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June 2006
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August 2006

Donna Deane's Pork Chops with Fresh Tomato Sauce


The last two weeks are a blur of restaurant meals, both highbrow and low. So lunch on Sunday at my father's in Boston - consisting of nothing more than fresh bread and tomatoes sliced up and dressed with olive oil and vinegar - came as a total relief. Later that night, I cooked our first pasta dinner in a long while, and Ben and I agreed that we were both very ready for simple, homemade food again. Luckily for us, the markets are full to bursting with all the good things we love to eat, cooked quickly, if at all, and sauced with nothing more than a squeeze of lemon juice or olive oil or, in my case, a sprinkling of salt.

Thinking I might need to bolster our dinner with something more substantial than just vegetal cellulose last night, I set out to make pork chops. Isn't there something mouth-watering just about those two words in juxtaposition? Pork. Chops. Ben grumbled a bit about the choice of meat (if it were up to him, we'd be subsisting on a diet of chicken breast and cod, I think), but ended up not only polishing off his chop, but half of mine as well. In March, Donna Deane had written a piece in the LA Times about the ease and convenience of pork chops for weeknight dinners, including four variations on a theme with sauces that ranged from sage cream to a wine reduction.

Because I happen to think that tomatoes are God's gift to human beings and I often think that my answer to the inane "If there were only one thing you could eat for the rest of your life" question might very well be the humble tomato, I chose to make the chops with tomato sauce. I bought bone-in, inch-thick chops and seared them to a gorgeous brown before removing them from the pan and throwing the rest of the sauce together. The orange peel and thyme added an interesting yet muted flavor to the straightforward tomato-garlic combination. If I made these again, I'd double the sauce ingredients, because it was delicious and far better than the pork, which, despite its Whole Foods pedigree, tasted sadly of very little.

It makes me wonder: when I made these chops, lamenting the fact I'd bought the pork shrink-wrapped from D'Agostino's, the outcome was actually much tastier. Maybe Elizabeth David's cooking technique (in the oven) does more for the pork flavor than Deane's? In both cases, however, I wished there had been more sauce.

I'm not sure what my preference for sauce over meat actually says about my future as a carnivore, but I'll leave you with this: if you can find pork chops that are thinner than 3/4 of an inch (and therefore it's practically an impossibility that you live in the United States), you would have quite a delicious time at dinner if you heated up a pan until it was very hot, then threw in those thin chops along with a few paper-thin slices of lemon and some soaked, salted capers. The cooking time takes all of a few minutes on each side, and you end up with a citrusy, salty, finger-blistering chop that could convert most vegetarians to the dark side.

Pork Chops with Fresh Tomato Sauce
Serves 2

2 center-cut loin pork chops
1 clove garlic, cut in half
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup seeded, diced Roma tomatoes
1/3 cup chicken broth
Sprig of thyme
3-inch strip of orange peel
12 small green olives

1. Pat any moisture from the surface of the pork chops. Rub both sides of the each chop with the cut clove of garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Mince the garlic, and reserve.

2. Heat the butter and oil in a heavy 10-inch saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the pork chops and brown both sides of the pork, about 5 to 6 minutes on each side. During the last minute of cooking, turn the pork chops on end to sear the edges. Remove the chops from the skillet to a plate, cover and keep warm.

3. Add the minced garlic to the skillet and saute about 10 seconds. Add the tomatoes, stirring to scrape up the browned bits in the bottom of the pan.

4. Stir in the broth to deglaze the pan. Add the thyme, orange peel and olives. Bring to a simmer and cook 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the browned pork chops with any drippings back into the pan.

5. Simmer 5 to 8 minutes, stirring the sauce occasionally, until the pork chops are still pink in the center.

Julia Moskin's Buttermilk-Brown Sugar Waffles


I'm back! I promise! Thanks for your patience, dear readers, while I replenished my fatigued system, spent a delicious evening with a certain Eggbeater from San Francisco, danced all night at a gorgeous wedding in Vermont (catered, by the way, by these folks, so if you're in Vermont and dying for a seafood martini that will be fresh and delicious and super-elegant, yet whimsical? You now know where to go), howled in disbelief when Zizou butted Materazzi in the 110th minute of the World Cup final, and had just enough time away from my stove to feel now that I can't wait to be back in it again. For the first time in ages, I went down to the Greenmarket yesterday and bought zucchini, tomatoes, wax beans, two kinds of cherries, apricots, blueberries and a bunch of multi-colored zinnias to grace my desk at work. I feel a bit more like my old self again.

