Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Oven-Roasted Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Cilantro-Butter Pan Sauce

I have so many cookbooks and magazines. Like many foodies I love them all and can't part with any of them so my collection keeps growing. I do have a favorite source that I turn to more often than any other resource. I turn to it again and again, both for entertainment and knowledge, namely, my all-access-pass to Cook's Illustrated, Cook's Country, and America's Test Kitchen. I always have success with their recipes even if I'm making something for the first time. I also love how they explain why they recommend their methods and the science behind the results. My husband loves pork chops and my go to recipe up until this point has been my "Spicy Pork Loin Chops." The chops in this recipe are only 3/4 of an inch. I had some beautiful bone-in chops that were thicker. I turned to America's Test Kitchen and found their recipe for "Pan-Seared Thick-Cut Pork Chops." Here is my version.

Oven-Roasted Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Cilantro-Butter Pan Sauce
(adapted from Pan-Seared Thick-Cut Pork Chops from America's Test Kitchen)

4 (1"- 1 1/2") bone in pork chops
1/2 of a small to medium onion or 1 large shallot, minced
3/4 cup of chicken broth (I used homemade chicken stock)
1 tablespoon of butter (use a low fat or margarine if you want this to be South Beach Phase 1 friendly)
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped cilantro
olive oil

1. If there is a thin layer of fat along the sides of the chops make a slice through the fat (in a couple of places) from the top of the chop to the bottom in order to keep the chop from buckling. Place the pork chops on a wire rack, salt the top side of the pork chops, and let them stand at room temperature for 30 - 45 minutes.

2. Pat them dry and sprinkle both sides with pepper.

3. Keep the pork chops on the wire rack and place the wire rack on a roasting pan. Place the pork chops in a 275 degree oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is 120 degrees.

4. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan until shimmering (you can pan sear the pork chops in 2 batches if necessary).

5. Sear the pork chops 2 minutes on each side to create some flavorful browning.

6. You can also sear the sides for a minute or two.

7. Set the chops aside covering them with foil to keep warm.

8. Pour off some of the olive oil keeping enough for the onions. Add the onions to the pan and stir frequently for 2 minutes.

9. Add the chicken broth to the pan, turn up the heat and scrap up any brown bits incorporating that flavor into the broth.

10. Simmer the pan sauce until it is reduced by about 1/3. Add butter to the sauce.

11. Add cilantro to the sauce.

12. Pour the sauce into a small bowl.  Add the chops back to the pan and pour the sauce over the chops.

13. These chops go well with a side of refried beans.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Keftedes (Greek Meatballs)

I originally posted posted this on March 24, 2009. Since then I have made this recipe at least a dozen times. These Greek Meatballs are a family favorite because of the unique spice combination of dill and cumin. Therefore, I thought updated pictures were in order. As I mentioned in the previous post, I visited Greek Town in Detroit, Michigan several times throughout my "youth."  I probably tasted lamb for the first time in my life at one of the  Greek restaurants in Detroit.  Because of my love for Greek food, I purchased a cook book called The Book of Greek Cooking by Lesley Mackley (HPBooks, 1993).  The recipe from this book that has become a family favorite - Keftedes a.k.a Greek Meatballs.

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Keftedes (my version - adapted from The Book of Greek Cooking)
1 lb of lean ground beef
1/3 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon of dried dill
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 egg
Salt and Pepper
Flour for dusting
Olive oil for pan

1) Soak the bread crumbs in milk (normally I use whole wheat panko to make it South Beach Phase 2 friendly, but I was out at the time of this picture).

2) In a bowl add ground beef, dill, cumin, egg, salt and pepper with the bread crumb and milk mixture.

3) Mix well by hand and form into one large ball.

4) Divide the large meatball in half, those halves in halve and continue until you have 16 meatballs.

5) Roll each meatball between the palms of your hands then flatten. Dredge in flour.  Repeat with all 16 pieces.

6) Heat oil over medium heat, and place the meatballs in the frying pan cooking for 5 minutes or until brown.  Flip the meatballs over cover with a lid and cook five more minutes.  (Make sure the pan still has some oil, if it does not add a couple of tablespoons of water).  Serve with a mixed green salad and tzatziki.

I tried to make homemade pita bread to go with this meal but the pita didn't puff.  They still tasted good but I'm not going to post anything about the pita...next time I'll try the pita bread recipe from Smitten Kitchen.


This post was originally published on March 22, 2009. Fast forward to March 17, 2014 and this is what I made with dinner tonight. Weird. I wonder if my food cravings are seasonal. I was in the mood for greek food and I thought it was time to update the pictures on the original post. There are a boat load of recipes for tzatziki, I know.  I have been on a quest for the recipe of "my youth."  I grew up in the Metro-Detroit area and had many dinners in Greek Town.  Oh, the memories - fresh warm pita, tzatziki, moussaka, pastitsio, and gyros. Sigh.  I want to find the best recipes for all these recipes, but tzatziki is the start of the quest.  The tzatziki that I remember was simple yet loaded with garlic.  Many of the recipes that I run across call for mint or other spices and I just don't remember that being a part of the tzatziki that I have come to love.  Here is my work in progress for tzatziki.

