Savory Orange Glazed Pork Chops

I like versatile recipes, such as this one.  Many of the components in this recipe can be substituted with other items.  Apricot jam can be replaced by orange marmalade or apple jelly.  I guess you could even use grape jelly or plum jelly.  Pork chops can be replaced by chicken breasts, thighs or legs, with or without bones.  Mustard can be any type you like, or you could use horseradish.  Use any combination of herbs that you happen to have, dry or fresh.  Grapefruit could replace oranges, etcetera. 

Substitutions allow this recipe to become whatever you want it to be, within reason.  Just don’t lose sight of the concept of sweet and savory. 

A sweet and savory dish should contain certain flavor elements.  Choose a fruit that is sweet but also a little tart.  Include herbs that are fragrant and rustic.  Add something with a sharp, pungent flavor, like mustard, and you are on the right path. 

Any time I use substitutions in a recipe I take a moment to consider if the various elements will be harmonious and, most importantly, I taste as I go.  I will taste a sauce before adding it to the rest of the dish, even if that means cutting off a small piece of the cooked meat and dipping it in the sauce, to sample the flavor. 

Ingredients:

Juice from 2 oranges

2 Tbs apricot jam

1 Tbs Dijon mustard (or whole grain mustard)

1 Tbs soy sauce

1/2 tsp hot sauce

2 Tbs cooking oil

1 Tbs butter

4 pork chops (boneless or with bones)

A pinch of salt and black pepper

2 or 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp sage

1 onion, julienne cut

1 bell pepper, sliced thin

¼ cup orange zest

Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

Add orange juice, apricot jam, soy sauce, hot sauce and mustard to a saucepan and cook over medium heat.  Stir to combine and keep stirring until it begins to bubble and boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Set sauce aside.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet over high heat.  Add two tablespoons of cooking oil to coat the pan.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over the pork chops.  Add the pork chops to  the hot pan. Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan. Sear the chops on both sides until they are browned. 

Add onion and bell pepper to the pan. 

Squeeze the juice from one half orange over the pork chops.

Add the prepared sauce.

Add the herbs and spices.

Add the orange zest.

Mix to combine and simmer at medium heat for 15 minutes.

Bake in the oven at 425° for 10 minutes.  (20 minutes if using bone-in chops)

Remove from the oven and add lemon juice.

Spoon cooked rice on a serving platter, leaving a well for the pork chops.

Arrange the pork chops on top of the rice and garnish with fresh rosemary.

Chicken Schnitzel with Roasted Mushrooms and Broccoli

A Quick Dinner for Two

Preparing a dinner has nearly become automatic for me.  I say, nearly, because there are still times that I am stumped about how to approach a particular meal, which usually causes me to bounce around the kitchen like a ping-pong ball, while trying to accomplish the simplest tasks.  But, over the years, I’ve learned how to manage my time and I’ve learned how to stay calm in the kitchen, even while improvising. 

For this meal, I wanted to flavor the broccoli with garlic but I didn’t want pieces of garlic in the finished dish and I wanted to add garlic paste to the schnitzel gravy so, it made perfect sense to me to quickly pan fry the broccoli with whole pieces of garlic and then use the garlic for the gravy.  That kind of efficiency pays off when you want to reduce the amount of time preparing a meal.  If I remember correctly, this meal took about 45 minutes to prepare.

Mushroom and Broccoli ingredients:

8 oz fresh broccoli florets

5 garlic cloves

8 oz fresh mushrooms (stems removed)

8 oz Mozzarella, crumbled

1 Tbs bread crumbs

Directions:

Heat a small pan and add a little olive oil, about 1 tablespoon.  Add broccoli and peeled garlic cloves over high heat, tossing in the pan, frequently.  The high heat will char the broccoli without overcooking.  Remove and set the garlic aside.

Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a ceramic baking dish.  Smear the oil around the bottom of the dish, to coat. 

Remove stems from mushrooms and arrange them in the dish.  Nestle the broccoli between the mushrooms. 

Top with crumbled Mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle bread crumbs over the cheese.

Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese melts and begins to brown.  Remove from oven and store in a warm place.

Schnitzel Gravy ingredients:

15 oz tomato sauce

4 Tbs Hungarian paprika

5 garlic cloves, sautéed and mashed

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbs softened butter

2 Tbs flour

For the schnitzel:

1 cup of cooking oil

2 large chicken breasts, flattened

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

2 Green onions, chopped

Directions:

Add tomato sauce to a large pan and set the heat to medium/low.  Add the paprika and swirl into the sauce with a whisk. 

Move the sautéed garlic, prepared earlier, to a clean cutting board.  Sprinkle a little coarse salt over the garlic cloves.   Press and smear the garlic with the broad side of a kitchen knife, to form a paste.

Add the garlic paste to the sauce and mix. 

Add flour and softened butter to a small bowl.  Mix with a fork.  Ladle some of the warm sauce into the bowl and continue to mix. 

Add the mixture back to the sauce and continue to the heat the sauce over medium/low heat.  The sauce will thicken during the next several minutes.  Reduce heat to low and simmer while preparing the chicken.

