A pork chop is as good an any steak if it’s prepared correctly. So here’s how to prepare a perfect pork chop.
Bring the chop to room temperature. Score the edges so the fat renders when it cooks. Blot dry and season with salt and black pepper. Heat a little oil in a pan and holding the chop with tongs and sear all the edges with the heat on high.
Then as one side browns add 2 pats of butter and some more oil. When the butter melts, tilt the pan and spoon it over the meat. Make sure that the hot pork fat, olive oil and butter sears every crevice. Do the same on the other side.
It’s a thick chop so give it another 3-5 minutes on each side on medium heat.
Remove the chop and let it rest. Pour out most of the fat from the pan add some oil, 2 pats of butter, the vermouth and currant jelly. Deglaze the pan, whisk the sauce and pour over the chop.
My friend Joe gave me two recipes, one for sausage and peppers and the other for gnocchi, that he found in the Wall Street Journal of all places. When I hear Wall Street Journal I think of finance, markets and banking, not Italian recipes. I tried them and they were both very good.
Sausage and Peppers
You can make sausage and peppers by simply frying some sausage and peppers. But a little extra effort can make it something special. In this version by Chef Mashama Bailey of the Grey, in Savannah, the key ingredient is the vinegar. It really brightens up the flavor. I adjusted her recipe down a bit from four lbs. of sausage to one.
Cook sausages until browned on all sides. Remove them and set aside. In the same pot, add peppers, onions and garlic. Sauté until vegetables soften, about 15 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes and vinegar. Return sausages to pot and stir gently to coat. Simmer until tomatoes reduce, adding splashes of water if pot looks dry.
Until I saw this recipe from Gail Monaghan, gnocchi were round, made with potatoes and boiled. Here they’re square, made with semolina and baked in the Roman style. The finished product reminded me of polenta. You can serve these with different kinds of sauce. We used a simple marinara.
Bring milk and nutmeg to a simmer. Off heat, whisk in semolina. Cook over low heat, stirring, until mass pulls away from pan, 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in 8 tablespoons butter, 1 cup cheese and yolks. Season with salt and pepper. Pour hot semolina mixture onto a foil-lined, buttered sheet pan. Use an offset spatula to spread mixture into an even rectangle ½ -inch to 1-inch thick. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 degrees with rack in the highest position. Use a sharp knife or pizza wheel to cut semolina into 2-inch squares.
Set gnocchi ½-inch apart on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Dot with remaining butter and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake until golden, 15 minutes. (a minute or two under the broiler at the finish isn’t a bad idea)
Here I go again with another obscure brand of soda (4/3/18Manhattan Special). Cheerwine is obscure only if you’re not from the South and particularly it’s home state, North Carolina where it’s very popular. It’s an excellent wild cherry soda that’s been around since 1917.
It’s tasty, sweet, bubbly and not alcoholic although it makes a great mixer. Every so often I have a case mailed to me. With shipping it comes to about $2.50 per bottle and worth every penny. It’s taste reminds me of the fountain cherry sodas you used to be able to get in candy stores and ice cream parlors. It’s perfect straight from the bottle or on ice but you can be creative and make some interesting cocktails with it.
Cheerwine Old Fashioned
Add Bourbon, Angostura and Cointreau to a rocks glass. Add Ice and stir. Top Cheerwine and garnish with an orange slice.
Combine rum and lime juice in a shaker. Add ice and shake. Pour into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Top with Cheerwine and garnish with lime.
Cheerwine Bourbon Cocktail
Fill a shaker with bourbon, vanilla extract and lime juice. Shake with ice, pour into a rocks glass and top off with Cheerwine. Garnish with lime slice.
Pour Applejack, Campari and vermouth over ice in a Collins glass. Top with Cheerwine and garnish with orange peel.
A while back my daughter Kristina gave me a frying pan. It wasn’t just any frying pan, this one was hand crafted by a friend of hers, Marsha Trattner. Masha is a metal worker of the first order. She’s a welder and blacksmith making both functional and artistic items. Her site – She-Weld
Bridget and I recently went to one of Marsha’s forging classes. We started small, making some simple hooks to get a feel for the forge and tools.
Then we started on the main project – making a knife out of a rail road spike. Wei was our instructor and a natural blacksmith. He thoroughly explained every step and checked-in on us often to see how we were doing.
The basic idea is to heat the metal to make it malleable and then hammer it to draw it out and shape it. Sounds simple but it takes a hell of a lot of hammering, enough to leave me with a sore arm the next day.
After the forging the next step is fine tuning. That’s the grinding. You start with the blackened piece of metal that was once a railroad spike and finish with a shinny and sharp knife.
A simple recipe – add a salad and it’s a whole meal.
Pre-heat the oven to 450o. Place the cut potatoes in a bowl, add salt and pepper and enough oil to coat.
Mash and mix butter, mustard and oregano in a bowl. Season room temperature chicken with salt and pepper. Smear the butter mixture over the skin side of the thighs. Press the chicken pieces into the breadcrumbs so they stick to it.
In a lightly oiled baking pan, layer the potatoes and onions and then the chicken skin side up on top. If any of the butter mix is left, add it to the pan.
Bake in 350o oven for 35 -40 minutes or until thermometer inserted in to chicken reads 160o. Heat broiler and broil chicken about 2 or 3 minutes or until golden brown.
Most of you probably never heard of it but Manhattan Special is a espresso flavored soda. It’s not sold all over and is typically only available in Italian delis and grocery stores although lately it’s been turning up in some high end food stores. They’ve been in business for a long time (1896) and I remember drinking it when I was a kid in Manhattan’s Little Italy. It tastes like the best iced coffee you’ve ever had – only made from espresso and with a fizz. When we were kids we’d sometimes have it with a splash of milk, the way you would drink iced coffee.
A while back I found a vintage Manhattan Special bottle, empty of course. It didn’t hold much, just 6 ounces and it has their old Brooklyn telephone number on it with an “Evergreen” exchange. What I liked most about the old bottles is that instead of paper, the label is painted on. Spaces are left blank so that the man and woman are outlined in black (the color of the soda) and when the bottle was empty those spaces became transparent.
My family got together for dinner on Palm Sunday. It’s a special holiday for some Italians, each family with their own traditional menu. Some of the things we serve on Palm Sunday we might only have once a year.
Dinner starts with a non-typical antipasto – Baccala Salad and Pizza Rustica.
This is my version of a recipe that I found in Bon Appetit. It’s easy and tastes like you put a lot more effort into it than you did. The caramelized lemons are a nice touch.
Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium-high. Cook chicken, until golden brown on both sides. Transfer chicken to a plate, leaving drippings behind.
Add onion to pot and cook, stirring often, until softened. Stir in tomato paste and cook for few minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring often until onion begins to brown around the edges, about 3 minutes.
Add tomatoes and return chicken to pot. Pour in broth (it should barely cover chicken) and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and gently simmeruntil chicken is tender and juices thicken, 70–80 minutes.
Trim the top and bottom from lemon, perch on a flat end, and cut lengthwise into quarters; remove seeds. Thinly slice quarters crosswise into quarter-moons. Place in a medium skillet, pour in water to cover, and bring to a boil. Cook 3 minutes, then drain and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer to a small bowl; sprinkle with sugar and toss to coat.
Wipe out skillet and heat oil over medium-high. Arrange lemon pieces in a single layer in skillet. Cook, turning halfway through, until deeply browned in most spots, about 3 minutes. Transfer back to bowl and season with salt. Stir lemon pieces into stew just before serving. Serve with Italian or French bread.