Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Shrimp & Grits

I should preface this recipe by saying that I have almost zero connection to the South. I am not from the South. Heck, I've barely even been to the South, other than a few trips for business. I do have one friend from North Carolina, though. Liz is bubbly and sweet and has an adorable accent and runs a fabulous letterpress design business that you should check out. But yeah, other than Liz, that's about as connected to the South as I am.

However, my love of food knows no geographical boundaries. I love shrimp, and I love grits. So why not try my hand at this classic Southern dish?

Mine has more of a cajun take on it (any excuse to cook with Andouille sausage, I'll take), including cajun seasoning, the aforementioned sausage, and a tomato based sauce. It's spicy, fragrant, and thoroughly satisying. Enjoy!

Shrimp & Grits
Serves 2-3 with leftovers

2 links Andouille Sausage
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 small white onion
1 green pepper, diced
1 tbsp cajun seasoning
1 can diced tomatoes with juices
Quick grits (not instant)
Salt & Pepper
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1. Slice the sausage links into coins. Brown in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove from pan, set aside.

2. In the remaining oil from the sausage, saute the onion and pepper until softened and onion is beginning to brown.

3. Add shrimp and cajun seasoning. Stir to coat, and saute until shrimp turn pink and start to release a small amount of cooking liquid (no more than 5 minutes).

4. Add can of diced tomatoes, reduce heat to low, and cover skillet. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

5. Prepare the grits accordining to package directions. When done, add a healthy amount of freshly ground black pepper and the cheese, stir.

Top the grits with your shrimp mixture and dig in!

Sarah's Wine Pick: Since this recipe packs a fiery punch, you won't want to pair it with just any wine. A complex wine (anything aged, an intriguing red) will get lost on your tongue. Similarly, avoid anything high alcohol, since that will only fan the flames and enhance the heat. Ouch. Good low-alcohol picks include any vinho verde (usually under 10 %) or a sauvignon blanc. Try one from France's Sancerre region, where the sauvignon blanc is particularly fresh and subtly sweet/fruity.

Ian's Beer Pick: Following the same idea, something moderate in alcohol content but full in flavor will pair nicely with this dish. Try a toasty Red Ale or Nut Brown.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Suburban Sticker Shock!

This past weekend, Mr B and I did something we have never done before: we bought a house and moved! Some of you might remember the Bellingham abode I featured in my Functional Kitchen Update a few months ago. Well, the deal went through and that gorgeous kitchen is now my new favorite place. With the help of my bestie Lauren, I got right to work setting up my kitchen this weekend, imagining all of the meals I would create there!

On my lunch hour yesterday, I sat down with the sale circular for our nearest grocery store and created my menu of dinners for the week. As I scanned through the week's offerings, I realized with a start that an unexpected budget bonus had come our way. The B household was going to experience some sticker shock, and not in the bad way. Apparently, it is much more costly to cook in the city than it is in the 'burbs, because these Bellingham prices were much lower than the ones I was accustomed to in Jamaica Plain. Some examples:

Item                                                  JP                                        Bellingham
Bananas                                       $0.60/lb                               $0.44/lb
Avocados                                    2/$5.00                                $0.88 each
Limes                                            2/$1.00                                3 pound bag (maybe 20 limes), $2.69
Plumrose Baby Back Ribs        $6.99                                   2/$8
Store Brand Wheat Bread        $2.19                                   $1.00

I was almost as pleased by this as I was to learn that our car insurance had dropped about $300 annually (this was not a surprise to me, however: it doesn't take a genius to figure out that on-street parking in Boston is riskier than driveway parking in the middle of nowhere). Buying a house is a costly endeavor, but I will take those food savings any way I can get em!

It's a give-and-take, of course. For Thursday night's Curried Apple & Lentil Dal that I am planning, I couldn't find any garam masala in the ethnic aisle. Why? Because there is no ethnic aisle in Bellingham, that's why. No delightful aisle full of varied treasures to ogle over, from India, Thailand, Latin America, and Japan. At my old grocery store, there was a half aisle devoted to Irish specialities, due to the significant off-the-boat-Irish population in West Roxbury. Although I wasn't ever adventurous enough to try some of them (uh, Spotted Dick anyone?), I appreciated their presence. I was sad to see that the cans of Goya beans were as exotic as it gets in Bellingham.

