Thursday, 2 October 2014

The French Saved My Pork Chops

I have a lot of misconceptions about French food. Growing up where I did French food was two things: really expensive and always slathered in a heavy sauce. I have marvelled at my friend Toby’s love for the cuisine and have endeavoured to educate myself more on the subject because of his passion. I started heavy with Escoffier. Who may be a genius but I think is a bit of a prick. There is a wealth of knowledge in that book if you can get over the condescending tone of it. I have moved through many other French chefs’ work and above and beyond everything else there is a mad love for food and that I can get behind.  Some techniques are complex and take a lot of time that most of us don’t have and others are so simple that you wonder why you haven’t been using them for years. All of them are worth knowing on a conceptual level at the very least. The recipe that I will share with you is more of the latter.

When I was growing up there was one thing that was a staple in both my Grand and Mom’s pantry: cream of mushroom soup. It was the gravy of my youth and I loved it. One day I was waxing nostalgic and decided to make one of my childhood favorites: pork chops in gravy. I made it just the way that mom did and as I sat down with my meal steaming in front of me. I took my first bite and paused.... It was terrible. This in no way is a reflection on my mom’s cooking. I have tried to get away from processed food stuffs in the past few years and the soup based gravy was not the childhood glory that I remembered but rather a gloopy mess that totally masked the flavor of the pork. This would not do. I wanted pork chops and I wanted them to taste like pork chops. Enter the French. Flipping through a French cook book I found a recipe and was intrigued. I gave it a try and then again adding my own thoughts to the recipe. There was no heavy sauce of any kind and the results were spectacular. So thank you France, ‘nuff said.

Pork Chops in the style of the Butcher’s Wife to the tune of Thank You by Led Zepplin

2-3 high quality pork chops, I used center cuts in the photos
2 big handfuls of spinach
¼ cup diced cornichon, these little sour pickles are awesome and add a bite.
6 cherry tomatoes, halfed
¼ cup red wine
1 clove minced garlic
1 onion finely diced

-In a medium sized skillet sweat the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent. Push them to the edge of the pan and turn up the heat

-Add your chops and sear. Reduce the heat and allow them to cook through. Once done remove them and let them rest.

-While they are resting add the pickles, tomatoes and spinach to the onions and garlic. Cook for 30-45 seconds until the spinach starts to wilt a little. Remove from the heat and the carry over cooking will finish the process for you. Any longer than 30-45 seconds and everything will turn into a big pile of mush which no one wants.

-Plate up and enjoy. Thanks France.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Braised Pork Shoulder Enchiladas

I love it when something that you love comes back into my life. An old friend just shows up just because or that book you lent out years ago is finally returned and in the case of this post a taco place near your home closes just to reopen right next to your workplace. Welcome back. Oh how I have missed you. The reintroduction to those Mexican flavours put the wheels in motion and I hosted a Mexican dinner for some good friends. The results: some full bellies and a pretty good buzz by the end of the evening. So what I have done for you is combined the best parts of that meal into a pretty kick ass version of Braised Pork Shoulder Enchiladas. So here we go.

Braised Pork Shoulder Enchiladas to the tune of Tall Tall Shadow by Basia Bulat

The Filling

2lbs cubed pork shoulder
1 onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 jalapeño finely diced
1 habenro minced (optional if you don’t like the spicy stuff)
1 bottle of beer (not too heavy)

The Sauce

1 can crushed tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp chili powder
1 cup of water
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups beef stock

Other stuff

Corn tortillas
Cheese of your choice I used a marble cheddar
Sour cream
Chopped cilantro

The Filling

-In a skillet over medium high heat sweat your onions and garlic until soft. Add in your pork and let brown a little. Add in your spices, chilies, and salt and pepper, toss to coat everything. Add in your beer, reduce the heat to low, cover and let it work. Taste and adjust if needed. Remove from heat and let it cool.

