Thursday, January 15, 2015

French-Style Pork Chops and Apples

Oh-la-la and merci beaucoup Cook's Illustrated for this recipe.  Saturday nights are usually when Lovey and I try new recipes for dinner.  It's not a work night and I have time during the day to actually prepare something a little more exciting and in depth than creamed tuna on toast.

This juicy recipe is from the January-February 2015 issue of Cook's Illustrated.  I have to admit that the primary reason Lovey and I picked this recipe was that it called for Calvados.  Lovey recently saw some program on TV that focused on Calvados and it gave us an excuse to buy some apple brandy.

The TV program Lovey watched centered on this brand; so that is what we bought.

The key to this recipe is to buy a good, quality chop.  These are center-cut bone-in rib chops; a chop that is all loin.

I Frenched these chops by stripping the end of the rib bone.  Most people, who are classier than I am, appreciate the way Frenching makes the chop look so refined and they can even be adorned with these little paper crowns.  I like it because you can pick it up like a lolly-pop and eat the last bits of meat off the bone like a cave man.  Whether you choose to French them or not, salt the chops on both sides, cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for an hour.  This will help them retain their juices.

Assemble the rest of your ingredients.  Most of these ingredients are used to make the sauce.  You have apples, bacon, shallots, butter, chicken broth, Calvados, apple cider, nutmeg, rosemary, pepper, & apple cider vinegar.

Cook bacon in a medium saucepan over medium heat until crisp.  While the bacon is cooking peel and core the apples and slice the shallots.  Chop 2 of the apples into 1/2 inch pieces.

Once the bacon is crisp, add the shallots, nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp. salt.  After the shallots are softened, remove saucepan from the heat.  Pour 1/4 cup of the Calvados into the saucepan.  You'll flambé the mixture then add the rest of the Calvados and flambé again.  Since I only have two hands and flambéing needs to be done sensibly, I did not try to get a photo of this.

But I guarantee it was awfully fun lighting it on fire.  Once the fire show is over you will add the cider, 1 cup of the broth, thyme sprigs, butter, and chopped apples.  Bring all of this to a rapid simmer until the apples are like applesauce, about 25 to 35 minutes.

The pork chops get seared over high heat about 4 minutes on each side.

Remove the chops form the skillet and set aside.

Add the apple rings to the skillet and brown (please don't pay attention to the rings I halved; they were lucky they didn't get chopped into 1/2" pieces).  Add the remaining 1/4 cup chicken broth and scrape up fond until broth is evaporated.

Remove skillet from heat and flip the apple rings over

Place the chops on top of the apples and place in a 300°F oven

When the chops register a temperature of 135 to 140°, place the apples and chops on a serving platter. Cover with foil and allow to rest while you finish off the sauce.

Strain the sauce through a strainer and press the solids.  Discard the solids. Season the sauce with the vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste.

Strain the sauce a second time into a serving dish or individual dipping bowls.

We served these up with Lovey's favorite potato dish, Gratin Dauphinois.  He likes saying the name as much as he likes eating them; and a west Texas boy saying "gratin dauphinois" puts a smile on my face every time.

And, here's what you have to look forward to once you push yourself away from the table (please don't judge that the Christmas decorations are still up).

Now, a few thoughts on this recipe....
  • the best pork chops I have ever tasted; they were juicy and flavorful
  • the apple rings were surprisingly a fabulous, tasty side dish.  Where the apples provided a slight sweetness to the chops, the chops gave a subtle saltiness to the apples
  • sauce was good, however......the sauce was 3/4 of the prep work and the chops stood on their own without the sauce
  • if I made the sauce again, I would use regular brandy.  Lovey and I were not fans of this apple brandy; at all.  It had a cross between a petroliate and licorice after taste; never picked up any apple taste.  It was not worth its cost and I don't think it added to the recipe.
Bottom line, the success of the pork chops does not depend on the sauce.  I would suggest you make the complete recipe with the sauce the first time around and decide for yourself.

French-Style Pork Chops and Apples
Serves 4
Adapted from the January-February 2015 issue of Cook's Illustrated

4 (12 to 14 ounce) bone-in pork rib chops, 1 inch thick
Kosher salt and pepper
4 Gala or Golden Delicious apples
2 slices bacon
3 shallots
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 cup Calvados or other brandy
1-3/4 cups apple cider
1-1/4 cups chicken broth
4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 1/4 tsp. minced
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1/2 - 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Evenly sprinkle both sides of each chop with salt.  Place chops on large plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Peel and core the apples.  Cut 2 of the apples into 1/2-inch pieces.  Cut bacon into 1/2-inch pieces.  Peel and thinly slice the shallots. 

