Thursday, January 9, 2014

"Sage" You'll Give This A Try?

Good evening everyone! One of my favorite discoveries from this blog has been pork. More specifically, discovering that I can finally eat and enjoy pork. You see, when I was younger pork (and ham) left me with an upset stomach, which became bad enough that merely THINKING about pork was enough for me to feel ill.

I’m not sure if I simply had one bad experience and thereby associated all pork with that feeling, but whatever the cause, I simply would not eat ANYTHING pork related for many, many years. In addition, the few times I was forced to eat pork (luncheons or gatherings where it was the only thing on the menu, for instance) I never found the product to be all that…well…good. The texture (rubbery) the flavor (none) all combined for a negative experience that further enhanced my stance against “the other white meat”.

Then we started learning how to cook, cooking our own meals and looking for healthy recipes. I kept encountering pork in MANY healthy recipe books and sites. Finally, I caved and tried the product once again. The rest, as they say, is history. We’ve since embraced pork in all facets and have made many delicious pork based recipes on the blog to date.

So many, in fact, that a lot of other recipes we find are simply derivatives of OTHER recipes we’ve made earlier. It’s not as much fun for our readers when we re-hash a dish, so we tend to either make those dishes without a blog post or simply avoid them. So, when a recipe comes along that features a twist we haven’t tried yet, you can be sure we’re going to pounce on it. That’s the case with tonight’s dish. Intrigued? Let’s get cooking!

The Recipe: Braised Pork Chops With Sage
Original Recipe Found In: Food Network Magazine, January 2014 Issue

What You’ll Need:
(Serves 4)

¼ Cup Sugar
4 Bone In Pork Chops (8 ounces each), Extra Fat Removed
¼ Cup All Purpose Flour (Unbleached preferred)
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Large Sprigs Sage
3 Garlic Cloves (Smashed)
1 Lemon (Sliced into 6 rounds, then halved)
4 Whole Pickled Pepperoncini (Drained)
1 ½ Cups Grape Tomatoes
1 Cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth
2 Cups Couscous (Prepared according to package instructions)
1 Tablespoon Parsley (Fresh, chopped)

* We’ve made some heavy modifications to the recipe that we’d like to point out before we begin. If you ever order a Papa John’s pizza (don’t – but if you have) you’ve likely encounter a pepperoncini. They’re little green peppers that have a small amount of heat (Papa Johns puts them on top of their pizzas occasionally). I’m not a fan of heat and Maggie cannot take much at all, so we left out the little pepper tonight. Since that was gone, I opted to remove the whole Mediterranean theme from the dish and dropped the grape tomatoes too. Instead, I halved the chicken broth (1/2 cup) and focused on the lemons and garlic to create a citrus sauce.

Since I was changing things, I dropped the brine as well. (I’ll still go over those steps below, in case you would like to follow the recipe as originally laid out). The sugar, made necessary by the presence of the peppers in the dish, simply would have been too much once we dropped the pepperoncini so it was cut. Furthermore, our pork chops were “enhanced” (the butcher’s way of saying pre-brined) so a salt bath would have done little more than waste time for us. If you chops are NOT enhanced, you’ll want to follow the brining steps at the beginning of the recipe.

Okay, enough details – let’s cook.

Combine the sugar and ¼ cup kosher salt in a bowl or shallow dish, then dissolve the mixture with 3 cups of water . Submerge your pork chops in the water and allow them to rest for 10 minutes. As I alluded to above, this quick brine will help preserve some of the moisture in the pork chop while cooking (the sugar balances the heat from the peppers added later). Enhanced pork chops have already been injected with a salt / water mixture, so they do not need to be brined again.

Add your flour to a shallow dish or plate. Season each chop with pepper (no salt, that’s already been taken care of) then dredge each chop through the flour, coating each side (allow the excess flour to fall off).

In a large skillet (cast iron if you have one), heat the oil over medium high heat until it begins to lightly shimmer. Add the pork and allow it to cook undisturbed for 5 minutes, or until the bottom becomes golden brown. Next, add the sage to the skillet, flip the pork chops so they rest on top of the stage (uncooked side down, against the sage) Scatted the garlic, lemon slices and pepperoncini (if using) around the pork chops. Cook, undisturbed, for 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Add the tomatoes, chicken broth and ½ cup water to the skillet (we added ½ cup chicken broth and nothing more) and reduce the heat to medium low. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the pork chops are cooked through and the liquid has reduced by about half. (Make sure to flip the chops about half way through cooking).

Transfer the chops (and surrounding sauce) to a serving platter. Serve with the couscous and top with the fresh parsley. Enjoy!

The Results:

You never are quite sure of the final result when you play with a dish as much as I did tonight. I made so many changes to the original concept of the recipe that it wouldn't be unheard of for the final dish to be lacking something. While we typically try to balance out any changes we make, sometimes a dish is just missing an element of flavor when the "dust settles". 
Luckily, that was not the case tonight. The sage / lemon combination was a bright, refreshing twist to the traditional flavor of pork that gave the meat a whole new life. It's amazing how well aromatics can transfer flavors - the sage is not part of the final dish at all (you leave the sprigs in the pan) but the pork tastes like sage (not in an overwhelming way, more in a "hey, is that sage?" way). 
If you've never tried couscous, this is the dish to change that. (Check your local grocery store's rice and pasta aisle, it's likely hiding out right next to the rice). This simple little grain cooks up in flash (7 minutes for the type we were using - that INCLUDES waiting for the water to boil) and it picks up the flavors that surround it beautifully. A little drizzle of lemon juice from the lemons in the skillet and this couscous simply "popped" with flavor. 
The only thing that didn't work out as well as the original recipe intended was the pan sauce. It wasn't bad...there just wasn't any. By cutting the broth in half and omitting the water, the liquid portion of my dish simply went up in vapor by the time my chops were cooked through. In the long run, that's not such a bad thing as the chops stood up quite well on their own - no sauce needed! 

That's all we have for you this week. Stop back next week for more culinary adventures and new recipes. Until then, 


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