Thursday, December 31, 2009

Briny Pork Chops with Caramelized Pears and Sage-Roasted Potatoes

Other than one meal when my mom visited during December I cannot recall having cooked at home in almost a month. First I was sick (really, really sick) and the little that I did eat was made (read warmed up) by my husband. Then I got busy with work (which, since I am a chef, involved lots of cooking) so I really wasn't up to cooking when I got home (so lots of take-out). Then we went out of town (which is exhausting under the best of cases). I even cancelled delivery of one of my boxes because I knew I would get to it.

I woke up this morning determined to cook. I picked up our box yesterday so I knew I would have lots of delicious new produce to choose from (plus, I still have lots of root veggies, which take much longer to go bad, stashed away too).

After a delicious "ladies lunch" out with one of my best friends and my Goddaughter I stopped by the QFC to pick up some sort of protein. Torn between chicken, pork or lamb I texted the husband for advice. Pork (with applesauce) was the reply (although I knew applesauce was not to be in the husband's future). I considered a pork roast, then a pork loin before spying some thick-cut pork chops in the butcher's case. Alas, they were boneless (and meat cooked on the bone is just better) so I asked the butcher to cut some special for me, bone-in, about 1 1/2 inch thick.

So, pork decided as the protein, I took a look in the fridge and pantry for potential counterparts. I turned up some garnet yams, and some pears (as a stand-in to the applesauce the husband wanted). I snipped a little sage from the herb garden and I was on my way.

Here's the ingredients:

For the briny pork chops:

2 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 Tablespoon sugar
6 leaves sage
3/4 cup water
2 thick-cut bone-in pork chops

For the sage-roasted yams:

1/2 pound yams (garnet or otherwise)
2 Tablespoons or so olive oil
10 leaves sage
3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
salt and pepper
a cast-iron pan (trust me, this is important)

For the caramelized pears:

2 Tablespoon butter
2 pears, peeled and chopped
2 Tablespoons sugar
juice and zest from 1/2 Meyer lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Now, I was cooking everything at once, so these instructions are gonna jump around a bit.

I started by making a brine for the pork chops. I combined the sugar and the sage leaves in a mortar and used a pestle to crush and bruise the sage a bit.

I then put this into a Ziploc bag, added the sugar and the water and shook the mixture until the sugar and salt had dissolved. Then I added the pork chops and tossed the bag in the fridge for a couple of hours (turning it once).

A half hour before I was set to cook, I removed the pork chops from the brine, dried them off, then set them aside for a bout a half hour so the middles of them wouldn't be too cold when I cooked them.

Next I put the potatoes in the oven. Here they are all sliced up and ready to go.

The potatoes were inspired by a blog entry from the Food52 Website. I followed the method just about verbatim so I won't repeat it here (but they took about 45 minutes total). I haven't tried it with regular potatoes (as it is written) but that will be up very soon.

As soon as I put the potatoes in the oven, I heated up a grill pan, then brushed the outsides of the chops with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper. I seared the chops on one side, then flipped them and put them in the oven (alongside the potatoes) until they reached an internal temperature of 150 degrees (yeah, I know, USDA says 160 degrees, but that's just gonna result in dry pork chops). They took about 25 minutes to cook through and they were done before the potatoes, so I just took them out of the oven and covered them with some foil until the potatoes were done too (at least five minutes of resting is important anyway).

Once everything was in the oven I started on the caramelized pears. I started by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. I added the chopped pears and sauteed for about 5 minutes. Then I added the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and the salt and continued to cook the pears until they were golden brown and delicious.

To serve, I plated a few of the potatoes alongside a ginourmous pork chop then topped the pork with some of the caramelized pears, a bit of the tasty caramelizing sauce and a few of the crispy sage leaves.

How was it? Well, basically the whole time I was eating I was saying "nom, nom, nom this is so good". The husband agreed and said that the caramelized pears were way better than any applesauce would be.

This is definitely a case where really simple ingredients, cooked well, resulted in something fantastic.

What's in the Box?

1 Yellow Onions
1 bunch Green Onions

1.25 pounds Purple Potatoes

1 pint Red Grape Tomatoes

1 pound Baby Golden Beets

2 Hass Avocados

1 pound White Satin Carrots

1 Bunch Orange Carrots

1 Cucumber

2 Meyer Lemons

1 Mango

4 Valencia Oranges

3 D'anjou Pears

Friday, December 18, 2009

Screw the Resolutions Hawaiian Feast for LLS

As (hopefully) the final part of my fund raising efforts for my Team in Training event I am planning a "Screw the Resolutions Hawaiian Feast" to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for Jan 14, 2010 at Starry Nights in Kirkland Washington.

I've been spending a lot of time planning the event and recruiting donors and kitchen help. I just want to take a minute to thank all of those who have thus far agreed to generously donate their time and talents to help make my event a success.

I'm still looking for more items to use as door prizes so if you (or someone you know) owns a restaurant, is an artist, or has some other talent they may be willing to share, I would love to hear from them.

Thanks to:
Matt Jones, Starry Nights Catering ~

and all my fabulous donors:
Teresa Ritzhaupt, Executive Home Cleaning ~
D. Ted Harris ~
Bill Reimann, Spotlight ~
Fred Good ~
Jalene Hernandez ~
Jean Avery, Mary Kay ~
Dana Sullivan ~
Brian Vann ~
Vanessa Wilke
Amanda Downing

and all my fabulous kitchen volunteers:
Conni Brownell ~
Jay Delong ~
Cindy Hilliard ~
Debra Lane ~
Betsy Rogers ~
Karen Rosenzweig ~
Tom Rzegocki ~

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What's in the Box?

1 Broccolette
1 Cucumber

2 Hass Avocados
.4 pound Cremini Mushrooms
1.5 pounds Colorado Rose Potatoes

1.5 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes

1.5 pounds Jewel Yams

1 bunch Red Beets

1 Celery Root

1 Red Onion

1 bunch Orange Carrots

2 Asian Pears

2 Pomegranates