Add about 1 cup cooking oil to a pan and heat over medium/hot heat.

Add chicken breasts to a clean work surface.  Pound the chicken to about ½” thick with the broad side of a meat cleaver or mallet. 

Set up a dredging station with beaten eggs in one dish and Panko bread crumbs in the other dish.

Dredge the chicken in the egg, coating each side.  Lay the chicken in the Panko bread crumbs and turn over to coat each side.  Press on the chicken with your hands to ensure that the chicken is thoroughly coated.  Pan fry the chicken for about two minutes on each side, or until the chicken is golden brown.

Remove to a paper towel to remove excess oil. 

Add the chicken to a serving dish and cover with the schnitzel gravy.  Garnish with chopped green onions and serve warm.

Roast Pork Loin with Rosemary

A tip of the hat to legendary chef Emeril Lagasse for this one.  Emeril is a master of simplicity and he has a deep respecet for quality ingredients.  Say what you want about TV chefs but Emeril’s attention to detail and culinary skill is inspiring!  This particular recipe is about as simple as it gets and the result can make you feel like you’re eating at a four star restaurant.

As with any good cut of lean meat, high heat and short cooking time is key.  I was afraid of serving undercooked meat until I realized that it’s not the color of the finished meat that matters…it’s the temperature.  Bring the meat to a high enough temperature to kill bacteria and you’re safe to serve!

Ingredients:

4 large garlic cloves, pressed

1 Tbs Dijon mustard (I substituted with a German, stone ground mustard)

4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp coarse salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

2 lbs boneless pork loin roast, excess fat trimmed (I cut the roast into two equal pieces)

1 cup warmed chicken stock

Fresh rosemary sprigs or fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:

Mix the pressed garlic cloves, mustard, rosemary, salt and pepper together. Rub the mixture over the entire pork roast.

Place the pork, fat side down, into ceramic roasting pan. Roast the pork for 30 minutes at 400° F, then turn the roast over and roast until a meat thermometer, inserted into the center of the roast, reads 140° F, about 25 to 30 more minutes.

Remove the roast from the oven and let the roast cool for about 10 minutes.

Deglaze the roasting pan with warmed chicken stock and pour into a small saucepan. Simmer the sacue for a few minutes. 

Cut the pork into thin 1/3-inch-thick slices and arrange overlapping slices on a serving platter. Drizzle the sacue over the pork and garnish fresh rosemary sprigs or parsley.

Serve with baked or steamed vegetables.  I chose broccoli and baked potatoes. 

Roast Chicken in a Bag

I hesitate to say that this is a no-fail recipe but I can say that it’s never failed me.  I first heard of roasting chicken in a paper bag many years ago when I didn’t have much money and I only had rudimentary cooking utensils, but that didn’t stop me from making an fantastic dinner.  This is a perfect recipe for the young bachelor who wants to impress but can’t afford a dozen long stemmed roses!

I roasted a whole, small hen in a paper grocery bag with dried herbs, potatoes and carrots.  The hen came out tender and juicy and perfectly cooked and the vegetables were full of flavor. 

It’s important to note that you will need a large paper bag.  Grocery store paper bags are perfectly suitable and they don’t add to the cost of the meal. Don’t forget to request paper bags when you go to the store to buy the chicken!

Use an ordinary grocery store bag

For this recipe, I used two boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of a whole hen

Ingredients:

¼ cup Herbe de Provence (or an Italian herb mix)

½ tsp red chile flakes

½ tsp salt

1 tsp dried onion

½ tsp cracked black pepper

2 Tbs olive oil

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 head of broccoli (about ½ lb)

1 lb small potatoes

2 large carrots

2 ears of fresh corn on the cob

A few small fresh chiles

4 oz fresh mushrooms

½ onion peeled but not chopped or sliced

3 Tbs butter, melted

¼ cup fresh basil

½ tsp sea salt, crushed

¼ tsp cracked black pepper

For the roasting bag:  One large paper grocery bag and a few tablespoons of cooking oil.

Directions:

Add olive oil, herbs, chile flakes, dried onion, salt and pepper to a mixing bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Add the chicken to the bowl and toss to coat.  Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Prepare the bag for roasting.  Lay a large casserole dish on a work surface.  A glass or metal pan can be used, as long as it is deep enough to collect juices that might run out of the bag when it is comes out of the oven.

Stand the paper bag in the dish and smear the entire bag with cooking oil.  I like to pour a little oil onto a paper towel and scrub the bag with soaked paper towel.  This doesn’t require much oil…just enough to wet the bag a little.  Set aside.

Wash the vegetables and allow them to air dry for several minutes.  Cut the corn into 3 to 4 inch pieces.  Leave the rest of the vegetables whole. 

In a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons melted butter, ¼ cup fresh, chopped basil, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper.  Mix together, briefly.  Add the potatoes, carrots and corn to the bowl and toss.

Add all of the vegetables to the paper bag, in no particular order.  Place the chicken breasts on top of the vegetables.  Clasp the top of the paper bag and roll together tightly to seal.

