The only thing left in the fridge tonight was pork chops. Good ones, from Whole Foods, but still, pork chops. I was a little later getting home tonight, so I didn’t have a ton of time to cook anything, and with pork chops, there’s always a big risk of a fast cooking method causing them to dry out.
When I’m worried about dried out pork chops, I usually brine them. But my usual brine takes an hour at least, which I did not have time for. So I threw caution to the wind and tried a super-concentrated brine, soaked the chops for only 25 minutes, and then baked them for 22 minutes. A quick pan-sear when they came out finished them off. Yummy.
So, I used a quarter-cup of kosher salt, a quarter-cup of brown sugar (not packed), a half-cup of cider vinegar, and about a quart of water. Stirred till the salt and sugar were completely dissolved, put the chops and the brine in a gallon zip-top bag, and let them sit for 25 minutes. I patted them dry when they came out, sprinkled them with salt, fresh ground black pepper, and a light dusting of garlic powder. I wanted a little bit of moisture on them for the baking, but usually I use worcestershire and that didn’t seem right. So I mixed one part raspberry chipotle salsa and one part soy sauce, spooned it over the chops on both sides, then baked them for 22 minutes at 350.
When they came out, they weren’t quite done, so I seared them in a pan, about 1-1/2 minutes on each side, over high heat. They got a nice caramelized crust in the searing; the acid in the vinegar helped tenderize the chops—which, I’m sure also helped the brine penetrate them—as well as gave them a very nice flavor.
Vinegar in brine is probably not a good idea for a longer brine, since the acid will cure the meat (think ceviche), but for flash-brining? Perfect.
I made braised short ribs again tonight. This time, I used boneless short ribs, substituted cremini mushrooms for the carrots, and used fresh rosemary instead of dried thyme. It turned out nicely, but not as flavorful as the last batch. Thankfully, short ribs are cheap, so I can keep trying this!
I also took pictures this time.
I suppose there is no chance that they won’t completely screw this up.
I haven’t sewn anything in a while—I’m waiting on a new order of fabric to finally make myself a rockin’ tote bag—so I don’t have any new crafty things to post about.
But I do have food to post about.
I decided to branch out from my usual weeknight cooking this week, and bought some beef short ribs. Why? Well, they’re pretty cheap, but they have lots of nice marbling and generally look like they’d be yummy. So I bought some, looked up some recipes, and gave it a whirl. Verdict: Not Fail. In fact, Mr. Angst said that they were the kind of thing he’d expect to eat in a fancy restaurant—and they were so easy to make!
First, you can either do bone-in or boneless short ribs. If you do bone in, be forewarned that you’ll want to cut the bone off about halfway through cooking lest your braising liquid get unbelievably fatty and greasy. Cooks’ Illustrated says to go boneless and use a little gelatin to give the final sauce the right mouthfeel; I say, cutting the bone off halfway through was not that big a deal, so I’d probably just keep doing that. Either way, you need something—either the bones for part of the cooking, or the gelatin—to give the final sauce that finish. (It’s basically the same stuff, since gelatin is generally made from animal collagen. If that grosses you out, sorry. I think it’s important to know where and what your food comes from.)
So, OK. Procure a bottle of robust wine. I used a relatively inexpensive cabernet (not too inexpensive, though!) and I’d recommend something similar. Don’t use a pinot or a really delicate shiraz; you want something with some body and flavor.
Now, take your short ribs—about 3 lbs. if bone-in, and 2 lbs. if boneless—and brown them really well over medium-high heat, in an ovenproof pan/pot for at least 5 minutes on each side. They need to be really browned up. I used my Le Creuset dutch oven, and I think that’s a good pot to use. Nothing too shallow, and it needs a tight-fitting lid.
Once the ribs are well-browned, remove them to a bowl. Add one onion, cut pole-to-pole and then thinly sliced, to the pot and cook, stirring regularly to keep them from burning. You want them to get very soft and just browned. If they are browning too quickly, you can add a couple tablespoons of water. Once the onions are soft, add a tablespoon of tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly (or it’ll burn) until the paste has started to brown on the sides and bottom of the pot. Add three peeled cloves of garlic and cook till aromatic (about 30 seconds), and then pour in a cup of your red wine. (Drink a glass while you cook—then you’ll know if it’s worth cooking with.) Cook the mix until the wine has reduced by about half. Then add a half-cup-to-a-cup of beef broth, a bay leaf, and whatever herbs you love—I used some dried thyme, but I wish I’d added the fresh rosemary I had instead. Also add some carrots if you want, cut into 2-inch pieces. Next time I make this, I’ll try sauteing some mushrooms in with the onions—think creatively like that. Yummy flavors that have some umami to them will be good in this.
Bring the liquids up to a simmer, add the ribs back to the pot, cover and place in a 300° oven for 2 to 2-1/2 hours. At the one hour mark, turn the ribs. If your ribs are bone-in, cut the bone off at this point. Turn the ribs one more time before the end of cooking. When you can slip a fork easily into the meat, it’s done. When it’s done, pull the meat and carrots out of the pot and place them on a serving platter; tent with foil to keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve or strainer into a fat separator (or a bowl if you don’t have one), pressing on the solids. If you used boneless ribs, sprinkle 1/2 a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin over 1/4 cup water and let stand at least 5 minutes, while letting the cooking liquid stand so the fat will rise to the top.
Pour the strained liquid back into the pot and cook until reduced by about half, or until it has a nice, thick texture. Add the gelatin mixture at this point if you’re using it. Season as needed and then pour over the ribs.
