Smoked Pork Chop and Peach Chutney

Stop the presses!

You have to make this. And by have to, I mean you MUST. It has the perfect balance of smokiness, deep flavor, and punch.

And for all of you who don’t have a grill and live in apartments, don’t be deterred! We only have a small smoker box (which you can get from amazon for $40), which we use on our stove and it works beautifully. You could skip the smoking, but it definitely adds a great layer of flavor.

This recipe is adapted with peaches because we couldn’t get apricots at the store. Also, if you want a little heat, put a few of the jalapeño seeds into the chutney.

GREAT for any gathering, but also, as we did, good for a regular dinner.

Note: There is brining involved, but if you plan a little ahead it’s not a big deal. When it came down to it, it really didn’t take a lot of time to make everything. Honest.

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Adapted from the food for my family blog

4 thick-cut pork chops
4 cups water
275 grams of kosher salt (weight really is the best method here)
250 grams of brown sugar
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon thyme
2 cloves garlic crushed
12 cups of very cold water or ice equivalent
1 1/2 cups jalapeño apricot chutney, recipe below

Brining instructions: Heat 4 cups of water in a saucepan and dissolve salt and sugar, adding sage and thyme along the way. Add mixture to a bowl with a lid or a large zip-top bag and add garlic and enough cold water or ice to make one gallon. Refrigerate the brine if necessary so that the mixture is completely cold. Add the pork chops and allow them to soak in the cold brine for 24 hours.

Day of: After 24 hours, remove the chops from the brine, rinse with cold water and dry thoroughly. Place on a smoker or modified grill at 230° F for 30 minutes. Flip and allow to continue to smoke until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees (approximately 20-30 minutes). Remove from the grill and allow to rest. Serve with warm chutney.

Jalapeño Apricot Chutney
8 apricots, halved and pitted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
4 jalapeños, seeded and diced
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1-2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt

Grill apricots over medium heat until golden brown. Cool slightly and dice. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and sauté red pepper, red onion and jalapeños for 2-3 minutes. Add in apricots, white wine vinegar, water, maple syrup, thyme and salt and simmer over low heat until the sauce thickens to a syrup. Keep warm and serve over smoked pork chops.

Makes 4-6 Servings

BEEF AND DARK BEER CHILI

Southern cooking scares me. Well, more like mountains of fried chicken. Mostly because I’m not used to cooking with 5 sticks of butter at a time, but I found a good entry dish – chili. I followed a recipe, but I liked that I could choose certain ingredients that I liked better, like lima beans instead of kidney beans. I also like that it’s a very mild recipe, but if you want, you can add some extra spice for a tingly deep flavor. Because of my soup learning curve, I thought this would take a couple of times to perfect, but I have to say it’s some of the best chile I’ve tasted. (I will say I haven’t had too many chilis in my life and It’s not as good as our local Texas BBQ joint’s, but I digress…)

So, without further ado, here is the awesome recipe from bon appetit:

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INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
5 pounds ground chuck
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 1/2 pounds onions, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 pounds red bell peppers, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds yellow bell peppers, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large jalapeño chiles with seeds, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
7 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons (packed) minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce*
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes with added puree
2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained
1 12-ounce bottle dark beer (such as stout)
Sour cream
Chopped green onions
Coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Toast cumin and coriander in skillet over medium heat until darker and beginning to smoke, about 4 minutes. Cool.

Sauté beef in heavy large pot over medium-high heat until no longer pink, breaking up with spoon, about 8 minutes. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, all bell peppers, and jalapeños. Sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Add mixture to pot with meat. Mix in toasted spices, chili powder, and chipotle chiles. Add crushed tomatoes, beans, and beer. Bring chili to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated up to 2 days (or freeze up to 1 month). Rewarm over medium-low heat.

Ladle chili into bowls. Serve with sour cream, green onions, and cheese.

I split the recipe in half because there are only 2 of us, but use your best judgement. For example, it called for a whole jalapeño, but I put in half because I can’t eat it if it’s too spicy, and you can always add more later. I added salt at the end and it tasted a little salty so I poured the rest of the beer in and it was perfect. Certain things I changed – I didn’t put bell peppers in, I used more than 2 tbsp of the chipotle in adobo, I used lima instead of kidney beans, and I used Dos Equis beer.

