Sunday, October 11, 2009

My love affair with sage continues with pork chops w/ mustard crumbs

The entrance of Fall found me craving meats and finding inspiration in sage. I hit the cookbooks, and once again, Ruth Reichl didn't disappoint. The Gourmet Cookbook: More than 1000 recipes delivered a pork chops recipe that I just knew I'd excel at, because of this one little phrase: "...keeps them moister than panfrying would."

You see, I tend to overcook all meats and seafood, fearing that my inexperience and lack of knowledge about foodborne illnesses will kill my family and guests. So any recipe promising a moister meat....that's good with me. The mustard and bread crumb mixture cooks the moisture in.

I made six pork chops for just two of us (and only one of us - me - is a big eater). It looked like we would have *way* too much, but this meal was so delicious we had to stop ourselves after two pork chops a piece, knowing they'd be possibly even better as leftovers. Try this, and don't skimp on the breadcrumps by buying store bought - grating your own rye bread crumbs really makes all the difference.

Pork Chops with Mustard Crumbs

olive oil
1 1/3 C fresh rye bread crumbs
2 garlic cloves
1 T sage. Calls for finely chopped, but I cut into strips instead
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
4 pork chops, not more than 1 inch thick
2 T dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Heat olive oil in skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Add bread brums, garlic, sage, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, til crumbs are golden brown (about 2-3 minutes). Transfer to a bowl.

Pat pork dry. Heat a lil more olive oil in cleaned skillet over moderate heat til hot but not smoking again. Brown chops, two minutes on each side. Transfer to a baking sheet with sides.

Spread tops of chops with mustard and then scatter then bread crumb mixture on top. Roast about 5-7 minutes, til chops are cooked through. Transfer to platter, cover loosely with foil and let them stand 5 more minutes.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

When I Fell in Love with Sage: a recipe for penne with butternut squash, sage, and bresaola

Should it take me 30 minutes to peel and cube a butternut squash? Most certainly not, but once I started hacking into the squash with the dull knife (wasn't in my own own kitchen has fabulous knives, thanks to Project Kitchen Upgrade of 2009!) available to me I knew it was too late to call mom for better directions. Sometimes one just has to follow a task through to its disastrous completion.

The meal I prepared, however, was anything but disastrous.

As I've written previously, it's important to me to mark the passing seasons with the meals I cook, as in Los Angeles there aren't as many mile markers throughout the year as there are in other areas. I was craving pasta, and decided to leaf through the pages of The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Pasta , my favorite cookbook-as-eye-candy. Since this book is divided into seasons, I went directly to the "Autumn and Winter" section, until st. stopped me on page 79, with its photo of bresaola, a salt-cured, dried beef fillet.

I'm sure I can procure bresaola here in Los Angeles with a little searching, but luckily prosciutto can be used as a substitution. As I was shopping at Vons that day, prosciutto would have to do. I love prosciutto, as does st., so this was not a painful compromise. (I say that now....perhaps you should check back with me after I try bresaola!).

I see in my spell checker that I have been spelling prosciutto wrong all this time. Fixed.

Back to my meal: penne with butternut squash, sage, and prosciutto.

Delicious. Hearty. Don't short yourself - make sure you use fresh sage for this, and do that technique where you roll the sage leaves up into a little cigar, then chop into shreds. It makes beautiful strips of sage and the aroma will infuse not only your entire dish but your kitchen as well. The sweetness of the shallots blends so nicely with the squash, it's difficult to articulate the different flavors in this dish. It's a symphony. :)

olive oil
5 shallots
1 butternut squash, peeled and seeded and diced
pinch of ground allspice
salt and pepper
3/4 cup chicken stock
splash of balsamic vinegar
1 lb penne
1/4 prosciutto or bresaola, cut into strips
grated grana padano or parmesan cheese

Start boiling the pasta water.

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil and add shallots until they are softened, approx 3-4 minutes. Add squash, allspice, salt and pepper to taste. Saute for another 1 or 2 minutes. Add stock, reduce heat to med/low, cover and simmer until the squash is fork tender, about 8 mins. Don't stir, or the squash will get, well, squishy. Turn off the heat and add splash of balsamic vinegar.

Cook your penne.

Drain the al dente penne, add the squash mixture. Then add the sage, prosciutto or bresaola, drizze with olive oil and toss gently.

Sprinkle with cheese.