Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Grilled Pork Chops with Fresh Plum Chutney

Grilled Pork Chops with Fresh Plum Chutney
Serves 4
Grilled Pork Chops with Fresh Plum Chutney 
Here is a fresh twist on a summer favorite…grilled pork chops. What a summer time treat when plums are ripe. Indian spices can play up the sour kick from the plum skins, and both are fantastic with pork’s natural sweetness. Pork is the “other white meat” as well as relatively inexpensive, tender and flavorful.  It is quite a bit leaner than similar cuts of beef. USDA recently announced that pork could be safely cooked to 145 degrees F followed by a three-minute rest time, resulting in juicy and tender pork. This recipe is a little more complex, but well worth the effort!

Last fall, I posted a blog titled “Brined Pork Chop with Fennel Pollen” (cookingwithlarue.blogspot.com/2012/09/brined-pork-chops-with-fennel-pollen.html). It is truly an amazing pork chop that follows a three-day brine. While I might not always brine for three days, I truly do always brine both pork and chicken for as long as time allows…at least overnight.  See the brine recipe that was posted – but if time is tight, a simple mix of sugar, salt and water with an overnight soak will make for a demonstrable improvement in flavor, texture and tenderness in the pork chop. Brining is a powerful tool as it cures meat and seasons it uniformly. Because of the osmotic effect of salt, the meat actually retains more moisture after cooking.

For Simple Pork Brine:
  • ¾ C coarse Kosher salt *
  • ¾ C granulated sugar
  • 1 C boiling water
  • 1 Gallon cold water
  • 1 Tb black pepper
*All salts are not equal. 1 C table salt = 1½ C Morton Kosher salt = 2C Diamond Crystal Kosher salt

Grilled Pork Chops with Fresh Plum Chutney
  • 1 lb. small firm-ripe red-purple plums, such as Santa Rosa, halved and pitted
  • 1 Serrano chili, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 C sliced green onions
  • 2 Tb cider vinegar
  • 3 Tb dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tb finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1½ tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1-2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
  • About 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 2 tsp black pepper, divided
  • 3 ½ Tb olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tb ground coriander
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 pork loin rib chops
  • 3 Tb coarsely chopped cilantro 
For the Brine, mix kosher salt, sugar, pepper and 1 C boiling water. Mix until sugar and salts are dissolved. Add 1 gallon cold water. Once completely cool, submerge the 4 pork loin chops and store in a refrigerator at least 12 hours, preferably overnight and up to 3 days.

Chop half to two-thirds of the quantity of plums. Put halved and chopped plums, the chile and green onions in a deep medium bowl; set aside. Microwave vinegar and 2 Tb sugar until steaming, about 30 seconds, then stir until sugar dissolves. 
Onions & chilies
Put ginger, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, bay leaves, crushed coriander and 1 tsp each salt and pepper in a small bowl.
Spices for the chutney
Heat 2 Tb oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add ginger mixture and cook, stirring, until mustard seeds start to pop, 15 – 30 seconds. Remove from heat and stir until cumin seeds are a shade darker 1-2 minutes. Add vinegar-sugar mixture. 

Spices with vinegar-sugar mixture
Stir into plum mixture and let chutney stand for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Chutney can be made 1 day ahead. Cover, chill and rewarm before serving.
Final chutney product
Meanwhile, heat a grill to medium (350 to 450 degrees F) Combine ground coriander and lemon zest in a bowl. If pork has not been brined, add remaining 1 tsp salt and pepper to this mixture. Pull pork from brine, rinse and dry. About 20 minutes before serving, rub pork chops with remaining 1½ Tb oil, then with coriander mixture. Taste chutney and add more sugar if you like.
Prepping the meat
Grill meat covered, turning over once, until barely pink in center, 12-15 minutes.  Internal temperature should be 140-145 degrees. Transfer to a platter and let rest 5 minutes. Stir cilantro into chutney. Set pork chops on plates and spoon chutney and juices on top.
With manly grill marks!
The ideal chutney balances sweet, spicy, and savory, and that’s what we’ve done with this plum version. The mustard seed and plums play off each other for a condiment that’d dress up anything from grilled chicken to a grilled pork chop. Leftover chutney could also be used on a tuna fish sandwich, on top of grill duck breast, chicken or quail.