Cook the bacon in a medium saucepan over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the shallots, nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp. salt; cook, stirring frequently, until shallots are softened and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.  Off heat, add 1/4 cup Calvados and let warm through, about 5 seconds.  Wave lit match over pan until Calvados ignites, then shake pan gently to distribute flames.  When flames subside, 30 to 60 seconds, cover pan to ensure flame is extinguished, 15 seconds.  Add remaining 1/4 cup Calvados and repeat flambéing (flames will subside after 1-1/2 to 2 minutes).  (If you have trouble igniting second addition, return pan to medium heat, bring to bare simmer, and remove from heat and try again.)  Once flames have extinguished, increase heat to medium-high; add cider, 1 cup broth, thyme sprigs, butter, and chopped apples; bring to rapid simmer.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are very tender and mixture has reduced to 2-1/3 cups, 25 to 35 minutes.  Cover and set aside.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300°F.  Slice remaining 2 apples into 1/2-inch-thick rings.  Pat chops dry with paper towels and evenly sprinkle each chop with pepper to taste.  Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until beginning to smoke.  Increase heat to high and brown chops on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes total.  Transfer chops to large plate and reduce heat to medium.  Add apple rings and cook until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add remaining 1/4 cup broth and cook, scraping up any browned bits with rubber spatula, until liquid has evaporated, about 30 seconds.  Remove pan from heat, flip apple rings, and place shops on top of apple rings.  Place skillet in oven and cook until chops register 135 to 140 degrees, 11 to 15 minutes.

Transfer chops and apple rings to serving platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.  While chops rest, strain apple/brandy mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into large bowl, pressing on solids with a rubber spatula to extract as much liquid as you can.  Discard the solids.  Stir in the minced thyme and season sauce with vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste.  Transfer sauce to a serving bowl or individual dipping bowls.

Serve shops and apple rings with the sauce on the side.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Chewy Salted Oatmeal Cookies

 A blog that I regularly read and enjoy is The Bitten WordThis month Zach and Clay invited readers to participate in their Holiday Cookie Cover to Cover Project.  Participants are assigned a cookie recipe from the food magazines that they cook from every month.  I've participated in their cover to cover projects in the past and it's always fun to see all of the results from their readers.  I was assigned these Chewy Salted Oatmeal Cookies from the December issue of Food and Wine.

With all of my other holiday baking I've been doing I was grateful to have been assigned a easy recipe.  This is your basic dry ingredients combined with your creamed butter/sugar/egg mixture.  What makes these really special is the little dibby dabby garnish of fine crystal sea salt.

The recipe called for a 2 tablespoon ball of dough that you slightly flattened then sprinkled with the sea salt.

They really spread to make a 4" cookie.  Since they are a chewy cookie instead of crisp they tended limp when you would hold the cookie.

I decided to use my 1 tablespoon cookie scoop to make 2-1/2" to 3" cookies.  I liked this result much better.  It didn't change the taste at all, they still spread enough to keep them thin, they kept their shape when you picked them up and the bottoms of the cookie actually caramelized a little bit without making the cookie crispy.

And the taste?  One of the best tasting oatmeal cookies I've had.  The sea salt put these over the top with a soft saltiness that made all of the other flavors pop.

 Chewy Salted Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from the December 2014 issue of Food and Wine
Yields approx. 6 dozen 3" cookies

2 cups rolled oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
Flaky sea salt

Mise en Place
  • place butter in bowl of stand mixer
  • in a large mixing bowl, whisk the oats with the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg
  • crack eggs in small bowl
 Preheat the oven to 350°.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with both sugars and the vanilla at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs 1 at a time and beat until incorporated.  Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the cookie dough until chilled, at least 1 hour.

Line 4 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Working in 2 batches, using a 1 Tbsp. ice cream scoop, scoop the dough onto the prepared sheets, spaced at least 2 inches apart.  Flatten the cookies slightly and sprinkle each with a pinch of sea salt.  Bake for 10 minutes, until golden brown at the edges; rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.  I would suggest placing a piece of wax paper between layers.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Applesauce from Scratch

A friend from church has an apple tree at her place in New Mexico and she brought a bunch to Sunday school to share.   I've been wanting to make my own applesauce for some time and this seemed to be a good batch to make it with.  They were tart, yet sweet enough.

I selected the easiest recipe I could find and it just so happened to be in this book by one of my favorite food authors, Ruth Reichl.

After coring, peeling and slicing the apples cover them with water.  Throw a couple sticks of cinnamon in the pot and add a good squeeze of lemon.

Let them simmer until the apples are very tender.

Remove the cinnamon sticks.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the apples to the bowl of the food processor (don't throw away the liquid!).  If you think the consistency is too thick you can add a little of the water.

