Pork Chops and Cranberry Apple Relish

Yum, this was a really really good meal!! I have no recollection how I made it!! Not a clue!! I remember having about a 1/2 pint of cranberries, a granny smith apple, an onion, some rosemary, some garlic…

Hey, what’s that on the far right? Oh, a glass of wine. Half empty. Hmmm… apparently, in a wine-induced haze, I invented this fabulous relish and, in an ironic swing of Karma’s cruel scythe, I forgot how I made it! (End scene and curtsy)

Luckily, I think I can piece together the recipe using this photo as my most critical (and only) trace of remaining evidence that I ever made this relish at all. Except that I recall how good it was on top of a really juicy pork chop. OH PLEASE, hold your applause till the end. Really!

Another thing I remember (only because I’m looking at a Cook’s Illustrated recipe as I type this), is that I cooked the pork chops differently than I usually do, and they came out exceptionally tender and moist, which is something that has always eluded me with pork chops and is why I rarely make them. Well, no more I say!

Cook’s Illustrated tells you to sprinkle the chops with kosher salt and let them sit for 45 minutes before putting them in a warm oven for another 45. After that, you sear them (on high heat) on the stove top till they get a nice brown crust. The salt pulls out the juices from the chop and then they redistribute when the chop returns to the oven. (Chemistry is suddenly so interesting now, isn’t it?)

Okay, back to the relish. I’ve pieced together what I remember below. So, just be creative, try my formula, and add something if you think it needs it. How’s that for vague?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Cranberry Apple Relish (Pork Chops from Cook’s Illustrated; Cranberry Apple Relish the result of a wine-induced moment of creative genius!)

Pork Chops

4 bone-in rib loin pork chops, 1 1/2 inches thick

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 275 degrees. Pat chops dry with paper towels. Using sharp knife, cut 2 slits, about 2 inches apart, through outer layer of fat and silver skin. Sprinkle entire surface of each chop with 1 teaspoon salt. Place chops on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and let stand at room temperature 45 minutes.

Season chops liberally with pepper; transfer baking sheet to oven. Cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into centers of chops and away from bones registers 120-125 degrees, 30-45 minutes.

Heat 1 Tablespoon oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking. Place 2 chops in skillet and sear until well browned and crusty, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes, lifting once halfway through to redistrubute fat underneath each chop. (Reduce heat if browned bits in pan bottom start to burn.) Using tongs, turn chops and cook until well browned on second side, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer chops to plate and repeat with remaining 2 chops, adding extra Tablespoon oil if necessary.

Reduce heat to medium. Use tongs to stand 2 pork chops on their sides. holding chops together with tongs, return to skillet and sear sides of chops (with exception of bone side) until browned and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chop and away from bone registers 140 to 145 degrees, about 1 1/2 minutes. Repeat with remainig 2 chops. Let chops rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes while preparing sauce.

Cranberry Apple Relish

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/2 an onion, chopped

1/2 pint of whole, fresh cranberries (not dried)

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

about 1/4 cup of sugar (you can add more later if you like it sweeter)

1 granny smith apple, peeled and sliced (or chopped)

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon butter

Sautee onion in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add cranberries and garlic; sautee until garlic is fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add sugar (maybe a 1/4 cup?) let the cranberries simmer and “pop” for about 5 minutes. Added granny smith apple and about 1/2 a tablespoon of rosemary and let cook for about 5 more minutes, or until apple is soft; season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat at add about a Tablespoon of butter.

I served this with some garlic/herb pearl (or Israeli) cous cous, which I highly recommend.

The Best Blueberry Scones

I’m not certain whose fault the modern scone is. Should we blame the British for inventing this dry lump of heavy, overly sweet, doughy ickiness? Or did Americans take what once was a delicious sweet biscuit and turn it into a sugary hockey puck? Whoever’s at fault, this recipe will forever change your notions about scones. These scones are flaky, buttery, and not at all heavy. This recipe, which is from Cooks Illustrated, is so wonderful, I will wake up on a weekend morning and spend the first hour of it making these. Glenn and I, who are absolutely ravenous by the time they are ready, are perfectly willing to wait for them. They are that good. 

This recipe calls for grating the butter and then mixing it into the dry ingredients. I know, it seems like overkill, but please trust me. The butter is so perfectly distributed this way, and it ends up leaving little pockets of buttery goodness throughout the scone, which is just, well, hard to describe in words.

Then you roll out the dough like this… 

…fold it like a letter, like this… 

…and fold the edges in like this (using a pastry scraper makes this task a ton easier)

After letting it sit in the freezer for five minutes (allowing the dough to firm so it is easier to work with), roll it out once more, add the blueberries on top, and then roll it up like a sleeping bag. Awww, it’s cute.