Nonetheless, I am fully appreciative of the savings I will see on my grocery bill in Bellingham, and will head off to Whole Foods for any of the goodies I can't find in the regular store.

Now that I am cooking again, stay tuned for more recipes! This week's lineup includes Shrimp n Grits, Curried Apple  & Lentil Dal, Grilled Jamaican Jerk Chicken with mashed coconut sweet potatoes and mango/avocado salad, and a special dessert somewhere in there: warm polenta pudding with wild blueberry compote.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hiatus Complete; Thoughts on Dining Solo

Hello faithful blog readers!

I hope you will accept my most sincere apologies for my long, dreadful blog silence. Although I wish I could spend my whole life in foodieland, I do have a professional career, and it has kept me awfully busy for the last month. I've been traveling out of town mostly every week since my last post, so my meals and moments at home have been fewer and far more precious. Add my upcoming move to the mix (more on that soon), and you've got one distracted blogger.

There are ups and downs to work-related travel. It's obviously contingent on where you travel, a factor I've experienced firsthand. A brief trip to the heart of Washington, DC in springtime? Not too bad! A 3 day trip to the outskirts of Montgomery, Alabama in  August? Not so much. Racking up travel points is an obvious silver lining, but time spent away from family and friends is a major detractor from the merits of business travel. When I first started traveling for my job, I thought that a major pro might be the chance to dine out at restaurants while on the road, since the B household budget only allows for so much of that at home. Surely, a fully comped meal is something to get excited about, I thought.

That's only so true, I soon found out. First of all, I usually stay at hotels that accept my special per diem rate, so sometimes I am limited to accommodations outside of town, off interstate exits, without much gustatory choice. On these nights, I'll order room service, eat some non-memorable salad or sandwich while watching TV, and call it a night. Other nights, when I am traveling with coworkers, I am limited to the group choice (usually a predictable and safe chain restaurant like Cheesecake Factory or Chili's). These were my experiences up until this year, when I began traveling alone to DC.

In DC, I stay in a lovely hotel in the heart of DC. Nearby are several fine dining options, including the hotel's restaurant (a noted hotspot in the city). On my first trip there, I was excited for dinner. I had my whole day's food per diem burning a hole in my pocket, and was thrilled to see that the menu was adventurous, the atmosphere swanky, and the service attentive. "Table for one!" I told the hostess with a smile. The enthusiasm was quick lived. I soon learned that dining solo isn't much fun.

I sat there awkwardly, looking around but trying not to stare. One can only read a menu for so long before they take it away (duh), and when it goes, you are left with your drink and an empty chair staring back at you. The waiter came by to refill my water glass and like a vulture, I pounced, hungry for conversation. The waiter, although polite, clearly wasn't interested in sharing his life story with me or chatting about the weather. Bummer. Despite the fact that I am usually pretty anti-smartphone, I wished desperately that I had a BlackBerry to fiddle with, so I could look like the sharp, engaged, independent businesswoman I wanted to be. Instead, I fiddled with my straw, instead probably looking much more like the far-away-from-home 23 year old who missed her husband that I really was. My meal was fantastic--a rockfish bouillabaisse if I remember correctly--but I was relieved when my tab was settled and I could retreat back to my room.

In college, I was always more than happy to visit the dining halls with a book as my meal companion. I am equally comfortable at a coffee shop or cafe with a newspaper. But there is something inappropriate about a newspaper at a high end restaurant, where a fine meal is intended to be shared. It goes to show that so much about food and our relationship with it is inherently social. Had Mr. B been with me for that meal, it would have been a very memorable night out. Instead, even a perfect dish tasted bland. The spice of companionship truly can make or break a meal.

I've since gotten better on my travels. I have learned to pick restaurants with a lively bar scene, and am learning to be more comfortable meeting and greeting fellow solo diners next to me at the bar. On my last trip, I made fast friends with two other business travelers, Chris from Minneapolis and Rose from San Francisco. Over glasses of wine and big bowls of Moules Frites, we talked about our homes, families, work and travels. It was nothing like that first lonely night.

