Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pork Chops with Pepper Jelly Sauce

One of my favorite comic strips in the daily paper is Arlo and Janis, because they are kind of like Alexis and me. I have done this several times:
And I know I'm not the only one with an arrangement like this:
I liked Richard's (aka Buffalo Dick) comment: "I cook like a tornado went through, wife is in charge of damage control."

I saw this recipe for Pork Chops with Pepper Jelly Sauce in the January issue of Southern Living and knew I had to try it.

Pork Chops with Pepper Jelly Sauce

4 (3/4-inch-thick) bone-in pork loin chops (about 2 1/4 lb.)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup red pepper jelly

1. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter with oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork chops, and cook 8 minutes; turn and cook 10 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 150°. Remove from skillet, and keep warm.

2. Add flour and jalapeño to skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until flour is golden brown. Add wine, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet; cook 1 minute or until almost completely reduced.

3. Add chicken broth, and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Whisk in pepper jelly until melted and smooth. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining 2 Tbsp. butter. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Return pork to skillet; turn to coat. Serve pork with sauce.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

I substituted a mini sweet red pepper for the jalapeno (it's what I had on hand) and used my pork chop rub instead of just salt and pepper. I also used 1" thick boneless chops but the cooking times were still close.

The whole family liked this recipe. The sauce was to die for. As far as "heat", it really didn't have any since I used sweet red pepper but I don't think the jalapeno would have made anything but a mild difference. The recipe comments on the Southern Living site said the same. If you are looking for heat, I'd opt for a habanero pepper.

I threw together a "fiesta rice pilaf" to go with it. We were quite pleased with it too, especially since I just threw it together on the spot without any kind of recipe or plan.

Fiesta Rice Pilaf

2 oz mexican chorizo sausage, (1/2 link) casing removed
1/2 c sweet onion, chopped

1/4 c sweet red bell pepper, chopped fine

1/4 c corn kernals

1 c chicken broth

1 c water

1/4 c green onion, chopped

Brown crumbled chorizo. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving up to 1 tablespoon of grease (not grease, it's "chorizo infused oil").

Saute onion, pepper, and corn in the same pan over medium high heat until the onion just starts to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the dry rice and toss to coat. Saute for 2-3 minutes until the rice takes a slight golden brown tint. You'll know it's ready when it releases a mild "nutty" aroma.

Return the chorizo to the mixture. Pour in water and broth. Bring to a simmer, stir once, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, fold in the green onion quickly. Put the cover back on, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

And before my good friends from the BBQ Brethren and Outdoor Cooking Guild start ribbing me for wimping out and cooking INSIDE, I did cook lunch on the grill.

Sriracha wings (the sweet heat version)!

with hot and sour noodles.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Upcoming Guest Post & Food For Thought

Krazy Kitchen Guest Post
On Valentine's Weekend, I am hosting a brunch and a dinner for the lovers' weekend over at Welcome To Our Krazy Kitchen. The theme is (surprise surprise) "romance".

It's going to be fun for us. That week is also our 15th anniversary, so the brunch is going to be a small, intimate menu of some of Alexis' favorites or things that are special to us over the years.

The dinner is going to be entertaining because I am going to have help. My friend and martial arts instructor, Robert, and I are going to cook dinner for Alexis and his fiance. I've been teaching him how to cook a good bit for the past year, but that's mostly been butts, ribs, steaks, and things on the grill. This will be the first full dinner menu we've done together that wasn't BBQ.

Food For Thought
We had a decent amount of snow last night and the boys were over at the horse farm next door, sledding and snowboarding at midnight. I went to sleep but Alexis stayed up. In part to wait for the boys but we had watched Paranormal Activity and I think it had her a bit spooked;)

Anyway, when I woke up this morning, I found this note in the kitchen. I couldn't resist writing a reply at the bottom.

She had also made me two batches of home made cinnamon rolls, wrapped and ready for baking.

I popped them in the oven and quietly set about cleaning the kitchen as quietly as possible. I wanted her to get her rest and if she heard me banging around, she'd feel like she had to get up.

She said she would do it, but she didn't mess it up herself. My walking back and forth to the grill through this mess all night and tracking it inside didn't help any.

Alexis woke up just as I had finished cleaning the kitchen and the rolls were ready.

As we enjoyed our rolls in a quiet morning lull, I smiled at her and thought about "romance". It's not just in flowers and cards, although those are nice romantic gestures. But real, bona fide romance? It's found in sticky notes and cinnamon rolls.

