Monday, November 14, 2011

Mustard Bourbon Pork Chops and Balsamic Potatoes

At the request of a very lovely friend, I am posting these two recipes that I made recently and posted a picture of on Facebook.

Mustard Bourbon Pork Chops

First, let's talk about pork.  I love pork.  Chops, that is.  And butt.  And/or shoulder.  I don't like much else off the pig, including bacon.  I know that makes me some kind of sacrilege foodie, but that's how I roll.  But there's only so much you can do with pork chops.  Our stand-by recipe in our house is to sprinkle each side with Lawry's Seasoned Salt and bake.  Pretty unspecial, but that's how I grew up eating pork chops.

Until I found this recipe.

I'd like to thank the ever-delicious Tyler Florence for this one.  I wish I could say I've made it mine somehow, but I really haven't, except for making double the sauce every time because it's so finger-lickin' good.  Back when I first started watching Food Network, Tyler Florence had a show called How To Boil Water, in which he showed some semi-funny blonde girl how to cook.  She really was one of the most kitchen-dumb people I've ever seen.  So he really had to make easy recipes.  And this one is pretty darn easy.

Here's what you need:

  • 4 center cut pork chops
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey (if you are doubling the sauce recipe like I do, double from here down)
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

And here's what you do:

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat, for about 1 minute or until the surface of the pan is uniformly hot.  Pat the chops dry, and season the chops on one side with salt and pepper.  Add the oil and heat until shimmering.  Add the chops seasoned-side down, and cook until the chops are browned, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the butter and cook for 1 minute more.  Season the top of the chops, and turn the chops over.

At this point, your chops should have a gorgeous crust on them, like this:

Continue cooking until firm and an instant-read thermometer reads 140 degrees F, about 4-5 minutes more.  Transfer the chops to a plate, tent with foil, and set aside to rest.

Pour off any fat remaining in the skillet.  Pull the pan from the heat and carefully add the bourbon.  Return the pan to the heat and tip the pan slightly to ignite the alcohol.

If you're a fraidy female like me, you might want to get a sexy man to do this part for you.

Yeah.  Like that!

Anyway.  Cook until reduced by half then add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Simmer for 3 minutes, then whisk in the mustard and the cream.

Mmmmmm.  Simmer until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon, a few minutes longer.  Simmer until it's as thick as you want... in my book, the thicker the sauce, the better.

This is also a fantastic opportunity to get your gorgeous child to help you out in the kitchen.  Stirring is pretty safe.

Season with salt and pepper and serve.  And enjoy.  :)

Now on to some 'taters.  Who doesn't love 'taters, right?  And who doesn't love balsamic vinegar?  If you don't like balsamic vinegar, we can't be friends anymore.  Much like people have a hard time being my friend after they find out I don't like bacon.  Well, I guess that makes us even.

Balsamic Potatoes

This recipe comes from one of those uber-fancy foodie magazines -- I can't remember which one, but probably Gourmet or Food + Wine or something equally snobby that I like to subscribe to because I think one day my tastes will mature enough to make things from those publications.  I rarely find anything in those magazines I actually either want to make or feel skilled enough to attempt.  But, the pictures are pretty.  And, I found this gem.

Similar to any other recipe I make that requires a sauce of some sort, you may want to make a little extra of the sauce or cut back on the potatoes a bit.  These are best when they are saucy, and not dry.  The night I made the ones pictured below, they were perfect.  This isn't a very photogenic dish, but trust me, your taste buds will be thanking you for days for this one.  And then begging you to make them there 'taters again.

Here's what you need:

  • 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup to a whole stick of butter, softened (I never said they were healthy)
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh time
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 pounds small red potatoes (I bought 9 potatoes for the night I made these but only used 6 or 7)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Here's what you need to do:

I did make this recipe a little bit my own.  The original recipe called for adding the shallots freshly chopped to the cooked potatoes, but shallots are a little too oniony for me to do that (I can barely dice them without crying).  So I borrowed a technique I've used in other recipes in which I reduce the vinegar with the shallots in a pan.  This softens the shallots and you still have a strong onion flavor, without the tear-inducing tang.  So.  Without further ado...

Bring vinegar and shallots to a boil in a small saucepan; reduce heat, and simmer about 10 minutes to reduce.  Let cool for several minutes (or not, I never have time for that).  Add butter (start with 1/3 cup), thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper; whisk together to combine.