That's it!  Jar it up and stick it in the refrigerator.

That's all there is to it!  You can use as little or as many apples as you want with enough water to cover them.

You can add a little cinnamon if you like but mine was perfectly flavored with a hint of cinnamon from the sticks.  I also did not add any sugar.  It simply didn't need it but I suppose you could add some of you wanted.

I didn't need to add any of the cooking water either.

But it made a wonder hot, sipping drink (probably be great with a splash of Maker's Mark in it).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

El Cid Chili

I cut this recipe out of a Parade Magazine.  Parade Magazine was always found in the Sunday newspaper.  I don't know if they still do that or not; it's been so long since I've read a physical copy of the Sunday news.

The recipe was the winner of a Best Chili In the USA contest published in 2000.  It gets its name from the creator of the dish, Cid Prevost from Missouri who, it looks like, won the recipe contest.  Anyway, it was the only one of the entrants that looked good to me.

We have our proteins presenting themselves as chorizo, ground beef (I used ground sirloin) and the sirloin steak.

Cut up and brown the sirloin in batches and set aside in a holding dish while you brown the other meats and onion.

After removing the sirloin steak, throw the onions in the skillet, followed by the chorizo and the ground beef. 

Once all of that is browned, return the sirloin steak and any accumulated juices to the skillet.

Stir in your seasonings of chopped cilantro, chili powder, Lawry's garlic salt, cumin, dried basil, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and yellow cornmeal.  NOTE:  the other seasoning ingredient that I did not add was the jalapeno (Lovey won't eat it) but be sure and add it; it would be delicious.

Another note, I thought the garlic salt was too salty, even though I did not season it anymore with salt.  I will use garlic powder next time.

Add the beef broth.  I think the reflection of two can lights and the overhead light fixture in the beef broth looks like a little bear's face.  Anyone else see it?

Add the tomatoes, juice and all.

Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer for about 2 hours.
Note:  I added a can of drained pinto beans in the end, at Lovey's request

El Cid Chili
Adapted from a recipe that appeared in Parade magazine
Serves 8

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 pounds sirloin steak, cut in 1" cubes
1/2 pound lean ground beef
12 ounces chorizo, casing removed & broken up
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chili powder
1 Tbsp. Lawry's garlic salt
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried basil
2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) peeled, whole tomatoes, un-drained
3-1/2 cups beef broth
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
2 green jalapenos slit lengthwise 3 times
1 Tbsp. yellow cornmeal
salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheddar cheese and sour cream (optional garnishes)

Prep and measure all of your ingredients.  Place a 5-1/2 quart dutch oven over medium heat until very hot.  Add olive oil.  Brown sirloin steak pieces in batches.  Remove to a holding dish with a slotted spoon.  Add ground beef, chorizo and onions to the pot to brown, breaking up the meat.  Return the browned sirloin and any accumulated juices to the pot.

Stir in the remaining ingredients except the garnishes.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours.  Stir occasionally, breaking up tomatoes.

Before serving remove the cinnamon stick, bay leaves and jalapenos.  Serve garnished with grated cheese and a dollop of sour cream, if desired.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Avocado Toast

One of my favorite breakfasts starts with the simplest ingredients.  This is so filling and gratifying.

Select a good sized Haas avocado.  I prefer to pick mine that are quite firm, not yet ripe.  I find they haven't been squeezed to death by every Tom, Dick and Harry at the market.  I bring them home and place them in a brown paper lunch bag for a day or two; checking each day to see how they are progressing.  When they give to a light squeeze I put them in the refrigerator.

 The next star of the show is a good egg.

 Toast whatever kind of bread floats your boat.  I like to make sure it is brown and crispy.

Mash up 1/2 of the avocado.  Depending on the size of your toast you can use up the half.  Slather as much of it or as little of it on your toast as you want.  It's your breakfast.

Then top with your egg.  I prefer an over easy, runny yolk or a poached egg.  But I made my second toast of the morning with some scrambled eggs and they were just as heavenly.

Sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and go out on the front porch and enjoy your breakfast.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Herbed Ricotta Dip with Spring Vegetables

Who can resist a good dip.  Especially on football game day.  Even more especially on an Oklahoma State Homecoming Football game day!  

This dip requires a high quality ricotta.  Don't buy the stuff in the tub at the grocery store.  Find a good cheese store in your area to get your ricotta from.  In the DFW area we are fortunate to have the Mozzarella Company.  You can visit this cheese factory and watch the women making cheese.  Luckily, you can also purchase their cheese in certain stores in the DFW area.

Here are the herbs that will lend their flavor to the dip.  Notice that they are in their little herb pods.  These have been in the refrigerator for over a week now.  They stay so much more fresh for a longer period of time than if I simply plop them in a vase like this....