As I reflect on these experiences, I am continually reminded of how blessed I am to share meals daily with my family and friends, with a heaping side of laughter and a warmth of heart like none other.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cooking by Feel: Real Measurements

I have been blessed to receive a lot of positive feedback about La Cucina Vivace. My friend Jan made a particularly astute (and welcomed!) observation when she commented to me that she appreciated my "real measurements". What is a real measurement, you might ask? An example would be for a recipe to call for 1 carrot, sliced versus 1/2 cup carrot coins. And another: 1 tsp minced garlic versus 1 clove garlic, pressed. While I hadn't been doing this intentionally, it was an "Aha!" moment when I read Jan's comment. Without knowing it, my recipe-writing reflects how I prefer to cook: with a whole lot of common sense.

Nature has already given us units of measurement, and I prefer to use them. Have you ever stood in your kitchen trying to figure out how much spinach you have to chop to make a cup? Two cups? Who has time for that nonsense? With the exception of baking (and that is a very large exception), I generally don't believe that recipes need the level of precision that accompanies measurements such as 1 tbsp minced onion  or 1/2 tsp lemon zest.  Cooking should be about common sense, and when we rely heavily on those kinds of measurements, I think we lose some of that. We also lose some of the fun in the process--when we stress over exacting measurements, we not only lose sight of the larger picture, but we are consumed in a process that isn't as creative and enjoyable as it could be.

To this end, I hope to periodically publish a few posts about "Cooking by Feel". What does it mean to rely on your intuition when replicating a recipe successfully? How can a beginner cook feel comfortable in the kitchen, trusting him/herself to turn out a dish that is delicious and satisfying? How can the intermediate chef take his/her cooking to the next level, intuitively pairing ingredients to yield a fabulous new creation?

For now, I encourage you to think critically about the measurements you use in your cooking. If you are a novice chef who stresses over "getting it right" and maintaining exacting precision in the kitchen, I would suggest that you try recipes that use "real measurements" to ease that anxiety. It goes without saying that my recipes utilize these whenever possible, but there are many other sources for such recipes. Many food bloggers utilize real measurements, and love her or hate her, Rachael Ray practices this approach in her cookbooks and shows as well. Try applying your common sense to more exacting recipes as well. If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup chopped carrots, and you really like carrots, why not put a healthier amount in? Trust yourself and your own taste!

Monday, March 15, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Special: Corned Beef, Boiled Vegetables, Irish Soda Bread, and Beer Floats!

While neither my husband nor I are Irish, we do live in Boston, which is a pretty Irish town. Also, we love a good reason to cook something festive for friends, so of course it makes sense that we celebrated St. Patrick's Day festivities this past weekend.

We invited a few of our pals over on Sunday night for a little Irish noshing. After nibbling on Kerrygold Dubliner cheese, and sipping a few brews, we dug into our annual Boiled Dinner. St. Patrick's Day is on a Wednesday this year, so while you can't (or shouldn't) partake in drunken revelry, you can still enjoy an Irish dinner on the holiday. You can make this meal fairly easily on a weeknight, since the roast can be done in a slow cooker. 

Since the March lion is still with us, 
it is still OK to have my winter centerpiece out...right? Anyone?


Corned Beef

Although point-cut corned beef brisket is often cheaper, you should know that point-cuts are often much fattier than the flat-cut sort. It can be hard to tell in the store if your cut is mostly meat or fat, so use caution in picking out your roast.

Place your brisket in a slow cooker and top with the spice packet it came with. Usually these packets include crushed bay leaves, mustard seeds, garlic and minced onion, and salt. No extra liquid is necessary; the roast will release more than enough of its own juices to simmer in.

Cover the slow cooker and leave on low for 8 hours.

That was easy, wasn't it?



