Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pork Chops with Creamy Napa Cabbage

For once, this one is all about a vegetable. Sure, there's pork involved, but all you have to do is grill a pork chop the way you like it. The part I like best about this dinner is the cabbage.

Napa cabbage is easy to find around here this time of year. Our new market around the corner has gorgeous heads of it that are grown locally.

The flavor of Napa cabbage isn't strong or bitter, so this isn't a very heavy-handed treatment.

Slice a small yellow onion and slice the cabbage crosswise thinly. You'll want to use mostly the leaves for this. When you get down to the tougher stem area, cut that out and discard it. You should wind up with about 6 cups of cabbage. It looks like a lot, but it cooks down.

Put a large pan over medium-high heat. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and the onion. Sweat the onion about four minutes, until it's limp. Then add the cabbage. Sprinkle it with a nice generous pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss it around in the pan. After another four minutes or so, it will get a nice, pretty bright green, and soft.

Now add about a quarter cup of cream and a couple of tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese. Stir it together and cook just long enough for the cream to thicken a little - about two more minutes.

See? Not tons of cream. The cabbage isn't just swimming in it. Just enough to coat it.
Now just serve it with a grilled pork chop and you're ready to go!

If you'd like to give the cabbage a try with your next pork chop, here's the .pdf.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sage Roasted Chicken Legs with Acorn Squash and Roasted Cauliflower

This one couldn't be simpler. It's why I love roasting. Prep the food, put it in the oven and/or on the grill, and walk away for 40 minutes. Cleanup isn't an atrocity, either. And I needed that after Post Thanksgiving Stress Disorder we suffered with this year's dinner. Good lord. No more potlucks.

No recipes needed for this. Nab a couple of chicken leg quarters, salt and pepper them, and stick about a half tablespoon of butter under the skin. If you have fresh sage leaves, shove two under the skin of each leg quarter with the butter. If you don't, you can use dried or rubbed sage - just go easy - maybe a scant half teaspoon per leg. I had rubbed sage and just sprinkled some right on the chicken.

I used my ubiquitous foil-lined, parchment-topped roasting pan and put it on a gas grill at 400F for about 35 minutes.

For the squash, just split it in two and scoop out the innards,

drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and brush with maple syrup. I put those in the oven at 400 for 40 minutes. (Cook until you can pierce the flesh easily with a fork.)

The cauliflower was even easier. Just break it up, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper and a little parmesan cheese, and roast it at 400 for the same amount of time (about 40 minutes).

Now while everything is cooking, wash your cutting board and knives and any doodads you messed up - that will take all of five minutes. Then go sit down and have a nice glass of wine and relax.

Thirty minutes later, hey presto, dinner is ready.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Hard to believe it's been a year since our last Thanksgiving. Tempus fugit, y'all. This year was a little more low-key, with the absence of the Cady contingency, but Lora was a champ and posted a picture of herself on Facebook with a pack of McCormick's gravy mix and a can of cranberry sauce. Thanks, Lora! After our dinner, I wish I'd followed your example.

I honestly have to say that the food this year was a disappointment. I'm not a huge fan of turkey, and I totally messed up Grandmother's Dressing. I know! She would have rolled her eyes at me.  I used her tablecloth and napkins, to try to make up for it.

She embroidered them herself. I can't even hem a pair of pants.

Then there was the miscommunication between my mother-in-law and me about who was making the cranberry sauce. We both made it and somehow neither batch even managed to make it to the table. Anybody want some cranberry sauce? We got plenty!

The weather was lovely and clear and a little crisp in the evening, so we were able to have a fire and visit before dinner.

Too soon, it was time to move inside and get things going in the kitchen. The off-duty cooks had a game of Spades and some snacks while they waited for KP call. My nephew tried a little cheating when he couldn't quite get the rules, but his grandmother is noted for her card smackdown, so that didn't get too far.

Do not mess with my mother-in-law when you're playing cards, people. She'll cut you.
The only thing I made all night that was worth the powder it'd take to blow it up was the smoked trout dip.

Delicious. Worth tight jeans the next day.

Once things started moving faster in the kitchen, Benjamin kindly took over camera duty for me. Kid's got a good eye, actually. Some of his shots turned out way better than mine.

It was pleasant enough to eat outside with the heater.

Finally, it was time to dig in, and dig in, we did.

Well, except for one of us. He didn't dig in. He just sulked.
We did have a lovely time, it's just that my contribution to dinner wasn't up to my standard. But it's about spending time with loved ones, and there was gracious plenty of that.

Hope your Thanksgivings were all wonderful and you are refreshed and ready to strap yourselves in for the rest of the holiday season.

If you think you'd like to give the smoked trout dip a go, here is the .pdf.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grilled Chicken with Mustard Maple Sauce

This is a recipe I have used often. The sauce pairs very well with chicken or pork (think tenderloin). It's better if you marinate the meat, but half the time I don't, and it's still fine.

For the sauce/marinade, mix together 4 teaspoons dried mustard, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of maple syrup, 6 Tablespoons of dijon mustard and 1/4 cup of soy sauce. If you can marinate the meat overnight in the refrigerator, great. If not, try an hour at room temperature.

For these, I used split chicken breasts, removed them from the marinade and gave them a quick sprinkle of kosher salt and dotted them with butter.

I like butter.

Those went on a 400F gas grill, and I boiled the remaining marinade down to about half as much.

Take the chicken off the grill, slice, and serve with the reduced sauce.

If you'd like to marinate some chicken in mustard and maple in your own kitchen, here's the .pdf.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Grilled Steelhead Trout with Sweet Potato Hash

Costco sometimes carries these absolutely enormous and gorgeous steelhead trout filets. Don't let it fool you. It is not salmon, even though it looks like it. I am not a huge fan of most fish, but I love this stuff. Added bonus - it's simple and fast to cook.

I like to grill it very simply. A sprinkling of kosher salt and pepper, a little brown sugar and a few dots of butter is all it needs, as far as I'm concerned. It's got a little heavier flavor than most trout, but it's still pretty delicate.

I cooked the trout on the gas grill at about 400 for 7 - 10 minutes.

I made a sweet potato hash to go along with the trout. I diced a russet and a peeled sweet potato and gave them a quick 1 - 2 minute boil in salted water so they would be partially cooked. Then I chopped an onion, a zucchini, and a red bell pepper, and cooked it in a large pan with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper until the potatoes were nice and crispy. It took about 10 minutes. Maybe 12. I had a glass of wine and might have lost track of a couple of minutes here or there.

I do know that dinner was on the table in no more than about 40 minutes, including prep and some down time for my glass of wine. And that's a beautiful thing.

If you'd like to hash a trout in your own kitchen, here's the .pdf.