Sunday, November 25, 2012

Beer and Pretzel Pork Chops

What do most men happily dream about? What do they crave? Now come on...not THAT! The correct answer in this case is beer. And what do they enjoy most with their beer? Pretzels, of course...with mustard! (None of you had an inappropriate answer, did you? Tsk, tsk.)  

Now that we've established the proper answers, let's make a dish any man (or woman) will love. Oh, and how about adding pork chops into that equation?  Yeah, I didn't think you'd say no.

You know, of course, that I used gluten-free pretzels - Snyder makes a really good gf pretzel that you can find in just about any grocery storeIf gluten isn't a problem, just use whatever brand you like the best. Same with the beer...use a nice dark or a light or whatever makes you happy.  It's beer!  How can you go wrong?! 

These pork chops aren't just hearty, they're easy, too.  Only a few ingredients total up to a whole lot hell of a lot of goodness.  You just can't go wrong with pretzels and beer...and a damned good mustard. Here's the recipe:

 Beer and Pretzel Pork Chops

  • 4 pork loin chops, center cut, 3/4" thick
  • 1/2 cup beer, your fave (gluten-free to make this GF)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

  • 1/2 cup honey mustard, a good one that's more honey-looking than mustard-looking...I like French's Honey Dijon
  • 2 cups pretzel sticks, crushed relatively fine, but not into dust (gluten-free to make this GF)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1/2 cup beer, your fave (gluten-free to make this GF)

The night before, combine beer and dry mustard in a zip top bag and mix well.  Add the pork chops, squeeze out all the air and seal tightly.

Before you want to serve.  Crush the pretzels and put them in a plastic bag.  Remove the chops from the bag and dry them well.  Coat both sides of each chop liberally with honey mustard.  Put the chops into the bag with the crushed pretzels.  Coat each chop thoroughly. 

Melt butter and oil together in a large skillet.  When hot, add the chops.  Cook over medium heat until the chops are browned on the first side, turn and brown on the other.  Test for doneness before removing from pan. 

Pour 1/2 cup of the beer into the skillet and stir until the sauce thickens slightly and all the browned bits from the bottom are incorporated.

Plate the chops and pour the sauce over top.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Roasted Pumpkin, Apple & Cranberry Sangria with Dark Spiced Rum (aka Kraken)

This is what we're serving before dinner today.  Sweet, tart, with a hint of warm spices, caramel and fruit.  Perfect for Thanksgiving...or any fall or winter occasion.

After dinner?  Patron XO Cafe and Resposado Tequila Margaritas will be our evening's enjoymentRecipe for this one to come!

Roasted Pumpkin, Apple & Cranberry Sangria with Dark Spiced Rum (aka Kraken)

  • 1 pumpkin, 5-6" high fresh pie pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

  • 2 bottles white wine, pinot grigio
  • 2 apples, quartered, cored and diced LEAVE PEEL ON!
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 cup dark rum, Kraken 's my fave for this
  • 4 tablespoons crystallized ginger, sliced
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

A few days to a week before you want to serve the sangria, peel the pumpkin with a veggie peeler, cut off the top and scoop out all the seeds and stringy stuff. (Do what you want with the seeds.)

Cut the pumpkin flesh into pieces and scatter on a baking sheet.  Scatter the cranberries around the pumpkin and sprinkle 2 T. brown sugar over all.  

Roast at 325 covered for about 40 minutes.  Uncover and roast another 30 minutes.  Stir and roast until golden & soft, but not mush.  Cool.
Pour wine into one large or two smaller containers large enough to hold the wine and the rest of the ingredients.  I used 2 large plastic bottles with lids.  If using 2 containers, pour 1 bottle of wine into each container and scoop half the pumpkin and half the cranberries into each container.  Be sure to scrape half the liquid in the bottom of the pan into each bottle...don't waste the yumminess! (If you're using a large container, put everything into that.)
Add 1 cinnamon stick to each container.  Refrigerate for a few days until it's time to serve. 
The morning you're serving the sangria, strain the liquid into a large pitcher.  Separate out the roasted cranberries and add to liquid, too.  Discard the pumpkin.  

Add 2 diced apples, the rum, cloves, 2 T. dark brown sugar, 4 T. sliced crystallized ginger and the Kraken or other dark rum.  Let sit at room temp until ready to serve.  