Boiled Vegetables

In a large stock pot, add:
  1. Shredded Green Cabbage
  2. Peeled, sectioned carrots
  3. Peeled, chopped rutabaga and/or turnips
  4. Peeled, chopped potatoes
  5. Tablespoon Salt
  6. Approximately a tsp each of mustard seeds and dried minced onion
  7. Splash of Cider Vinegar
  8. 1 cup chicken broth
  9. 1 cup liquid from slow cooker
Cover and bring to a boil. Cook until carrots are soft when poked with a fork.



Irish Soda Bread

This recipe is an oldie but goodie from the Joy of Cooking. For taste, I substituted zante currants for the raisins. For health, I substituted canola oil for the butter. Every little bit counts, right? You can also use 1/3 cup egg substitute in lieu of the egg if you so choose.

Ingredients:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup currants or raisins
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil

1. Preheat oven 375 degrees F. Grease or spray your baking sheet.

2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together dry ingredients (including currants/raisins) with a wire whisk.

3. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients thoroughly.

4. Add wet mixture to dry; stir just until dough is moistened. Do not overmix or bread will become tough.

5. Scrape the batter into a rounded mound on your baking sheet.

6. Bake 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into highest part of mound comes out dry.

7. Immediately upon removing from oven, slide loaf onto wire rack to cool.




Beer Floats

Pour a pint glass 2/3 full with Young's Double Chocolate Stout, or a similar beer if you can find it. For floats, we like Young's because of the very chocolaty flavor and subtle alcohol bite. If you were pouring it for drinking, you would want to pour straight into the glass to develop that lovely bottom-up head you get with stouts. In this case, though, you want to try and minimize the head on the glass. The ice cream will foam when you put it in, so its nice to start with a relatively calm beer.

The fixings

Carefully drop in a scoop or two of good quality vanilla ice cream. Eat. Bliss.




Sarah & Ian's Drink Picks:

We cannot, in good conscience, recommend that you drink wine with this meal. If you must honor Saint Patrick with an alcoholic beverage (and we suggest that you do), make it a beer! A toasty Irish red or creamy stout will do the trick.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

BAGELS!

A fact you may or may not know about me: I am not a native New Englander (gasp!).

Although Mr. B and I call New England home, I grew up in a galaxy far, far away called New Jersey. Although I love me some lobster, cream pie, cod and baked beans, the Jersey girl in me will never stop loving those two foods of my old stomping grounds: pizza and bagels. I am, admittedly, a pizza and bagel snob, and I have yet to find either of these things done as well in Boston as I can find them in NJ.

Today's post is not about pizza. That's for another day. Today, we talk about bagels. In high school, I would eat one every day for lunch. These days, I truthfully only eat them when I go back to Sussex County to see my family. Sometimes I crave that starchy, doughy, chewy deliciousness that is a true New York/New Jersey style bagel. The good news is that bagels are easy enough to make at home.

So roll up your sleeves and join me in the kitchen. Let's make bagels!



INGREDIENTS:

6-8 cups bread (high-gluten) flour
4 tablespoons dry baking yeast
6 tablespoons granulated white sugar
4 teaspoons salt
3 cups hot water
a bit of canola oil
1 gallon water
3-5 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar
a few handfuls of cornmeal


1. Pour three cups of hot water into the mixing bowl. The water should be hot, but not so hot that you can't bear to put your fingers in it for several seconds at a time.

2. Add the sugar and stir it with a whisk to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water, and stir to dissolve.

Wait about ten minutes for the yeast to begin to revive and grow. This is known as "proofing" the yeast, which simply means that you're checking to make sure your yeast is active. If you skip this step, you won't know if you are using dead yeast, which could be potentially disastrous. You're good to go when the yeast begins to foam and release a sweet aroma. My husband accurately observed that it smelled like beer. Yum.

3. Add three cups of flour and the salt to the water and yeast and mix.

4. When you have incorporated the first 3 cups of flour, the dough should begin to thicken. Add more flour a half-cup at a time, and mix each addition thoroughly before adding more. As the dough gets thicker, add less and less flour at a time.

5. Once the mixture resembles dough more than it does batter, turn out your dough on a floured work surface and start kneading. Feel free to add small bits of flour to prevent sticking to your hands or the work surface. You want to knead the dough until it is nice and stiff, not as sticky, but still elastic. It should give and stretch without tearing.



6. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, rub your oiled fingers over the surface of the dough, and cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel. The oil and towel will keep the dough from drying out. Place the bowl in a dry, warm place. Allow it to rise until doubled in volume.

Before....

 

...and after! Poof!



7. While the dough is rising, fill a stockpot with about a gallon of water and set it to boil. When it reaches a boil, add the malt syrup and reduce the heat so that the water just barely simmers. Also, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

8. Once the dough has risen, turn it onto your work surface, punch it down, and divide immediately into 16 pieces.



To form the bagel, you should shape the dough into a round sphere with your hands.  Poke a hole in the center of the blob. Smooth out the edges and fashion it into a bagel!



9. Once the bagels are formed, lay them out on a towel and let them sit for another 10-20 minutes. They should rise about another quarter size.

10. Time to boil your bagels! Boiling bagels before baking gives them their characteristic texture. This is the part that grocery stores and manufacturers skimp out on. Drop the bagels into the simmering water one by one. Since you don't want to crowd them, only boil a couple at a time. The bagels should sink first, then float to the top of the simmering water. Let the bagel simmer for three minutes, then turn them over with a slotted spoon. Simmer another three minutes, and then remove them out of the water and set them on a clean kitchen towel.



11. Toppings: If you intend to add toppings, do that now. You can use finely minced onion, poppy or sesame seeds, minced garlic, caraway seeds, or coarse salt. It's wise to add the toppings before you put them on the baking sheet so the runaways don't burn. If your toppings aren't sticking to the bagels well, brush the bagels with an egg wash (1 beaten egg + water) before sprinkling the toppings.

12. Sprinkle your baking sheets with some cornmeal. Then arrange the bagels on the baking sheets and put them in the oven. Let them bake for about 25 minutes, then flip, and bake another 10 minutes.

Action Shot!


13. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks. Let cool for about 15-20 minutes before attempting to slice.



We feasted on ours with cream cheese, capers, and smoked salmon. You could also eat them with honey, butter, or your favorite fruit jam. Enjoy!

Notes:

While I couldn't have been more pleased with the way mine came out, you can see in the photos that my bagels were not as large, or "poofy", as deli bagels should be. The texture inside was perfect, but they lacked some height. This was likely because when I set them out to rise for a second time, they were not in an ideally warm place. My kitchen was rather chilly, and they didn't rise a full quarter size before I boiled them. You should aim to rise the bagels at about 80 degrees F.  

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cook Therapy

It was a terrible, terrible Monday.

I hate going to the dentist. I mean, I really hate going to the dentist. Last summer I had my first cavity at the tender age of 23, and its worth mentioning that I sat in the chair staring at the dentist for 15 billable minutes, jaw clenched together like a kid who won't eat her vegetables.

Anyhow, Monday I had to get another cavity filled after work. The day was long. I sat at my desk with my stomach in knots. I tried some breathing exercises in the car on the way over, to no avail. By the time I climbed into the chair, my nerves had escalated to full-on freakout mode. I sniffled and whined throughout the procedure. Afterwards, I was released to my sweet husband, who had come to retrieve me as though I had just endured Same Day Surgery and couldn't drive. He even brought me flowers. He shook my dentist's hand, apologized for my behavior, and carted his teary wife home.

I was miserable. Miserable because I had been stressed all day, miserable because the nitrous oxide had made me feel drunk and woozy, miserable because I had just sobbed in front of my very kind dentist and needed to be picked up with flowers, and miserable because now I couldn't feel my face. At all. Needing something to distract me from the discomfort, I made my way into the kitchen and did what I do best: started to cook.

Cooking is one of the most relaxing things I can do. I know it isn't that way for everyone. Some people get a lot of peace from listening to music, or going out for a walk, or maybe a spin in the car. Have you ever driven to work or school and realized once you got there that you didn't remember the drive? You were alert, responding to stimuli around you, actively braking and accelerating and doing all the tasks you needed to, but your mind was somewhere else. That's where I often find myself when I am stirring, simmering, chopping and browning. The distraction was exactly what I needed to take my mind off that awful feeling in my chin, that paralyzed reminder of my terrible day.

