Amateur à la Minute

An internet log of my various amateur culinary pursuits.
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Ab

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lutely.

(via love-food)

Pork loin chops with sweet chili-red-wine sauce

I got some beautiful boneless pork loin chops from CostCo and had to do something special with them. I started off by brining them using some raw apple cider vinegar for about four hours. Then I browned them on the stove to get a nice crust before I finished cooking in the oven. I made a sweet and spicy pan sauce using some red wine and stock, and I served with stewed mixed greens and corn on the side.

Keep in mind that this brine was just enough to cover four 1 & 3/4” thick chops, weighing 6-8 oz each. If the chops had been thinner, I would have brined for less time, as leaving them for too long in the brine can cause them to become too salty.

Vinegar Brine:

- 2 cups apple cider vinegar (preferably unfiltered)

- 1/2 cup kosher salt or 1/4 cup table salt

- 1/2 to 1 cup brown sugar or turbinado sugar

- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

- 1 tablespoon ground mustard

- 2 to 3 bay leaves

- A few cups of ice cubes

I placed the sugar, salt, and mustard into a plastic storage container large enough to hold all of the vinegar, other ingredients, and the pork, with room to spare for ice. I put the vinegar, peppercorns, and bay leaves into a medium saucepan and brought it to a boil. Then I poured it into the container with the other ingredients and whisked it for about two minutes, until all of it was dissolved. I let it stand for another 5 minutes to allow the pepper to diffuse a little more, but this was probably unnecessary. I started adding ice cubes bit by bit and stirring until the mixture was fairly cool. Then I simply added the chops, being careful to make sure they were distributed evenly and covered by the brine. I covered the container and put it in the fridge. After 2 hours, I took them out and rearranged / turned them over, and replaced them into the fridge (covered) for another 2 hours. When I removed the pork from the brine, I rinsed off the chops and patted them dry.

Brining meat draws moisture into it and causes the protein to retain the moisture better. The technique is usually seen in conjunction with poultry, but it can be done with any kind of meat in theory. I think it’s good for lean cuts of pork, since it’s quite easy to dry out pork when cooking. Brining gives you an extra buffer against drying, and also accomplishes flavoring and seasoning the meat throughout. In this case, the vinegar adds an acidic component, which makes it a sort of marinade.

Once the pork was done brining (and after I had rinsed off the excess brine and dried them), I heated a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, and added about 1/2 a tablespoon of butter. I also went ahead and preheated my oven to 350 degrees. I browned the chops in the skillet in two batches of two chops. I could have fit all four in the pan if I had wanted, but I didn’t want to take too much heat from it. Each side took about 5 minutes to brown.

Once they had that beautiful crust on them, I removed them to an oven-safe pan (leaving the drippings and sucs in the skillet) and put them in the center of the oven, uncovered. Covering it would trap moisture and steam the meat. I cooked them for about 35 minutes, flipping them once, and then I cut the broiler on high for another 5 minutes, turning them once more, to brown a bit more. My meat thermometer is broken, so I cut into one to make sure the juices were running clear. I took the drippings from the pan and added them to the sauce I was already in the process of making as well. I let the meat rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Sweet Chili-Red-Wine Sauce

- 1 cup red wine (whatever sort strikes your fancy, only nothing too sweet)

- 2 tablespoons honey

- 1/2 cup water

- 2 tablespoons flour

- 1/2 cup chicken stock or broth

- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons hot asian chili paste (I used sambal oelek)

- 1 tablespoon butter

After I removed the chops from the pan, I deglazed the skillet with half a cup of chicken broth (scraping up all of those beautiful sucs) and cut the heat down to low. I added the wine, honey, and chili paste and brought it to a simmer. I reduced the mixture by 1/2, stirring often, and at this point, I added the drippings from the pork which I had taken from the oven.

I stirred the flour into the water to make a slurry and slowly added some while stirring to thicken the sauce. I didn’t use all of the flour mixture, just enough to give me a better texture. The color of the sauce should remain quite dark. I continued simmering for another 4 minutes to incorporate everything and cook out the flour taste. I removed it from the heat and whisked in a tablespoon of butter to give it a nice glossy look.

Stewed Mixed Greens

- 12 oz mixed mustard, collard, turnip and spinach greens, large stalks removed

- (1) 14oz. can diced tomatoes (or 1 cup, or none - to personal taste)

- 1 cup chicken stock or broth

- 1 large onion, chopped

- 1/4 cup green onion, sliced

- 2 cloves garlic

 I french cut an onion (lengthwise or root to blossom into strips) and minced two cloves of garlic. I also sliced up some green onions because I wanted to. I sautéed these in a cast iron dutch oven (a very large saucepot would have worked fine) until the onions began to show color, being careful not to burn the garlic. I salted it lightly while sautéing to draw moisture out of the onions and aid caramelization.

When it looked and smelled real nice (about 10 minutes), I added the diced tomatoes and simmered for another 5 minutes. I added the chicken broth and brought to a boil. I carefully added the greens and jumbled everything around until the greens were coated and wilting. I turned the heat down to medium-low and simmered, covered, for about 30 minutes.

As an aside, my father tells me that using cast iron to cook greens in will cause them to darken, although it shouldn’t affect the flavor. Covering any green vegetable while using moist-heat cooking will often cause it to lose its color more readily (due to acids in the vegetables).

I also microwaved one of those steamer bags of frozen corn as a side, which was nice because it took essentially no time / effort.

All in all, this meal turned out well. The pork was cooked through and still juicy from brining, the greens were tender and tasty, and the sauce I made was quite good (although it would have benefitted from being reduced a tiny bit more, as it didn’t stick to the pork as well as I’d hoped). 

I’m going to try and get better at timing photos to show the process more, and also I have to make some white balance / exposure adjustments. It’s hard to take photos while cooking.

Welcome

I’ve started this log as a way to keep track of all of the things I’ve played around with in the kitchen. I’m just a guy who has recently gotten way into cooking as a hobby, and I want to take more photos and keep more notes related to it. Some of my posts may take the form of recipes, and some may be as simple as some advice to my future self, photos of things I’ve found that are related to culinaria, recipes I want to try, etc. Hopefully I will be able to keep this updated semi-regularly. If you’re reading this, thanks for checking out my tumblog and bear with me as I make content to fill ‘er up with.