Pour into glasses being sure to get some of the apple and cranberries in each glass.  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Orange Roasted Chicken with Fall Veggies

Sundays should be slow and easy.  And so should Sunday dinners.  In that vein, here's a simple post for a simply delicious Sunday dinner.  Enjoy!

Orange Roasted Chicken with Fall Veggies

  • a 6 pound roasting chicken, washed, dried, giblets removed - I threw them do what you wish with them

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and cubed
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • 1 large leek, cleaned carefully, dark ends removed (and reserved), root end removed and discarded, remaining piece cut into 3-4" pieces
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, fronds removed, set aside; stalks removed, set aside; remaining bulbs cut lengthwise into wedges
  • 1 orange, zested, then juiced, reserve what's left of the orange halves and cut into large pieces
  • 3 sprigs thyme, large ones

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper, lots

  • orange juice, reserved from above
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, preferably white
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350.

In the bottom of a roasting pan, scatter sweet potatoes, parsnips, leeks, garlic and fennel wedges

Mix the rub: orange zest, 2 tablespoons minced fennel fronds, leeks, 2 springs of thyme - leaves removed and minced, 2 T. Kosher salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.  Mix well.  

Gently run your fingers between the skin and the flesh of the breast creating a pocket.  Gently (again) rub 2/3 of the rub between the skin and the flesh.  Rub the rest of the mixture all over the outside of the bird.

Mix the leek ends, remains of the orange, rest of the thyme and the rest of the fennel fronds and stalks.  Cram them into the cavity of the chicken.  Settle the prepared chicken on top of the veggies in the pan.

What a pretty chicken all ready for roasting!

Roast the chicken until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 180 degrees and the legs move loosely when wiggled. Remove from oven and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.

NOTE:  The carcass will be turned into a wild rice and fall veggie soup...the dark meat became a Shepherds Pie with a topping of half and half mashed potatoes and cauliflower.  You know how I love my leftovers!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Applejack Braised Shortribs with Butternut & Brussels Sprouts



What is it about cool, crisp weather and slow braising?  They're positively made for each other!  There just isn't anything better than having a pot of goodness simmering on the stovetop on a lazy, chilly Sunday afternoon just filling the house with a most delicious aroma...nothing better at all.
In my opinion, the bubbling liquid and resultant steam are good for your sinuses and your lungs...I bet that's part of the magic of chicken soup, too. As the steam naturally humidifies dry winter air, it help your feel all better.  It's just supposition, but one never knows...remember you heard it here first.
A pot of Applejack Braised Shortribs with Butternut and Brussels Sprouts uses lovely fall vegetables, plus apples and apple cider to accent the flavors - and colors - of the season.  Colors of orange butternut and bright green Brussels sprouts nestled next to the deep, rich brown of beautifully caramelized shortribs look just like a pot full of fall.
If only the colors of the braise would stay, but just as bright fall leaves become muted as the season comes to a close, the color of the dish fades during cooking, too. While I miss some of that lovely color when the dish is done, the flavor that remains behind is beefy and rich, sweet with apple, butternut, cider and red wine, earthy sprouts and amazing flavor!  What would you rather have...vibrant color or deep, lush flavor...mmmhhmm...that's what I thought.
The combination of butternut and Brussels sprouts in a stew or other slow-cooked dish has been working in my mind for a while now.  I was considering what to use to accent those fall flavors...pork?  Maybe chicken or turkey? Hmmmm. (I'm still working on a similar pork dish...maybe pork shanks....)
Then inspiration in the form of Cousin George struck. George mentioned on Facebook that he made Red Wine Braised Shortribs to help ride out Hurricane Sandy there in Maryland.  (He also made a pot of Dark Pot Roast Chili....quite the Renaissance man, eh?!)

