Saturday, January 1, 2011

Arugula with Grilled Portabella and Blue Cheese

The title is the recipe.

Arugula (or rocket/roquette) is by far my favorite salad green. Sturdy, bitter, nutty. Yummy.

Portabellas (or portobellos) are one of my favorite mushrooms. Meaty, substantial, flavorful.

Blue cheese. Tangy, salty, creamy. Love. Any cheese for that matter.

Balsamic reduction brings all these together. Sweet, sour, smoky.

This is what makes a great salad...different flavors, different textures, all combining into one perfect mouthful.

Cider-brined pork chops

For our Christmas grab game at work this year, I snagged a Williams-Sonoma cookbook, which I put to use straight away. The original recipe called for grilling the chops, but since it was below freezing outside, grilling was a definite no-go. So I followed the recipe (almost followed the recipe, that is) and the result was definitely a make-again dish for the boys. I think the most crucial part is using a good cut of meat. I bought these pork chops from Cumbrae's, a local butcher known to supply fine restaurants around Toronto. These particular chops were from a Yorkshire-Duroc pig, a cross of two heritage breeds.

When I first started cooking, I didn't think that using heritage pork breeds, or free-run eggs, or dry-aged beef, or wild (non-farmed) salmon made a difference. But when that particular ingredient was the star of a dish, like here, I soon realized that the extra $$ was very well worth it.

Anyways, on to the recipe.

4 pork chops, each at least an inch thick.

3 cups apple cider
1/3 cup salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
10 peppercorns
3 bay leaves
3 star anise

1. Combine the ingredients for the brine.
2. Place the pork chops, making sure all the pieces are submerged in the brining liquid.
3. Brine in fridge for at least 8 hours (up to 24).
4. Remove chops from brine, rinse, and pat dry.
5. Heat a heavy oven proof pan on the stove (I used cast iron).
6. Place a bit of oil and when the oil is very hot, sear all sides of the chop, making sure to sear the top where the fat is (yum!!! crispy pork fat!).
7. Place chops in a 400 degree oven and cook for about 15-20 minutes until the pork is no longer pink but NOT overdone.

I used a thermometer to make sure I took the pork chops out just before they were done. Even though pork chops have a cap of fat, the rest of the chop can become dry and tough when overcooked.

I served this with a cranberry sauce, pan-roasted asparagus and broccolini and roasted rosemary potatoes.

Dates, Goat Cheese and Bacon

This picture may not look like much, but trust me on this one.

Grab some pitted dried dates, stuff with good aged goat cheese (I imagine some sort of blue cheese would be lovely too), wrap with half a bacon strip and bake in a 350 oven for 10-15 minutes until the bacon is slightly crisp. I actually did this in my toaster oven!

This goes so well with a glass of bubbly :-)