Rosemary Crusted Pork Chop with Coconut Milk Braised Carrots

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This is a good meal for many reasons.  The pork chops were actually a good thickness, and lean, and were buy one pack, get another pack for free (4 really thick chops in each package.  I get ridiculously excited for discounts in the meat department.)   I bought a 5 pound bag of carrots two weeks ago, and so I am currently looking for different ways to prepare them, and found a stunningly simple and flavorful way on one of my favorite blogs, French Foodie Baby.  Say what you will about my French obsession, but those people KNOW their food, and from a very loving depth that centers around family and love of pure ingredients.  Helene, from FFB, is one of the best writers in the myriad of food blogs out there. I literally exhale with relaxation when I read her posts.  She challenges me and inspires me and makes me want to be better at being thoughtful about what I put on the plate for my family.

The braised carrots in coconut milk was from her blog and I just took the concept and did it in a much bigger batch on my stove so that I’d have leftover finger foods for Olive for the week.  And so I could use up the never ending bag of carrots.  I swear that thing is multiplying.

I don’t know much, but I do know that pork and rosemary are best friends.  So when I saw that Helene put rosemary in with her coconut milk to braise the carrots, I thought: instant pan sauce!  And it turned out wonderful!  The extra sauce from the carrots made an amazing garnish for a thick, crispy, rosemary-infused pork chop!  I was happy with this meal and wanted to share its simplicity and comfort-food qualities with you today!

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Rosemary Crusted Pork Chop with Coconut Milk Braised Carrots
serves 4-6

4 boneless pork chops, thick cut, if you can find them (the ones I found were about an inch thick)
1/4 cup flour
Salt and pepper – about a half teaspoon of each
2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary – I would think dried would be fine, but it wouldn’t be as aromatic
4 tbs butter or olive oil for pan frying the chops

For the carrots:
1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped into half inch rounds
1 can of coconut milk
2 cloves of garlic, crushed but left mostly in tact
two sprigs of fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Get the carrots on the stove to braise first, as they take the longest.  In a deep skillet, heat the coconut milk over medium heat along with the cloves of crushed garlic and the rosemary sprigs.  Add in the carrots and let it simmer on the stove until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.  I put a lid on halfway through as to not lose too much moisture.  When the carrots are done, remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

For the chops: pat them dry with paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper.  Put the flour and rosemary and a few dashes more of salt and pepper in a bowl and toss well to combine.  Coat each side of the chops in the flour mixture and set aside.  Heat the butter or olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering (or bubbling if using butter) and add in the chops, cooking about 5-6 minutes per side.  If they are browning too quickly, reduce the heat after you get a good sear/crust on each side of the chop.  If your chops are really thick, you may need to transfer them to a preheated oven to finish cooking.  I had to do this for one of the chops because it was way bigger than the rest and wouldn’t cook through without burning the crust.  At any rate, you need a meat thermometer for this because we no longer have to cook our pork to death to be safe.  Some farmer told me that no one’s gotten sick from pork in years, but everyone is still cooking it like they could.  A pink center is fine – I made sure mine got up to 150-160 and called it good, regardless of how the centers looked.

Place the chops on plates and for the sauce garnish, move the carrots to a bowl, reserving about a 1/2 cup of the coconut milk in the pan.  Taste for salt and season as necessary.  Remove the rosemary sprigs and the cloves of garlic and spoon the sauce over each chop and serve alongside the carrots.  If you don’t cook the chops too much, they will be soft enough for a baby to chew, given she has at least 3 molars, which mine does.  She loved the carrots (she’s 15 months old) and ate a few pieces of pork and called it good.  And lately, that has to be good enough for me!  For smaller babies, the carrots would be IDEAL pureed or just left in tact for finger foods.  They are so soft, sweet and a little salty – perfect! I would have blended up the pork with some coconut milk back in the 6-9 month days for Olive.

Enjoy!

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The Ultimate Meatball and Taking Food to a Friend

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We’ve been on the receiving end of food donations twice in our life and both times, we were touched by others’ thoughtfulness, great recipes and the comfort that was passed to us through the dishes they made.  It takes a bit of humbling to bring food to someone who can’t cook for themselves, or simply don’t want to or don’t have the time.  You worry if they’ll like what you made.  You worry if they will critique the preparation or that you brought store-bought cookies instead of homemade.  If I could only convince you that anything you bring is wonderful and welcome, I would.  If they can’t eat it right away or they have duplicates, they can freeze what you brought!  To worry too much about what to bring, or to worry the recipient about what you brought, shifts the focus off the deserving and on to you.  Keep the focus where it belongs, ask if they have any requests or food allergies, and get cooking!  Homemade is always nice, but I will admit, I did not turn away store-bought cookies, chocolate or coffee! 🙂

