Archive for December, 2011

Perfect Pork Chop

Posted on December 29, 2011. Filed under: meat, pork, recipe, technique | Tags: , , , , , |

I’m not very good at following rules. A combination of creativity, curiosity, and stubbornness (and upper middle class white privilege–there, happy grad school?) leaves me with a tendency to learn some basic rules and then follow my own path. In general, I think this is a very good thing–you’ll never find me following a less-efficient route because I’m a slave to the (literal or proverbial) GPS. More specifically for a cook this is (aside from baking) nearly always a good thing. Experimenting is the key to understanding ingredients and developing your own style as a cook. Published recipes are generally “safe,” and often lack complete flavor potential.* When I use them, if I use them, they are used as a guide or starting-point. So imagine my surprise when I stuck to an America’s Test Kitchen recipe for Oven-Roasted Thick-Cut Pork Chops, and it turned out to be brilliant.

A perfectly roasted pork chop: a dragon, albeit a small one, I’ve been chasing for ages. Simple and wonderful. I’ve never been able to get it right. So I followed the directions precisely. The people at America’s Test Kitchen are so meticulous in the way they develop recipes I had a feeling they’d get it right, and they totally did. The chop was phenomenal: a richly flavored mahogany crust protecting the tender inside of the chop. I topped it was a garlic/thyme sauce, and cried “PERFECTION!”

I’m not going to publish the recipe. America’s Test Kitchen’s policy is to charge for access to their content, and I can respect that. They might be a step behind the times regarding online sharing, but, hey, they work hard and deserve to make a buck or two. So here is the basic idea

Salt chops and allow them to rest a room temperature.

Cook slowly in a low oven.
Sear over very high heat.

*Clearly I don’t mean posted recipes on this site; they are all full of flavor and joy

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Chevy Sonic Sweets Tour

Posted on December 5, 2011. Filed under: community, dessert, hodgepodge, travel | Tags: , , , , , |

My friends at Driving the Northeast invited me to another “Drive a Chevy and Eat Some Free Food” event. This time, they were promoting the Chevy Sonic and treating us to sweets. The premise: we drive the Sonics to Sugar Cafe, Dozen Bakeshop, and Gluuteny. Then, we write about the good times we had with General Motors.

I didn’t drive a Sonic. Instead, I was able to drive a Volt. It was sitting there, looking like it was going to remain in the parking lot where we met to start the tour, so…me being me, I asked if I could drive it. They said I could. Wicked. I’m a big fan of innovation, and a hybrid gas/electric vehicle represents a big leap forward in transportation sustainability. They did a pretty terrific job with this car; aside from how quiet it is, you’d never know it was running on electricity. The Chevy Volt is no golf cart, either–it actually drives like a real car. This is important to me–I believe the path forward to convincing people to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle isn’t about telling people “NO! Bad things! Do without,” but rather “Good! Yes! You see how this is better than the unsustainable thing you’re doing because it’s the thing you’re used to doing?”  If I had a parking spot with an electrical outlet and $41,000 to spare, I’d be all over one of these cars. Well done, American Auto Industry! Enough about cars.

The first stop of the tour was Sugar Cafe. It’s located in Dormont, an up-and-coming Pittsburgh community. My friend Cory takes people on food tours there–you should go on one. But if you’re just interested in a tasty snack, you can’t go wrong with Sugar Cafe. They serve a selection of sandwiches, La Prima coffee, and of course there are many many sweets. The lemon pound-cake was the highlight of our sampling; it’s tart and buttery, with just enough sugar to feel like you’re having a treat. The vanilla macaron was a delight, too; crisp and chewy, resting on a bed of homemade raspberry jam. Sadly, the Irish Car Bomb cupcakes were less successful–perhaps I was biased though, as I’d just written a piece on Cocktail Cupcakes a few days prior to the tour. My standards were high.

Thanks for the easy segue, Hal. No problem, Hal.

I’d written the Cocktail Cupcake article on Dozen Bakeshop, which happened to be the second stop of the tour. We were treated to pumpkin gobs (delicious!), apple-cinnamon pop tarts (you’ll never eat a processed pop tart again after having one of these), an assortment of mini-cupcakes (buttercream frosting happy happy), and a cleverly designed push-up cupcake pop (clearly intended for small children, but the frosting had way too much bright food coloring and it creeped me out). I’m really happy Dozen is starting to find its way again. It closed abruptly last summer, shocking many people in both Lawrenceville and the rest of the city. Although the cupcakes were often dry (they’ve improved quite a bit under new head baker Lindsay Headley), their presence in the community was missed during the time they shuttered the store. It’s a wonderful place to sit with a cup of coffee and pastry, especially on a winter afternoon. Glad you’re back, Dozen.

The final stop on the tour was Gluuteny, a gluten-free and caesin-free bakeshop. I want to like this place. I really do. I feel horrible for people who have a gluten intolerance (an actual one, not one that was diagnosed by a lazy doctor following a health scare trend). No bread? No cake? No PIZZA?!?! This is a terrible thing. So when a company decides to try to add bread-like food back into people’s lives, I hope for the best. And, for being gluten-free, this is damn good stuff. But it’s never going to be able to replace a cake made with wheat flour. Sorry.

I must confess: I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I’d much rather have a slice of pizza pie than a slice of chocolate pie (and I would indeed have pizza for dessert). Still, sugar shock aside, it was a lovely way to spend the afternoon.

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