Before I say anything else, I first have to tell you about the meal I shared with Shuna last week. Because, let me tell you, if you're feeling down on New York and on life in general, and the taste for good food seems to have slipped away from you for a while, there is absolutely nothing like going out for dinner and dessert with a lovely, interesting chef and woman to get your serotonin levels up again. We first went to Momofuku to pad our bellies. My soup bowl was filled with salty, flavorful broth, a coil of noodles, bright green peas, shredded pork that tasted like no other pork I've ever eaten and a pile of sliced scallions. The restaurant is small and lively - a dynamic, bustling place that I absolutely can't wait to visit again.

And then. Oh, then. We trotted off to Chikalicious, a restaurant that I had always eyed somewhat suspiciously. Dessert Bar? It sounded gimmicky and almost too indulgent for my tastes. But thank heavens to Betsy that Shuna came to town and showed me how very, very wrong I was. You might roll your eyes now when I say that the experience there was transcendent, but I'm going to go ahead and say it anyway. It really was.

We sat at the bar where we could see Chika and her assistant prepare each dish, while Shuna explained to me how the Pacojet and the convection oven worked. We ordered the "Cheese Cake" made with fromage blanc, and it came, served in a small white dish in a pool of cream, balanced on top of a small hill of shaved ice that kept the cream cool and chilled the "cake" with each spoonful that we took. It was cloud-like and airy, yet I can't even really describe the taste - the taste! It was one of the best things I'd ever put in my mouth. We also ordered a bird's-nest of kataifi that was covered with custard and diced white peaches.  A spoonful of basil sorbet melted gently alongside the nest and added an herbal grace note. Warm and cold, creamy and crispy - the thought and mastery that went into each dessert was a revelation.

I felt uplifted and giddy when we left - maybe it was all the sugar, but I prefer to think that Shuna gave me a night out in which I could see all the fantastic things available to me at a moment's notice in New York. That is something I'm really grateful for. We all need reminding every once in a while.

And while I was away, Molly posted about the glories of leftover pancakes, awakening something of an urge inside me. While I find most pancakes to hit my stomach in the most leaden of ways, waffles don't have that same effect. So, I whipped up a batch of waffle batter this morning to cook and then freeze for some seriously delicious snacking and subsequent breakfasts. At the beginning of June, Julia Moskin printed a recipe for buttermilk waffles in the New York Times when she wrote a piece on wedding registries. I loved the fact that there was wheat germ and buttermilk in the recipe - good, wholesome items to balance out that stick of butter.

The recipe couldn't have been easier and in the time it took for me to heat and butter my iron, the batter, with all that baking soda and powder, rose noticeably in the bowl. The waffles were light and pleasantly tangy. Drizzled with maple syrup and shared with my roommate, they were the perfect welcome back into my kitchen.

Buttermilk-Brown Sugar Waffles
Makes 3 Belgian waffles or 8 regular waffles

2 eggs
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 stick butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour or 1 1/2 cups flour and 1/4 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick cooking spray or butter

1. Whisk eggs, buttermilk and melted butter in a large bowl. In nother bowl, stir dry ingredients together, then add to egg mixture and whisk just until smooth.

2. Heat a waffle iron and butter lightly or spray with nonstick spray (even nonstick waffle irons require this step). Ladle batter onto iron (about 1/4 cup for an 8-inch round iron), close, and cook just until light golden brown. Serve immediately.

Hot Summer, Cold Stove


Despite the best intentions, the closest I came to cooking in Maine was pouring myself a bowl of cereal. So I've got little to report, food-wise, besides some tales of delicious cinnamon-scented blueberry pie, lobster rolls gobbled up while overlooking the ocean, and a home-cooked amalgam of two Bourdain steak recipes yesterday in Providence that was even better than my meal at Les Halles.

The blog will be quiet for a few more days while we're out of town for a wedding in Vermont this weekend. Consider it a mourning period now that the Germans are no longer in the running for the World Cup. Heart-breaking, I tell you.