July 13, 2010

Chop, Cook, Eat

Filed under: Meat Entrees — by Carla


I love to cook. Like many of you, I believe the time spent cutting, chopping, simmering, sauteeing and roasting to be the best part of the day.  But  it’s the act of sharing that food with friends and family that makes me happiest. It seems like great tasting food always brings out the best conversations around the table and keeps you sitting there longer, visiting and chatting, sipping and chewing; a communion of sorts. So it is no wonder that I also love to teach cooking, to pass on that ability to bring pleasure to others. I’ve had many interesting students in cooking classes the last few decades, but my favorite students are without a doubt, my kids.

cce-intro_081They are four young adults living on their own at this point and so they have all come to grips with the sometimes daunting task of feeding themselves. They’re like most their age. They don’t plan or spend much time thinking about meals. But they’re tired of take-out and would like to eat cheaper and healthier. I had an idea for a book proposal that would be sort of a twenty-something’s guide to dinner and in talking to our local cable channel director a plan emerged to do a cable show of the same name with my kids. We just finished shooting Chop, Cook, Eat and have four 30-minute shows to air over the next few months. Each show features three one-serving dishes, each of which can be accomplished in under 30 minutes with one pan cleanup.

In testing recipes for the show, I discovered that this kind of simple cooking really works for me at this time in my life as well. Who doesn’t want delicious food, fast with easy cleanup?  So I’ve bundled up the recipes from the first show to share with you all. These sautés are the fastest way to get a great tasting dinner on the table in a hurry. The pan fried steak is a revelation in simplicity with its crusty outside and salty capery sauce made not with complicated stock, but just plain H2O. A sauce of lemon and cranberries atop a perfectly cooked chicken breast is sure to become a weeknight fave and those of you who are big on pig will want to try these pork chops with a mustardy, appley sauce . If you’re cooking for two, just double the recipe. To round out the meal, just add a salad or cook up some brown rice and dinner is served. It’s so easy, even a twenty-something can do it. Heh, heh. Sorry kids!

Kitchen Counter Point: All of these recipes incorporate the sauté technique. For best results 1) Use the heaviest pan you own. 2) Heat the pan for a few minutes before adding the meat. You want it to sizzle on impact. 3) Dry and season the meat before adding it to the pan. It will brown up much more nicely. 4) Turn the meat only once. That way it cooks faster and more evenly.

Steak with Simple Caper Sauce

Serves 1

Start to finish: 20 minutes
Hands on time: 20 minutes

The French have come up with so many variations of this dish that it almost boggles the mind. We love a grilled steak and the grill has its place,  but on a grill you forfeit the sauce. For this reason, pan fried steaks with a reduction sauce are worth the time it takes to learn this simple technique.

1 8-oz Delmonico, strip or rib eye steak, about 3/4-inch thick

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
1 small shallot, minced

2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided

Remove the steak from the refrigerator about 1 hour before you intend to cook it. Unwrap the steak and lay it out on a plate to warm up to room temperature.

Pat the steak dry and salt and pepper it liberally on both sides.

Heat a small heavy fry pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When the fat is hot, carefully arrange the steak in the pan and sauté for 3 or 4 minutes or until the steak has browned and no longer sticks to the pan. Turn the steak and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes on the second side for a medium rare steak, 5 or 6 minutes for medium well. (Regulate the heat so that the juices in the pan don’t become burned.) Remove the steak from the pan and transfer them to a plate to keep warm, covered loosely with foil.

Add the shallot to the hot pan and cook for 30 seconds. Add the capers and 1/4 cup water and cook, stirring up the browned bits by scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula. The sauce will reduce slightly. Remove from the heat,  pour over the steak and serve .

Sautéed Chicken Breast with Cranberry Lemon Deglazing Sauce

Serves 1

Hands on time: 10 minutes
Start to finish: 10 minutes

The true beauty of this dish is a perfectly cooked, juicy chicken breast. No more overcooked cardboard tasting, tough, dry chicken for you. The bonus lemony sauce is like a little exclamation point of citrusy brightness with tart red cranberries. Once you try it, you’ll cook chicken this way over and over again.

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
1 chicken breast half, skinned, boned and pounded to 1/2-inch (1 cm) thickness
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Zest of 1/2  lemon, reserved for garnish
Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon minced flat leaf parsley

Add the cranberries to a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside

Heat the oil in a heavy fry or sauté pan over medium high heat. While the pan is heating, salt and pepper the chicken breast half to taste. When the pan is hot, add the chicken to the pan skin side down (Even though there is no skin here, the skin side will be the most attractive side to present on the plate.) Do not attempt to move the chicken once it is in the pan for at least 3 minutes. Watch the surface of the chicken as it begins to look wet and small puddles of moisture begin to puddle. At this point, turn the chicken over. It should be nicely browned. If it still sticks to the pan, give it another minute before attempting to turn it again. Cook on the second side for only 2 minutes and remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the chicken to a warm platter and cover it with foil while you make the sauce.

Drain the water from the cranberries. Return the hot sauté pan to medium heat. Add the lemon juice and cranberries and let it boil down until only a teaspoon or so remains, about 2 minutes. The lemon juice will pick up lots of the brown chicken flavor from the pan. Add the  butter and remove the pan from the heat. Taste for seasoning, it might need a little salt and pepper. If the sauce is too sharp, add another teaspoon or so of butter.

