Pan Roasted Pork Chops and Cabbage Braised in Cream

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Sometimes, before even starting a meal, you know it's going to be good. But even I misjudged how good this meal would turn out. I also misjudged how long it would take. So, when we sat down to eat, at nearly 9 pm, I was a little tipsy, my hand was bandaged up from the worst burn I've ever experienced, and I couldn't be happier. 

My plate looked amazing, the house smelled amazing, and there was still amazing wine left from earlier in the evening, when we patiently sat in our dinning room, waiting and drinking. And even though I could barely hold my knife to cut my pork chop, and knew I would spend the next two hours soaking my fingers in ice water, I felt the dinner was a real success, and mentally gave myself an A+, while waiting for the husband to shower me with compliments. 

Not only did I received the compliments I was looking for, but at some point, watching me struggle, the husband even offered to cut up my meat and do all the dishes. That's romance. If you're looking for something special to cook this Valentine's Day, I'd recommend this menu (winky face).
Once again, Bon Appetit was a source of inspiration. I couldn't resist trying their pan-roasting, oven-baking, butter-basting method. I strayed from the recipe just a tad by adding some shiitakes to the mix. All for the husband. So here's what I learned from this, when you baste your pork chop with butter, you get one delicious chop. 
The braised cabbage recipe came from one of my favorite food blogs, Bon Appetempt. I figured if I was basting with butter, I might as well bathe my cabbage in cream and just drink juice for days after. The result of slowly cooking your cabbage in cream is that you end up with an incredibly sweet and melty finished product. It was the best cabbage I've ever had.
I didn't have time to brine the chops according to the recipe in the magazine, so I just brined them in salt water that morning, and they were tender and juicy. I imagine though, their version would make the pork even more delicious. So don't be lazy like me, and try their brine.
If you're going to play the waiting game, might as well do it with a fine Sangiovese from Napa. 
This whole stove-top to oven to stove-top method equals one VERY HOT cast iron pan. Watch your fingers. But, check out how pretty those chops look, surrounded by garlic, rosemary and thyme.
Pan-Roasted Pork Chops
via www.bonappetit.com

1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise, plus 2 unpeeled cloves for basting
2 large sprigs thyme
2 large sprigs rosemary
1 2-inch-thick bone-in pork chop (2 ribs; about 1 1/4 lb.)
2 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Flaky or coarse sea salt

The Brine
Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add kosher salt, sugar, juniper berries, peppercorns, halved head of garlic, and 1 thyme sprig; stir to dissolve salt and sugar. Transfer to a medium bowl and add 5 cups ice cubes. Stir until brine is cool. Add pork chop; cover and chill for at least 8 and up to 12 hours.

Cooking the Pork
1) Preheat oven to 450°. Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Remove chop from brine; pat dry. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large cast-iron or other oven-proof skillet. Cook chop until beginning to brown, 3-4 minutes. Turn and cook until second side is beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Keep turning chop every 2 minutes until both sides are deep golden brown, 10-12 minutes total.

2) Transfer skillet to oven and roast chop, turning every 2 minutes to prevent it from browning too quickly, until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center of meat registers 135°, about 14 minutes. (Chop will continue to cook during basting and resting.)

3) Carefully drain fat from skillet and place over medium heat. Add butter, 2 unpeeled garlic cloves, and remaining thyme sprig; cook until butter is foamy. Carefully tip skillet and, using a large spoon, baste chop repeatedly with butter until butter is brown and smells nutty, 2-3 minutes.

4) Transfer pork chop to prepared rack and let rest, turning often to ensure juices are evenly distributed, for 15 minutes (yeah right I was going to wait that long! I gave them 5 minutes). Cut pork from bones, slice, and sprinkle with sea salt.

Cream-Braised Green Cabbage 
via www.bonappetempt.com, via Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life

1 small green cabbage (about 1 1/2 pounds)3 tablespoons unsalted butter1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste2/3 cup heavy cream1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1) Prep the cabbage by pulling away any bruised leaves and triming its root end to remove any dirt. Cut the cabbage into quarters, and then cut each quarter in half lengthwise, taking care to keep a little bit of the core in each wedge. (The core will help to hold the wedge intact, so that it doesn't fall apart in the pan.) You should wind up with 8 wedges of equal size, no thicker than 2 inches.
2) In a large (12-inch) skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage wedges, arranging them in a single crowded layer with one of the cut sides down. Allow them to cook, undisturbed, until the downward facing side is nicely browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Make sure to get good color here, so that they have a sweetly caramelized flavor. Then, using a pair of tongs, gently turn the wedges onto their other cut side. When the second side has browned, sprinkle the salt over the wedges, and add the cream. 
3) Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, and reduce the heat so that the liquid stays at a slow, gentle simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and gently, using tongs, flip the wedges. Cook for another 20 minutes, or until the cabbage is very tender and yields easily when pierced with a thin, sharp knife. Add the lemon juice, and shake the pan to distribute it evenly.
4) Simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes more to thicken the cream to a glaze that loosely coats the cabbage. Serve immediately, with additional salt at the table.


