Saturday, June 28, 2008

Beautiful, Sunny Saturday

The weather today was absolutely beautiful. Stunning actually, I couldn't stop commenting on how lovely it was - clear blue sunny skies with temperatures between 75° and 80° and a very gentle breeze meandering around the back patio.

I made homemade baguettes this morning, and for lunch had a tuna, tomato, and fresh basil sandwich on a fresh, warm baguette. It was a rather tasty combination, I'll have to do that again. I love fresh bread, and would like to make it more often, I just don't get around to it very often.

I received something from Cook's Illustrated in the mail (I can only guess they got my info from Gourmet/Bon Appetit - I get both, but they are from the same company) with a couple of random recipes - among them: Pork Chops. So then I started thinking about dinner.

My parents dropped by as I was brining in the mail. They were on their way back from Santa Monica, where they were visiting my aunt. They'd gone to the farmers market there, and brought me back some green and yellow beans. I absolutely love green beans, and I figured the yellow ones would be just as tasty.

Bobby claims pickiness when it comes to meat - he says he "hates" chicken, and pork chops, and ribs, but I find that when they are made well he'll eat them. It's not that he "hates" them, it's that he usually prefers steak. But even then, he didn't really care for steak until he moved out of his parent's house into a bachelor pad with a couple other guys. They all started grilling steaks. While his family would cook steak to medium, the guys would cook them medium rare. It's a completely different food.

So when we went to the store to pick up food for the weekend, Bobby picked out a rib eye, and I picked out a pork chop for our dinner. That way I could try out my newfound recipe, and he could stay safe with a steak. I also grabbed a whole chicken and some asparagus.
"We're having chicken for dinner tomorrow."
"No we're not."
"Yes, we are."
"I hate chicken"
"You don't hate chicken, you just prefer steak. I like chicken, we haven't had it in awhile. I'm making chicken."
Silence. Acceptance.

When I was making dinner Saturday, I realized I needed a bigger stove. Four burners just isn't enough. I needed a pot to cook the pasta in, a pan for the pasta sauce, a pan for the pork chop, a pan for the rib eye (yes, seperate pans, I needed to be able to cover the chop), and a pan for the green & yellow benas. That's five, and I only have four.

So I adjusted my meal - I decided to cook the asparagus tonight, and the green & yellow beans tomorrow, since I could cook the asparagus in the oven. I just tossed the trimmed asparagus with a little L'arte Dell Olivo olive oil, and some kosher salt, and threw it in the oven while I made the rest of the dinner.

The pasta recipe I stole from Rachael Ray's 2, 4, 6, 8: Great Meals for Couples or Crowds. It's the last recipe in the "2" section - Mushroom Marsala pasta. She makes it with beef fillets, but I've found it's really good pasta on it's own, and also with grilled chicken breast. It's super simple and really tasty.

Mushroom Marsala Pasta
2 tbsp. butter
6 mushrooms, thinly sliced (she uses button, but I prefer crimini)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/3 cup Marsala wine
2/3 cup cream (I always use heavy cream)
enough pasta for 2 people - any kind you want.

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, and saute the mushrooms until they are soft. Sprinkle with salt an pepper. Add in the Marsala, and cook until reduced by half. Stir in the cream and warm through. Toss with pasta.

Simple huh? One thing I learned from Wolfgang Puck - If you are tossing your pasta with sauce right away - don't rinse it. Once you drain the pasta (that you have boiled in salted water, it will absorb whatever you hit it with next. If you rinse it, it will soak up that water. If you toss it with your sauce right away - it will soak up the sauce.

Pork Chops
So Cook's Illustrated's scheme is that they try out several ways of making a dish and present what they believe to be the best method. I have a giant book by them, The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition with 1,000 Recipes, that my brother recommended, but I've only tried a few recipes so far. In the small pamphlet they sent me, they were trying to find a relatively quick way to cook pork chops on the stovetop without winding up with a dry chop. I am also not fond of dry meat, and wanted to give their method a try.

Pork Chops - 1/2" to 3/4" thick
olive oil
sugar (yes, sugar)

Don't preheat the pan (this is the key, actually - slow, low heat). Slice through the fat around the edge of the chop in two places. Just to sort of score it. Then drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil, and sprinkle salt and pepper on each side of the chop, and sprinkle a pinch of sugar on one side of the chop. Place the chops in the pan sugar side down and press them into the pan. Put over medium to medium low heat and cook for 4-9 minutes (I went 6). Turn the chops over and cover the pan, cooking the chops an additional 3-6 minutes. Use a thermometer to check the temperature - they are done at 140°.

Pull the chops out of the pan, and tent them with foil for 5-10 minutes. Pour any juice srom the plate back into the pan and cook over medium-high heat for a minute or so to reduce them. Pull the pan off the heat and press each side of the chops into the pan to coat them with the reduced juices.

I have to admit it was a juicy chop. As Bobby noted, the chop was still tougher than his rib eye, but I liked the lighter flavor of the pork. Made for a nice change. I know you are supposed to have white with pork, but we opted to try the 2006 Tensly Syrah that my brother and his wife sent us.

Bobby commented that our desimated plates and the half empty glasses of wine on the plaid picnic table cloth would make a very nice picture - I was just too lazy to get the camera.

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