A California Pinot Noir is the quintessential wine with pork. Other choices would be a fruity Zinfandel, Syrah or Merlot. If white wines are your preference, serve with a California Chardonnay. However, recognize that with the vinegar-based chutney, if too heavy-handed with the vinegar, will make any wine pairing challenging. However, in this case, the sweetness of the plums and Indian spices render this unproblematic. So, open your favorite wine and enjoy a truly summer grilled special meal.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Pickled Vegetable Salad with Anchovy Dressing

Pickled Vegetable Salad with Anchovy Dressing

Pickled Vegetable Salad with Anchovy Dressing
Pickled Vegetable Salad with Anchovy Dressing 

I had to think about this one for a long time before trying it. I know you will too, because it is “pickled” and a bit complicated. But what an amazing treat! You will absolutely not believe how truly fantastic this salad can be.  And so very different for the usual humdrum greens, cut-up what-evers usually served. If you’re one of those people who saw the word “pickled” in the title and said “Ugh, no, sorry, not for me,” fight the good fight because once your tastes cross over to the vinegar side, there’s little going back. Once you have tasted the triple-threat crunch/sweet/salty of a pickled anything, the food landscape can seem bleak without them. A big added plus to this recipe is the many ways to use the component parts. You can use pickled red onions on your tacos, sandwiches, on top of omelets, pickled carrots in the fridge whenever the mood strikes, pickled cauliflower as part of a an appetizer spread with fresh tomatoes, olives, flatbreads and hummus. They are also tasty cuddled up to some grilled meat. There is just no shortage of ideas. And if that were not enough reason to jump in and give it a try, all pickled bits can be stored in the frig for a whole month.
Pickled veggies for the salad
This recipe is divided up into first providing a list of each ingredient. Then, the individual component part recipes are listed….followed by putting the whole "enchilada" together!

Basic Pickling Liquid – makes about 1¾ C
  • 1 C champagne vinegar
  • ½ C granulated sugar
  • ½ C water 

Pickled carrots
  • 10 medium carrots or 20 baby carrots, peeled
  • ½ tsp yellow curry powder or Madras curry powder
  • ½ jalapeno, seeded
  • Basic Pickling Liquid 

Pickled Cauliflower
  • ½ tsp piment d’Espelette (substitute: hot paprika)
  • Basic Pickling Liquid
  • 4 C of ¾ inch cauliflower florets (about the diameter of a quarter) from about 1½ lbs. cauliflower

Pickled Red Onion (see previous posted recipe 5/27/13) makes about 4 C
  • 2 large red onions (about 1¼ lbs each)
  • 1½ C red wine vinegar
  • ¾ C granulated sugar

Anchovy Dressing
  • 1 salt-packed anchovy, filleted or 2 oil-packed anchovy fillets, or to taste
  • ¼ C whole milk
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 2 Tb champagne vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 C Aioli
  • 2 Tb buttermilk
  • ½ tsp fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Torn Croutons
  • 1 loaf country bread
  • Garlic oil
  • 2 Tb unsalted butter

The Rest
  • Parmesan cheese – shaved
  • Salami – cut (optional, but really loved the flavor addition!)

“Basic Pickling Liquid”
Basic pickling liquid is 2 parts vinegar to 1 part sugar to 1 part water – it can be scaled up easily for larger quantities of vegetables. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, and process as described below with each of the vegetables.

Pickled Carrots – makes 2 C
Cut medium carrots on the diagonal into 2-inch sections and then cut the sections lengthwise in half. Trim green tops of baby carrots to about ¼” and cut carrots in half lengthwise.

Put the curry powder in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 1-1½ min or until fragrant. Be careful – the curry burns easily.

Add the carrots, jalapeno and pickling liquid to the curry, bring to a simmer, stirring from time to time to dissolve the sugar, and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour into a container and let the carrots cool in the liquid, then cover and refrigerate up to one month.
Pickled carrots. Note size of the cut veggies
Pickled Cauliflower
Add the Espelette to the pickling liquid and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and blanche for 4 minutes, until crisp-tender; it should still be slightly resistant to tooth. Drain and transfer the cauliflower to a canning jar or other storage container. Pour the pickling liquid over the top. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to a month.
Pickled cauliflower
Pickled Red Onion – makes about 4 C
Also featured in recipe posted 5/27/13 Cauliflower & Chickpea Salad with Curry Vinaigrette:

Cut off the top and bottom of each onion and cut lengthwise in half.  Remove and discard the outer layer. Cut a V-shaped wedge from the bottom of each half to remove the roots and the very centerpieces of onion. Place the onion cut side down and slice lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick slices following the natural lines of the onion. Pack the onion slices into a 1-quart canning jar or other suitable container that can be covered. Combine the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the hot vinegar over the onion slices and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or for up to one month.
Pickled red onion....OMG these are good on sooo many things!
Anchovy Dressing – makes 1 ¼ C
Put the anchovies in a small bowl and pour milk over them. Soak the anchovies for 30 minutes (Soaking will give them a sweeter flavor). Drain the anchovies. Chop coarsely and transfer to a small food processor. Add the garlic, vinegar, mustard and puree. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the aioli and buttermilk. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Refrigerate in a covered container for up to a week.

Torn Croutons
Cut the crusts off the loaf of bread. Tear the bread into irregular pieces no larger than 2 inches. Pour 1/8 inch of garlic olive oil into a large sauté pan and heat over medium heat until hot. Spread the bread in a single layer in the pan. Add the butter. The oil and butter should be bubbling, but if you hear sizzling, the heat is too high. Adjust the heat and stir the croutons often as they cook. Cook until they are crisp and a beautiful rich golden brown on all sides, about 15-20 minutes. Move the croutons to one side of the pan, and keep them warm until ready to serve. Do not drain on paper towels; you want the flavors of the oil intermingled with the other ingredients as you eat the croutons in a salad.  Torn croutons should be used the day they are made; you can reheat them in a love oven before serving if necessary.