Those two seemingly small things Alexis did put a skip in my step this morning and made my day. Thanks Hon!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper & Feta Sauce for Pasta

I saw this recipe when I was looking for a side to go with some leftover chicken and wanted to try the pasta sauce it uses. I thought I'd use just the sauce with some angel hair.

It called for a 16 ounce jar of roast red bell peppers, so I ran down to the store and bought a jar...

Ok, I lie. I tossed some mini sweet peppers on the Big Green Egg running at about 500f and fire roasted the little suckers! The sweet smell of char climbed into the air in wisps of flavor.

After they were blackened, I threw them in a ziploc bag to let them steam themselves and cool. I peeled them and seeded them. It was a pain in the arse but I will sum up roasting your on peppers as follows:

The effort required might make it worth buying them in a jar. BUT, the fresh roasted taste makes it well worth the effort.

Pasta With Creamy Red Pepper-feta Sauce And Chicken Recipe

2 + 2 tablespoons extra olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, chopped

16 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1 cup crumbled feta cheese, divided

2 chicken breasts

1 pound whole-wheat fettuccine pasta
salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Pound chicken breasts flat season with salt and pepper. Cook pasta, and while its cooking. In skillet place 2 tbs EVOO and fry over med heat chicken breasts slowly till cooked through. Set aside.

In same skillet heat 2 tbs of EVOO. Cook onions till tender 5-7 min. Add garlic cook 1-2 min. Add the chopped peppers and cook until heated through. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Place mixture in a food processor
Add stock and all but 2 tablespoons of the feta. Process until combined and smooth and return to skillet to keep warm. Use some pasta water to thin sauce if needed. Mix pasta with sauce sprinkle with remaining feta and parsley.

One change I did was added few tablespoons of white wine after sauteing the onions & garlic.

I also only used 1/2 cup of feta cheese. This sauce was rich and tangy enough as is.

This sauce smacked my mouth with a bold flavor. This "side dish" is good enough to be a main dish on its own. Although, I think it would be better served with penne or rigatoni than noodles.

Damn I'm looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

So, what is your favorite side dish that you could happily eat alone as a main dish?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Any Way You Slice It - Meat Slicers

One of the luxuries I have is a meat slicer that my parents gave me for Christmas a few years ago.

While my favorite "meat slicer" is my carving knife, it's hard to beat an electric meat slicer for making thin sliced lunch meat. I thought I would share a few of the tips for using meat slicers that I have picked up over the last few years of using mine.

FIRST AND FOREMOST: There is no substitute for reading, understanding, and following the instructions provided in the user manual for your specific meat slicer.

TIP: Cold meat or cheese slices easier and more evenly.
I roasted an eye of beef round on the Big Green Egg (grill) this weekend, wrapped it in foil and stuck it in the fridge for a day. (It was cooked by searing over direct heat at 500f for 1-2 minutes a side and then roasted indirect heat at 350f until it hit an internal temp of 140f. Normally I'd have pulled it 5 degrees earlier and let it rest but since it was going straight into the fridge.) Here it is after searing and about to go on for the roasting. It's on a raised rack over 2 cups of beef broth and 1 cup of red wine to collect the au jus.

TIP: Start your slicing with a flat even surface.
Roasts are not uniform in shape but you need to have a stable surface to start slicing. To do this, I slice them in half across the grain like this and then put the flat side against the back of the meat slicer.

TIP: Wipe your slicer surfaces down with vegetable oil BEFORE slicing.
This makes sliding your meat/cheese while slicing much easier but more importantly, it makes clean up afterward much easier.

TIP: It's Hip To Be Square
To get even slices, you have to hold the meat still with even pressure on THREE sides so it has no where to go except into the blade. In this picture, the meat is pressed between the back plate and the plastic safety guard but notice the gap on the left side against the push plate.

This will result in the meat sliding left and right as you try to slice it. Instead get it snug against all three like in the picture below. Notice it can't go right, it can't go left, and it can't go back. The only place it can go is into the slicer blade.

TIP: Work quickly but purposely.
Sliced meat dries out quickly, so be ready to package it as soon as possible after slicing. During slicing, I just keep covering the meat in layers so none of it is exposed to air too long.

