Stuffed Pork Chops

I like stuffed pork chops but, it seemed that every time I made them I over-baked them, to the point where they were dry and tough and the stuffing fell out of them while they baked.  I butterfly cut the chops, making a long, deep cut into the meat, which made them easy to stuff but, not very pretty when they made it to the table. 

This recipe calls for piercing a small hole into the side of the pork chops and maneuvering a knife inside of the chops to create a large cavity.  The pork chops were seared on both sides and then baked in the oven, covered, to help keep the meat moist and tender.

Prep time can be reduced, if you are in a hurry, by using prepared breadcrumbs, rather than making them from scratch.

Ingredients:

3 Tbs butter (divided)

2 Tbs olive oil (divided)

French bread (6 inch loaf)

1 green onion, chopped fine

2 tsp dried sage

2 tsp dried thyme

1 egg, lightly beaten

4 thick cut, bone-in, pork chops

Directions:

Cut French bread into ¾” slices

Melt one tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter.

Brush bread slices with the melted butter and olive oil.

Toast the bread on a parchment paper lined backing tray in the oven, at 300° F.  Remove when bread has toasted and begins to turn golden brown. 

Allow the toast to air dry for a few minutes.

Crush the toasted bread, to make breadcrumbs.  Combine breadcrumbs with green onion, sage, thyme and egg.  Set stuffing mixture aside.

Insert a small, sharp knife into the center of  the edge of a pork chop (opposite side of the bone.) 

Cut a semicircle through the meaty part of the pork chop, while working the knife back and forth, using the insertion point as the center of the radial cut (see visual aid, below.)  Turn the knife blade to face the opposite direction and make another radial cut, to complete the cavity. 

Remove the knife and pack stuffing into the cavity.  Try to fill the entire cavity with stuffing.  Repeat the process with the remaining pork chops.

Sprinkle salt and cracked, black pepper on both sides of the pork chops.

Preheat oven to 350º F.

On the stove top, bring a large oven-proof skillet to medium/high heat.  Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the pan.  Once the oil is hot, lay the pork chops in the skillet and sear for three minutes.  Turn the chops over and sear for another two minutes. 

Add dollops of butter to the tops of the pork chops, (about two tablespoons of butter.) 

Cover the skillet with aluminum foil.

Bake the covered pork chops for 30 to 35 minutes in the oven.  Check the internal temperature of the pork chops.  It should reach 145º F.  Remove the skillet from the oven and remove the aluminum foil.  Allow the pork chops to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Serve the pork chops with anything you like.  Mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, cooked greens, apple sauce or, macaroni and cheese would all make great side dishes. 

I served the pork chops with potatoes au gratin.

Blackened Fish

Chef Paul Prudhomme introduced blackened redfish to the world nearly 40 years ago.  If you are a big fan of fish, you will love blackened fish.  If fish really isn’t your thing, you might be surprised to discover that you like blackened fish.  It might even covert you to pescetarianism!  Yes, pescetarianism is a real word.  It describes a person who is a vegetarian but, also eats fish and other seafood. 

Cajun seasonings and high heat elevate a simple fish filet to new levels.  Despite the term, “blackened”, the fish, if prepared properly, will not be overcooked, or taste burnt.  And, despite being a Cajun recipe, it should not taste overly spicy.

This recipe should serve two or three people. 

Ingredients:

2 or 3 zucchini squash, sliced lengthwise, ½ inch thick

4 Tbs cumin powder

1 Tbs garlic powder

1 Tbs cayenne powder

1 Tbs seasoning salt (Cajun, if available)

4 to 6 large fish filets (I used tilapia but Louisiana redfish is traditional)

4 to 5 Tbs butter

1 cup fresh spinach (tossed with oil and vinegar)

Two limes, quartered, for garnish

Cooked rice with a pinch of fresh thyme, added before serving

Directions:

Prepare steamed white rice.

Simmer the sliced zucchini in skillet with a little water until the squash begins to soften.  Remove and keep in a warm place.

Mix the spices (cumin, garlic, cayenne and season salt) in a bowl.

Coat each side of the fish filets with the seasoning and set aside.