Stay thirsty, my food-lover friends!

Orecchiette with ‘Just Cook’ Chicken, Brussels Sprouts, and Parsley Pesto

I love pasta. I really do. At some point I want to make my own but that’s for another day. Orecchiette or ‘little ears’ are great because not only are they cute but they’re really versatile. They’re the best for a dish that really shows off its sauce since the ears hold onto it very well. I was itching to make my own sauce since a lot of times store bought ones don’t taste as fresh or as good, so I thought of all my favorite ingredients: garlic, lemon juice, parsley, and, of course, olive oil. I put all of them in a blender and then added a little of what I thought was missing along with a good handful of salt and pepper. The key is to not put too much in at first and taste as you go. Otherwise, you end up with a huge amount of something that still doesn’t taste right and the farther you go the worse it tastes…

After the sauce I started making the sprouts. I haven’t made brussels sprouts very often, and when I do they never come out quite the way I want them. So I tried a few new things, and I think they came out really well. Some people like them a certain way, but you can always do the parts that seem good to you. I turned the heat on medium high and got the sprouts nice and colored. For me, that means spots of brown and black. I’ve had problems with them not cooking all the way through so at this point I added just a little bit of water to the pan and covered it. It allowed it to steam really fast. Now, there’s a fine line between steamed and soggy so after a few minutes I dumped the water and continued to sautée until some of the leaves turn a dark purple. After that, set aside.

Let’s talk chicken for a minute. I don’t know how you feel about it but at my house we can’t get enough of it. However, using the same spices gets a little boring since we make it so much. While visiting the Bay Area we came across a new business called the local butcher shop. If you are serious about meat…they are too. We picked up some meringues from them made with fennel pollen, which were good, though next time I want to try their chocolate chip cookies made with lard. But I digress… We found a really cool rub made locally to San Francisco from ‘just cook’ called any day chicken. It has orange peel, sugar, kosher salt, pepper, sage, cardamom, oregano, and lavender. It has a really great fresh taste to it without making it cuisine-specific. I thought my sauce complimented it and you could still taste both quite well. Brunel brined and rubbed a whole chicken with that the day before so I just pulled some from there to put in my dish.

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After you make everything, throw it all together and top with your favorite cheese. However, Parmesan is always a good choice.

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This is my first recipe on here where the inspiration was my imagination!

Apple Cider Braised Pork Loin

Brunel had been pestering me, I mean inspiring me, to make some sort of pork dish. He also likes the whole meat instead of shredding it so I had to find a recipe that didn’t call for hours of cooking, and also enough of a flavor profile for the meat to be the star. Oh I found it all right. I love this recipe because it doesn’t require a lot, but imparts tons of flavor into the meat and anything else you put with it. I pretty much followed the recipe, except I didn’t have thyme so I left it out. I’m sure that would have been even better, but alas, I did what I could. I also loved the marinade the recipe calls for. I may adopt this (with slight variations) for a lot of my marinades because it very simple and basic, but really adds a lot of depth. When the meat was cooked I set it aside to rest and then took the juice with the onions and reduced it to make it a sauce. Extra caramelization of the onions is always good, plus a dash of salt to counteract the sweetness of the cider. I didn’t make the applesauce because we were too hungry but I’d like to try it at some point.

I’d like to note that there is some discrepancy between apple cider and apple juice. My dad still believes that apple cider is the same as apple juice. I don’t blame him because the bottle I got said apple juice on it and the actual apple juice said apple cider. I will make this abundantly clear. Apple cider is UNFILTERED. It’s the one that’s not clear and has a bunch of stuff at the bottom. Apple juice is FILTERED and looks clear and clean.

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Ingredients
2 sprigs rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
2 sprigs sage, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Pinch crushed red pepper
Salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 (6-chop) pork rib roast
2 large onions, sliced
1 bundle thyme, tied with string
3 bay leaves
2 quarts apple cider
Chunky Applesauce, recipe follows
Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a food processor, combine the chopped herbs with the garlic, crushed red pepper, a generous pinch of salt and enough olive oil to make a paste. Brush the paste on the outside of the pork rib roast.

