I'm Laura. I am a gamer, a bookworm, a knitter, a spinner, a tatter, a seamstress, pierced, tattooed, musical, vehemently geeky and occasionally ineptly artistic. She/her.


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Posted at 17 Sep 2008 09:47:43 AM

This post is inspired by Jaden of Steamy Kitchen, who is giving away a big bag of szechuan peppercorns for use in making one's own seasoning salt and thus is almost too nifty for words. As specified in the contest rules this is one of my favorite dinners of all time.

Anything which is in my book an all-time favorite is probably something with a good deal of emotional attachment to it, and this is no exception: it's one of those meals which cannot fail to remind me of home, along with dutch-oven-chicken and dumplings and real* mac & cheese with peas and ham. Mom's dutch oven got a good deal of use in our family, which I never thought was anything special until I moved out and realized pityingly that most people have no idea what one is. Over the years, dutch oven cooking has progressed in my thinking from being normal and nothing special to being downright awesome. I privately yearn for a Le Creuset, but somehow I doubt that I'd ever use it as much as my blackened, seasoned cast iron.

I have, I confess, meddled with this recipe quite a bit. When made at home, it involves pork chops with bound breading, seared on both sides in a hot cast iron dutch oven and then braised in hot water until tender. The breading and the drippings and the water makes a tasty gravy which melts down over hot buttered egg noodles, and with a baked potato on the side I honestly can't think of anything better.

I am a fiend for herbs and spices, so my way has gradually come to involve they as well as aromatics, balsamic vinegar and white wine. If you're lucky it also involves a potato recipe which I picked up years ago from The Surreal Gourmet, which I Googled as I was writing this, and with which I have apparently meddled beyond recognition. Greens on the side are nice, be they a salad, vegetables or what have you. I personally prefer peas or broccoli, but I'm sure that some people love asparagus, green beans and brussles sprouts. Have at it!

I wish I had pictures (sorry, Jaden!), but with my inability to use up leftovers and the difficulties inherent in adapting this to a one-person recipe, it was not to be. I'll make it again I'm sure, and if you're lucky I'll remember to update this post.

Enough of the stories- on to the recipes!

Recipe the first:
Braised Pork Chops with Garlic and Rosemary

Four boneless pork chops, about half an inch thick
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Fruity white wine - one with strong apple and citrus notes would be perfect
Boiling water
1 egg, beaten in a dish with a little water
Dried rosemary
Dried thyme
Dried or rubbed sage
Dried basil
Dried oregano
Dried savory (if your cupboard does not happen to be the local Home For Lost Spices, Herbes de Provence will work quite nicely for this and the above)
Garlic powder
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt & pepper
2 or 3 cloves minced garlic
A sweet, juicy apple (optional)
An onion (optional)

Method to his Madness
Mince the garlic and french the onions.

Mix flour with liberal quantities of rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, savory, oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper and cayenne on a deep plate or in a container large enough for a pork chop.

Coat the pork chops in the flour & herb mixture. Dip the floured chops lightly in an egg beaten with water. Coat the chops well again with the seasoned flour to complete the bound breading.

Heat a dutch oven on medium heat. Add enough olive oil to just coat the bottom of it. Add the garlic and onion; it should sizzle a bit but not burn. Saute it lightly for just a couple of minutes.

Turn up the heat slightly to medium-high, and add the pork chops. Sear them (approx. 2-3 minutes per side).

Turn the heat down to simmer, bearing in mind that your dutch oven will store heat excellently, and add boiling water until the chops are just half covered.

Add 1/4 cup or so of wine, 1-3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar (depending on whether you could eat it with a spoon like me, or are just mildly tolerant), dashes of all of the spices to taste, and a dash or so of cayenne pepper. Fear ye not, in that diluted dose it won't make the dish even remotely spicy, but it will add an extra flavor. I have a heavy hand with the rosemary.

If you have an apple, chop it roughly and add it now.

Simmer chops with the lid on for 20-30 minutes, or until the chops are done. The sauce should not boil, but should simmer gently the whole time. Stir occasionally, and turn the chops over in the liquid at least once. The breading will get looser during the braising - just be gentle with the chops and not too much will get knocked off.

Serve over egg noodles, hopefully with Smashed Potatoes and the rest of the wine. Enjoy!

Recipe the second:
Smashed Potatoes

Please note that all quantities are being pulled out of the air as I write this. There should be enough spices floating in the oil that they make an opaque-ish layer- adjust to your own taste preferences!
16-20 small red or otherwise potatoes, of roughly 1-2" in diameter
1/8 tsp fresh ground salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
fresh ground hot red pepper to taste (red pepper flakes or cayenne are fine)
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp oregano (Herbes de Provence is another good substitution for this and the above spices)
1/4 tsp garlic powder, or several cloves minced garlic
1/8-1/4 cup garlic-infused olive oil (or regular)

Method to his Madness
Wash the potatoes, but leave them whole and the skins on. Prick them all with a fork a couple of times.

In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil and all of the spices. Give them a quick whisk with a fork. Roll the potatoes in the spiced oil, being sure that each potato is coated with spices as well as oil. Reserve the extra oil and spices, and if you don't have at least a tablespoon or so left over, make more.

Place the potatoes on a cookie sheet, and roast in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until the outsides are crispy and the insides are tender. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for a couple of minutes. Transfer them to a serving bowl, and pour the extra oil and spices down over them. This is the important part! With a big whisk, squash each potato until the skin is broken and they're all kind of smashed about halfway through. Be gentle here - we just want them broken apart, not mashed. I don't even smoosh them as much as they appear to be in the
Surreal Gourmet's picture: those aren't smashed, they're practically incohesive.

Give them a stir to get all of that lovely herbed oil inside of the potatoes too, and serve hot.

*Bonus recipe: Real Macaroni and Cheese. Make a bechamel sauce and stir in a lot of grated cheddar cheese, and it doesn't count unless you get to eat the hunk of cheese left over that's too small to grate without also grating your fingers. Make some elbow macaroni and pour the sauce over it. Get some ham, in thick slices- they sell it packaged that way in stores now- and cut it up in little cubes. Cook some peas. Stir the peas and ham into the mac & cheese and serve that dinner in all its creamy goodness immediately, and if you feel that you must have ketchup in it, by all means go for it. Don't you dare so much as gesture toward that oven door. Thou Shalt Not Bake the Mac & Cheese. QED, amen, good night and good luck.

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