I served this over mashed potatoes, and it was SUPERB. Highly recommend. I will make this again and again, and I will experiment with various alterations, because this is pretty much how I like my braised meat—very tender, very flavorful, and with a very rich saucy sauce.
Every year, Mr. Angst and I have a special New Year’s brunch at home—eggs benedict, mimosas, and cafe au lait. ((That is, every year that I didn’t stupidly take a swig from a bottle of Patrón at a NYE party, after swilling glass after glass of really cheap sparkling wine. That year, we had brunch on the 2nd, and I spent the 1st in bed, eating dry toast and sipping chicken broth. All my own fault. And the last time I willingly drank tequila straight.)) We have our own special way of making the eggs benedict, though. A now-closed restaurant in our old hometown used to make what they called eggs commodore: poached egg and hollandaise, yes, but breakfast sausage instead of canadian bacon, and perched on puff pastry instead of an english muffin. Mr. Angst LOVED that restaurant, and he doesn’t really care for canadian bacon, so when we make eggs benedict, we make it with breakfast sausage and puff pastry.
The only real problem is that I don’t really like sausage all that much. Oh, I’ll eat it, but I burn out on it pretty quickly. (I’m the same way about bacon. One or two strips and that’s it for me.) And my low tolerance for sausage is made even lower when it’s covered with a poached egg and hollandaise, and set atop a buttery puff pastry. This means that I can usually only finish half of my New Year’s brunch, which is very sad. New Year’s Day is one of the few days out of the year when I will willingly consume that many calories!
This year, I decided, therefore, I needed to try something different for brunch. Another restaurant, not defunct, in our old hometown, and known as sort of the successor to the closed restaurant, has a variety of benedicts on the menu and I noticed the last time we were there that they have a florentine benedict—poached eggs nestled in wilted spinach. Hmmm, I thought yesterday. Maybe I could wilt some spinach in lemon and olive oil and use that instead of sausage for my benedicts… And so I did. And folks, it was DELISH. So good, in fact, that I didn’t bother to take any pictures before I devoured it all. EVERY LAST BITE. The spinach, wilted in a little lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, cut the richness of the egg and hollandaise while also bringing out the lemony goodness of the hollandaise.
With no further ado, then, here’s how I make it all.
I use, and have used for six years now, Emeril’s recipe for hollandaise sauce. One of the reasons I like this recipe is that it uses melted or clarified butter, which is so much easier to manage than trying to emulsify cold butter into just-barely-warm eggs.
3 large egg yolks (save the whites for an omelette or meringues)
2 teaspoons water
1/2 cup clarified butter or 1 stick of butter, melted
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
In a double boiler, or in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, whisk the egg yolks and water together until thick and pale yellow. Move the bowl off the pot as needed to prevent the eggs from overcooking. You do not want them to scramble!! Once the yolks are good and thick, pour the butter in gradually, whisking vigorously the whole time. Get a friend or spouse to help if you have trouble with this step. Continue whisking the egg-butter mix until thick and yummy. Whisk in the lemon juice and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add cayenne last, and DO NOT ADD TOO MUCH. Too much salt in hollandaise is not great but doesn’t ruin the sauce. Too much cayenne, however, will make it really inedible. I honestly usually use about a dash and a half—much more is just bad bad bad.
Since you probably won’t be able to serve the hollandaise immediately, cover the bowl and place in a warm location (you can leave it on top of the original pot if you want, as long as the heat is OFF). If the sauce gets too thick, you can thin it by whisking in a little hot water. I’d start with a teaspoon or so—too much water will also ruin the sauce.
Poach your eggs in about 2-1/2 inches of water, seasoned with about 3 tablespoons of vinegar. (I’ve used champagne vinegar when I wanted a little extra flavor in the eggs. Really, though, the vinegar just helps the eggs stay congealed. Without vinegar, the whites are likely to float off into the water, leaving you with a simmering yolk in what looks like egg-drop soup.) When the water is at a strong simmer—but not at a full boil!—slide the eggs in, one at a time. (I crack my eggs into small measuring cups, and then lower the edge of the measuring cup into the water before tipping the egg in slowly. This also helps the eggs from disintegrating.) You can use those nifty silicone egg poachers if you want. I don’t have any, though, so I do it the old fashioned way. Once all the eggs are in, turn the heat off and cover the pot, 4 minutes or slightly less for really runny yolks, 5 or so for medium, and 6 for hard. Don’t go over 6 or so minutes or the whites and yolks will overcook and you’ll have something resembling a hard-boiled egg without the shell. Remove the eggs carefully with a slotted spoon, turning slightly to allow any water to drain off. Egg water is yucky and makes everything soggy. Ideally, you’ll have everything laid out already so you can take the egg straight from the pot to the plate. If you can’t, though, just place them on a warm plate. Try not to leave the eggs sitting for too long, though, or they’ll get gummy.
Lay out your puff pastry (or english muffin, or other base), top with sausage, wilted spinach, ((I wilt spinach by throwing the leaves into a small pot, adding a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice and a couple of teaspoons of white wine vinegar, a teaspoon or two of olive oil, and a healthy sprinkling of kosher salt. Turn the heat to low and turn the spinach constantly with tongs just until it turns bright green and starts to wilt. Turn the heat off immediately, and get the spinach out of the pot or you’ll have the nasty stuff we all avoided when we were kids.)) or whatever else you want, then perch the egg on top of it all. Spoon the hollandaise over it all and dig in!