Sweet & Spicy Korean Chicken Wings

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I often forget about chicken. It's sad, I know. But, when I think of meats to eat, chicken is last on my list. I've recently decided, this has got to change. There are a lot of tasty chicken recipes out there, and I should make chicken more of a priority. Because what else do I have going on? Well... right. Chicken is going to get more action in my kitchen! Starting with wings. I'm only starting with wings because chicken at Whole Foods is pricey, and wings are a good deal. Wings it is.

Since my kitchen is stocked with Korean ingredients, I took that route and went for a sweet and spicy marinade.
I combined honey, pepper paste, pepper flakes, ginger, garlic, scallions, sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce. Then, sesame seeds. I mixed all this goodness together and marinated the wings for a few hours. Then I baked at 400 degrees for about an hour, turning and basting half-way through with the remaining marinade.
You might be thinking, what are the measurements? Am I right? Are you thinking this? Anything? Well, I don't recall. Sometimes weeknight meals happen so fast that I just do. Because the only thing on my mind is, how soon can I eat?

As in most of my Korean marinades, I find that I have to play around with the pepper paste and flakes to get the right spicy flavors. Otherwise, the rest is up to you. Just don't overdo it with the sesame oil.
Wings, salad and cider. That's a Tuesday night.

Juicing: How I spend 20 minutes a day

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This year, I skipped a New Year's resolutions/goals post. My goals are fairly boring -- more fruit, more tennis, more cocktails, less meat before dinner. What kind of post would that make???

The thing is, I don't love fruit. I love berries, I enjoy grapefruit. But, the rest is kind of a chore. When I eat a banana or orange, I look around, waiting for someone to give me a reward. Sadly, no one ever does. So, I decided to give juicing a try and drink my fruits, along with some vegetables. I haven't seen the juicing movie, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead (I just Googled juicing movie everyone!). And I haven't read up on all the benefits. But, I assume there're plenty. I DID however do research on decent juicers under $100 that are not ginormous, purchased one on Zappos, received it the next day, and have been enjoying some interesting juices for the last several weeks.

I knew I'd never stick to recipes, so I haven't bothered with any. I've seen enough juice combinations on the internets and at restaurants, and have managed to trust my instincts. I quickly learned a few helpful things:

-When in doubt, add ginger or lemon.
- Red cabbage juice is delicious.
- I find beets too sweet, so I need to balance them with something like grapefruit.
- Carrots are a nice starting point.
- Warm juice is disgusting, I like to chill or drink over ice.
- I'm way to lazy to juice in the mornings before work. I prepare my juices the night before and store them in mason jars.
- I don't want to drink juice for dinner, but I enjoy it for breakfast and lunch.
- Don't waste your juice pulp, you can compost it or find friends with chickens. Apparently, chickens love juice pulp!
So far, I've enjoyed every juice I've made, and find the hearty, green juices easier to drink than anything sweet. There I go again discriminating against the poor, sweet fruit. But the husband likes the sweet (girly) juices, so I've been doing a little of both. While I tend to sip and enjoy my juices, at a leisurely pace, he does juice shots, like he's in some sort of competition. It's quiet the sight.
 Juicing after a workout. Disclaimer: juice was followed by cheese and champagne.
Juice and laundry folding. Could things get more exciting on a Saturday afternoon? Yeah. Right.


Weekend Adventures: Fish Chowder and the Getty Villa

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With my first weekend feeling better, it was time to host a little dinner and get out of the house. I saw a recipe for a Norwegian fish chowder and it called to me. It's been so so cold around here. We're not used to this type of cold in Southern California. I've been wearing gloves to play tennis! Actually, I've only attempted to play tennis for 15 minutes and then quickly ran back to my warm car.

