Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pan Seared Pork Chops

I had a blog post written about hollandaise sauce until I made dinner last night. Then things changed. As I have written before, I make pork chops on a frequent basis because of their ease and consistency in the taste category, but I do not usually venture outside of that recipe. However, in this month's Cooks Illustrated, there is a curious recipe about pan seared pork chops that intrigued me. Intrigue turned out to be a great thing, because these chops were better than Lost last night (and that's saying something).

The key with these chops is the salting. I have spoken before on brining meat, and pork is probably the biggest in need of a good salt water soak. But if you try this with a pan seared chop, the meat does not really develop a crust. So instead it was suggested to salt the meat, leave it sitting on a rack for about an hour, baking it shortly, and then finishing the pork in a hot pan which also yields a pan sauce. Too many steps says you? Suck it up, say I. You can make this dish (and sides) pretty easily as most of the steps involve the meat lying prone on a rack or in an oven.

I altered the recipe very little, because frankly there is no need to. Since I am trying to eat butter in moderation at the moment, instead of using 3T of butter in the pan sauce, I used 1T and instead saved a few tablespoons of the chicken broth and mixed them with 1t cornstarch. I am listing this method in the recipe, but if you would rather the butter, scratch the cornstarch and reduce the sauce a bit further before adding the butter.

Pan Seared Pork Chops

4 1 ½ inch thick pork loin chops (bone in or bone out)
1T vegetable oil


1 shallot minced (or ¼ cup finely minced onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 t chopped fresh thyme (or ¼ t dry chopped)
½ cup white wine
¾ cup chicken stock
¼ t white wine or rice wine vinegar
1 T cold butter
1 t cornstarch

Pat chops dry with paper towel. Salt each chop all over with 1 t kosher salt (or ½ t table salt). Place on wire rack over a baking sheet and leave at room temperature for 45 minutes (no less!). Heat oven to 275°F. Season chops with pepper and place in oven to bake, 35-40 minutes or until the middle of the chops reads 120°F on an instant read thermometer. Remove from oven.

Heat 1 T vegetable oil in large skillet over medium high heat until almost smoking. Place 2 chops in pan and sear on each side until browned, about 2 minutes each side. You might have to lift chops once to redistribute oil and prevent burning. Remove chops to plate and repeat with other 2 chops. Reduce pan heat to medium low. Using your tongs (see the picture), sear the chops on their ends until golden brown and the interior of the chops is 140-145°F. Place on plate, cover with foil, and let rest for about 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

Drain off all but 1 t of remaining oil. Return heat to medium. Add shallot and garlic, stirring often until softened, about 1 minute. Reserving 3T chicken stock, add the stock and wine to the pan to deglaze, scraping up any bits on the bottom. Cook until reduced to about ¾ cup remains, abut 5 minutes. Mix corn starch and chicken stock and add to pan. Stir until thickened. If too thin, reduce sauce slightly, and if too thick add a few more tablespoons chicken stock. Turn off heat and add thyme and vinegar. Stir in butter, season with salt and pepper. Serve with chops.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

El Meson

I'm a huge sucker for Mexican food (surprise). Being from Arizona, I am also extremely spoiled. There are more good Mexican restaurants in every town or city than grocery stores. Not doubt.

So I have been somewhat underwhelemed since relocating to the Midwest. Sure, Taco Rico ( is good, and was my go to place for somewhat authentic cuisine. But it is sometimes hit or miss, and I like consistency. I also like good salsa. And they lack there.

So now we have a new Mexican joint called El Meson (it means big table). Located in the old Burger King/ fish place/ other random restaurants on 52, this place will hopefully be its last tenant and stay there forever. I love it. First off, you can get a darn good lunch for 5 bucks or under. Second, their menu is huge (as all Mexican menus should be) and the food is fantastic. Third, the d├ęcor is so loud and colorful it reminds me of actually being in Mexico (I honestly do not understand the American obsession with brown right now, what is wrong with teal and orange?)