My wonderful, life-long friend, Summer, had her second baby almost two weeks ago.  A beautiful, darling girl!  I immediately began to think of what I would bring for Summer and Phil to eat.  Summer is my food buddy.  I trust her cooking as much as my own.  Her sense of taste is far beyond most people, almost to a fault.  We used to live together in college, and I think one of our first food-bonding moments was throwing chicken patties off the balcony of our apartment because they were just so disgusting.  They were pre-cooked, breaded chicken patties and they tasted like…gray.  Or sweat.  It wasn’t good.  We both were actually offended.  How could you screw up a breaded piece of chicken, and worse, sell it to poor college students?! In our act of defiance against badly cooked food, we became unofficial food critics in our own right.  We were each other’s taste-testers. A favorite game throughout our friendship is Guess the Ingredient! in which we excitedly wait while the other tastes and see if they guess right.  I love that no matter what time of day, I can text Summer a description of something I made or want to make, and she will react with an appropriate amount of shock, enthusiasm and awe.

We joke that Summer always says her FAVORITE thing in the ENTIRE world is whatever I last cooked for her.  True to the accusation, I asked if she had any requests for what I could bring for them, and she requested the last meal I made for her, which was the BEST meatball recipe I’ve ever run across.  It’s tough to get a meatball right.  They can be too dry or too mealy or rubbery from being over cooked, or simply too greasy.  This recipe is perfect.  And even more perfect, it came to me via fashion designer, Michael Kors in his appearance on Martha Stewart Living.  So they’re both delicious AND fashionable.  Win-win.

The secret ingredient to these meatballs is the water.  Smooshing all these ingredients together, especially with the water, is not for the faint of heart.  My mother would die a thousand deaths before making this recipe.  She has a thing with texture.  However, I like playing with my food, so it’s rather enjoyable for me.  The meat mixture is very delicate, so be gentle as you turn them while cooking.  I usually use two spatulas to help me turn them without smashing them apart.  Getting a good crust on each side is key.  Then, there will still be a slight crust, even after they’ve stewed in the sauce for a while.  Oh, and serving this with spaghetti is up to you. It’s not tradition – the Italians eat their meatballs in a bowl with crusty bread.  But, the recipe makes enough sauce that even after we finish up the meatballs, I have plenty of sauce left to toss with noodles the next day.  Olive absolutely adores these.  She ate two, 3 inch meatballs by herself before slowing down.  They are so soft, you could easily smash it up for a little one.  And they get better the next day!

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Frankie’s Meatballs in Rao’s Marinara Sauce

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 1/2 cloves garlic
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups plain dry bread crumbs
  • 2 cups water, room temperature
  • 1 cup olive oil
  1. In a large bowl, combine beef and pork using your hands. Mince 1/2 clove garlic and add to meat mixture along with the eggs, cheese, and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Continue mixing with your hand until well combined. Add bread crumbs and mix well. Add water, 1 cup at a time, and continue mixing until mixture is quite moist.
  2. Shape mixture into 2 1/2-to-3-inch balls. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Smash remaining clove of garlic with the back of a knife and add to skillet. Cook until lightly browned and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon and discard. Working in batches, add meatballs to skillet. Cook until browned and cooked through, turning, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.
  3. Meanwhile, bring marinara sauce to a boil in a large nonreactive saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer and add meatball. Let meatballs cook in sauce about 20 minutes; serve immediately with pasta, if desired.

Rao’s Marinara Sauce
Makes 7 cups

  • Four 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes with basil, preferably San Marzano
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons minced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 12 leaves fresh basil, torn (optional)
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  1. Remove tomatoes from can and place in a large bowl, reserving juices. Crush tomatoes using your hands; remove and discard the hard core from stem end, and any skin and tough membrane; set aside. (Wear an apron and keep your hand submerged as you crush.  This is messy business, but kind of therapeutic  .)
  2. Place oil in a large, nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, and cook until soft and just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic, and cook until softened, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and reserved juices; season with salt. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 hour.
  3. Stir in basil, if using, oregano, and season with pepper; continue cooking 1 minute more. Remove from heat and serve.

*Recipes taken directly from Martha Stewart Living.  They can not be improved upon.

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Thai Basil Whatever

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I wanted to share with you a recipe I’ve been making for years.  Matt and I cooked a lot of Thai food in the first few years we were married.   Matt had a version of this dish while living in Nashville at a place that served Chinese food, but had Thai posters all over their walls.  So Matt asked one day if they would make him some Thai food and the guy excitedly made a chopped chicken dish with Thai basil and hot Thai chilies.  Matt was hooked.  We love the flavors of fish sauce, soy sauce, the heat of peppers and the sweetness of basil that this dish brings.  It’s a wonderful mix of sweet/sour/spicy.  Over the years, we’ve lost the original recipe we first referenced and so this is legitimately a Palmer original.