So on Saturday, we invited our friends over, build a large fire in the fireplace and spent the evening entertaining a little baby, who is very particular about the intensity with which she likes to be rocked.  I bought Alaskan cod, a bag full of root vegetables and chopped for a good 20 minutes. Unlike the Thomas Keller clam chowder, previously featured on this blog, this chowder recipe was surprisingly simple and oh, so good. Perfect for the chilly weather and with a chilled white wine. There are a lot of vegetables involved, but very few steps. And even though it's not too rich and creamy, it's very filling. One bowl and you want to take a nap by the fire, which the husband did.
The baby had to get nice and fat before he agreed to hold her. Fortunately, it only took her two months to pack on the pounds.
On Sunday, we headed to Malibu to show our friends around the Getty Villa. It was a clear, crisp day, and we enjoyed watching the sunset from the Malibu Seafood shack.
These guys strolled, very slowly, causing me to almost reach my museum time limit.
Norwegian Cod and Root Vegetable Chowder
via http://www.saveur.com

Serves 6–8

6 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small leek, sliced ¼" thick
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
2 medium carrots, sliced ¼" thick
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
1 small celeriac, peeled and chopped
4 medium new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
3 cups fish stock (I used 2 cups of fish stock and one cup of clam juice)
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1½ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 lb. boneless, skinless cod fillet, cut into 2" pieces
⅓ cup dill, chopped, plus more for garnish
¼ cup parsley leaves, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Crusty bread, for serving

1) Heat butter in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, celery, onions, peppers, and leeks, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until soft, 8–10 minutes. 

2) Add carrots, parsnips, celeriac, potatoes, stock, milk, cream, and Worcestershire; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. 
3) Add cod, and continue to cook, stirring gently, until fish is cooked through, 6–8 minutes. 
4) Stir in dill, parsley, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Serve with bread.


Chorizo and Black Eye Peas Soup, with Arugula

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We've consumed a lot of soup in the last few weeks trying to recover from the nasty, lingering colds that have invaded our peaceful home. This flavorful and smoky bean soup takes first place.

After looking up black eye pea soups on the internets, I decided to just combine interesting elements from various soups that... interested me. And, I ended up with this chorizo and adobo sauce version, lightened up with the addition of arugula. I pre-soaked my beans during the day, and cooked this up on a weeknight. If you enjoy a hearty bean soup, I highly suggest you give this a try.
Chorizo and Black Eye Peas Soup

2 Mexican chorizo links, casing removed
1 lb black eye peas, sorted, rinsed and soaked for 4-6 hours
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 large shallot, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, and 2-3 tbsp of adobo sauce
chicken stock, 5-6 cups
paprika, cumin and oregano to taste, 1-2 tsp of each
salt and pepper
olive oil

1) Brown chorizo in a little bit of oil and transfer to a plate. In the same pot, saute onions, peppers and garlic, adding in the adobo pepper and sauce.
2) Add the chorizo back, along with the beans. Stir well.
3) Add chicken stock, seasonings and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about an hour.
4) Taste, adjust seasoning and serve soup over a generous handful of arugula.


Wine Country Getaway

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Since I had time off after Christmas, I was determined to take a few days and go somewhere, anywhere. After checking airfares, my daydream of a snowy trip to visit a friend in Pittsburgh were quickly and totally crushed. $800 to fly to Pittsburgh. Ha. That's Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!  I flew to Thailand for $700. And that's Thailalnd, Thailand!

So instead, I settled for a little getaway to central California to see the ocean, drink wine and eat oysters. It's been a while since I've been to Paso Robles and Cambria in Winter. Unfortunately, the husband was working. And so was everyone else I knew, except the brother-in-law. So me and the BIL ended up on the 101, after a late start, and drove, very quickly, without stopping, straight to Tablas Creek Vineyard.

We made excellent time, witnessed three rainbows and got to our first winery at around 4 pm. We were nervous, most places closed at 5:30 and we wanted to drink wine, lots of it. Four wineries later, at 6 pm, feeling extremely proud of our speedy wine tasting skills, we headed toward the coast, for dinner at the Sea Chest.

If you've never been to Cambria, it's worth a visit. It's a sleepy town, mostly for old people or couples, (perfect for traveling with your brother in law!). The town itself, I can skip, but Moonstone Beach is pretty magical. I like the fog, the rocky seashore lined with pine trees, listening to the water in the dark. I like being full and tipsy and walking along the boardwalk, careful to watch my step.

The trip, though short, was fun. We tried new wineries, saw disgusting sea elephants, ate good food. And, I managed to pick up a "couple" of bottles of wine for the next few dinner parties.