Fluff the cooked rice and add fresh thyme.  Add the rice to the serving dishes.

Arrange the cooked zucchini slices over the rice. 

Add butter to a skillet and set heat to medium/high.

Once the butter sizzles, add the fish filets.  Do not crowd the pan!

Pan fry for two minutes and turn the fish over to fry for another two minutes.

Gently lay the cooked fish on top of the zucchini.

Toss the fresh spinach in a little olive oil and vinegar.  Add spinach to serving dishes.

Top with lime wedges.

Happy Halloween

I’m back! It’s been quite a long time since I have put up a post but, don’t worry, I’ve been cooking up a storm!

Today is Halloween and here, in the U.S., we celebrate by dressing up is funny or scary costumes and wander the neighborhood, searching for candy. Yes, it’s very bizarre but it’s as real as it gets.

Over the years, I have been happy to oblige by doling out candy to strangers each year. It’s fun, in a strange way but, I have noticed a trend over recent years that I feel I should address. Little kids dressed like Marvel superheroes or ghouls are perfectly fine…it’s sort of like a combination of roleplaying and community theatre, all wrapped up in a single event. But, every year there’s always a teenager or young adult that doesn’t even bother to dress up before ringing my door bell.

I have a special treat for those hooligans, this year.

If you want to come begging for candy and don’t arrive at my door in costume, I will give you a fresh Carolina Reaper.

I think that’s a fitting gesture.

Happy Halloween everybody…Now, get off my lawn!

Next up, the Carolina Reaper

Continuing with the “crazy, incredibly hot” theme, let’s talk about the Carolina Reaper.

Now, this is a stupidly hot chili, I know. But, I picked up a little plant at the nursery several months ago because I just couldn’t resist. I doubt that these chilis will find a way in many of my recipes but, I plan on dehydrating some and grinding them into a powder.

I imagine that just a pinch of the powder would turn a moderately spicy dish into a tongue-wagging adventure.

They are ripening on little bushes as I type.

Stay tuned.

Habanero-Peach Sauce

Habaneros can be combined with sweet flavors, like mango, to produce a spicy, fruity sauce or glaze.  I’m using peaches today.  I couldn’t find ripe peaches at the store, so I picked up some peach preserves.  The preserves contain pieces of fruit in addition to jam.  If I used fresh peaches, I would need to add a little sugar to the mix but, the preserves already have everything I need.

You could use two or three habaneros for this recipe or, maybe 5 or 6, if you want to kick up the heat.  A mild version could make a nice glaze or drizzle for baked fish or roasted pork. 

I’m using 30 habaneros today.  This is a very spicy sauce, but that’s what I wanted.  I’m going to use this on grilled chicken wings. 

Ingredients:

30 whole habaneros, stems removed, steamed over a hot grill

1 cup water

¼ cup white vinegar

1 Tbs soy sauce

18 ounces peach preserves

Directions:

I steamed and charred the chilies, as I did with the 5 Alarm Hot Sauce.

Lay the habanero chilies on a sheet of aluminum foil.  Fold the corners of the aluminum foil over the habaneros, keeping them close together.

Add a few more layers of aluminum foil wrap and seal the edges securely.

Roast the packet of chilies on a hot charcoal grill.  Leave an open area in the center of the grill to avoid burning the chilies.

Steam for 40 minutes, turning the packet over every 10 minutes, or so.

Set the chilis aside and allow to cool.

Add water, vinegar, soy sauce to a blender.  Add the habaneros.  Pulse and then puree. 

Add the peach preserves and blend until smooth.  The finished sauce will be sticky and thick, which will be perfect for the wings.

Five Alarm Habanero Sauce

“36”

DISCLAIMER: The recipe that follows is purely for entertainment purposes.  In no way does the author of said recipe expect or intend that the reader should replicate said recipe.  The author of said recipe is absolved from any culpability as a result of  personal injuries that might occur in the event that a person is harmed by attempting to make said recipe or that a person consumes the product of the recipe.