 This cilantro was purchased on the same day as the 3 herbs shown above.  I've read some negative reviews about the herb pods, but they work great for me. 

Mix all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.  Season with the salt and pepper.

Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to allow the herbal flavors to meld.  Serve up with your favorite dipping vegetables; carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, radishes, etc.

Okay, here's my take on this dip....
I basically liked.  Since we grazed on it all afternoon it was especially nice because I felt I was eating a little healthier compared to most other dips and snacking foods.

I think it would be best if served with salted pita chips.  The dip is so bland (and I don't mean that in a negative way).  Bland is not always bad.  But when you have bland vegetables dipping into a bland dip you get bland all the way around.  I think this dip would be much better served with something that had a little more zing than a piece of celery.  My vote is pita chips.

Herbed Ricotta Dip with Spring Vegetables
Serves 4 to 6
Adapted from Diana Henry's recipe

1 pound absolute best-quality ricotta (this will make or break your recipe - find a good quality ricotta).
1 garlic clove, peeled and grated (I grated)
1 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives
2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. minced fresh mint
1 lemon, both the grated zest and a good squeeze of half of the lemon
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Blend well all of the ingredients together.  Taste and adjust the seasonings accordingly.  Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours (but no more) to allow the flavors to meld. 

I'm sharing this recipe at I Heart Cooking Clubs

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins with Nutmeg Glaze

This is a recipe I clipped from the 1993 November/December issue of Eating Well Magazine. These are perfect to bake up this time of year.  They have more of a moist cake texture than a muffin.  

Get your muffin tins lined if you so desire. When I make these to enjoy at home I don't use cupcake liners.  I took these to Sunday school class and thought it better to have them in a liner.

Mix dates, raisins and candied ginger together with the brandy.  Give a toss and set aside.

Along with the fruits and ginger that is flavored by the brandy, these muffins are kissed with all of these great spices.

Sift them in with the flour along with the baking soda, salt & pepper.  Set this bowl aside.

In another small bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla.  Set this aside.  I have no earthly idea why I did not take a photo of this mixture.  We'll all live.

Now we get to assemble everything else.

In a stand mixer, beat the eggs and egg yolks until they are frothy.

Mix in the brown sugar

and the the molasses

Add 1/2 the flour/spice mixture and stir until just mixed.

add the melted butter

and the oil

Add the remaining flour/spice mix

and stir until incorporated.

Add the bowl of the pumpkin mixture and combine well.

Fold in the dates, raisins and candied ginger that has absorbed some of the brandy.  Pour in all the brandy left in the bowl as well.  Can't leave out the good stuff!

Fill each muffin liner 2/3 full and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool a bit in the pans while you mix together the glaze.

Transfer the muffins to a cooling wrack that has been set over some wax paper.  Drizzle with the glaze.  You can also dip the tops off the muffins directly in the glaze.

I had some extra batter so I made several mini-muffins to throw in the freezer.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins with Nutmeg Glaze
Adapted from Eating Well Magazine
Yield 24 regular-sized muffins

for the muffins:
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates 
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger
3 Tbsp. rum, brandy, or apple cider (I used brandy)
2-1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached white flour
2 Tbsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup skim-milk buttermilk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1-1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil, preferably canola oil

for the glaze
1-1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
1-1/2 Tbsp. rum, brandy, or apple cider
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Treat 24 muffin tins with vegetable spray, or line with muffin liners.
Prep and measure all of your ingredients.

In a small bowl, soak dates, raisins and crystallized ginger in the brandy, stirring from time to time while preparing the batter.

Sift flour, ginger, allspice, nutmeg cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl.  Set aside.  In a small bowl whisk together the pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer beat eggs and egg whites at medium speed until foamy.  Gradually add brown sugar and beat until light and frothy, about 1 minute.  Add molasses and beat well.

Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add butter and oil and beat until just mixed.  Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just mixed.  Add the pumpkin mixture and beat until just combined.  Stir in the dried fruit mixture and soaking liquid.

Fill the muffin tins with batter, 2/3 full.  Tap tins to get rid of air bubbles.  

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean.  Cool the muffins briefly in the pan on a rack for 2 minutes, then turn onto a cooling rack.  (the muffins can be prepared ahead and store, well wrapped, in the freezer for up to 1 month.  To reheat wrap in aluminum foil and heat at 375° for 20 - 30 minutes.)

Nutmeg Glaze:
In a small bowl, stir together the confectioner's sugar, milk, brandy, & grated nutmeg until smooth.  Drizzle the glaze over the warm muffins, letting the glaze drip down the sides.