The first time I dined there, it was with a large group of coworkers. The service was good, the chips were warm, and the salsa (which is like mine so I'm biased) was fantastic. Making your own salsa in a Mexican restaurant really goes a long way and is akin to a nice steakhouse making their own bread. As far as the food goes, I have never been disappointed. They usually have a lunch burrito for $5 as well as a really good lunch menu. The fajitas can feed two and their enchiladas are quite good (you can get a plate with bean, chicken, beef, and cheese). It is hands down my favorite Mexican food in the city.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuna Puttanesca

I have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with Rachel Ray. When she was Ms. Sunshine-yelling-face, I was not a fan. When she toned it down and stopped using so many damn acronyms and quips, I was a fan. When she told me to roast my pork tenderloin until it tasted like shoe leather, I was not a fan. But when she brought tuna puttanesca to my table, I sat up and listened. And I am happy to say that we are on good terms again.

Let's be honest, what else do you use canned tuna for other than slathering it with mayo and sticking it between bread? Slathering it in mayo and stuffing it in an avocado (which is very, very delicious). Seeing a common theme? Well, thankfully Rachel has provided me with a delicious pasta dish that everyone should try at least once. You can make the sauce in the time it takes to cook the pasta (for some quips on that see here)

Tuna Puttenesca

1 pound penne pasta

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cans (about 5.5 to 6 ounces each) tuna in water, drained well

6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

A generous handful black olives (kalamata work well), pitted and chopped

3 tablespoons capers, drained

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 (28-ounce) diced tomatoes

1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons lemon zest

Fresh ground black pepper


Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring up to a boil. Salt the water and cook penne to al dente.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet with about 2T extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, cook a minute or 2, then add tuna and break it up with your spoon. Add olives and capers, cook a minute or 2 more, then add white wine; stir and cook down a minute. Stir in diced tomatoes and juice. Add parsley, zest and black pepper, then simmer the sauce a couple of minutes more.

Add a couple of ladles of starchy pasta-cooking water to the sauce. Reduce slightly until just barely thickened. Drain pasta, add to the skillet and toss to coat.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Years Revelations Part II: Chicken Pot Pie

Previously on Boilermaker Kitchen. Chicken Three Ways was quite a success for both me and my kitchen methods, yet the pot pie was by far the most complicated (and heavy) of the dishes. So I was looking for a dish that is hearty, comforting, and somewhat healthy.

The following dish takes place between work time and dinner time.

No crazy tricks with this recipe. It's more or less ripped straight from my new favorite practical cookbook, "The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook". It's easy, fun to make, delicious, and it only has 380 calories per serving. I am so there. The only thing I forgot was to take some pictures (smack), but I imagine this dish will be making the rounds again in the near future, so expect an update to this update. This recipe is slightly modified to work easier as well as serve 4 people.

Chicken Pot Pie


3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 rib celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t dried thyme (or 1 t fresh)
1 t vegetable oil
1/8 c dry sherry
2 C low sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/8 C cornstarch
1/8 C half and half
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 T minced fresh parsley


2 C flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
2 T butter, melted and cooled
1/3 C buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large pot or dutch oven add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, thyme, oil, and ~1/2 t salt. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 12 minutes (this is a great way to cook vegetables with less oil). Once soft, stir in sherry, broth and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Nestle the chicken breasts into the broth, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook the chicken until done (160°F), about 10-12 minutes. You will probably need to flip the chicken half way through.

Transfer chicken to a plate to cool. Return sauce to a simmer. Whisk cornstarch and half and half together and add to sauce, stirring until thickened, about 1 minute. If you find the sauce not thick enough, add 1T cornstarch to 2T water and add that. Once thick, remove from heat, remove bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Shred chicken and add to sauce. Pour the sauce into 4 ramekins or an 8x8 inch baking dish.

For the biscuits, whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl to combine. In a separate bowl combine the melted butter and buttermilk. Stir into the flour mixture until just combined and wet. If still dry add a bit more buttermilk. Divide dough into four parts and place over filling, spreading the dough out slightly. Bake until biscuits are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.


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