Sure enough, as the soup began to come together, the grains of rice plumping and carrots softening, wisps of steam rising from the pot, I began to feel the first tingles of sensation returning to my face. Like waves gently pulling away from the shore as the tide goes out, the tension in my shoulders began to ease with each passing minute. The house was filled with the savory, comforting smell of chicken soup, and all was finally right with my day.

Have you ever cooked your troubles away? What did you make? What else helps you unwind at the end of a long day? Comment below!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lemon Chicken Soup

We are just getting over a twin set of colds here in the B household. I travel for work, and airplanes always seem to be an open market of germs, don't they? Plus, its March. 'Tis the season. Even if you aren't battling the sniffles, I am certain that you will enjoy my take on chicken soup.

I like to make chicken soup after I have made a roast. I use the bones and all of the leftover meat for the soup. I could use the chicken to make stock and then save for later, but I generally find that making the soup right away and freezing the leftovers works for me.

If you are using the leftovers from a roast, carve and pick the carcass mostly clean of meat. Set the leftover meat aside for later use in the soup. Use the whole carcass to make the broth. If you haven’t made a roast, but still want to make the soup, you could buy a package of thighs and breasts, bone-in.


10 cups water
Leftover Chicken + Bones
2 Bay Leaves
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 white onion, minced
½ cup fresh sage (1 tbsp dried), finely chopped
½ cup fresh rosemary (1 tbsp dried), finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh thyme (1 tsp dried), finely chopped
1 tsp ground pepper
1 cup white rice
4 large carrots, chopped
Juice of 3 lemons
Salt to taste


1. Place the carcass, water and bay leaves in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer for at least 40 minutes.

2. Remove carcass from water. With two forks, pull any remaining chicken off the bones and shred into smaller pieces.



Throw bones away, return chicken to pot along with any reserved chicken meat.

3. Add celery, onion, herbs, and pepper to pot. Simmer 15 minutes.



4. Stir in rice and carrots. Simmer until rice is cooked and carrots are soft (but not mushy), about 20 minutes.

5. Finally, add lemon juice and salt. Remove the bay leaves and serve right away.

The end result is a tart, savory soup that is slightly thickened by the rice. The recipe will yield a ton of soup, so eat giant bowls of it and then freeze the rest. Mmmm.




Notes:

On Salt: Obviously this is a personal matter. Everyone likes their soup salted differently, and some people limit sodium intake for health reasons. I personally hate low-sodium soup, so my soups are well seasoned to bring out the other flavors. For ten cups of broth, I usually start in the neighborhood of 4 tbsp of salt and take it from there. This is a good lesson for you intrepid chefs out there---don't ever be afraid to taste your dish while cooking! I take great pride in writing my recipes accurately for you, but the reason why I make up my own recipes in the first place is because many recipes are inaccurate. Trust your own tongue more than you trust the recipe, always.

Homemade chicken soup can often contain bones that you didn't catch, and are dangerous to consume. Sift through the water very carefully to remove all of the bones. I have a wire mesh spoon that works beautifully.

For the calorie conscious: It is easy to lighten this soup. Instead of using a carcass and bones to make your stock, instead use two boneless skinless chicken breasts. Use your slow cooker for the most tender chicken. Fill your slow cooker with 10 cups of water and two chicken breasts. Add your bay leaves and herbs. Leave on low for 8 hours. Remove the stock to a stockpot, skim the fat off the top, shred the chicken, and proceed with the recipe as above.

Sarah's Tea Picks:
I am going to forego a wine choice here in favor of a nice, hot tea. I don't know about you, but I don't feel like imbibing when I am a goopy coughing mess. I like Stash Premium Lemon Ginger tea when I am feeling ill--tart and spicy, and comforting to the tummy. Chase it with a big glass of water--you need your fluids! :-)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rosemary Mustard Pork Chops with Cider Braised Brussels

Pork, in so many ways, has the same great "blank-canvas" properties that boneless/skinless chicken breasts have. You can buy them in bulk when on sale, freeze them until you need them, and create a million different dishes with them on any night of the week. This recipe calls on you to bread your pork chops and sear them in a skillet, creating an herbed crust. This is a twist on the traditional method, though. Typically you douse the chops in an egg or milk wash before breading; in this recipe, you will smother the chops in a garlic-mustard sauce beforehand. The technique packs a flavor punch, for sure!