I had shortribs in the freezer.  I had red wine.  He sent me the recipe, but naturally I veered off course. Somehow this seemed the appropriate time to set the squash and sprouts to work!
Thus today's recipe was born. Here it is:  

Applejack Braised Shortribs with Butternut & Brussels Sprouts

  • 2 1/2 pounds short ribs, boneless - 6 large, lean pieces (they were actually labeled as chuck shortribs)
  • 2 slices bacon, thick sliced, cut across into 1/2" pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 large red onion, sliced thin
  • 2 large garlic cloves, slivered

  • 1 large sprig of thyme, separated into smaller pieces
  • 1/2 cup Laird's Applejack
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider, you know I use the farm fresh kind from the farm market
  • 1 cup red wine

  • 1 pound butternut squash, pre-cut, pre-packaged cubes - LOVE the convenience!
  • 18 Brussels sprouts, stem ends cut off, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced large

Season the ribs with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper on all sides.  Set aside.
In large enameled cast iron Dutch oven (with a lid), saute bacon until crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and reserve.  Add butter to the bacon fat in the pot and melt. 
Raise the heat to high, add half the ribs to the pot and brown well on all sides. Remove to plate and add the rest of the meat - again brown well on all sides.  Remove to plate.
Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook for a few minutes until just beginning to soften a little bit.  Add the Applejack and stir well, getting all the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  Stir the apple cider and red wine into the liquid.

Add the meat back into the pot, nestle the thyme between the ribs and down into the liquid.  Bring to a boil, cover and immediately lower heat to simmer.  Cook for 1 1/2-2 hours until the meat is tender. 

Veggies in the pot all ready for the final simmer...and still pretty.

Add butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and apple.  Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil again and immediately lower heat to simmer.  Cover pot and continue to cook until the squash and sprouts are tender.
Serve over buttered poppyseed noodles (gluten-free to keep this GF - I really like Scharr tagliatelle) & garnish with reserved crisp bacon.

NOTE:  Poppyseed noodles: cook noodles, butter them and add a tablespoon or so of poppyseeds, salt & freshly ground pepper.  Not much of a recipe...I like those easy ones!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

An Evening of Art at Paint Monkey....And Captain Apple Rum-aritas!


Thank you Living Social!  Talk about leaving your comfort zone!  Mark and I met up with mixology class friends, Gail and Dave, for an evening that sure was different from how we'd normally spend a Saturday night.  Well, as far as the painting goes anyway.  The Paint Monkey class (yes, that's the real name of the business) was that part wasn't all that far from the norm.

(The four of us pregamed the class at Industry Public House - awesome food and cocktails...more about Industry in another post, folks.)

Heading into class, we didn't know what to expect...none of us had any real experience with a brush and a canvasWe set up our BYOB items (Gail brought horseradish cheddar, fontina & crackers along with vodka and cran, I brought Captain Apple Rum-aritas and Black Bottom Macaroon Cupcakes...we'd had an early nosh at Industry so I figured dessert would be appropriate.  

The magic about to begin....

Then over to the line of canvasses just waiting to be turned magically into our very own works of art.  Could we actually do this?  Joe Groom, Artist-in-Residence, believed we could...and coached us along the way.

Coach/Artist Joe offering helpful advice.
Armed with steely fortitude and a damned good cocktail (the proverbial "creative juice?", we set to work.  The canvas came imprinted with a light outline, we provided our own spin...some spins were a little wilder than others.

Marilyn Before - Notice the Cocktail!

As the evening progressed, so did our canvasses.  Magically, each one of our blank slates started to come to life.   

Mark feeling those creative juices

Although we each had identical paints and tools to begin with, each "artist" brought something unique to his or her own painting.  Oh...that Marilyn at the very top of today's post?  Mine. Yep, I'm proud.

After a lot of laughs and some very good-natured ribbing (and those cocktails), our creative evening slowly came to a close.  

Gail putting the finishing touches on her masterpiece!

Dave's Marilyn is perfection...but we'd expect nothing less from Dave.

Turned out there actually was a hidden Renoir, Andy Warhol or Monet in each one of us.  Who knew.  Well, what I do know is that we ended the night looking at sample canvasses on the wall, trying to decide which painting we'd do next.  Hmmmmm...Starry Night?  Georgia O'Keefe's Poppy?  That lovely Monet?  How about the Christmas Tree painting to grace the living room for the holidays?  Decisions, decisions.....

Gail overlooking the payload of "fine" art

Just in case you want to head over to Paint Monkey to create your own work of art, let me leave you with the "how to" on that Rum-arita.