TIP: Debris
If you want a good New Orleans treat AND you totally trust the sanitation job you did on your slicer the last time, use all of the "debris" from the slicer and make the NOLA classic, Roast Beef Po' Boy with Debris Gravy. Who dat!?!?!

  1. Always and I mean always use the safety guard(s). Never bare hand it. There are no such thing as small cuts on a meat slicer.
  2. Always turn off the slicer when reaching in to clear stock from the cutting area.
  3. Always UNPLUG the slicer when cleaning it. Whatever you do, RESIST the temptation to hold a cleaning rag on the side of a spinning blade. I worked in the safety/workers comp department in a grocery store chain....doing this "short cut" never ends well, eventually.
  4. Always return the cutting thickness to "zero" or neutral when wiping the slicer down. Even when powered off, you can jack your hand up by bumping into the blade.
If you follow the manufacturer's manual and these tips, you should have a nice batch of thin sliced meat like this AND all of your fingers still attached.

Oh yeah, never use the meat slicer in the bath tub. It's not in my owner manual, but I'm just sayin'.

Tomorrow for lunch? Roast beef & smoked swiss paninis with au jus for dipping. What are your favorite dishes using thin sliced roast beef?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rouxbe Online Cooking School

Portobella Mushroom Burger
I know it's a very simple sandwich, but I've never made a portobella "burger" before. I've made plenty a burger WITH bella's but not just using the bella AS the burger.
After looking at a butt load (that's a metric butt load, btw) of recipes, the common basics were:

1. Marinade the mushrooms in any vinaigrette for 30 minutes. It could be as simple as store bought Italian dressing or one you whisk up yourself. I made a simple basil vinaigrette.

2. Grill over a 450-500f fire for 4 minutes a side. Start with the gills down so during the second four minutes, you can fill the mushroom with your cheeses. I used crumbled Boursin cheese and baby spinach leaves.

3. Serve on a roll with a lot of texture, like ciabatta rolls with a seasoned mayonnaise.

I went with this mayo from the December issue of Southern Living and their "Fast and Festive Sandwich Spreads" article. Alexis and I both loved it. It brought a lot of flavor to the plate. We will definitely make this again.

Bearnaise Mayonnaise

1/3 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 ea shallots, minced

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Cook the first 3 ingredients over medium high heat until reduced to about 1 tablespoon of liquid (about 5 minutes). Allow to cool. Stir remaining ingredients into mixture. Serve with burgers, steak sandwiches, etc.

I found letting it sit in the fridge for an hour let the flavors blend.

Rouxbe Online Cooking School
The Foodie Blogroll has a contest this month for the Rouxbe Cooking School. Any Foodie Blogroll member that signs up for the Rouxbe free 7 day premium member trial is entered in to weekly drawings for a free lifetime membership. I was so excited to find out that I have won!!!!

The Foodie Blog Roll Contests: Winner!

During my free trial, I spent a few hours at Rouxbe and even took a few lessons. Some of it, I knew, some of it I thought I knew, and I learned something I didn't know in each 8 to 15 minute lesson. I was very impressed with the quality of the content. I am thrilled to find out my free trial is now a free membership!

The things I liked are:
  • Professional grade video lessons (Not just some chef with a camcorder)
  • Curriculum based lessons complete with session objectives, the videos, practice recipes that use the techniques taught, discussion, and a quiz.
  • Recipe video collection
  • Course content
So will it prepare you to become an Executive Chef at a restaurant? Heck no. That's not their goal. There intent is to:

To help you become a better and more confident cook by teaching you basic to advanced cooking skills and techniques – the same things that chefs learn in a professional cooking school – so you can be free from being a slave to just recipes.

If you are like me, a pretty decent home cook that wants to learn to be better than you are, I recommend checking out Rouxbe. (Basic memberships are free and give you a good idea of what they are about.)

If you are a food blogger wanting more foodie traffic and info about more giveaways like this, sign up at the Foodie Blogroll.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Florentine Roast Pork Chops

The great thing about Friday nights is that you can eat dinner at 10:30pm and it doesn't matter.

It was okay, because while Alexis was out buying wine, I made a quick appetizer of spinach alfredo crostini so we weren't starving. Then while I prepped for dinner, she went upstairs and freshened up. She came back looking "date night cute", it was so worth the late start.

We bought a whole boneless pork loin last night. Normally I cut these up into 8-12 pork chops and a pork roast. I was going to make a florentine roast pork this weekend but I had the idea of converting that into florentine roast pork CHOPS on the Big Green Egg instead!