Toss the onions with olive oil, and salt, and place in the bottom of a roasting pan. Add the thyme, bay leaves and 2/3 of the cider. Place the pork on top of the onions and place in the preheated oven. Roast the pork at 425 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pork has developed a lovely brown crust. Check the pork, stir the onions and cider if they are starting to burn. Add more cider when the level starts to go down.

Lower the oven to 375 degrees F and roast for another 30 to 35 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reads 150 degrees F. If the crust on the pork starts to get too dark, cover it with foil. Remove 1 1/2 cups of the cider from the bottom of the roasting pan and reserve for the applesauce.

Let the pork rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. When ready to carve remove the pork from the bone and cut the loin into thin slices. Serve with the onions braised in cider and Chunky Applesauce.

Chunky Applesauce:
3 tablespoons butter
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks (toss the apples in lemon juice if not using right away)
1 1/2 cups of the reserved cider from the Roasted Pork Loin with Cider
1/4 cup apple cider
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Melt the butter in a saucepan large enough to accommodate the apples. Add the apples and saute over medium-low heat until the apples start to soften. Add the reserved cider, apple cider and cinnamon and cook over low-medium heat until most of the cider has evaporated and the apples are cooked and very soft.

Add the heavy cream and walnuts and cook until the cream has reduced by half. The end result should be a very chunky, sweet/savory applesauce.

I got this from the Food Network

Eggs Benedict and Enchiladas

So I have an obsession with challah…I mean, if you’ve ever tasted challah there is no reason why you should be eating white or wheat bread (unless you want to actually eat healthily). It’s not only delicious but very versatile. One night I made a salmon sandwich with it and the next it’s sitting under my poached eggs. Speaking of poached eggs, this was my second attempt in my life and I think they came out pretty well. Besides the meat you put on top of an eggs benedict, the other, possibly forgotten, item you shouldn’t skimp on is what goes between the bread and the eggs. Last time I put jam, and this time I put spicy mustard. Either way, don’t forget it!

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I know this is not in the realm of brunch but I have to share a good way of using leftovers. We made this dish so many times that the leftovers concoction became a regular staple on our dinner menu. You may not have a Haitian living in your house. That is ok, you don’t need a Haitian for you to make Haitian chicken (or whichever way you love to make chicken). But if you want to make it Haitian-style, I’ll share a must-have mixture you can use to flavor most meats. There aren’t approximate measurements, but you take some scallions, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper (a quarter of the pepper or so because it’s really spicy!), cilantro and olive oil, blend it together and you have a nice green meat paste. You take that seasoning, plus whatever other spices you like (brunel prefers paprika and celery salt), throw it on the chicken and then bake it at 300 deg for 45 minutes. Brunel and I then put that shredded chicken onto a tortilla with shredded cheese, corn, and little bit of El Paso salsa. We line them up on a baking sheet, pour the rest of the salsa over them with some cheese, bake for 10 minutes at a low heat and TADA! Enchiladas! Clearly, there are many possibilities of seasoning and sauces, which is why I think it’s great to have it in your back pocket to pull out for many types of occasions.

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Chilled tomato and stone fruit soup with veal breast in a red wine and mustard jus

If its the middle of summer and you want a no-cook, amazingly fresh and flavorful soup, than this is it. I, of course, found it while browsing through my bon appetit magazine, but it turns out it’s from one of my favorite restaurants in New York City- Gramercy Tavern. You don’t even have to turn on the stove, which is great, and I just used my blender to get the consistency I wanted and it worked just fine. Again, I want to emphasize the importance of getting fresh produce. (Local and organic are a plus, but if you can’t, It’s not a huge deal-breaker). I made half of everything in the recipe just because it makes 6 servings and there are just 2 of us, (though brunel often counts as 2 people because of his muscles and ridiculous appetite) but after I tasted that I added a little extra of the fruit and cucumber to really bring that fresh, sweet flavor out. If this hasn’t made you want to get up and make it right now, you should make it because I said so 🙂