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1/2 English cucumber, seeded, grated
1 (17.6 oz) container of greek yogurt (I used Fage -- sold at Trader Joe's)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, pressed

1) Cut one half of an English cucumber in half lengthwise.  Use a teaspoon to scrape out the seeds and grate.  Put grated cucumber in a small strainer, sprinkle with salt and let drain over a bowl in the fridge for a couple hours. Squeeze the cucumber dry with a paper towel. These steps help keep the sauce thick.

2) Squeeze in the garlic using a garlic press.

3) Add yogurt and lemon juice and stir.

4) Chill the tzatziki for 1 hour before serving.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Tale of Two Pot Roasts - Low and Slow in the Oven

This is a tale of two pot roasts in two distinct ways. Here is the first way.

I am thrilled that I have actually made a successful pot roast thanks to Pioneer Woman's "Perfect Pot Roast" as opposed to my previous pot roast failure. When I made a successful pot roast Ree Drummond's way my husband made at least two comments about how much he loved it which was highly unusual for pot roast. Wahoo. Thanks Ree! Now that I had a successful pot roast under my belt I decided to make it for our church's pot luck.  I knew one pot roast wouldn't be enough. I decided to make two but I didn't have two identical pots.

Here is the tale of two pot roasts in the second sense.  I decided to take this opportunity to experiment. I made one pot roast in a stainless steal pot and the other in an enameled cast iron pot to see if I could see or taste a difference.

I have never really had a successful pot roast story until now.

Pot Roast - Low and Slow in the Oven
(Slightly adapted from Pioneer Women's "Perfect Pot Roast")

This is a recipe for 1 pot roast - I doubled it for my experiment
1 (3-5) lb. pot roast
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 dozen baby carrots
1 onion, halved and cut in thirds root to stem
3 - 4 cups of beef broth, homemade beef stock, or a combination (I use a combination)
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 bay leaf
2 - 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 - 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
cornstarch, optional

1. Pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees. Set your pot roast out on the counter and pat dry with a paper towel.

2. Get all the other ingredients in place.

3. Cut onion in half and then in thirds from root to stem.

4. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil or just enough to slightly coat the entire bottom of a dutch oven over medium-high heat.

5. Add onions on a cut side down. After a minute or two use tongs to flip to the other cut side. After another minute or two toss the pan and let sear for another minute or two. When you have a good amount of light browning remove the onions from the pot and set aside. Both pots caramelized the onions equally well.

6. Add a dash more olive oil if it looks reduced. Add carrots and toss every two minutes for six minutes. Remove the onions with tongs and keep to the side with the onions. The enameled cast iron pot did a slightly better job of browning the onions.

7. Add a dash more olive oil if it looks reduced, just enough to have the entire bottom of the pot slightly covered in oil. Generously salt and pepper both sides of the roasts. Sear front for two minutes, back for two minutes, and each side for a minute each.

8. Set browned pot roast aside.

9. All that browning of the onions, carrots, and meat equals flavors. The browning left on the bottom of the pot is flavor that we need to keep. Add 1 cup of beef broth or stock to the pot, as it heats up work on scraping the brown bits and work it into the broth. Let the broth reduce by half.

10. Add a cup of beef stock if you have it for a more complex sauce. If you don't have homemade stock skip this step and add more broth later. I'm only adding the stock at this point to melt it from a gelatin to a liquid state.

11. Place the browned pot roast in the center of the pot. Surround the roast with the browned carrots and onions. Decorate the roast with garlic, bay leaf, thyme sprigs and rosemary sprigs. Add more beef broth if necessary so that liquid comes half way up the side of the roasts.

12. Place the covered roast into the oven for 3 hours. Don't open the oven. Do not peek until 3 hours have gone by.

13. Remove the pot roast from the oven and do the "pull apart test" with a fork. If the meat pulls away easily with a fork it's done.

14. If the roast is pull apart tender pull apart bite sized pieces away from any fat or gristle. It was at this point I noticed a big difference in the roasts. The roast in the cast enameled pot was significantly more tender than the one in the stainless steel pot. I actually ended up cooking the one in the stainless steel pot for an additional 45 minutes and it still wasn't as tender as the one in the cast enameled pot. The fat and bones are on the left and the pot roast pieces are on the right.

Note: you can serve it as is with the roasted vegetables and a little au jus spooned over (my favorite). Or, you could also serve the pot roast, veggies and au jus over mashed potatoes, noodles, polenta, or smashed cauliflower potatoes. YUM!

Here is another optional serving method. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I was serving the pot roast for our church pot luck. For these church pot lucks I try to bring my dish in a crock pot because it's easier to find an outlet than to try to find room for a dish to keep warm in an oven. I knew the pot roast would do better in a crock pot with a gravy. If you would like the pot roast and vegetables in a a gravy you can do the following.

15. Pour the cooking liquid into a fat separator.

16. Pour the cooking liquid without the fat back into the pot and bring to a simmer.

17. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch for each cup of liquid. Wait. Don't add the cornstarch directly into the broth. Create a slurry with some water before you add it to the broth.  Add the slurry to the broth to create a gravy. Adjust the seasoning adding more salt and pepper to taste.

18. Return the pot roast and vegetables back to the pot.

19. To serve the pot roast at the church pot luck I poured the pot roast, vegetables, and gravy into a crock pot. I placed the covered crock pot in the refrigerator over night (without the heating element) until the next day when I could heat it up at church. I made "Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes" to go with this "Pot Roast - Low and Slow in the Oven.

P.S. I didn't have any left overs.


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