Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chocolate Pork Chops

Whoa! CHOCOLATE AND PORK!!! That sure gets your attention doesn't it?

The Brain and I have been playing a new "game". (Get your mind out of the gutter.) Every weekend he picks three packages of meat out of the freezer and I find some way of cooking them. We started this little ritual after he realized that I could take an entire evening to make my weekly meal plan. Yes, I like to know what I should be eating for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner every day. (Unfortunately, there sometimes appears something delicious like oatmeal cookies that throw a wrench in any meal planning and I eat them until they're gone.) It's been working out pretty good so far. I've been trying to loosen up and go with the flow at mealtime and we're slowly eating all of the meat in the freezers.

This week though, things really came into line. Monday night I was sitting around watching TV, wondering how bad the storm was going to be, wondering if school was going to be cancelled on Tuesday (it was), when I flicked to Paula Deen making these beautiful pork chops. I was stunned. I was hungry after watching. I had already made dinner. D'OH!

So at the earliest opportunity (the next day), I pulled the thawed pork chops out of the freezer and had at it. Fortunately I had most of the ingredients in the cupboard because we were snowed in. I kind of tweaked what I had to make do for the stuff I didn't have. I was sad to see my package of pork chops only had two in it. (All our meat is wrapped in butcher paper so it's like opening little presents.) But I'm saving the extra rub for next time the Brain pulls out a pork chop package. The dry rub is super easy to mix together and the pork chops cook really nice and quick. If I liked gravy, I might make a gravy out of what I'm sure are the delicious drippings still in the pan. Even the Brain, who eats whatever I make and doesn't really comment, remarked that these were some delicious pork chops.

I sure wish there were leftovers...

Chocolate Spiced Pork Chops
adapted from Paula Deen's recipe

2 Tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
1 Tbsp dehydrated onion flakes
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper
4 (1 1/2 inch thick) bone in pork chops
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, Italian seasoning, onion flakes, cocoa powder, garlic salt, paprika, red pepper, cumin, and black pepper. Rub the mixture evenly over the pork chops.

Add the oil to a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the pork chops and cook for 3 minutes per side. Put the skillet in oven and bake the pork chops until cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven, transfer the chops to a serving platter and serve.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Last night Super G and I had an interesting phone conversation. She was complaining that I was anticipating not just one snow day, but two if the full 12 inches of snow hits like it's supposed to. It started at 7am this morning. Right on schedule! (As it turns out, Super G can no longer whine about there being no snow days in New York City. School is cancelled for her tomorrow too!)

To make her feel better Super G and I were discussing the benefits of living in New York City. Not that I really know, because I've only lived in what seems like every major metropolitan area in the Midwest not the East Coast. So I pointed out things like being able to find rice flour, or marscapone cheese and being able to go to places like fancy chocolate shops and Murray's cheese shop, and if she wants Indian food she doesn't have to cook it herself. Super G then started to feel better because, as she pointed out to me, she was able to have some Scharffenberger cocoa powder delivered to her house with her groceries.

I don't think I can find Scharffenberger cocoa out here. Well certainly not in this county anyway. Askinosie isn't available either. I have to admit that I was starting to feel a little blue. The best cocoa I can find is whatever Walmart carries. But then I started to think of the advantages of being out here in the middle of Nowhere, Ohio. For example, all of our meat is raised lovingly by little kids and is pretty near organic. Also, the secretary at the school I'm doing my student teaching at sells farm fresh brown eggs from her very own chickens.

Super G may have access to fancy expensive specialty foods, but I know where mine comes from. I know the 15 year old 4H "farmers". And sometimes you just don't need fancy specialty foods. Some good old fashioned oats will do. And some raisins. And there you have an iconic cookie. The Oatmeal Raisin cookie.

Sometimes when I'm lying awake at night trying to go to sleep I create impossible stories in my head. Nothing that will ever come about, but fun to think about kinds of things. Like owning a bakery. That would be fun. Well except for the whole employees and taxes and inventory and rent and electricity bills and stuff like that. But if I ever did own a bakery, these would be the oatmeal cookies I would sell. They are sturdy and yummy and yet down-home and delicious. I think the oatmeal cookie recipe from the Quaker Oats box has just been bumped from my recipe collection!

The recipe comes from a Christmas present cookbook from my brother and his beautiful wife. The Grand Central Baking Book. The recipes are easy to follow. The photos are drool-worthy. And frankly, if every recipe in the book is as good as the oatmeal cookies, then I may have to make a trip to Portland (or Seattle) and eat at the Grand Central Bakery. As it turns out, they celebrate the same food philosophy I do. They are all about foods that are locally grown, artisan breads, and homemade scratch cooking. Yum! (If you perhaps live out in the Pacific Northwest, you should really check them out. The bread is apparently in grocery stores, and there are bakery locations in both Portland and Seattle.)

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 3/4 cup (8.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups (11.5 ounces) rolled oats
1 cup raisins
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 5 baking sheets with parchment paper (or if you don't have that many sheets, only line 2, but you will have to wait while cookies cool on the baking sheets.)

Whisk to combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, and sugars on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Scraping the bowl occasionally. While the mixer is running, crack the eggs into a liquid measuring cup and add the vanilla extract. Reduce the speed to low and pour the eggs, one at a time, into the batter. Allow the first egg to be fully incorporated into the dough before adding the second. Scrape the bowl again.

Add the dry ingredients in 2 or 3 additions with the mixer on low speed. Scrape the bowl again. Mix the oats and raisins in the now empty flour bowl and then add them to the dry ingredients. Mix just until everything is well distributed.

Weigh out scoops of dough that are approximately 1.5 ounces each. Roll these scoops into balls. Place 6 balls on each cookie sheet and then gently flatten them to about 1/2 inch thick. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through cooking time. When they are done they should look a little underdone in the middle, but golden at the edges. Pull the sheets out of the oven and let the cookies cool on the cookie sheets. (The cookies continue to bake on the hot cookie sheets.)

These aren't the quickest batch of cookies to make, but they really are worth the time spent making them!