I paired these chops with panfried potatoes and a brussels sprouts dish that was inspired by the lovely ladies over at Crows in the Kitchen, a fabulous cooking blog created by my dear friend Mo and her girlfriends.  Do yourself a favor and spend a hour there with a cup of tea, reading their archives. You won't be sorry!




Here we go!

Rosemary Mustard Pork Chops (serves 2)

Ingredients:
2 bone-in pork chops
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 cup dijon mustard
4 garlic cloves, pressed
Salt & Pepper

1. Set your oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a small bowl, mix the mustard and garlic together. Let it sit while you prepare the rest of the dish, allowing the flavors to steep.



3. In a large shallow plate, mix the bread crumbs, parmesan, and rosemary.

4. Season the pork chops with the salt and pepper.

5. Smear each side of the pork chops with the mustard sauce. You should have a couple tablespoons of leftover mustard in the bowl--hang onto it for the potatoes.



6. Coat the pork in the bread crumbs, pressing them into the crevices so that they are coated all over.



Shake off the excess crumbs and place in a skillet over high heat (skillet should already be roaring hot by the time you put the pork in. I usually give my nonstick skillets a spray of canola right before adding the chops). Let the chops cook for about 4 minutes on each side--don't flip them until there is a nice brown sear.

7. When the chops are done, place them in an oven proof plate and pop them in the oven to finish cooking while you prepare the sides.





Potatoes:

1. Thinly slice a couple of potatoes. Starchy potatoes like Idahoes or Russets work well here.

2. Pan fry the taters in your skillet over high heat with some canola oil. I use my Misto sprayer and that is sufficient. 




3. When they are toasty brown on all sides, remove them from the heat and toss them with the extra mustard you reserved. Serve them hot.

Brussels:

I love me a good brussels sprout. I usually chop them into coins and saute them with a tablespoon of olive oil until they are caramelized. Then I braise them in a bit of water until they are finished cooking (you want them to be soft inside but still green, not brown). The Lady Crows inspired me to saute them with a shallot first, and then braise them not in water but in apple cider with a little splash of cider vinegar.



The apple flavor was a spot-on pairing with the delicious herbed pork and mustard potatoes. Check out the full write up on Cider Braised Brussels here.




Sarah's Wine Picks:
I recommend picking up a bottle of Carménère, 100 % if you can find it. Carménère is a fascinating wine with a story to tell. Originally planted in the Bordeaux region of France, the grape was wiped out by a blight in the late 1800s. It was presumed extinct until as recently as the 1990s, when it was rediscovered growing in Chile. Cuttings exported from France before the blight ensured that this grape would be savored once again, and oenophiles have been getting reacquainted with Carménère ever since. Carménère is a medium bodied red with complex flavors of plum and chocolate. It may be a little smoky, even, and has a firm tannic finish. I think you will find that its a suitable challenge for the robust nature of the pork, with its rich herb and cheese crust and dijon mustard bite.

Ian's Beer Picks
The pork is an ambrosia of flavors already, so don't overwhelm it with an overly hoppy or sweet beer. Brown ales are an excellent contender; the dominant malty element showcases the strong flavors in the pork without suffering from "drinkability syndrome"; that is, a boring, flavorless fate. Brooklyn Brown Ale fits the bill.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Functional Kitchen Update!

Unbeknownst to me while I was writing the Functional Kitchen post, there was a kitchen out there in Bellingham just WAITING for us to make an offer on it! My dream kitchen description from Tuesday matches our new kitchen to a T, much to my own surprise and delight.

Ian and I found a home last weekend, made an offer, and it was accepted. Pending inspection and appraisal, we are looking forward to calling this place home. I wasn't sure if I was going to unveil these to the general public, but I can't resist!


An open layout!
A peninsula for pies!
Where should I put the pot rack...


There are cubbies!

A walk in pantry!




And who said dreams don't come true?