Monthly Archives: January 2013

Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops

BalsamicGlazedPorkChops

It’s another cold day in Colorado, and I miss standing out on the deck grilling. I still grill in the winter, just not as much. One thing I like cooked in a skillet just as much as on a grill is pork chops, or cutlets. I usually call them chops if they have a bone, and cutlets if they are boneless. I am going to use boneless today, and I am cooking them inside in a skillet. Sigh. I will grill another day. I will pair these with some nice roasted red potatoes and a salad with apples and cheddar cheese. I will probably whip up a salad dressing with stone ground mustard.

Balsamic Glazed Pork Cutlets

Ingredients:

  • 4 (6 ounce) boneless pork chops
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 6 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Instructions:

  1. Pat pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  3. Cook 4 cutlets until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.
  4. Transfer to platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil.
  5. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic to now-empty skillet, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  6. Add vinegar and sugar and cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
  7. Off heat, whisk in butter, parsley, and mustard.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Pour sauce over cutlets and serve.
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Blackberry Walnut Salad with Lime Ginger Vinaigrette

For whatever reason blackberries are cheap this month. Also, it is the middle of January and almost 70 degrees on the Front Range of Colorado. These two items combined made me think of summer. So I grilled up some pork chops and made this light refreshing salad that I usually have in the summer. Enjoy this and dream of summer days that are still are long way off.

Lime Ginger Vinaigrette

  • 1 lime, juice and zest
  • 2 tsp finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp agave or raw honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Whisk all ingredients together.

Salad

  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 2 cups lettuce or salad greens of your choice
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  1. Toss all ingredients together. 
  2. Top with vinaigrette to taste.

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Simple Pot Roast with Gravy

It is always nice to start the slow cooker in the morning and come home to wonderful smells and a ready dinner. Here is a recipe for a simple pot roast with a hearty gravy. Easily paired with a nice salad and some crusty bread.

Simple Pot Roast with Gravy

Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless beef chuck roast (2 1/2 – 3 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large rib celery, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 (14 ounce) can tomatoes
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Instructions:

  1. Season roast liberally with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoons oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Brown roast thoroughly on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer browned roast to slow-cooker insert.
  5. Reduce heat to medium.
  6. Add remaining 1 tablespoons oil to empty skillet.
  7. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic.
  8. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes.
  9. Transfer to slow cooker insert.
  10. Increase heat to high and add red wine to empty skillet.
  11. Scrape up any browned bits with wooden spoon, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  12. Add tomatoes and broth and bring to boil.
  13. Add pepper flakes, bay leaves, and thyme and transfer to slow-cooker insert.
  14. Set slow cooker to high, cover, and cook until tender, 6 to 7 hours.
  15. Alternatively, cook on low for 9 to 10 hours.
  16. Transfer roast to carving board; loosely tent with foil to keep warm.
  17. Discard bay leaves.
  18. Allow liquid in pot to settle, about 5 minutes.
  19. Then use wide spoon to skim fat off surface.
  20. Puree liquid and solids in batches in blender or food processor.
  21. Alternatively, use immersion blender and process until smooth.
  22. Stir in parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  23. Cut Roast into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
  24. Transfer meat to warmed serving platter.
  25. Pour about 1 cup gravy over meat.
  26. Serve, passing more gravy separately.

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Guacamole for Two

Tonight is one of those nights where there is too much going on, and I need to make something simple. I am just going to make some ground beef tacos. Simple does not have to mean boring though. What makes tacos interesting is either the taco itself, or the accompaniments. Since the taco is going to be simple tonight, let’s work on the other part. I like roasted tomato salsa, green chile queso, and fresh guacamole. Let’s just start with the guacamole tonight. Below is a simple basic recipe for guacamole for two. If you always use fresh ingredients and make it fresh, it will taste light years beyond any jarred or pre prepared stuff you buy at the store. This is a prime example of that rule. Start with this basic recipe, give it a try, and then let your creativity run wild.

Basic Guacamole for Two

Ingredients:

  • 1 Haas avocado, halved, pitted, and scooped
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss to coat.
  2. Using a potato masher add the salt, cumin, pepper and mash.
  3. Then, fold in the onions, jalapeno, tomato, cilantro, and garlic.
  4. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.

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Chicken Parmigiana

ChickParmPlate

There are as many variations on how to prepare Chicken Parmigiana as there are cooks. It is basically fried chicken cutlets covered in melted parmesan cheese with red sauce. I usually fry my chicken while cooking the red sauce and assemble it in a baking dish and let the cheese melt in the oven while the pasta cooks. I thought I would try this recipe from the Pioneer Woman that cooks everything in the skillet. I am always a big fan of using just one skillet. Here is an interesting note about this dish. In Australia, it is a popular food in pubs. However it is usually served with “chips,” or what we know as french fries. There is a heated debate on whether the chips should be on the side or under the chicken. Weird.