Then, cut the log (log?) into four parts and cut those four parts diagonally. Put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush some butter (yes, more butter) on top, and sprinkle (generously) with sugar. If you don’t want to wait that long (or if you’d like to spend your Sunday morning doing something else), just mix together the dry ingredients the night before. It goes much faster that way. And yes, I know blueberries aren’t in season right now, but I cannot go a whole year waiting for blueberries to come back–and I happened to have some frozen from the summer. Yay me!
Tell your family to relax, have another cup of coffee, blame the British for their bad scones, and hang on for a little while. These are worth it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scones Cooling

The Best Blueberry Scones 

(adapted from Cooks Illustrated

10 Tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) butter, chilled 

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries 

1/2 cup whole milk (I usually don’t have whole milk in my refrigerator, so I combine 1/4 cup half and half and 1/4 cup skim) 

1/2 cup whole milk yogurt (I use Fage Greek Yogurt) 

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for work surface 

1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling 

2 teaspoons baking powder 

1/4 teaspoon baking soda 

1/2 heaping teaspoon salt 

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. 

Grate one stick of butter using the large holes of a box grater (the faster you can do this, the less messy it will be). Put the bowl o’ grated butter in the freezer. 

Whisk together milk and yogurt in medium bowl; refrigerate until needed. Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Add frozen butter to mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated. 

Add milk mixture to flour mixture; fold with spatula until just combined. With rubber spatula, transfer dough to liberally floured work surface. Dust surface of dough with flour; with floured hands, knead dough 6-8 times, until in just holds together in ragged ball, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking. 

Roll dough into approximate 12-inch square. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter, using bench scraper or metal spatula to release dough if it sticks to countertop. Lift short ends of dough and fold into thirds again to form approximate 4-inch square. Transfer dough to plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in freezer for 5 minutes. 

Transfer dough to floured work surface and roll into approximate 12-inch square again. Sprinkle blueberries evenly over surface of dough, then press down so they are slighly embedded in dough. Using bench scraper or thin metal spatula, loosen dough from work surface. Roll dough, pressing to form tight log. Lay seam-side down and press log into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. 

Brush tops with the remaining butter (melted) and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18-25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before serving (or until you can’t wait any longer, which is usually about 30 seconds for me).

Warm Mushroom Salad

Let’s say–hypothetically–that you ate too much over the Thanksgiving holiday. Perhaps you went a little nuts and did something that I’m pretty sure it says somewhere in Leviticus that you’re not supposed to do: you wrapped your poor ol’ turkey in bacon. As if the candied sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and 17 glasses of wine weren’t enough, you had to go and add pork fat. 

And let’s just say–hypothetically again of course–that when you returned to the office after your gluttonous Thanksgiving holiday (during which you unrepentingly consumed one whole bacon-wrapped turkey), you discovered said office to be completely devoid of office furniture, computers, telephones, or even filing cabinets.

 

(Don’t worry folks, it’s being renovated)

Assuming all of these things happened–and I’m not saying they did or they didn’t–you might want to have something light and easy-to-cook tonight for dinner. My vote is for a warm mushroom salad, courtesy of one Ina Garten, who has never to my knowledge ever put out a bad recipe. If you made an Ina recipe and it turned out bad, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it was probably your fault.

The great thing about this recipe is, though it is a salad, it’s great for wintertime. The mushrooms and the mushroom “broth” with sherry or red wine vinegar make this salad seem like anything but. Plus, the proscuitto makes that person in your family who *must* have meat at every meal (you know who you are) happy and delighted that when you said you were going to make a salad for dinner (audible groan) they were pleasantly surprised when you put this on the table!  

Though Ina calls for sundried tomatoes in this recipe (and I usually do use them when I make it), I could not find them anywhere in my newly-reorganized Publix grocery store (why must everything change when you go on Thanksgiving holiday!?). I thought the peppers were excellent and fully interchangeable with the tomatoes. The only difference is that I cooked them with the mushrooms to heat them up a bit.

 Also, Ina tells you to “cover each portion” of the arugula with proscuitto slices. Well, I just don’t feel like sitting down to a salad and having to cut my way through it…so I shred the meat with my fingers first. Lazy? No, I prefer industrious. There you have it: the answer to a holiday meal gone over the top and an unusable office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warm Mushroom Salad (adapted from Ina Garten’s Warm Mushroom Salad from Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home)

Serves 2 dinner-sized portions

1 pound cremini mushrooms (or whatever mushrooms you have–I had baby portabellas)

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

4 Tablespoons good olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon kosher salt (you may want to reduce this a little because the proscuitto is very salty)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 bunches of fresh arugula, washed and spun dry (yay, you get to use your salad spinner! Awesome!!)

