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Seared pork chops with apples and onions | Recipe report card

18 Jul
A virtually foolpoof way to cook juicy pork chops.

A virtually foolpoof way to cook juicy pork chops.

We returned home on Wednesday from a two-week trip back East during which we ate lots of food that fell pretty much everywhere on the delicious-not delicious and healthy-unhealthy spectrum. (Pro tip: Cracker Barrel is an awesome place to take kids to get a pretty healthy meal that they will actually eat.)

So when we got home, before I did my post-vacation triage grocery shopping, I asked Dave what he wanted to eat. “Pork chops and apples,” he said. So I found this recipe in How to Cook Everything Fast.

Seared pork chops with apples and onions, How to Cook Everything Fast p. 750 (similar recipe here)

  • Meal: dinner, 7/16
  • Kid tried?: Yes.
  • Keeper?: Yes.
  • Cook’s grade: A-. This was so easy to make and virtually foolproof. The recipe calls for browning the chops on both sides for 3 to 5 minutes each, then throwing the apples and onions in the skillet until they soften. You add cooking liquid (stock, water, wine, beer, whatever), put a lid on it, and let it braise for 5 to 10 minutes more. When I’ve tried that approach before, I somehow consistently managed to dry out the chops. But this time, I used extra thick grilling chops. They were so thick that even though I was completely distracted changing diapers, etc., during the braising and lost track of time, the chops turned out moist but with a nice golden sear. The apples turned out well, though Dave wasn’t a huge fan and admitted he prefers them the unhealthy way, when you basically serve pie filling. The apple onion mixture added a nice sweetness to the chops and pan juices.
  • Kid’s grade: B+. Bug seemed to like the pork chops, which may have reminded her of steak, her new favorite meat (supplanting even fried chicken tenders). And she ate a few apples with the onion. I served it with mustard spinach, which was too spicy for her. That’s a good side, though, for anything you make in a skillet, so I’ll have to find some alternate version.

Chicken Soup with Chipotle Paste | Recipe of the Week

5 Jan

For 2013, I’m bringing back one of my favorite New Year’s resolutions: trying at least one new recipe every week. But I’m adding a twist to it this year. I’ve been jealous of Dave and how he has a bunch of recipes stored in his head, so another resolution is to revisit at least one old favorite recipe (or, at most, a twist on an old favorite) every week so that I build up a repertoire AND expand my horizons.

Today, both to keep up with my resolution and to try to get rid of my relentless and enduring cold, I made chicken soup with chipotle paste, from Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World. Bittman described it as a smoky soup (thanks to the chipotle paste), so I used the turkey stock we made from our Thanksgiving turkey (smoked on our then-3-day-old Big Green Egg). The smoky stock complemented the chipotles nicely.

Mark Bittman's chicken soup and chipotle paste. Add as much or as little of the paste to the soup to give it kick, but a squeeze of lime juice really helps bring out the flavor.

Mark Bittman’s chicken soup and chipotle paste. Add as much or as little of the paste to the soup to give it kick, but a squeeze of lime juice really helps bring out the flavor.

The recipe is super easy — great for a weeknight meal (and then you have leftovers to freeze or eat for lunch). The basic recipe is a plain ol’ chicken and rice soup recipe. Add the chipotle paste (which you make while the soup is cooking), and it’s got just enough kick. “Just enough” because you add it to your own bowl. But squeeze a wedge of lime into it, and all the flavors seem to focus: the spiciness of the peppers is clearer, the smokiness becomes a nice background, and the carrots and celery are a nice little veggie break from the more intense flavors.

And, add enough chipotle paste, and it’s a decent sinus-clearer.

Personal Pizzaquest: Pizza with caramelized onions and arugula

11 Sep
Pizza with caramelized onion and arugula

Pizza with caramelized onion and arugula.

Dave and I got the idea of making our own pizza earlier this year, but it wasn’t until the magic of the wedding registry that we were fully equipped to do it (thank you Katie and Liz). Our first attempt was pretty meh. The crust was too thick and underbaked, and it stuck to the pizza peel, resulting in lots of panicked expressions as we struggled to shake it off and into the oven.

Tonight, while trying to figure out what to do for dinner without Dave, I decided to make pizza. I had arugula, and I know I’ve liked arugula on pizza, but I can never remember what other toppings accompanied it. So I did a quick Google search and turned up this deliciousness. Since it’s been years since I caramelized an onion, I dug up this handy how-to, also from SeriousEats.

I made the dough (Bittman’s recipe for Basic Pizza Dough, HTCE p. 258) and dashed off to the market while it rose. I can’t eat white sauce, so I decided to stick with red. Dave actually made a huge batch of red sauce, but I didn’t want to defrost it, and I also like a thicker, plainer sauce for pizza. Years ago, I made pizzas at home, and I used an awesomely easy tomato sauce recipe. It was like two ingredients. Needless to say, I have not been able to track it down, so I did Bittman’s Basic Tomato Sauce (HTCE p. 130), which turned out…fine. I did not crush the tomatoes enough with the fork and I overcooked the whole thing. The caramelized onions fared better, and I tossed in a bit of balsamic at the end, to help deglaze the pan and to add some flavor.

One of my main improvements, this time, was rolling out a thinner crust. I followed Bittman’s instructions to push the dough into a round, then let it rest for a few minutes. As the recipe promised, it helped the dough retain its shape as I rolled it out. (In our previous attempt, the dough kept shrinking back.)

The other main improvement was thoroughly flouring the pizza peel. I rubbed the flour into the peel to make sure the surface was nice and smooth. I drizzled the dough with olive oil, smeared it with sauce, put the caramelized onions on top, and then topped it with cheese, then put the whole thing in the oven. The extra flouring really helped the pizza slip right off the peel — even though I left it in the oven, with the pizza on it, as I ran to turn off the smoke alarm. I thought for sure the dough would start melting into the peel.

It cooked a bit longer than the recommended 8-12 minutes (maybe closer to 15-18 to get the crust to brown a bit), and by that time, the cheese had browned. I put the arugula on it when it came out of the oven, hoping that it would wilt, but it didn’t. The flavors were good, though.

My wins:

  • Flattening the risen ball of dough into a disc, then letting it rest before rolling it out. The rolled out dough held its shape much better than when I’ve made pizza in the past.
  • Thoroughly flouring the pizza peel. I actually rubbed the flour in, which smoothed out the surface nicely.
  • The flavor combination. It was super tasty.

Things I’ll try next time:

  • A different sauce recipe. In writing this post, I actually found the recipe I used to use: crushed tomatoes, olive oil. Easy peasy.
  • Waiting a few minutes to add the cheese. I have struggled to get the right balance between crusty crust and gooey cheese. Since today I know that I rolled the dough out thin enough to get a crusty crust, I think I need to let the pie cook a bit before I add the cheese.
  • Add any greens I want wilted while the pizza is still in the oven. I didn’t want fully wilted greens, but I wanted slightly wilted greens. By adding them after the pie came out of the oven, I got un-wilted greens.

Fun links:

Pan-seared lamb shoulder chops, arugula and blue cheese salad | Recipe(s) of the week

18 Jul

Pan-grilled lamb shoulder chop (without the pan grilling or marinating)
Arugula and blue cheese salad. HTCE p. 95

I really need to learn how to take photos.

No-knead bread

4 Jul

Bittman's no-knead bread

No-knead bread