Chicken Parmigiana

Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ cups flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ cups red wine
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound long pasta of your choice

Instructions:

  1. Mix flour, salt, and pepper together on a large plate.
  2. Dredge flattened chicken breasts in flour mixture. Set aside.
  3. At this time, you can start a pot of water for your pasta.
  4. Cook pasta until al dente.
  5. Heat olive oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium heat.
  6. When mixture is hot, fry chicken breasts until nice and golden brown on each side.
  7. Remove chicken breasts from the skillet and keep warm.
  8. Without cleaning skillet, add onions and garlic and gently stir for 2 minutes.
  9. Pour in wine and scrape the bottom of the pan, getting all the flavorful bits off the bottom.
  10. Allow wine to cook down until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
  11. Pour in crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.
  12. Add sugar and more salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Allow to cook for 15 minutes.
  14. Toward the end of cooking time, add chopped parsley and give sauce a final stir.
  15. Carefully lay chicken breasts on top of the sauce and completely cover them in grated Parmesan.
  16. Place lid on skillet and reduce heat to low.
  17. Allow to simmer until cheese is melted and chicken is thoroughly heated.
  18. Add more cheese to taste.
  19. Place cooked noodles on a plate and cover with sauce.
  20. Place chicken breast on top and sprinkle with more parsley. Serve immediately.
Chicken Parm in a Skillet

Chicken Parm in a Skillet

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Mezcal Cocktails

I love tequila, but lately have been reading about mezcal. Here is some of what I have learned about this smoky spirit. Mezcal, or mescal, is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant (a form of agave) native to Mexico. The maguey grows in many parts of Mexico, though most mezcal is made in Oaxaca. Mezcal is made from the heart of the maguey plant much the same way it was 200 years ago. In Mexico, mezcal is generally consumed straight and has a strong smoky flavor. Mezcal is not as popular as tequila, which is made from the blue agave plant, but its popularity is growing in the United States.

Mezcal is handcrafted by small-scale producers using methods that have been passed down from generation to generation. Some still use the same techniques practiced 200 years ago. The process begins by harvesting the plants, and extracting the heart by cutting off the plant’s leaves and roots. The heart or piñas are then cooked for about three days, often in pit ovens, which are earthen mounds over pits of hot rocks. This underground roasting gives mezcal its intense and distinctive smoky flavor. The piñas are then crushed and mashed (traditionally by a stone wheel turned by a horse) and then left to ferment in large vats or barrels with water added. Each distiller impars their signature character to the mezcal by flavoring the mash with cinnamon, pineapple slices, red bananas and sugar. The mash is allowed to ferment and the resulting liquid collected and distilled in either clay or copper pots which will further modify the flavor of the final product. The distilled product is left to age in barrels for between one month and four years, and some aged for as long as twelve years. Mezcal is not as smooth as tequila, as it is generally distilled only once while tequila is distilled twice. Mezcal is highly varied, depending on the species maguey used, the fruits and herbs added during fermentation, and the distillation process employed.

So now we know how mezcal is produced. Mexicans traditionally drink it straight, but we are going to start with trying it in cocktails. We are going to start with a traditional margarita recipe, replacing the tequila with mezcal. Then we are going to try a cocktail with an additional fruit syrup. Finally, we are headed towards a tropical drink that still retains some tartness. Come along and drink with us as we explore mezcal.


Mezcal Margarita

  • 1 ½ ounces mezcal
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.
  2. Shake it like you mean it.
  3. Rub a lime around the edge of a margarita glass.
  4. Rotate the outside edge of the glass in rock salt
  5. Strain shaker into a margarita glass.


Mexican Firing Squad
(from mezcalphd.com)

  • 2.0oz Mezcal
  • 1.5oz fresh lime juice
  • 1.0oz agave nectar
  • .5oz pomegranate molasses*
  • 3 dashes Angosturo bitters
  1. Mix all the ingredients into a shaker.
  2. Fill with crushed ice.
  3. Shake it like you mean it.
  4. Pour into a highball glass.
  5. Garnish with a lime wedge.
  6. ….and Holy Pancho Villa Batman!  Amazing mezcal cocktail!

*You can buy pomegranate molasses at grocery stores, but I find they taste a bit odd and, besides, they are easy to make.  Just buy a bottle of Pom, the bigger the better, pour it in a sauce pan, and simmer it down.  It can take more than an hour, but just as it starts to thicken a little, turn it off.  Let it cool, and then pour it into a container that you can keep in the fridge.  

Oaxacan Dream
(from an article in Imbibe Magazine)

  • 1 ½ oz. mezcal
  • 1 oz. pineapple juice (fresh, if available)
  • ¾ oz. cranberry juice
  • ½ oz. fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz. agave nectar
  • Ice cubes
  • Crushed ice

 

  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.
  2. Shake it like you mean it.
  3. Strain into a highball filled with crushed ice.
  4. Garnish with a grilled pineapple, optional.

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Baked Chicken Penne

I actually made this dish back in the first week of December. It made more than enough for the three of us, so I froze the other half. I think the dish was a little loose or watery. Maybe I forgot to drain the tomatoes. I think if I were to make it again, I would add some tomato sauce or maybe some pasta water. That should help bind it together more. Anyway, try it out and let me know if it worked better for you.

Baked Chicken Penne

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces penne
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 cans petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Bring water to a boil and prepare pasta according to directions.
  3. Cut chicken into 1-inch cubes and season with salt, pepper, paprika and basil.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.
  5. Stir in onions and peppers with a pinch of salt, cooking for 5 minutes until soft.
  6. Add in garlic and stir.
  7. Increase heat to medium-high and add chicken in a single layer.
  8. Cook for 5-6 minutes until browned, then flip and cook for 5-6 minutes more.
  9. Stir in diced tomatoes, cream and parmesan cheese, mixing well to combine.
  10. Stir in penne.
  11. Transfer mixture to a baking dish and top with mozzarella.
  12. Bake for 10-15 minutes, just until cheese is melted and pasta is warmed through.
  13. Serve immediately with extra cheese for grating.

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