6 slices good Italian proscuitto

2 Tablespoons red or sherry wine vinegar

chunk of parmesean cheese

4 roasted red peppers, roughly chopped

Clean the mushrooms by brushing tops with a clean sponge. Remove and discard the stems and slice the caps 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

In a large saute pan, heat the butter and 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil until bubbly. Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper to the pan, and saute for 3 minutes over medium heat, tossing frequently. Reduce the heat to low and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes, until cooked through. During the last 2 minutes of cooking, add the peppers.

Meanwhile, arrange the arugula on 2 plates and cover each with proscuitto (shred with fingers into bite-sized pieces). When the mushrooms and peppers are cooked, add the sherry/red wine vinegar and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil to the hot pan. Spoon the mushrooms and sauce on top of the proscuitto. With a vegetable peeler, make large shavings of Parmesean cheese and place on top of the hot mushrooms.  

Food Studio B–BEST FOOD EVER

Hey all! I’m taking a break from the blog till after Thanksgiving. I’ll return with some delicious pics of my holiday in Destin, Florida where we still cook turkey but nobody really cares how it comes out. I love that. Anyway, in the meantime, you should take a break from cooking too and, if you live in the Birmingham area, order up most or all of your Thanksgiving dinner from Food Studio B. I have had Sean Butler’s food, and I will tell you it is UN-MATCHED. Do yourself a favor and don’t lift a finger next week. Let Sean do the work for you…I promise you that you will not be disappointed, and no one will yell at you because you burned the beans or the turkey was dry.

Food Studio B Holiday Menu

Please order by November 22 (that’s Sunday).

Call 205-981-8002 or 205-965-3682 or email foodstudiob@yahoo.com

And Happy Thanksgiving!

Apple Streusel Muffins

Apple Streusel Muffins CoolingA friend of mine told me she made apple streusel muffins and won a prize at her local fair. She posted a photograph on Facebook of a beautiful plump muffin covered with sweet streusel topping next to a blue ribbon. I kept thinking about that muffin. Oh yes, it entered my consciousness and made me think of nothing else. I dreamt that the muffin and I ran off together and got married. I kept thinking I’d get the recipe from her, but I never got a chance to ask her was too lazy. Then, one morning, I woke up and HAD TO HAVE THEM. I had apples, I had flour, I had sugar and butter, but I did not have the recipe. Desperate, I looked up any ol’ apple streusel muffin recipe I could find–and came up with an Emeril Lagasse recipe from the Food Network. I made it. It was fine. It was nothing special really. It wasn’t a recipe I’d take home to meet my mom.

Apple Losing SkinThen, this morning I woke up again–apples in the fridge–and had a major, bigtime craving for these babies. Now, I had the recipe, but did not have the correct ingredients. At 7:00 in the morning, I wasn’t about to go to the grocery store. So, deciding I didn’t want to use the Emeril recipe again, I morphed several recipes into a new creation, and here’s what I came up with. Now, this may not win me a blue ribbon at the local fair, but it was quite lovely for a fall Saturday morning and, yes, I would take it home to my mom (cause she’d scarf it down just like me!).  

Apple without Skin

I used gala apples, which are very sweet and stand up well this recipe. Also, I added some shredded coconut. I have gotten into a habit of adding coconut to a lot of my muffin recipes. I don’t know why, but I really love the extra texture and sweetness. And I guess I’m just out of my mind cRaZY and will apparently do just about anything!

Apple Streusel Muffins in BowlAlso, a lot of recipes say to shred the apple. But why? Why would you do that? It makes no sense to me why you wouldn’t want some nice apple chunks in there. I mean, they can’t be too large so that the muffin wouldn’t hold together, but a small, even dice should do. Do not settle for an inferior muffin when you can wait for the muffin of your dreams!

Apple Streusel Muffins Ready to Bake

So, here you have it. It is my soul muffin, and it may be yours as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple Streusel MuffinsApple Streusel Muffin and Coffee

1 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 large egg

2 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 apple, diced

1/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 medium muffin cups.

Prepare streusel topping; set aside

Whisk milk, oil, vanilla and egg in large bowl. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt all at once just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Fold in apples and coconut. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle each with about 2 Tablespoons of topping.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pan to wire rack.

Steusel Topping

2 Tablespoons chilled butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Cut butter into flour, brown sugar and cinnamon using pastry blender or crisscrossing two knives until crumbly.