Cooking the croutons
Croutons....finished product 

Cooking the torn pieces of bread very, very slowly is the key to these garlicky croutons. When toasted over high heat, croutons become a little dry; these absorb the oil and butter through the slow cooking, and result is a crouton that are very crunchy but bursting with flavor of the oil when you bite into them.

Assembling the final product
The plan is fairly simple – make each of the component pickled parts – once a day over a few days or all at once. Store in the fridge, make the dressing (amazing in its own right!) a day or two ahead of serving and the torn croutons just before serving.  For a pure veggie salad, you can leave out the cut salami. I like to place the components on a large platter with the dressing on the side so guests can take what they want and add dressing to suit. But one could also serve individually by dishing it up. 
Individual components before mixing. Great way to present.
Once on the plate, mix that scrumptious dressing about – and ready those taste buds for the upcoming sensation.
So yummy!!
I thought about this one for quite awhile and then sprung it on some good friends over for a relaxing weekend dinner. We all loved it. You will too….really. Think about it and then do it. Thank me later. 


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Grilled BBQ Cornish Game Hens with Grapes

Grilled BBQ Cornish Game Hens with Grapes
Serves: 6
Grilled BBQ Cornish Game Hens with Grapes
Cornish Game Hens are not even hens and they are not game birds– they are small domestic hybrid chickens and can actually be a male or female. Who knew?

One food historian credits chicken mogul Donald John Tyson for creating the Rock Cornish game hen by crossbreeding White Rock hens and Cornish hens in 1965. His intent was allegedly to create a specialty item at a higher price that appealed to a fast-growing contingent of consumers referred to in our contemporary times as foodies.

However, other sources credit Alphonsine and Jacques Makowsky of Connecticut for developing this small bird some ten years earlier. Their intent was similar, to breed a small chicken with mostly white meat suitable for a single serving. The U.S. patent and trademark files show no ownership filings for the breed.

The game hens have a shorter growing span to adulthood, 28 to 30 days as opposed to 42 or more for regular chicken. It is half the size of a standard chicken, has more white meat and weighs an average of 1¼ pounds, bone-in—the perfect individual portion size.

It’s a great choice for a dinner party, as each person can have their own personal hen, and you don’t have to worry about who wants the thigh vs. breast on a giant roasted chicken. These are great served with roasted potatoes, sautéed spinach, stir-fried summer squash or a couscous salad. It’s a simple dish that’s certain to impress any dinner guest. This recipe riffs on the elements of traditional chicken salad: cucumber, grapes, walnuts and honey. Verjus, used in the vinaigrette, is the tart juice of unripe wine grapes; a lighter alternative to vinegar, it is available at specialty grocers.

For the Cornish game hens:
  • 6- 1¼ pound Cornish game hens
  • 6 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley or cilantro, stemmed

For the garnish:
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch red grapes, separated into 6 smaller bunches

For the vinaigrette:
  • 1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 med English cucumber, finely diced
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tb minced fresh ginger
  • 2 C Verjus
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tb honey
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ C walnut oil

Use a pair of kitchen shears to remove the backbone from each hen, then open hens and lay flat, skin-side up. Toss shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes and parsley or cilantro in a bowl. Using a blunt stick, such as chopsticks, lift the skin of the hen over the breasts and thighs and tuck mixture under the skin. Be careful to not tear the skin. Gently massage the marinade into the meat and move about with gentle pressure. If time allows, allow this to sit on birds for 1-2 hours, refrigerated.
Use the chopsticks to lift the skin and tuck in shallots et al 
Prepare a grill for cooking over medium-high heat. Lay hens skin-side down on grill and cook 2 minutes, then rotate hen 90 degrees to create hash marks on exterior and cook 2 minutes more. Flip hens and continue to cook until golden and a meat thermometer inserted into breast meat reads 160 degrees, about 20 minutes. Remove hens from grill and set aside to rest, 10 minutes.
Grilling the hen
Make the garnish: Add oil to a skillet, set over high heat, then add the grapes and cook, shaking the pan often to ensure even cooking, until skins blister slightly, 3-5 minutes.
Cooking the grapes
Make vinaigrette: Mix red bell pepper, cucumber, scallions, ginger, verjus, soy sauce, honey, kosher salt and walnut oil together in a bowl.
The vinaigrette
To serve: Ladle a generous amount of vinaigrette onto each plate. Place 1 hen on each plate and top with a small bunch of grapes.  

This pairs well with many wines such as Grenache, Syrah, Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc. An amazing, juicy and flavorful delight will surprise you and your friends.  Don't miss this simple throw-together BBQ recipe this summer!