Slice the chicken crosswise into strips and arrange it on a dinner plate. Top with the sauce and garnish with the lemon zest and parsley. Serve immediately.

Tip: The sauce will evaporate if you let it sit for very long. Just add a little water a teaspoon at a time to bring it back.

Pork Chops with Apple Mustard Sauce

Serves 1

Hands on: 10 minutes
Start to finish: 10 minutes

This work-horse of a recipe has gotten us through more weeknight dinners than we care to confess to. It resonates first because it is delicious, second because it has a great sauce to moisten what can sometimes be dry cut of meat. Pair this chop with a roasted sweet potato and apple sauce. Yum.

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
1 center cut, boneless loin pork chop, 1-inch thick, butterflied

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced flat leaf parsley

Heat a heavy small fry pan over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil.
Season the pork chop with salt and pepper and add it to the pan. Allow the pork chop to crust or brown well before trying to move it. Cook for about 3 minutes on the first side, turn it over and cook on the other side for about 2 minutes.

Transfer the pork chop to a plate and add the cider and mustard to the pan. Stir with a fork and cook for about 1 minute. Pour the sauce over the pork and garnish with the parsley. Serve immediately.

February 5, 2010

Maple Brined Pork Chops with Sweet Potato, Apple and Mustard Sauce

Filed under: Meat Entrees — by Carla


 What is it about cold weather that makes you want to eat pork more than a few times a week? In the last month  we’ve eaten pig in a choucroute, braised with tomatoes and stuffed into marvelous little agnolotti, braised in milk, braised in coconut milk and rice vinegar (way tasty), as sausage in jambalaya, coffee rubbed tenderloin and numerous renditions of sautéed pork chops. To be honest, I haven’t tired of it yet. There are many theories about our urge to pimp the pig in the desolate days of winter, but to me it’s all about that sweet, tender meat that goes so well with winter vegetables. Hearty greens like collards and kale, the assorted hard squashes, sweet potatoes and apples, parsnips and rutabagas are natural partners with pork and make for a delicious week-night dinner for family or even a weekend meal for company.


In this recipe, I’ve paired the pork chops with two of my favorite go withs, sweet potatoes and Ginger Crisp apples. The appley mustard sauce you make at the end couldn’t be easier and moistens the pork, tying all the flavors together. Because pork chops can be a little on the dry side, I recommend that you brine them in this salty, sweet mixture for at least 2 hours. It really does increase  flavor and moisture, but if you don’t have the time, just go ahead and cook the pork chops un-brined. They will still be delicious. I’ve also given you an easy clean up by structuring this recipe so that you can cook the meat, potatoes and apples in one pan. Don’t bother to thank me. You’re welcome.


Kitchen Counter Point: Because center cut pork chops are a lean cut of meat, they are easily dried out by overcooking. But not to worry! Here are a few tips that will help you to cook juicy, flavorful pork chops every time.

1) Brine the pork as I direct in this recipe. The salty-mapley-garlicky-peppery-rosemary water creeps into the meat, flavoring and hydrating it so that when cooked, you end up with seasoned, moist meat.

2) Buy and cook the pork chop on the bone. It may take a few more minutes of cooking, but the bone gives up flavor and moisture to the surrounding meat.

3) Try not to over-cook the pork. Our moms and grandmothers cooked it to within an inch of being incinerated. Today’s pork is cleaner and leaner than grandma’s pig and should be cooked to an internal temp of about 147ºF. It will still be a bit rosy in the center.

4) Buy pork chops at least 3/4-inch thick because the thicker cut insulates the center so that juices don’t completely cook away.   

 Serves 4

2 cups water
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup kosher salt
4 cloves of garlic, smashed (no need to peel)
2 bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed

3 cups ice
4 center-cut, loin pork chops on the bone, about 3/4-inch thick

2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 sweet potatoes, thinly sliced
2 Ginger Crisp or other sweet-tart apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup apple cider or juice, plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced (optional)

Heat the water in a medium saucepan with the syrup, salt, garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and black peppercorns. When the water simmers, remove it from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Pour the brine into 2-qt. heat-proof bowl. Add the ice and when the mixture has cooled, add the pork chops to the bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24.

One hour before cooking, remove the pork chops from the brine and pat them dry. Lightly pepper them and let sit at room temperature until ready to cook.

Heat a large, heavy skillet with a lid over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the pork chops (they should sizzle) and cook for about 5 minutes on the first side, turn them over and cook on the other side for about 3 minutes. They will not be cooked through at this point but should be nicely browned.

Transfer the pork chops to a plate and add the potatoes, apples, cider, cinnamon and salt to the hot pan and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the potatoes for 13 minutes or until a little resistant when pierced with a fork.

Return the pork chops to the pan, nestle them into the potatoes, cover and cook for another 5 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and the potatoes are tender.

Transfer the pork chop, potato and apple to a plate with a slotted spoon and cover with foil, leaving the liquid in the pan. If the potatoes have absorbed the liquid, add 1/4 cup extra cider to the pan and heat. Stir in the mustard with a fork and taste the sauce for seasoning adding more pepper if desired.

Ladle the sauce over the meat and potatoes and garnish with the parsley if using. Serve hot.