Florentine Roast Pork Chops

4 ea pork chops, 2" thick

1 cup apple juice
1 cup water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
12 ea peppercorns

Stuffing Mix
2 tablespoons rosemary, fresh chopped
2 tablespoons roasted garlic
1/4 cup spinach, fresh chopped
1/4 cup Boursin cheese, crumbled

1 tablespoon rosemary, fresh chopped
1 teaspoon, black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 cup white wine

Mix the brine and soak the chops in the brine for 2-3 hours. Remove from brine, rinse and dry. You could skip this part, but you really don't want to. It yields a moist chop.

Using a very sharp knife, cut a deep slit into the side of each pork chop. You want to "almost" butterfly them.

Stuff each chop with a quarter of the stuffing mixture.

Season the outside of the chops with the rosemary, pepper, olive oil mixture.

Sear the chops on a grill over direct heat at 500f for a total time of 2 minutes, flipping every 3o seconds. Make sure to rotate the meat 1/4 turn to get criss crossed grill marks.

Remove chops to a preheated cast iron pan and splash with 3/4 cup wine. Reduce heat to 350f and return the pan into the grill on INDIRECT heat until the internal temps of the chops hit 145f.

Remove chops to plate and tent with foil to rest for 10 minutes.

Whisk the pan juices and pour over chops to serve.

Start with thick pork chops. I like hand trimming my own steaks, chops, and roasts because I get to control the thickness and it's substantially cheaper.

Yeah, I know Boursin is a French brand of Gournay cheese and doesn't have a lot to do with Florence. I don't care, I love the flavor and creamy texture it brings.

Stuff these "mini-roasts" with the stuffing mixture like tacos. Then I placed them flat and pressed down a little around the edges. I didn't bother toothpicking or tying them shut.

This one really doesn't have much to do with the cooking process, I just thought the spindles of the deck railing looked really cool in the top of the bottle.

Not too much of the cheese mixture melted out during the searing process. I know I sound like a broken record (that's a cd with a scratch to you youngin's), but I love the Craycourt cast iron grate for getting great sear marks.

Once you are at the roasting phase, it doesn't matter how much cheese drips out because it's dripping into the wine, which will be your sauce. Just more flavor at the party!

The first bite told me that this was worth every bit of effort. While I love a plain ol' grilled pork chop, this was excellent for something different.

You could also cook this inside by pan searing it and then roasting in the oven. But you don't get to play with fire.

It was a late dinner but we loved it. When is the latest time that you've eaten dinner that did NOT involve Krystals, Taco Bell, or IHOP?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Inspiration for Tonight's Dinner

From today's Lio comic strip by Mark Tatulli :

My Big Green Egg is feeling neglected. I haven't cooked outside in almost a week. Something is getting grilled tonight. I don't know what "it" is yet, but something is getting grilled.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thai Spiced Cabbage

This recipe flirted with me tonight.

I was looking for something different as I flipped though The Complete Step by Step Cookbook, a book I have not looked at in a few years.

I looked at this recipe like someone who catches your eye while walking down the aisles of a store.

I flipped though a few pages and then came back to it. We gave each other a spicy smile but kept going about our way.

Arriving back on page 297 and we passed yet again, this time I swear it winked at me. I couldn't resist. Forget monogamy...errr...monotony. I gave in and tried something different.

Spiced Cabbage

The Complete Step by Step Cookbook

14 peppercorns
2 tablespoons coconut cream
2 shallots, chopped

4 oz lean pork, finely chopped

About 1 lb white cabbage, fineliy sliced

1 1/4 cups coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 fresh red chile, very finely chopped


In a wok, heat peppercorns about 3 minutes, until aroma changes.

Stir in coconut cream, heat 2-3 minutes, then stir in shallots.
Stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes, then stir in pork and cabbage. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes.

Add coconut milk and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes.

Uncover and cook about 10 minutes until cabbage is crisp-tender. Stir in fish sauce. Sprinkle with chopped chile.

You'll notice their ingredient list doesn't include oil and neither do the instructions. They are presuming you are using a well seasoned wok. I didn't have any lean pork, so I substituted some partially crisped bacon. I had to choose between a fresh green jalapeno and dried red chiles, so I went with the red.

And after cooking this recipe, I know that the coconut cream can't be substituted in this dish. It's not just the flavor, it seems like it brought the oil that the shallots will need to saute.

