This Little Piggy Came Home

piggy bank vidya suryBaking can be a little trickier, but most of the time when I try a new savory recipe, I’m pretty sure of the end result.

But, not always.

I got three pretty pork loin chops a few weeks ago.  They were thick, but not so thick that they’d be a pain to cook.    I got them on sale because they were slightly long in the tooth.  Not so much that they were furry, but soon would be.  So, they needed to be cooked or frozen right away.But the upshot was, I bought three pretty respectable chops for $3.  And, I had a recipe that I’d been wanting to try.  The only thing I needed to pick up was a small carton of half & half.

The recipe was for a garlicky spinach sauce.  Then put the meat in it and serve with egg noodles and a green salad.

Sounds like we had a nice dinner, doesn’t it?

Yeah, not so much.

Unfortunately, is wasn’t this type of funk…

Somewhere along the way, the sauce picked up some funk.  Not funk like food gone bad, but funk like a whole lot of cheese was in it.

But there was no cheese in anything.  I felt like I was in one of those babysitter horror movies, “It’s coming from inside the house!”, only “It’s coming from inside the sauce!”. I think the spinach and mushrooms just turned the earthy flavor of the sauce up to about a thousand and eleven.  It didn’t work.

So, I am not sharing that recipe.  Instead, I’m going to give you a dish that I have been making for as long as we’ve been married.  And because I’ve been making it since well before I could cook worth a fig, it’s easy.

Pork and Zucchini Cream

zucchini pork

1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into 2 X ½ inch strips

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pound zucchini, washed, left unpeeled and sliced into ½ inch rounds

1 yellow onion chopped

4-6 cloves garlic

½ teaspoon dry thyme

2 cups heavy cream

¾ cup skim milk

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Big handful of fresh parsley

Salt & pepper

Place the sliced zucchini into colander and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt and let sit for an hour.  After an hour, pat it dry with towel (paper or clean kitchen).

In a large heavy skillet, add half the oil and butter.  When butter’s melted, working in batches, place the zucchini down in one layer and cook at medium-high until there is deep caramelization, flip and cook other side.  Remove to towel-covered plate.  Repeat until all veg is cooked, adding a bit more butter and oil as needed.Add the rest of the fat, onions, and thyme into the same pan and cook until the onions get golden.  Add garlic, and when it just begins to toast, pour in dairy and add pepper flakes.  Lower to medium, bring to boil and let reduce. 

After ten minutes season pork strips and add to sauce.  Cook for ten more minutes or until it’s is of sauce consistency.  Stir in zucchini & parsley and serve over starch of your choice—something unexpected is fun; like Israeli couscous, griddled Texas toast, or grits.

Serves 6.So, there’s a true yin and yang this week.

On the dark side is the reminder that I’m not infallible discerning the flavor of the dish by reading the recipe.

But, on the happier end of the scale, even when I couldn’t cook, every once in a while, I and my diners would get lucky, and I’d turn out something that was actually tasty.Thanks for your time.

Snafu

So you’ve got a game plan for dinner, you get started in the kitchen, and you run into a couple of roadblocks.What do you do?

What.Do.You.Do?

It kinda depends on the roadblocks.

My troubles, luckily, were fixable.  One was of my own making, and one was a little bit my fault, but mostly microbiology.

Let me start back at the beginning.I decided to invent a new pasta bake.  It would be orzo, in an asparagus pesto cream sauce, with peas and spinach, all covered in parmesan breadcrumbs.

I cooked the orzo until it wasn’t quite al dente.

While the orzo was cooking I made a basic cream sauce.

Classic Béchamel

bechamel

¼ cup butter

¼ cup flour

2 cups 2% milk

Salt & pepper

Put a saucepan on medium.  Melt butter and whisk in flour; this is a roux.  Let cook for a couple of minutes, then pour in milk.  Whisk constantly until it thickens and comes to a boil.  Season, taste, and season again.

White sauce is one of the ‘mother’ sauces in classic French cooking.  For the casserole I was making, I stirred in ¼ cup of grated Parmesan, a couple tablespoons of snipped Chinese chives, and 10 good gratings of nutmeg.

When I made the roux, I was afraid I’d made too much, so I discarded a little.  Then of course, I realized I actually needed it thinner so that the finished dish wasn’t dry.

Oops—snafu #1.

I was planning to put fresh spinach into the bake.  I’d wilt it in the microwave, squeeze out the water, then chop it.  Instead, I put four big handfuls of raw spinach into the hot béchamel.  This thinned the sauce. Next, I planned on adding half of a jar of asparagus pesto which I had in the fridge.  I unscrewed the lid and looked inside.  Right on top was a big ole spot of mold. I guess I’d had it for much longer than I thought.

Oops—snafu #2.

After some regret and self-recrimination, I grabbed my jar of preserved lemons and a pack of fresh dill from the produce drawer.  I diced up a few lemon slices and chopped about a tablespoon of dill.  I stirred them into my sauce.  This approximated the slightly sour herbaceousness.

lemon-dill

Green orzo bake

green-orzo-bake1 batch béchamel, adjusted as above

1 cup frozen peas, unthawed

½ pound orzo, undercooked by about 2 minutes

3 slices multigrain bread, toasted, and ground in food processor

¼ cup grated Parmesan, in addition to the cheese in the sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8X8 casserole dish.  Mix together the first three ingredients and pour into dish, smoothing the top.

Mix together breadcrumbs, cheese, and olive oil.  Sprinkle over top.

Bake for 45 minutes, spinning dish halfway through baking.  Let stand for 10 minutes after removing from oven.  Serves 4-6.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA couple nights later we had the leftovers.  I added ½ cup more milk, and a cup of some grilled chicken breast I’d picked up at Trader Joe’s.  I stirred it all together, but even without the crispy breadcrumbs on top it was pretty tasty.

Whenever I make a new recipe, I always warn Petey that there’s a possibility we will instead be dining on peanut butter and jelly.

This time, I was able to pull out a “W” for this meal; which is great, because, you know, I’m not too sure that Petey even likes PBJ.

I’ll bet if an eighteen-year-old Swedish bikini model served him this, he’d give up pork chops for this PBJ.

Thanks for your time.