The Sauce

-In a sauce pan dump all your ingredients in let cook on low for about an hour if it reduces too much add some more water or more stock if you have it. Taste and season. Remove from heat and let cool. The sauce should be a little on the loose side . (We all have a laugh)

Put them together

-Heat up a skillet over high heat fire in your tortillas one or two at a time to soften them so they can be rolled. They will break otherwise which sucks and is super frustrating. So please avoid that. Add your filling and roll them up. Line the little devils up in a pan, cover with sauce and then cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the cheese is all gooey like. Garnish with sour cream and a little chopped cilantro if you have some left and you are done.


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Using the Force to Cook Vegetarian

            The wonderful and lovely people who work and run The Painted Lotus, a fantastic tattoo shop in my home town held a fundraiser for The BC Children’s Hospital. It was epically Star Wars themed and these hardworking folks raised $12000 for the cause. For my part, I made a little food to fuel their efforts. It was a small thing but I hope it was helpful. I put together some Brisket sandwiches which I have explained in earlier posts and I did some salads as well. I will give you the vegetarian option I came up with to hopefully quell the hunger of the non meat eaters in the group. This one goes out to the lovely people at The Painted Lotus for all of their hard work and generosity towards a great cause.

The Painted Lotus Veggie Sandwich to the tune of Duel of the Fates

1 eggplant sliced
Cherry tomatoes halfed
Feta cheese crumbled
Onion finely diced
Green olives quartered
Mint minced
Rice wine vinegar
Sesame oil
Olive oil
Good rolls

-So the proportions of the ingredients are really up to you to find the balance that you like. I will throw in little bits of advice as I go.

-We will start with the marinated vegetables: In a good sized jar, I use an old pickle jar, add your tomatoes, onion, olives, and mint. Then add in your oils and vinegar. I use the usual 2-1 oil to vinegar ratio, maybe a little bit more vinegar. I also mix the olive and sesame oils 1-1 otherwise all you will taste is the sesame oil. Once all of this is in your jar give it a good shake and let it sit in your fridge for at least a few hours to let all the flavours come together.

-As for the eggplant if you don’t draw some of the water out of it you will end up with a soggy and less than pleasant product. So give it some salt and let it sit for about an hour or so. Pat it dry. Add some oil to a sauté pan over medium heat. Add in your eggplant and cook until golden and slightly soft. Remove from the heat onto paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

-Split and toast your rolls and put your sandwiches together. And enjoy your sandwich.

Adam Shows You the Joy of a Sandwich

            A very quick post where my friend Adam shows you how to tell if the food you have made for others is successful. This is the reaction you are looking for and the reason that I cook as much as I do. Make people happy through the eating.
It starts as a want

Then a realization
Than the happy

'Nuff said

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Mussels a la Condor and Sparrow

            I have to give props on this one to the oft mentioned Toby Stubbs for the inspiration for this post. We have had many discussions about the glory of shellfish, specifically mussels. Now, the bummer of my friend Toby’s life is that he has found a wonderful and beautiful and simply amazing woman to spend the rest of his life with who is allergic to shellfish. I am regaled with stories about how Tiffany had a girls’ night out and Toby, with manic glee, wolfed down like 5 pounds of mussels while he could and then lapsed into a food coma. We have all been there, well I have been there. So here is a little bit of shellfish cookery in honor of Toby’s love of mussels.

            I also have to mention that my little sparrow friend was in on this one too as it was the appetizer to the halibut plate we put together in the last post. Jilly loved the broth so much that once we had eaten all of the mussels and shrimp she was digging in with a spoon. So I am going to say that it turned out pretty well. So here it is mussels and shrimp in a Thai inspired broth. It is super easy and crazy good. Enjoy.

Thai Inspired Mussels and Shrimp to the tune of Then Go On by The Old Canes

2lbs fresh mussels cleaned and beards removed
8-10 good sized tiger shrimp
1 can coconut milk
3 Thai green chili peppers chopped
The juice of one 1 lime
A splash of dark beer

-Over medium heat add the coconut milk, peppers, lime juice, and beer into a sauce pan and heat up for 5-8 minutes, allowing all of the ingredients to come together.

-Strain out the chunks of peppers and return to the heat.

-Add in your mussels first and then your shrimp cover and cook until the mussels open, this should take no more than a minute or two.

-Dump the whole mess into a bowl and serve with some nice bread and you are done son. Enjoy.
What you are left with... a bunch of shells and satisfaction