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INGREDIENTS

2 lb. beefsteak tomatoes (about 4) quartered
1 large English hothouse cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into pieces
1 large ripe peach, peeled, halved
½ jalapeño, seeded (or with seeds for a spicier soup), chopped
½ garlic clove
1 cup fresh (or frozen, thawed) cherries (about 8 oz.), pitted
2 Tbsp. (or more) white balsamic or Sherry vinegar
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more
1½ tsp. kosher salt plus more
Freshly ground black pepper
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

PREP

Pulse tomatoes in a blender until finely chopped and transfer to a large bowl. Pulse cucumber, peach, jalapeño, garlic, and cherries in blender until finely chopped and add to bowl with tomatoes. Mix in vinegar, ¼ cup oil, 1½ tsp. kosher salt, and 1 cup cold water; season with pepper. Cover and let sit at room temperature 1 hour, or chill at least 12 hours.

Season soup with kosher salt, pepper, and more oil and vinegar, if desired. Serve soup drizzled with oil and seasoned with sea salt and pepper.

Soup can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.

From my favorite BA magazine

Brunel, being the person who can’t have a meal without protein…I mean meat, lightly fried (not breaded!) a veal breast and made a nice hearty sauce to accompany. For that you sauté a shallot for a few minutes, add a cup of red wine, let it reduce by half, add a cup of beef broth, let that reduce by half, and add a dollup of any nice grainy mustard you have on hand (we have a horseradish mustard that gave a nice kick to it). And of course salt and pepper to taste. Make sure you let it reduce long enough; you’ll know by its thick consistency and won’t be watery at all (if you really need to add a pinch of flour).

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Sambal Chicken Skewers

Wow. I really didn’t think I’d like these Asian flavors as much as I do, but I have to say they are pretty fantastic. And don’t worry, if you are worried about it being too spicy (like me) then just drop those ingredients. I didn’t have hot chili paste but sriracha more than makes up for it. I’m also not the biggest fan of ginger so I didn’t put that in either. However, I did put some sesame seeds on it which I thought were fitting.

The best thing about cooking international food is that once you have the ingredients that make up their stereotypical flavor profile, you probably don’t have to buy a whole lot more than that. I already had the fish sauce, rice vinegar and sriracha, so making this was a breeze.

Of course, I would have loved to make it on a grill, but it’s just as easy in a pan. (Make sure you have shorter skewers or else the chicken won’t touch the pan!) If you can, reduce the marinade first and coat the chicken several times with a brush to really make sure you don’t waste any sauce. You may want throw in some fresh herbs if you have them, they always help (I threw in some oregano).

Since we’re on a kick of eating less carbs, not really for health but just so we don’t feel so heavy, I also made a little corn, tomato, and avocado salad. Those are my favorite to make since they are light and flavorful, and, sorry to say, I’m not a huge fan of green salads.

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Here is the recipe from Bon Appetit:

Ingredients

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
1/4 cup fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1/4 cup Sriracha
2 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch–2-inch pieces

Special equipment

8 bamboo skewers soaked in water at least 1 hour (you don’t have to if not on the grill)

Preparation

Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Whisk brown sugar, vinegar, chili paste, fish sauce, Sriracha, and ginger in a large bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Thread 4 or 5 chicken pieces onto each skewer.

Transfer marinade to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by half (about 1 cup), 7–10 minutes.

Grill chicken, turning and basting often with reduced marinade, until cooked through, 8–10 minutes.

Banana Pancakes with Pineapple Marmalade and Creme Fraiche

This recipe looked so intriguing I just had to make it. I was so excited I made it for dinner tonight…They’re not really pancakes, but crepes (even better though). They’re very light and not sweet-wait for the marmalade! The addition of bananas are crucial, unless you hate them, because they’re warm and buttery when cooked with the crepe. I may have put a little too much sugar in the pineapple marmalade, so be aware that if your pineapple is really ripe, put less sugar in it. The Creme fraiche whip is also light and fluffy, which complements everything else on the plate very well.

Of course from my favorite magazine Bon Appetit.

