Sunday, May 18, 2014

Smothered Pork Chops

Seriously- even though I'm not a huge pork chop fan, this recipe made me happy. But I am a big fan of smothering things (not my students or my family or my friends, but most foods). I consider most foods just vehicles for great sauces or gravies or toppings- like baked potatoes.

Look at that. Look. At. That. Gravy.  Hello, beautiful. I wish I had taken the time to go get my big girl camera- but I was too hungry! I served my smothered pork chops over mashed potatoes (rice or buttered egg noodles would be groovy, too).  I chose roasted Brussels sprouts as my veggie because they are awesome and under-loved. 

This is how it went down...

I heated my cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. I added a few glugs of canola oil (non-GMO) to the hot skillet. I dredged my boneless chops (about an inch thick) in seasoned AP flour (salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, oregano) and dropped them in the hot skillet. I let them go about 3 minutes a side. They don't need to cook through. I fished them out of the skillet and put them on a plate. 

I turned the heat down to medium and added 1 large onion that I had halved and sliced thinly. I also added another glug of oil. I added salt and pepper as well.  The onions sautéed for a few minutes, then I added about 3 or 4 tablespoons of plain AP flour to them and scraped them around for a few minutes. You are building a roux. Next, I added a few glugs of Applejack brandy. You could use wine or any other liquid- cider would be good!  I used what I had around. After that was absorbed, I poured in chicken stock. How much?  Well, I wanted to make enough gravy to cover the chops, so maybe 2 1/2 cups?  I really should start measuring. :)

I stirred the onions and stock around until it started to thicken up. I added another glug or two of Applejack and tasted for seasoning. I ended up adding more salt and pepper.  Then I turned the heat to low and watched until it came to a gentle simmer. 

I nestled the chops back in the skillet- making sure to pour any collected juices into the gravy. I double checked to make sure the gravy wasn't boiling, then put a lid on and let them fester for about 45 minutes. 

While they were simmering, I roasted the sprouts and mashed the potatoes. 

This will definitely go into the Sunday night rotation. Next time I might try it with chicken or veal!



Friday, May 9, 2014

Bear and a Balloon

Funny things happen when you tie a balloon to your dog.  Bear ran around in circles in the backyard for about 10 minutes.  Funny stuff.

Tomato Cheddar Toast


This is one of the first snacks I learned to make by myself when I was growing up.  It is a slightly more cosmopolitan version of "pizza toast."  

When I was in middle school, my favorite thing to eat when I got home from school was pizza toast.  I would take a piece of bread, slather it with jarred pizza sauce, then cover it in shredded cheddar cheese.  After 15 minutes or so in the toaster oven, I had an amazing snack!

As I got older, I realized I could make the same thing without the processed pizza sauce.  Now pizza toast has become whole wheat English muffins with sliced fresh tomatoes, cheddar cheese and fresh basil (if I have it around).

This gets served as breakfast, lunch or dinner around my house.  Possible toppings are endless.  It is a quick and semi-healthy snack!  

Parmesan Vermouth Risotto with Sautéed Shrimp


I love risotto.  I mean I really love it.  I'm not quite ready to say it has replaced macaroni and cheese, but it's a really close second.  Right now, everyone is running around making versions of risotto with things like quinoa, faro and other grains.  I have tried some of those versions.  I don't like them.  In my opinion, arborio rice is the only ingredient that imparts that creamy, toothy texture that is such a part of the risotto experience.

My favorite kind of risotto is made with butter, vermouth and obscene amounts of grated parmesan cheese.  And I mean the real cheese, not some imposter.  Real parmesan is so worth the money.  It's pricey, but it lasts a while and the flavor is impossible to match. 

I have posted this recipe before- here's the link.  Over the years, I've cut the amount of butter back by quite a  bit.  It started out as 2/3 of a cup.  Now I use more like 2 tablespoons.  I also add another 2 tablespoons at the very end before serving.  

When I made it this time, I decided to add some garlicky sautéed  shrimp on top.  This was not a bad idea.  I just peeled and rinsed the shrimp, then sautéed them in a small skillet with a clove of minced garlic, salt, pepper and butter.  I put the shrimp and yummy butter on each bowl of risotto.

This was so good.  And it was insane the next day, after the flavors had a chance to fester overnight.

Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad


This was a really good caprese salad.  I had been craving it for a while, but here in Colorado, we are still months away from sweet, ripe, yard tomatoes.  Instead of doing without, I decided to use a grocery store tomato, but roast it to develop more flavor and sweetness.

First I sliced a couple of regular tomatoes pretty thickly.  I put them on parchment paper and sprinkled them with olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper and a small amount of balsamic vinegar.  Into a 450 degree oven they went.  I think they probably roasted about 15 to 20 minutes.  

I left them alone to cool while I sliced the fresh mozzarella.  I alternated the slices of tomato and cheese, then drizzled them with olive oil and some Italian herbs (basil, oregano and chile flakes).

I think I may like this version better than the fresh tomato version.  Which means I can have this amazing salad any time of the year!


New Fire Pit Because.... Smores!

We have lived in our house almost 3 years.  I have been after my husband for most of that time to build a fire pit in our back yard.

Imagine my happiness, when about a month ago, he went to Lowe's, got the stuff, and built one!  Doesn't it look great?

To be honest, one of the reasons I wanted a fire pit was so we could make authentic smores at home.  So as soon as we had an evening without wind, we built the inaugural fire in the new pit.

I thought we should make the first batch of smores special, so instead of buying Hershey bars (neither Will or I am fond of Hershey's chocolate), I bought Ghirardelli (spelling) dark chocolate squares.  I was not disappointed.  I think using dark chocolate keeps the finished smore from being too sickeningly sweet.

I was really happy with the results!  Now that we have the pit, I'm sure our summer will be full of evenings around the fire, roasting marshmallows for fancy smores!  I'll never go back to Hershey bars again!
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