Again – don’t be afraid of fish sauce.  It’s completely essential to the flavor balance of this dish.  If you can’t find Thai basil, regular Italian basil works just fine.  I’ve used ground pork, chicken and turkey, as well as hand chopped chicken thighs (so good), but my go-to is ground turkey.  Don’t leave off the fried egg!

Thai Basil Turkey 
serves 4

1lb ground chicken, turkey or pork
3 tbs peanut oil or canola oil
1 medium white onion, chopped fine
6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 or 5 seeded jalapenos, diced (or Thai chilies, or whatever kind of pepper/heat level you want)
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

This recipe goes quicker if you use a large wok over really high heat.  If you don’t have a wok, use the largest stainless steal skillet, or cast iron skillet you have.  Heat the oil over medium high heat till it shimmers.  Add in the onion and stir a few times till they soften.  Working quickly, stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add in your ground meat and jalapenos and stir until meat is cooked through.  If you want more heat, stir in your chilies closer to the end of cooking.  When the meat has cooked through, toss in the fish and soy sauce and stir to coat.  Remove the pan from heat, stir in the chopped basil and cover to keep warm.  In a non-stick skillet, fry a couple eggs in peanut oil, and a splash of soy sauce and serve on top.

I typically serve this over about a half cup of rice.  I’m not going to tell you how to cook rice.

 

Weekend Fare: Pork Carnitas with Fire Roasted Salsa

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Every time we have someone over for dinner, we think a few days ahead of what we should make.  If it’s someone we are not 100% sure we’ve cooked for or not, we almost always ask each other, “Have we made them carnitas, yet?”  The answer is usually “yes…but I’m sure it’d be okay to make them, again.”  This is the kind of recipe that is so easy it feels like cheating, and people always ask, “What did you put on these?!” and it’s awesome to be able to say, “salt.”  And that’s it.  Salt, water, pork.  This is yet another example of how amazing pigs are.  And, this recipe makes a TON.  So you can feed at least 8 people if you have a couple side dishes and some tortillas.

The weather is looking more and more like summer, and while it’s not quite grilling weather, this recipe is about as close as it gets to being full-blown patio summer-fare.  We always have a little mise-en-place set up to go with these soft tacos: chopped onion and cilantro (necessities) and here I have pictured some shredded sharp white cheddar and a fire roasted salsa.  (not pictured, but always in my heart is my ultimate guacamole recipe, which deserves its own blog post.  And it will get it)

This salsa is also our go-to homemade salsa.  Beats anything out of a jar by a mile and is completely able to be altered to your heat preference or even your cilantro preference.  There’s two people in this world.  Those who think cilantro is the greatest and goes well on anything from Thai to Mexican cuisine, and those who think cilantro tastes like soap.  I’m very glad I wasn’t born in the second camp.  My brother was, and he’s made this exact salsa recipe without cilantro and swears it’s the greatest he’s ever made.  So there you go.  Not coincidentally, both of these recipes are from Rick Bayless.  He’s our absolute go-to for Mexican cuisine.  Not only is he an amazing chef and cookbook author, but he COULD be the nicest person to ever appear on television, and probably in real life as well.  One day, we will go to Chicago and spend the week doing nothing but eating at his various restaurants.  Until then, we’ll live vicariously…

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Pork Carnitas

4 pounds bone-in pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch slabs
Salt

Moist cooking.   Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut each slab of pork in half and lay the pieces in a baking dish (they should fit into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish without being crowded).  Liberally sprinkle with salt (about 1 teaspoon) on all sides.  Pour 1/3 cup water around the meat, cover tightly with foil, and bake for 1 hour.

Dry cooking.   Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees.  Uncover the meat and cook until the liquid has completely reduced and only the rendered fat remains, about 30 minutes.  Now, roast, carefully turning the meat every 7 or 8 minutes, until lightly browned, about 20 minutes longer.  Break the meat into large pieces and serve on a warm platter, sprinkled with salt.

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This is what the meat should look like before you shred it.  Nice and glistening in its own fatty juices and caramelized from the oven.

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Fire Roasted Salsa

1 to 2 fresh jalapeño chiles
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice, preferably fire roasted
1/4 cup (loosely packed) chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt

In a small ungreased skillet over medium heat, roast the chiles and garlic, turning regularly, until they are soft and blotchy brown, about 10 minutes for the chiles, 15 minutes for the garlic.

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Cool until handleable, then pull the stem(s) off the chile(s) and roughly chop.  Peel the skin off the garlic.  Scoop into a tall measuring cup and pulse with an immersion blender until smooth (or in a regular blender, but this is so much cleaner.  I hate cleaning my blender.  I hate my blender.)

Add the tomatoes with their juice.  Pulse until you have a coarse puree.  Scrape into a serving dish.  Stir in the cilantro and lime juice.  Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2  teaspoon.  You’re ready to serve.

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Try to keep a list of everyone you make this for, as to not appear a one-trick pony like we have numerous times.  We can cook more than this, we swear…we just don’t want to.