Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hey, Look Who's Back

.. it's ME! Sorry I've been away so long. It's been hard to find time to blog while getting Emily on a schedule. I used to blog about her every week, and that's even dropped down to once a month, if I'm lucky. Now that she's going to bed around 9 every night, I may be able to get on here a little more often.

So, I've decided, to help supplement some income around here, I'm going to try to start some sort of cookie/brownie/cupcake/etc bakery kind of operation. Even if it just starts out with farmers' markets and baseball games, it'll be a little extra cash-ola laying around. On that note, there will be fewer cookie/brownie/cupcake recipes posted and more savory dishes, as I still thoroughly enjoy creating dinner each night. I've got a ton of recipes backed up that I have made and feel the deep desire to share, so let's start with those.

Tonight's recipe is going to be... dah duh daaaaaa

Brie Smothered Pork Chops

Now, this is a Guy Fieri recipe that I doctored a little bit and made my own. We had some Brie laying around. (now there's a statement you don't hear everyday)... we had bought it to make this dough wrapped Brie appetizer that we get at a local restaurant (shout out to Fuel and Fuddle!) here in Pittsburgh. We had purchased an 8oz wheel, and only used half, so we used the rest for chops. This recipe isn't all that complicated, but it is a little time consuming. The end results, however, are too scrumptious not to try this recipe.

Here goes:

For the brine:
1/2c light brown sugar
1/4c apple cider vinegar
2T kosher salt
1T granulated garlic
1T whole black peppercorns
1T dried thyme
1tsp mustard powder
pinch red pepper flake
2c ice cubes
2 pork chops, bone in, 1.5" thick

For the chops:
olive oil
4oz brie, sliced

For the sauce:
Olive oil
1 green apple, peeled and rough sliced
1 sweet onion, rough sliced
1/4c Calvados
1/2c chicken broth
2T cold butter, cubed

Now, I used boneless pork chops. I don't see the point of spending money on bones you're going to throw away. It still came out gorgeously, but stick to the 1.5" thick point, or the times will be off and your pork will be dry.

Combine all ingredients from the sugar to the pepper flake in a medium pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Take it off the heat and add the ice cubes. Once the mixture has cooled to warm, pour it over the pork chops in a bowl or shallow dish. Let them brine in the fridge for about an hour.

Once your hour is up, pull those babies out of the fridge and remove them from the brine. You can discard the brine. *never, ever, ever save a brine or marinade for reuse!!* They'll look a little grey, but that's ok. The vinegar "cooked" them slightly, kind of like a ceviche, and they're supposed to be that way. You want to pat them dry with a paper towel and let them sit as you put your trusty cast iron pan over high heat. Also, preheat your oven to 350. Add a little bit of olive oil and wait for it to just reach its smoke point. Sprinkle your chops with salt and pepper and sear those chops in the pan. Brown each side for about 8 minutes, taking care not to burn them. Reduce the heat and cook on each side another 4 minutes or so. Check the temperature. You want them to be somewhere around 120. Place them on a sheet tray and top them with slices of brie, covering the tops completely. You want it to turn into an ooey gooey mess. Place the tray in the preheated oven.

Now, back to that cast iron skillet. You didn't put it in the sink, did you? Good.. bring it back up to temp over a medium  heat. Add a little olive oil to the pan and, again, when it's warm,  toss in the apples and onion and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add your Calvados** and cook off the alcohol. If you want to be fancy, you can light that pan on fire and do it in seconds, but I suggest you just let it cook for a bit. You'll see the liquid reduce. Add your stock and bring to a simmer. Let it reduce 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove it from the heat and swirl in the cubes of butter. This will thicken your sauce and make it very tasty. Pull your chops from the oven and top them with the sauce before serving.

**Calvados is a liquor distilled from apples. It can be pretty pricey, so you can substitute with an apple brandy, congac, Applejack, or other apple liquor. Try getting the small sampler bottles from behind the counter at your liquor store if you don't want to keep a bottle on hand. If you don't have any on hand or don't want to use alcohol, you can substitute apple cider, but the flavor will be slightly changed and a little sweeter.**

I've made this twice. I didn't look ahead the first time and we had no apple liquor of any kind. So I used apple cider. It was good, but we vowed to try the real recipe, and I do say, the liquor is better. It gives it more of a tart taste to compliment the apples and brie.

Overall, the meal is to die for. So, I thank sir Guy by giving you this link to his original recipe.


Crock Pot Applesauce

There is nothing better than walking into your house after a day out in the cold to the warm, delicious smell of cinnamon and apples. Except maybe eating warm cinnamon and apples in the form of crock pot applesauce. This recipe is so simple that, when I found it, I kicked myself for not thinking it up myself. Pretty much anything you can do in a pot on the stove can be done in a crock pot, with minimal time and no need to watch it. Duh!

So, I set to work. I broke out my huge crock pot (I have two) and plugged the old bugger in. My neighbor across the street has a huge apple tree in his front yard and he invites the neighborhood every year to pick them at will, as to not have a ton of apples to clean up at the end of the season. So, I grabbed the 6' ladder from the basement (I'm not really a tree climber), and headed on over. Between Cal and I, we picked about 2 1/2 grocery bags full of apples. I made pies. I made bread. I made dumplings. I made sliced apples and plain applesauce for Emily. And then, I made this applesauce. Sadly, I still have apples sitting in my kitchen. So, more applesauce it is!

Here goes... it's so simple.. ready....

Step one: get out your crock pot
Step two: peel, core and quarter 8 apples, toss them in the pot
Step three: add 1 strip of lemon peel, 1 tsp of lemon juice, 1/2 tsp cinnamon OR 1 cinnamon stick, 5 tsp light brown sugar
Step four: cover and turn on your crock pot.

No need to stir in the ingredients. No need to add water. Just cover and turn it on. Let it cook for about 4 hours.
*I did stir it halfway through, just to see how it was doing, but it's not necessary*

When it's done, you can puree it to make it super smooth if you want, but I like a couple of apple chunks in my sauce here and there. From here, you can jar it, container it, etc... store it how you will. I've canned 2 jars and had 2 in the fridge.

Sorry for the lack of pictures. It's applesauce and I didn't think about it. If you need a visual, go here to the original page I found through Pinterest.

Now go make yourself a healthy, delish treat and revel in the simplicity!