Saturday, November 11, 2006

Asian Pork Chops

from Cook's Illustrated

This is a great, and quick, way to cook boneless pork chops. Be very careful not to overcook them; I would definitely err on the side of having them underdone, because as they rest, they continue to cook. --Pamela

If your chops are on the thinner side, check their internal temperature after the initial sear. If they are already at the 140-degree mark, remove them from the skillet and allow them to rest, tented with foil, for 5 minutes, then add the platter juices and glaze ingredients to the skillet and proceed with step 3. If your chops are closer to 1 inch thick, you may need to increase the simmering time in step 2.

Serves 4
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

1/2 cup rice vinegar , plus an additional 2 teaspoons
1/3 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

4 boneless, center-cut pork loin chops , 5 to 7 ounces each, 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1. Toast sesame seeds in small dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes, set aside in small bowl. Combine all glaze ingredients except 2 teaspoons rice vinegar in medium bowl; mix thoroughly and set aside. Following illustrations below, trim chops and slash through fat and silver skin with sharp knife, making 2 cuts about 2 inches apart in each chop (do not cut into meat of chops). Pat chops dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper.

2. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Add pork to skillet and cook until well browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn chops and cook 1 minute longer; transfer chops to plate and pour off any oil in skillet. (Check internal temperature of thinner chops; see note above.) Return chops to skillet, browned side up, and add glaze mixture; cook over medium heat until center of chops registers 140 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; transfer chops to clean platter, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes.

3. When chops have rested, add any accumulated juices to skillet and set over medium heat. Simmer, whisking constantly, until glaze is thick and color of dark caramel (heatproof spatula should leave wide trail when dragged through glaze), 2 to 6 minutes. Add remaining rice vinegar and return chops to skillet; turn to coat both sides with glaze. Transfer chops back to platter, browned side up, and spread remaining glaze over chops. Garnish chops with reserved sesame seeds and sesame oil. Serve immediately.

Best Caesar Salad

from Cook's Ilustrated

This really produces a great salad. I used anchovy fillets instead of paste. The best anchovy fillets are the ones packed in oil by Ortiz. After you open a tin of them, store the remainder, including the oil, in the freezer. --Pamela

If you don't own a garlic press, chop the garlic for both the croutons and dressing by hand; sprinkle it with the salt and then continue mincing it until it is almost pureed. The garlic and anchovies in the dressing are optional but strongly recommended. Without them, the salad is a bit bland. For Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad, add two grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced crosswise into half-inch strips, to the salad along with the cheese.

Serves 4 to 6 as a first course

Garlic Croutons
2 large cloves garlic , peeled and pressed through a garlic press
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups 1/2-inch white bread cubes (from a baguette or country loaf)

Caesar Salad
1 large egg
3 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 medium lemon
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon table salt
8 grindings ground black pepper
1 small clove garlic , pressed (1/4 teaspoon)
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste (or 4 flat anchovy fillets, minced)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium heads romaine lettuce (large outer leaves removed) or 2 large romaine hearts; washed, dried, and torn into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 10 cups, lightly packed)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. For the croutons: Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix garlic, salt, and oil in small bowl; set aside for 20 minutes. Spread bread cubes out over small baking sheet. Drizzle oil through fine-mesh strainer evenly onto bread; toss to coat. Bake until golden, about 12 minutes. Cool on baking sheet to room temperature. (Croutons can be stored in airtight container for up to 1 day.)

2. For the dressing: Bring water to boil in small saucepan over high heat. Carefully lower whole egg into water; cook 45 seconds.* (See my note at the bottom of the page. --Pamela) Remove with slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, crack egg into small bowl with all other dressing ingredients except oil; whisk until smooth. Add oil in slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Adjust seasonings. (Dressing may refrigerate in airtight container for 1 day; shake before using.)

3. Place lettuce in large bowl; drizzle with half of dressing, then toss to coat lightly. Sprinkle with cheese, remaining dressing, and croutons; toss to coat well. Divide among individual plates; serve immediately.

*I've never been totally sure what the desired outcome for the coddled egg is supposed to be. Partially cooked egg white, totally cooked egg white, etc. For this recipe I think I would cook the egg about 90 seconds so that most of the white gets cooked otherwise I think there is too much liquid in the dressing. --Pamela

Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon

from Cook's Illustrated

It's often difficult to cook thick filets, but this method makes it easy to cook 2 inch fillets that weigh about 8 ounces each to medium rare. It would also be great even if you don't use the peppercorns. --Pamela

While heating the peppercorns in oil tempers much of their pungent heat, this recipe is still pretty spicy. If you prefer a very mild pepper flavor, drain the cooled peppercorns in a fine-mesh strainer in step 1, toss them with 5 tablespoons of fresh oil, add the salt, and proceed.

Serves 4
5 tablespoons black peppercorns , cracked*
5 tablespoons olive oil , plus 2 teaspoons
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 center-cut filets mignons , 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, 7 to 8 ounces each, trimmed of fat and silver skin

1. Heat peppercorns and 5 tablespoons oil in small saucepan over low heat until faint bubbles appear. Continue to cook at bare simmer, swirling pan occasionally, until pepper is fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When mixture is room temperature, add salt and stir to combine. Rub steaks with oil and pepper mixture, thoroughly coating top and bottom of each steak with peppercorns. Cover steaks with plastic wrap and press gently to make sure peppercorns adhere; let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until faint smoke appears. Place steaks in skillet and cook, without moving steaks, until dark brown crust has formed, 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn steaks and cook until well browned on second side, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and transfer steaks to hot baking sheet. Roast 3 to 5 minutes for rare, 5 to 7 minutes for medium-rare to medium. Transfer steaks to wire cooling rack and let rest, loosely tented with foil, for 5 minutes before serving.

*I cracked them in a heavy-duty baggie with a hammer; it worked great and didn't make a mess.

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