Captain Apple Rum-arita

Serves 8
  • 2 1/4 cups rum, Captain Morgan or other spiced rum
  • 6 ounces Triple Sec
  • 1 cup apple butter
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup simple Sugar Syrup, cinnamon stick simple syrup
  • lime wedges

In a pitcher, mix apple cider and apple butter until smooth.  Add the rest of the ingredients (except the lime wedges, of course) and stir well.  Serve over ice garnished with a lime wedge.  Or if you need a warming drink, heat the mixture gently on the stovetop and serve in mugs.

Paint Monkey
100 43rd Street
Ste 212
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
412 770-4923 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Butternut Chipotle Chowder with Ham

Soup's on!  That was a very welcome call to dinner over the last few days.  Hurricane Sandy, a.k.a Frankenstorm, sure did create havoc out there.  For those of us fortunate enough to have power, soup was just the dish to warm both tummies and spirits. It's a good thing I had a hambone ready to rock!

This is a stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup.  Hearty with potatoes, yet with a delicate balance of sweet butternut squash and tender leeks, spicy with the gentle heat of chipotles in adobo, and smoky with ham and just hits all the right flavor and texture notes that make a great soup.

Have you peeked ahead at the recipe?  Did you notice there's no cream to thicken this chowder?  Not even a butter and flour roux?  The creamy, hearty texture comes from instant potato flakes!  Potato flakes help keep the calorie count fairly low...would you believe a big bowl of today's recipe has only 154 calories?  Not bad, huh?

Here's the recipe. Enjoy....and please stay warm and dry and safe.  

Butternut Chipotle Chowder with Ham

  • 1 ham bone, with lots of meat
  • 2 stalks celery, with tops & extra leaves, cut into large pieces
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • a handful of dried minced garlic - if you can't find it in the store, try Penzey's...I get mine at Costco.

  • 2 slices bacon, thick-sliced, cut across into 1/2" pieces
  • 2 large leeks, washed well and chopped (see washing method below)
  • 6 red potatoes, unpeeled, diced small
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and diced small
  • 2 stalks celery, small dice
  • 2 small chipotle chile canned in adobo, minced, PLUS 2 T. adobo sauce

  • 1 cup mashed potato flakes

Put the hambone, celery and leaves, onions and dried garlic into a large soup pot and just cover with water.  Bring to a boil and immediately lower heat to a simmer.  Cover the pot and let simmer 1 1/2 - 2 hours until the ham starts to fall from the bone.  Remove bone & meat to a platter and reserve.  Take all the meat from the bone and shred.  Discard the bone. 

Then, using a spider or large slotted spoon, remove veggies.  Discard veggies.

In a large skillet, saute bacon until crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels.  Reserve bacon fat.  Add the butternut squash and saute until it begins to caramelize, but not until soft.  Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the ham stock in the soup pot.  Add the leeks and celery to skillet and continue to stir and cook until soft.  Add to the soup pot.

Add the potatoes, reserved shredded ham and the chipotles & adobo sauce to pot.  Raise heat to high and bring to a boil again.  As soon as it comes to a boil, lower the heat again to low and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and the soup comes together.  

Add the instant mashed potato flakes to thicken and give a chowder consistency.

Serve garnished with reserved crispy bacon and a drizzle of sour cream or Greek yogurt. 

If you want, separate the squash seeds and roast them at 350 with a sprinkle of Kosher salt and a sprinkle of chipotle powder and a spray of olive oil for about 10 minutes.  Stir and roast another few minutes until crunchy. Finish your garnish with the roasted seeds.  Better than pumpkin seeds!

NOTE:  Leeks are VERY sandy and it is difficult to get all that dirt and sand from between all the layers.  Back in the 70's Graham Kerr - The Galloping Gourmet - shared his method for cleaning leeks.  Works like a charm!  

He always started his leek segment by saying, "First, you take a leek."  Love his humor!  Okay, the method.  

Trim the dried, fibrous end of the leek off.  Then wash the root end.  Starting from about 1/2" above the roots, slice the leek in half lengthwise making SURE the leaves remain attached.  Turn the leek 1/4 turn and slice lengthwise again.  Spread the leaves apart - again, making sure the leaves stay attached to the root end and wash the leek under cold running water.  Be sure to get between each of the leaves and that you are removing ALL the debris..  When you're sure it's completely clean, dry it thoroughly and proceed to chop.  It may seem like a lot of trouble, but it's simpler than it sounds here.  And the leeks are squeaky clean!