ADDENDUM: In the event that  a person would attempt to follow the prescribed methods of said recipe, it is advised by the author to take the following precautions:

* wear protective gloves:  latex or silicone gloves

* wear a gas mask

* wear a full-body hazmat suit

“Here be dragons”

This is one of the hottest sauces that I have ever made.  It’s not for the meek.  It’s not for the novice fire-eating braggarts. 

I have to admit that I am addicted to habaneros.  The flavor of a fresh, ripe habanero is irresistibly tantalizing and it pulls me into its depth, like Charybdis pulling Odysseus and his crew into its deadly whirlpool.

This sauce transcends the realms of delicious flavor and extreme heat.  Anyone that dallies in ultra-hot sauces should understand what I mean.  The ability to distinguish flavor in very hot sauces is important.  A hot sauce that is meant to cause pain is useless, unless a devilish prank is the intention.

Ingredients:

36 fresh habanero chilis, steamed and charred over a hot grill

6 cloves roasted garlic

1 cup distilled white vinegar

Directions:

Lay the habanero chilis on a sheet of aluminum foil.  Fold the corners of the aluminum foil over the habaneros, keeping them close together.

Add a few more layers of aluminum foil wrap and seal the edges securely.

Roast the packet of chilis on a hot charcoal grill for 40 minutes, flipping the packet over every 10 minutes.  Leave an open area in the center of the grill to avoid burning the chilis.

Carefully open the aluminum foil packet to expose the steamed chilis.  Take a breath before opening the packet and hold your breath as you open the packet.  You’ve been warned!  Walk away from the opened packet and take a few deep breaths.  Return to the chilis, slowly.  Take shallow breaths through your nose and empty the chilis into a blender.  If the foil packet has bits of dark residue, form the foil into a bowl shape and add a little water.  Swish the water around to loosen the gooey residue.  You might want to hold your breath while you swish the water around.  The vapors can send you into a coughing fit, if you’re not careful.  Pour the residue into the blender. 

Add the roasted garlic to the blender.  Add the vinegar to the blender.  Pulse the mixture a few times and then blend the mixture until it becomes a smooth liquid.  If the sauce is too thick, add a little water and continue to blend.  Do not lean over and smell the blended liquid.  You know the vapors will knock you down.  Trust that the sauce is plenty hot.  All you should do at this point is add liquid to the mixture until you achieve the desired consistency.

Carefully pour the sauce into small jars.  I filled 3 recycled hot sauce jars and poured the rest of the sauce in a canning jar.  I placed my smallest funnel into a jar and slowly filled each jar.  I strongly recommend wearing protective gloves because one hand will hold the jar as the other hand pours the liquid into the funnel.  If any sauce leaks during the process, it will get on the hand that is holding the bottle and, if that hand is not protected you will definitely regret it.  If the funnel clogs during the process, you may want to insert a toothpick to clear the clog.  Again, that hand should be protected!

This recipe made about 36 ounces of sauce. 

Habaneros!

Oh, my favorite chile, the mighty habanero!  I have four habanero plants in my garden and they have been pumping out delicious chile peppers for several weeks.  But, all good things must come to an end, and it is no different for the beautiful and spicy habanero. 

I might get another month or two of limited production but, I know there will soon come a time when I won’t be able to go out to the yard and pick some fresh peppers. 

So, now it’s time to make salsa but, even the best salsa doesn’t compare to the fresh flavor of the chile, as it is plucked from the bush.

I’ve dehydrated habaneros, in the past, but grinding them into a powder only results in a powder that is nearly unusable.  The heat is too intense and the bright, sweet, fruity flavor of the habanero disappears, after it has had the moisture sucked out of it.

Freezing them hasn’t produced much better results.  The fruit loses its lovely orange color and the flesh of the pepper is mushy. 

This year, I decided to freeze them in water, to help preserve their natural flavor and color.

Directions:

Rinse the habaneros in cool water.  All them to air-dry on a towel. 

Trim the stems off, exposing the inner cavity of the pepper.

Put them in ice trays and fill with water.  Stack another ice tray on top, to keep them from floating.  Freeze for a few hours and remove from the ice trays.

Store them in a plastic bag and keep in the freezer.  These should keep in the freezer for several months.

Just thaw them out when ready to use! 

I just hope that 48 habaneros will last me through winter!

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.