If you think the mixture is a little too balsamic-y for you, add the rest of that stick of butter.

Boil potatoes whole; reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until tender.  Drain, and cut the potatoes in half, or in wedges, depending on the size you buy.  Dump back into the pan you boiled them in, and pour your balsamic-y goodness over top.

Sprinkle with remaining salt and toss to coat.  They should be pretty saucy.  And this is another golden opportunity to let your gorgeous child help in the kitchen, too.  Tossing can be pretty safe.

Serve immediately!  And enjoy.  Your tongue can thank me later.

(Told you they weren't very photogenic.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Philly Photo Day

Starting last year, the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center has been organizing what they call Philly Photo Day, which is a day that they designate for all interested photographers to go galavanting about the city, take pictures, and submit to their site.  You can only submit one photo.  A few weeks later they hold an exhibition displaying all the photographs taken on that one day, and it's really interesting to see who else was out and about and what people took pictures of.

Last year, I entered this shot:

This year, I took the day off with my friend Christina and we went all around Fairmount Park.  It was a gorgeous day.  We went up and down Kelly Drive and the Schuylkill River.  I had plenty more shots to choose from this year.  My favorites were the 5 below, but I entered the first one.  Tonight I go to the exhibit to see it displayed for all.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mommy's Little Foodie

One of the first things that Rachael Ray* taught me about cooking (other than how to make some killer homemade nachos) was to get your kids involved in cooking the meal and helping out in the kitchen.  She always said that kids were more likely to want to eat that which they helped to prepare.  I felt that this concept made sense and for years couldn't wait to have a child of my own to share the experience of cooking with.

Maraea is finally reaching that age where she can help in the kitchen.  Or, "help", rather.  You saw in my enchilada post that she likes to stand on a chair on the other side of the counter from me, and, at the very least, watch and munch while I do the work.  I don't mind this at all, -- except for when she reaches for the knife block -- and she has shown more interest in tasting the things I have on my cutting board or the things I'm stirring around in bowls.  She says "Me?  Puh-leeeez?" when she wants to try something.  In recent months, she has tried things like queso fresco, prosciutto, ricotta cheese, pepper jack cheese, beef prepared for tacos, and country ham.  All of these delicacies were promptly followed by "MMMmmmm!"  This makes mama so very, very proud.

She is also starting to mock my behavior.  She has a little plastic knife from a kitchen play set I bought her months ago, and we let her use that with our smallest cutting board to pretend that she's dicing and chopping like me.  We'll put cheese or pretzels on her cutting board and she will cut them with her knife and then eat them.  She exhibited this copycat behavior while I was shooting my husband preparing chilaquiles for the cookbook project I'm working on.  I was so proud I nearly cried.  :)

Needs salt!!!
Maraea is a fabulous eater, and I firmly believe that she is so for two reasons.  First -- I prepared my own baby food for her when she graduated from rice cereal.  And second -- I let her help in the kitchen.  There have been numerous occasions where we will all sit down for dinner and she will ask to try or eat what's on our plates if we've prepared something different for her (we usually only do this if we're making something really spicy).  One night we ordered takeout and I ordered chicken fingers for me and her to share, a salad for me, and Aaron ordered a gyro.  I put the chicken fingers and some veggies from my salad on her plate, she pushed it away, turned to Aaron, and said "Me?" because she wanted to try his gyro.  She then helped him eat it -- beef and all.  We never deny her anything she wants to try, and always offer what we're having (unless we think it will burn her mouth off).  She eats pizza like a big girl -- by the slice.  I know plenty of kids even older than Maraea who won't eat pizza unless it's cut up into tiny little geometric shapes.  She eats corn on the cob like a big girl.  She dips, she licks her fingers, she licks her lips, and she enjoys food as much as we do.

I could not be any prouder of my Little Foodie.

Nomzing on one of Daddy's special homemade burgers

Helping Daddy!

* Rachael Ray was the first Food Network personality that I watched when I first got into cooking.  I still like her, though I know she gets a bum rap with the foodie community.  She is enthusiastic, and she's creative.  Though my cooking style and tastes have advanced more to the likes of Ina Garten, I still rely on Rachael's easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy recipes and ideas from time to time when cooking with and for a child.  Rachael Ray doesn't dumb down my foodiness, she adds a different element to it.