We've been eating light lately. When it is 100 degrees at 6:30 in the evening, one is not inspired to heat up the house cooking an elaborate meal, nor to try to digest something heavy. But when I arrived home from the Bandera Farmers Market this afternoon I was hot, tired and hungry. I was real glad I'd brined a few pork chops last night-yes, Kevin made an appearance at our dinner table tonight.
I receive an e-newsletter from Fine Cooking with a daily recipe. Some are terrific and I file them away, some I just know I'll never make and I delete them. But others I leave in my IN box to keep reminding me that I want to play around with the concept a bit. The brined pork chops were one such recipe. As soon as I read the title, "Bourbon-and-Vanilla-Brined Pork Chops", I was drawn in. We've been very stringent with our Garrisons Bros. Texas Bourbon , enjoying a bit every now and then. But we've still not found a use for our half empty bottle of Knob Creek...until now.
I have an inability to follow a recipe. I most always look at a recipe and think, "That would be great if I added this or swapped this out for that...". I've been cooking so long that tinkering with a recipe just doesn't result in a disaster. Or at least I can't recall the last time one didn't work. Such was the case with the Bourbon and Vanilla Brined Pork Chops. After reading over the recipe, I found it incredibly fussy-first a brine and then a rub (with 11 ingredients no less!). Summer in Texas is no time for fussy, at least not at our house. So I pared the brine down a little bit and Scott and I both agreed they were the best pork chops we've ever eaten. Here's what I did:
I had 2 boneless loin chops...bone in would be great also, I'm sure. In a jar, I mixed about 1 1/2 cups of water, 1 Tablespoon kosher salt, 2 Tablespoons Knob Creek Bourbon, 2 teaspoons vanilla and about 2 teaspoons molasses. I put a lid on this and shook until it was all mixed well and the salt had dissolved. Then I poured it over the chops, covered the bowl and refrigerated it overnight. When I got home tonight, I heated up my grill pan (we are under a serious burn ban, so no outside grilling here), doused it with a bit of olive oil and put the chops on the grill pan. They were pretty thick, so I grilled them for about 6 minutes on the first side then turned them and grilled another 5 on the other. Then I turned the heat off under the pan and let them sit while I prepared the remainder of the meal. I've been trading bread for the most wonderful baby Japanese eggplant at the Comfort Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Thin skinned with tiny seeds, these sweeties don't need to be peeled and are never bitter. We love them halved lengthwise, brushed with olive oil and grilled. Since the grill pan was on anyway, I filled up the other side with eggplant (the grill pan fits over 2 burners, so I could cook lots of eggplant). I'd picked up some beautiful tomatoes at the Bandera Market and I sliced these up. Went out to the garden and picked some basil and got some fresh mozzarella out of the fridge. The last batch of mozzarella I made a few days ago turned out particularly "toothsome"...quite chewy...and I LOVE it! I heated the milk too high in the initial heating (it was supposed to be no more than 95 degrees and I let it jump up to 110!) and it changed the texture pretty dramatically. But it melts terrific and gets real stringy...perfect for a broiled veggie concoction. I layered the now slightly charred and soft eggplant with the sliced tomatoes, lots of torn basil leaves, a drizzle of balsamic syrup and topped it all with some mozzarella. I popped this in the toaster oven/broiler while I made the salad. We've been on a Caesar Salad kick for over a month now. Probably three nights a week, we'll have a huge Caesar salad for dinner. Sometimes I'll add kalamata olives and Feta or Parmesan cheese and avocado, but always crunchy cucumbers because the garden is full of them-indeed the ONLY thing the garden is full of. Not traditional, I know, but I make this great dressing that pulls it all together. I could eat this dressing like soup-no kidding! Here's the recipe:
In a blender, place 3 peeled hard boiled eggs, 1/2 cup oil (NOT olive oil-I'll explain why later), 1/2 can of anchovies, 1/3 cup champagne, rice or apple cider vinegar, 2-3 teaspoons Dijon mustard, about 4 or 5 garlic cloves and a generous grind or 2 of pepper. Put the lid on the blender and whirl away. If it seems too thick add a bit more vinegar. It should be pale yellow, thick and creamy. Taste for salt and add if needed. That's it! Store it in a jar in the fridge. This makes a pint, which lasts us a week or about 4 heads worth of Romaine lettuce! You don't want to use olive oil because it solidifies under refrigeration. Your dressing will be the consistency of custard when you take it from the fridge. I've used sunflower and grapeseed and both worked great. I know it seems rather arbitrary when I say, 1/2 can of anchovies, but the only anchovies I find in the grocery store are these:
If you think you don't like anchovies, don't let that keep you from making this dressing. I think Anchovies are umami...you know-the 5th taste after sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Used in sauces, (try them in a short rib braise...elusive!), dressings, sautes...they add an incredible flavor-not fishy!!!- and my pantry is always stocked with lots of cans of them.
I didn't take a picture of dinner tonight although my brain kept nagging me to do so. I was hungry and tired and my toe hurt (I broke my pinkie toe this morning). I am sorry now because it looked almost as good as it tasted.
While I was writing this post, I heard a noise on the skylight above my head. I walked outside and stood in the dark and let the raindrops fall on my shoulders. It lasted maybe 3 minutes. I wanted to cry. Maybe tomorrow it will pour...