Thursday, April 21, 2011

Grilling Season: Grilling Pork Chops

The pig is one of the most versatile animals of a carnivore's gastronomic life.  Prosciutto is one of my favorite foods, great with warm butter, Parmesan cheese and freshly baked bread. Crackling bacon and pork sausage speaks immediately of breakfast. Ground with steak or chicken, pork fat enhances a well done hamburger. Ham hocks add flavor to collard greens and beans for a Southern style dinner. Seasoned pork soaks up delicate herbs and spices in a manner distinctly different and lighter than chicken.

Until recently, a part of me had been rather hesitant in grilling pork. Was it the trichinosis? Well, trichinosis is killed at 137° F. I have a digital thermometer. Problem solved. Maybe it was the actual cooking aspect: white vs. pink. How would I know when it was done? Steaks, I'm used to. But pork chops? Beyond my dad's tried, true and boring "fry and bake pork chops with gravy", was there hope in taking off the training wheels and having a better, more flavor filled and healthier pork chop?

There was only one thing left to do: try it on the grill and see what happens.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Grinding Meat and Making Sausage

I'm always on the look out for interesting classes, techniques and recipes to further improve my cooking and creative life. So, when the email for Williams-Sonoma's selection of April classes appeared in my inbox, I eagerly double clicked to open the message.  Quickly scanning the array of Sunday classes, my eyes caught sight of the one I had been waiting for since purchasing my Kitchen Aid stand mixer: "Techniques Class: From Scratch - Sausage".

Inspired, I immediately called and reserved a space in the class for my mother and I.  Little did I know how much my relationship with meat crafting would change as a result.

Three Breakfasts: Simple Pleasures


Top: Sliced pieces from a small loaf of the Master Recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking; EVOO with crushed black pepper and salt; Applewood prosciutto with sliced black olives.

Middle: Sliced pieces from a homemade olive bread artesian loaf; cream cheese with garlic and sliced green onions and capers; sliced bananas, strawberries, Granny Smith apples, plums; A.G. Ferrari Prosciutto di Parma with crushed black pepper.

Bottom: Kirkland signature frozen waffles, sliced mint, blueberries and strawberries; broiled bacon roasted with dried rosemary and garlic powder.

The Best Damn Buttermilk Fried Chicken You Will Ever Make, Period: The "Ad Hoc" Method.

It was a cold and misty day in October when I found myself in Yountville in Northern California. Motivated by a desperate need to "get the hell out of Los Angeles" (it happens, often) and single, I was hungry after a rather lackluster tasting at Cakebread Winery. Being a fan of Thomas Keller - by collected legend more so than experience - I knew of Bouchon, French Laundry and Ad Hoc - but had never experienced the lore.

I walked into Bouchon and looked at menu. After dining at Bistro Jeanty the night before, I wasn't that much in the mood for another turn at French cuisine. Plus, I felt very single in a room of couples and just wasn't feeling it.

I continued down the road to Ad Hoc, Keller's more casual and American bistro style restaurant. Immediately, I felt that this was it. Did they have a reservation available? Why yes, they did.  I ate. I savored. I had an experience of oral pleasure, peacefulness and happiness that I had rarely experienced up to that point in my life.

Monday, April 18, 2011

S'mores Cheesecake: Stuff Your Face with a Campfire Treat

S'mores cheesecake.

Yes. You read that right.

Graham cracker crust. Ghirardelli dark chocolate cheesecake. Whipped meringue with melted marshmallows topping. Dotted with chocolate drops and mini marshmallows.

Make sure you have a ton of friends, family or a hungry boyfriend (or girlfriend) before reading more on how to make this. Trust me, it's not something that you want to - or could - eat all yourself.

Pasta with Three Greens Pesto & Garlic Sherry Sauteed Shrimp

The enrapturing scent of fresh cut basil, the distinct taste of ground Parmigiano-Reggiano, two quick squeezes a of tart lemon, the peppery tang of baby arugula matched with the smoulder of Italian parsley - these mark the flavor filled bites of my Three Greens Pesto. Match with a wholesome batch of whole wheat pasta, cut via the spaghetti cutter and garlic and sherry sauteed shrimp and you have yourself a meal of simple yet distinct taste.

Favorite Place: Farmers Choice in Santa Monica

I was shocked. Amazed. Flabbergasted.

Mouth wide open, I stood staring at the plastic container of the price of a large container of baby arugula. It was $1.99. Two days prior, I had seen a Ready Fresh pack at my local Albertson's for $3.99. The package might have said fresh, but the baby arugula was very clearly past it's prime.

But this! The beautiful green leaves packed to the four corners of the large plastic container were luscious and full. Much more product than the Ready Made and much cheaper! How could this been?