Monday, April 30, 2007

Stuffed pork chops

Must have been the close encounter with the pig -- but I was hungry for pork. We picked up some nice thick boneless loin chops at Costco yesterday, and Dave asked for stuffed chops with Canadian bacon. I happened to have some Canadian bacon in the freezer, so I was game.

First, I brined the chops in my usual 1/4 c salt, 1/4 c sugar, 1 qt. water solution for an hour.

While they brined, I made the stuffing mixture: about 2T each minced onion and minced celery, four leaves of fresh sage, chiffonade, sauteed in a little butter. Stirred in about 2 T of dried breadcrumbs and eight slices of Canadian bacon, minced. A little salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

Then cut nice big pockets in the pork chops and filled them up with the cooled stuffing.

Browned them for about 4 minutes/side and put them in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes while we sauteed some romaine and finished a mushroom cream sauce for the chops. Not a bad dinner for making it up at the market!

Another trip to Steelhead Diner

I'm doing a review of Steelhead Diner for our condo newsletter, and we hadn't tried dinner there yet. Oh darn, more research :)

Saturday night for dinner was pretty slammed. We opted to not make reservations and take our chances at getting a counter seat. We ended up at the "tasting bar" which is about ten feet behind the kitchen counter. In some ways we had a better view. One reason for going again was to try the Caviar Pie, which one food editor was raving about to me. It certainly is pretty!
I had the Kasu Black Cod, and it was wonderful -- moist and flavorful. I'd never tried this entree though it shows up on enough menus around here. I really enjoyed it and would probably order it again.

Pig comes, pig goes

This was going to be a much more interesting post -- last Friday I was planning to help break down a pig, hopefully learning about its anatomy and more wonderful things to do with a pig. So I showed up over in West Seattle with high hopes, and maybe a little trepidation.

And here comes the pig -- actually two halves, each about 122 lbs. Very big pig, and unwieldy. It just flops around, and of course it's somewhat slippery.

Given what we wanted to do with it, having it already cut in half was not a good thing. But it did let me get a look at the structure. And all that lovely leaf lard, which is the long white mass in the center. Finest fat for making pastry! (After you render it, of course.)

Turns out there was more wrong than just being cut in half. The pig had been skinned, and the trotters removed. Now, if you're planning to make prosciutto, or coppa, or many other cured applications of pork, you gotta have the skin on. So this pig just would not do. It had to go back, and my adventures in butchery will have to wait for another day.

Pig Goes:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Going Moroccan: Honey Lamb with Apricots and Almonds

A week ago I was over visiting my son at college. Naturally, I planned to cook. Since he'd recently tried Moroccan food for the first time and seemed to enjoy it, I decided to make honey lamb for him and some of his friends. They really liked it, and I plan to make it here at home sometime in the near future.

I started by reading "Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco" by Paula Wolfert to get some ideas. I combined several recipes and some riffs of my own to get the result:

Honey Lamb with Apricots and Almonds

1 leg of lamb, boned, trimmed of connective tissue and fat, cut into 1" cubes (reserve bones)
1 T ras al hanout (you can use curry powder, but this is more authentic and exotic)
1/2 t ground ginger
olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cinnamon sticks

8 oz dried apricots, quartered

3/4 c slivered almonds

lamb stock (made from reserved bones)

1 c honey
1 T cinnamon

In the morning, rub lamb cubes with ras al hanout, ginger, and garlic. Refrigerate for four or more hours. Use bones to make about 4 cups of lamb stock.

Brown lamb in batches in olive oil. Set meat aside, and cook onion and garlic until translucent. Add meat, cinnamon sticks, apricots, almonds, and lamb stock to barely cover. Bring to simmer, cook for 1 hour or until lamb is very tender, adding more stock if it gets too dry. Add honey and cinnamon and cook for another 30 minutes or until the sauce is very thick.

Garnish with cilantro. Serve over couscous.

Bearnaise as a sandwich spread?

Absolutely! Chilled Bearnaise sauce is a great spread for a roast beef sandwich. I made a nice tenderloin roast over the weekend, and some red-wine blender Bearnaise to go with it. Leftovers of both. When you chill Bearnaise, it ends up like very soft butter (not surprisingly!). Spread on a baguette, with some nice roast beef and tomatoes it makes a wonderful sandwich. Add some Brie and it becomes sublime. Along with this, we had what I ended up calling "Mardi Gras Potato Salad." Why Mardi Gras? Because it had purple potatoes in it (I'd roasted new purple potatoes along with the tenderloin) as well as eggs and celery, so you get the purple, green and gold of Mardi Gras in the salad. I cut the usual mayonnaise with nonfat yogurt and it was quite good.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Oops, time got away from me/Bunny cake

Sometimes work gets busy and I neglect the blog. It doesn't nag, or have deliverable deadlines, so tends to fall to the bottom of the heap sometimes. Sorry.

Let's see, what's new? Easter dinner brought a request for the same maple-bacon Brussels sprouts I served at Thanksgiving. They were very good, but a little tough at this time of year. But since someone asked me to please bring them, what could I say but yes? Same thing went for bringing a potato gratin. Lots of heavy cream, some Swiss cheese, some thyme. Very rich and very good with the ham.

I did do one funny thing for Easter: I made a bunny cake. Not my usual style at all. Even used a cake mix and canned frosting, horror of horrors. But it was for the kids, and they weren't going to notice. Put my energy into figuring out how to make a bunny out of two 9" rounds. Used one cut in half for the body, feet, head, and tail out of the other one. Sugar cookies shaped for ears, tinted coconut for grass scattered with gum drops. Not what I'd call a work of art but cute nevertheless.