The bacon and veggies started crisping up nicely before things went partially awry.

The flavor of the dish was impressive, in our opinion. The reduced coconut's sweetness was balanced out by the heat of the peppercorn and red pepper flakes.

But both of us thought the end result had a little too much liquid.

Two issues.

First, part of that is because in my SWAG measurement system, a head of cabbage is 2 lbs so half a head would give the 1lb needed for this recipe. In retrospect and after checking the receipt, this one was only 1.92 lbs and after halving it and removing the core, we probably had about .8 lbs of shredded cabbage.

Second, THEIR recipe said ABOUT 1 lb. The pictures of their wok in the book clearly show more like 1 1/2 lbs.

No big deal, it still delivered a creamy and pleasing taste. But to make it perfect, next time we both agreed we would EITHER add 1/2 lb of a Chinese cabbage like Napa OR cut the coconut milk to about 3/4 cup instead of 1 1/4 cup.

I look forward to trying this again with a few modifications.

So what recipe has recently flirted with you?
1) Tell me about a dish that you ordered/tasted that you normally wouldn't have. Or,
2) Show us your "scarlet letter", post a link to a recipe in your blog that tempted you and caused you to "stray" from monotony.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Brisket Chimichanga

After smoking that gargantuan beef brisket at Christmas, we packaged the leftovers in vacuum seal bags and froze some for later use. Later is today.

This is one of my favorite uses for leftover brisket but also works for pulled pork and chicken.

Brisket Chimichanga

2 -3 slices smoked beef brisket
2 ea flour tortilla, burrito size
1/2 cup shredded cheese
6 TB ranch dressing
2 TB salsa
2 TB butter
1/2 cup long grain rice
1/4 ea red onion, diced
1 ea tomato, seeded and diced
1 cup water
1 TB tomato paste
1 teaspoon oregano, dried
1 teaspoon sugar

Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Saute onion for 5 minutes. Add rice and continue sauteing for another 2-3 minutes. You know it's ready when the rice begins to turn golden and releases an aromatic nutty smell.

Add the water, tomato paste (I normally whisk the paste and water together before adding), tomatoes, oregano, and sugar. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to as low as possible yet still remain at a simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Avoid opening or stirring. After the 20 minutes, remove from heat, fluff the rice with a fork, replace cover and let cool covered.

Mix the ranch dressing and salsa together to make a "mexi-ranch sauce".

Reheat your brisket slices. I prefer to do this by brushing them with maybe a tablespoon of beef stock, wrapping the slices in foil and placing them in foil in the oven while I'm preheating a deep cast iron skillet. Take the slices out as soon as they are warm to the touch and chop them up.

Put about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the rice mixture on a tortilla. Top with half of the meat, cheese and a tablespoon or so of the mexi-ranch sauce.

Wrap the burrito closed. Here's how I roll my burritos for deep frying. I'm not an expert by any means but this works for me and I haven't had one fall apart during cooking yet.

To roll a burrito well, you want to start with a tortilla that's like a great kiss, soft and warm. A cold, dry tortilla will break instead of folding. Warm it for a few seconds (9 for me) in a microwave between two moist paper towels. Place your filling in a line to the side. Mix a "food glue" with equal parts flour and cold water. Looking at the tortilla like a clock, brush a bit of the glue from about 11 o'clock clockwise to about 7 o'clock.

Fold the short side of the tortilla over the mixture.

Fold the top and bottom of the tortilla in as shown. It will kind of resemble an envelope here.

Now roll up the mixture filled side over the empty side like this.

You should now have a burrito with neatly tucked ends, ready to be turned into a chimichanga.

Remove the preheated skillet from then oven and on the stove top, add vegetable oil to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat skillet over medium high heat. Test for readiness by dropping a small torn piece of tortilla. If it bubbles and sizzles, it's ready for cooking.

Carefully place the burritos seam side down into the oil and let cook until they are golden brown (about 2 minutes). Flip and cook the other side until golden brown (usually less time, like 1:45 seconds).

Remove to a raised rack or a plate with paper towels to drain for a few minutes. Slice on a bias and serve with extra rice and mexi-ranch sauce or a salsa verde for dipping.

Summer: Anyway, I think I'd be a great class president. So, who wants to eat chimichangas next year? Not me. See, with me it will be summer all year long. Vote for Summer.

Bite me Summer, I'm voting for Pedro.

Versus: Burrito or Chimichanga?