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Ingredients

Pineapple Marmalade
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
3 cups finely chopped pineapple (from about 1 medium pineapple)
1 cup sugar

Whipped Crème Fraîche
1 cup crème fraîch
1 tablespoon sugar

Pancakes and Assembly
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
4 ripe bananas, peeled, sliced 1/4-inch thick

Preparation

Pineapple Marmalade
Bring lemon, pineapple, sugar, and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until pineapple and lemon are soft, 35–45 minutes. Let cool completely.

Whipped Crème Fraîche
Whisk crème fraîche and sugar in a medium bowl until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Pancakes and Assembly
Preheat oven to 200°. Whisk flour, salt, eggs, milk, 4 tablespoons butter, and 1 cup water in a medium bowl.

Heat 1/2 tablespoons butter in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and swirl to coat pan. Pour 1/4 cup batter into pan and place 5–6 banana slices on top. Cook pancake until bottom is golden brown and top looks almost dry, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until pancake is just set and bananas are golden brown, 1 minute longer. Transfer to a baking sheet; cover loosely with foil and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining butter, batter, and banana slices, transferring to oven as you work.

Serve pancakes with pineapple marmalade and whipped crème fraîche.

DO AHEAD: Marmalade can be made 2 weeks ahead. Cover and chill.

Butternut Squash Soup with dubliner cheese and creme fraiche

Normally we wouldn’t make soup in the heat of the summer but I’m not feeling well and it sounded good. If you want you can eat it cold too. It said it serves 12 but there’s only 2 of us so we cut everything in half. We didn’t add sage since we didn’t have it but it came out well anyways. I’m still working on getting my consistency to be a little bit thicker, but each time I make soup I get a little closer!

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Here is the recipe from Bon Appetit:

8 cups (generous) 1-inch cubes peeled seeded butternut squash (cut from 1 four-pound squash)
4 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 cups crème fraîche or sour cream
1 tablespoon dried rubbed sage
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced shallots (about 6 large)
7 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
12 fresh sage leaves (for garnish)

Preparation
Arrange racks in top third and bottom third of oven; preheat to 400°F. Divide squash between 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle cubes on each sheet with 2 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper; toss to coat. Spread out squash in single layer. Roast 15 minutes. Turn squash; reverse pans. Roast until tender and slightly brown in spots, about 10 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, heat crème fraîche and dried sage in small saucepan over medium heat just until small bubbles begin to form around edges of pan. Remove from heat and let steep 15 minutes.
Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until translucent and beginning to soften, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes. Add roasted squash, then broth. Increase heat and bring to boil; reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until vegetables are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly.

Working in batches, puree soup in processor until smooth. Return to pot. Whisk 1 cup sage cream into soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover soup and remaining sage cream separately and chill. Rewarm soup over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, before serving.

Divide soup among 12 bowls. Drizzle sage cream over, sprinkle with cheese, garnish with sage leaves, and serve.

Summer Tortellini

It has been in the 80’s lately with high humidity, and I have to tell you I don’t want hot food. This is why this dish is perfect. Once you let everything cool down it’s so refreshing and light. We, of course, had to add chicken and I marinated it in olive oil with a rub of black pepper, celery salt, and a whole lemon’s worth of zest. The lemon chicken makes the dish taste fresh instead of heavy, adding a nice burst of flavor. I really enjoyed the browned butter to go on top making it a little sweet but not overpowering.

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I adapted this recipe from a favorite blog I follow called Annie’s Eats.

Yield: about 10 servings

Ingredients:

20 oz. fresh cheese tortellini
8 tbsp. butter
1 pint cherry (or grape) tomatoes
2 ears of corn, husked
½ cup peas, fresh shelled or frozen and thawed
Small handful of chives, minced
Shaved Parmesan cheese, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain well and rinse briefly with cold water to stop cooking and cool the tortellini slightly.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Let melt and continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until the butter is a deep golden brown color (be careful not to burn it). Set aside to cool slightly.

Slice or quarter the cherry tomatoes. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs. In a large mixing bowl, combine the tortellini, tomatoes, corn, peas and browned butter. Toss gently to combine. Stir in the chives and shaved Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.