery stores. They make a VERY delicious coleslaw dressing too. But I digress.

I whisked the dressing with 1/2 tsp chili powder (more if you like it spicy) and 1/2 tsp smoked paprika. I added 1/2 cup of warm water to thin it and a couple squeezes of tomato paste from the tube. I would have added a tsp of ground cumin which is my absolute favorite spice but I discovered I had some how run out and had a cumin crisis on my hands!

I did however, heavily coat the chops in Emeril’s Essence which I swear by! I seared the coated chops on both sides and removed them to a warm, low oven while I sautéed 1/2 of a thinly sliced onion and whisked in the improvised sauce to cook and reduce a bit. Add the chops back into the bubbling hot sauce for a minute or two and serve it up with baked beans and corn!

Porkchop #130

In a year of dinners I bet we eat pork chops more often than anybody I know. Some day I am going to compile a book and call it “365 ways to cook pork chops.”

I just pan brown them in a little oil with my favorite house seasoning sprinkled on. De-glaze the pan with a little water or broth or apple juice or whatever you have on hand. Any juice would work and would instantly drive the flavor in a certain direction.

For example:

pineapple juice + soy sauce = Teriyaki (obvious) or sweet pomegranate + zesty lime = tropical (surprising) or cran-apple + a dash of poultry seasoning = fall flavors (traditional). You get the idea.

I chose to add a couple of tablespoons of orange marmalade and some spicy mustard for flavor. Finish with a pat of butter for richness.

This was served with Rotini and Broccoli smothered in a quick homemade cheese sauce sprinkled with Parmesan. Because everything is better with cheese!

365 Ways to Cook Pork Chops

You know how some families eat chicken all the time? How they are always trying to find new ways to cook it; make it interesting and different?

Well I have that problem with pork chops.

We eat them at least once a week – we never get tired of them. I realize that in the short time I have been blogging I am already on a second variation of pork chops. The first one – just last week involved fruit too. Pork just goes perfectly with fruit!

I hardly ever cook pork chops the same way twice. Why? Because it depends on what is in the cabinets! (or fridge.) Maybe after I have been blogging for a while I will actually have enough variations recorded to write a cookbook about them.  I could call it: 365 ways to cook pork chops! I checked Amazon – there isn’t one of those yet. Just 365 ways to cook everything else.

Pork Chops #235

4 thin (1/2 inch) center cut pork chops

Pat them dry and sprinkle heavily with Emeril’s Essence. On high – heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a heavy pan. Sear the pork chops on both sides – making sure to not move them until they are well seared and no longer sticking.  Remove and set aside under foil to keep warm. Add a couple of tablespoons of chopped onion – I had a bit leftover from my husband’s famous western omelet making. De-glaze the pan with a little water – use stock if you have some on hand or already opened – I did not and didn’t want to open one just for a 1/4 cup or so. Scrape up the bits from the pan. Add 1/2 jar of Trader Joe’s Orange/Apricot fruit spread. (no doubt hanging around your fridge waiting for just this occasion) Add the rest of the tiny jar of Woeber’s grainy Dijon mustard. (about 1 1/2 tablespoon of your favorite brand will do.)  A small palm of dried, crushed rosemary. Salt and Pepper to taste. Mix in pan – creating a nice glaze. It should be bubbly and reducing. Add chops back in – making sure to coat. Simmer for a few minutes more. (or longer if you have a husband like mine who likes them at shoe-leather stage)

Serve with mashed potatoes and a box of chopped frozen spinach that I doctored up with garlic powder and nutmeg.

I found it at the flea market….

…Inspiration, dinner and another vintage cookbook to add to my immense collection.

As my husband and I were returning to our city suburb outside Boston after another pleasant weekend in New Hampshire with my parents – we both decided we were not ready to re-enter reality. What could we do about it? We were already a strong 20 minutes south and turning back didn’t seem right. We were headed home with the intention of shopping for the weekly groceries at one of the stores just north of the border. A task neither of us really felt like doing. After spending time in idyllic southern NH with a side trip to the charming Portsmouth area; the last thing we felt like doing was traversing 25,000 square feet of fluorescent lit food.

It occurred to me that we were very near the infamous “Hollis Flea Market.” I immediately continued past the grocery store and drove back into lush, green, rural terrain. The allure of treasures yet to be found was strong. Plus it was a great way to stretch our legs and of course we were both craving a hot dog.

We walked around looking at trash, treasures and general oddities. At the last booth; two hours later, I finally hit pay dirt. A box of vintage cookbooks for $1 each. I found one calling out to me. Cook It Ahead by Elinore J. Marvel, published 1951 by Houghton Mifflin.  This book was really a forward thinker of its time. The recipes were all designed by the author to have some or a portion of them made ahead so weeknight cooking and weekend entertaining could all be made easier. Apparently folks had too many things planned and not enough time to do it all – even in 1951! The best part about these books is one with an inscription or with notes in the margins. The handwriting is fun to figure out and you know someone has already done the test-driving of the recipe when the notes read: “reheats beautifully” on page 138, Carrots Amandine. (Yep that is how it was spelled.) I also consider the bookmark. A scrap of paper, a newspaper recipe or even the bent corner of the page is a sign of importance. The page it marks is most likely the last thing the previous owner made from this book. I love flipping through and traveling back in time when “Egg and Tomato Aspic” and “Roquefort Cheese Fluff” and “Braised Loin of Veal” were all the rage. I have yet to really make any of the recipes in these books I collect – I prefer to use them as entertainment, education and inspiration.

And there it was on page 79.

Baked ham and cider sauce.  And another one on Page 94. Pork chops with apple and sweet potatoes. With a little nip to the NH air and pre-season football on TV there was no good reason for me not to cook something really delicious as that! We returned to our original destination of a faceless southern NH grocery store, inspired and no longer hungry. Everyone knows it is trouble to shop on an empty stomach!

I perused the pork offerings. Slim pickings and generic cuts. I am used to more variety in cuts and selections in Massachusetts; but I know what to expect when we choose on occasion to shop in NH. Good Yankee offerings. I finally settled on two 1 inch thick pork chops. Right size and right price. I really wanted a pork roast of some sort but they were all too expensive or enough to feed 10 people. And the hams were a little sad-looking.

I know pork chops aren’t usually the first choice for a braising method of cooking but I was envisioning searing the chops and then braising them on a bed of sliced onions and apples.

That is exactly what I did.  I added some dry rubbed sage and a bit of herbs de’provence, salt, pepper and butter for richness. To add another layer of flavor I used some apple juice as the braising liquid. A couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce gave it an underlying savory flavor.  I served it up with some mashed potatoes and some imaginary green vegetables. (Sorry Mom!)

In retrospect I should have added a couple of bay leaves. I also think after taking the photo (which really didn’t do the dish justice and the meat wasn’t really that pink) that I should have garnished with some fresh herbs to brighten everything.

As I think about this dish – I realized it could have gone in many directions. It would have been delicious if you substituted the sage and Herbs de’provence with allspice, cinnamon and a couple splashes of maple syrup. Served with turnips from the root cellar and  it would have been New England winter and fall all wrapped up into one!

Or what about our new friend Chinese Five-Spice? Use that as the spice  and maybe throw in some extra ginger as well. Served with fragrant rice, carrots and peas……yum!

This is why I can’t follow actual recipes very well – too confining. But I might just try that cider sauce once apple-picking season starts.