Place in a 350° oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how tender you like your vegetables.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and allow to cool on a table for a few minutes.  Carefully cut a whole near the top of the bag to allow the steam to escape.  Cut the remaining top portion of the bag away. 

Remove the chicken and vegetables from the bag and move to a cutting board.  Cut the broccoli and carrots into bite sized portions.  Arrange the vegetables on a serving platter.  Slice the chicken into serving slices and nestle the chicken in the vegetables.

Enjoy the aroma and celebrate with good friends and loved ones!

King Cake French Toast

Mardi Gras is right around the corner and that means King Cakes are back in season.  My wife recently made her first attempt at making a King Cake and I must say, it was superb!  The texture of the cake was springy and light and the sweet glaze that topped the cake was sprinkled with yellow, green and purple confectioner sugar, in traditional New Orleans style.  We have been nibbling at the large cake for a few days and it occurred to me that it might be well suited for French toast.  So, that’s what I did this morning.

Ingredients:

Several 1” thick slices of King Cake

2 eggs

1 cup whole milk

¼ cup heavy cream

¼ lb butter (on stick)

Maple syrup

Directions:

Add eggs, milk and heavy cream to a shallow baking pan, or shallow plastic storage container.  Whisk the ingredients briskly. 

Lay the slices of King Cake in the mixture and allow the cake to soak for 15 minutes.  Turn the slices over and soak for another 15 minutes.

While the cake soaks, heat a large skillet, at low heat, and add the butter.

Once the butter begins to bubble, turn the heat up to medium heat.  Place slices of cake into the pan.  Do not overcrowd the pan. 

Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes and turn the slices over, after they have browned.  Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes and remove the slices to a serving dish. 

Serve with maple syrup, bacon and fresh fruit.

Jambalaya

Sometimes, all it takes is an exotic name of a dish to get me excited about cooking.  Jambalaya fits the bill perfectly.  “Jambalaya” rolls off the tongue lyrically and it speaks of the African influences in this Louisianan, Cajun dish.  French and Spanish cultures are also essential to Cajun cuisine, which has helped make Cajun food a wonderful mélange of cross-culturalism.  And, lest I forget, there is a particular sofrito that is the fundamental base of many Cajun creations.  The sofrito, which traditionally consists of diced onion, celery and bell pepper is so revered in Louisiana that they refer to it as the “holy trinity”. 

The last several months have been full of challenges, disappointments and despair but, I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know.  We’ve all been suffering from anxiety, depression and hardship in our own ways.  I selfishly want this dangerous virus to be crushed so that I can happily return to my favorite restaurants, without feeling that I am putting myself or others at risk.

I am glad that I know how to cook.  Maybe I should rephrase that. 

I am thankful that I have the confidence and courage to cook and that I have the necessary tools to prepare a meal.  If there is anything good to be said about 2020 it might be that we have been given the opportunity to invest in our families and bolster each other with love and support.  Providing home-cooked meals for the family allows us to gather around the table and enjoy good food and have meaningful conversations.

Okay, that’s enough my maudlin rambling.  Let’s make a Jambalaya.  But, before we get to it, just imagine how James Earl Jones would say “jambalaya”.  Let that be your muse!

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup chicken broth

8 oz tomato sauce

1 Tbs Cajun seasoning

½ tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried thyme

½ tsp dried parsley

½ cup chopped celery

1 medium onion

3 small, mild jalapeños ( I didn’t have bell peppers on hand)

2 cloves garlic

3 small tomatoes (the last of my fresh tomatoes!)

½ lb smoked sausage (andouille is traditional, but I used another tasty smoked pork sausage)

10 shrimp, peeled and deveined

½ cup rice (I used short grain, but long grain is perfectly fine)

Garlic bread (get a good loaf of French bread – it might become the star of the show!)

Butter and garlic salt, for the bread

Directions:

I like to prepare everything in advance and I like to have all of my ingredients ready and within arm’s length.  Mise en place, if you will.

I used whole, raw shrimp, but it is a wonderful convenience to use raw, frozen shrimp that has been peeled and deveined. 

Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, seasoning and herbs to a large skillet.  Set heat to low/medium and simmer for a few minutes.

Add the holy trinity (onion, celery and, in this case, jalapeño) to the pan.  Adding garlic to the holy trinity is referred to “adding the Pope”, so, add the Pope.  Add the chopped tomatoes.

Mix everything in the pan and simmer at low/medium heat for a few minutes. 

Add the uncooked rice.  Stir to combine. 

Cut the sausage into ½” disks.  Add to the pan.

Cover the pan with a lid and simmer at low/medium heat, until the rice becomes tender.  This took about 30 minutes, for me. 

While the rice cooks, prepare the garlic bread.

Slice the French bread into thick pieces (1 ½’ or 2” thick).  Brush melted butter on one side of each piece and dust liberally with garlic salt.  Reassemble the loaf and wrap in aluminum foil.  Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.  Remove the garlic bread from the oven and keep it sealed until you are ready to serve.

Once the rice is soft, add the shrimp .  Nestle the shrimp in the jambalaya and cover the pan again.  Simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes. 

Serve with laughter and merriment.  Eat well, stay healthy and find something to admire about everyone you meet!