Monday: Baked Spinach and Ricotta with crostini, Butter-poached and Grilled Beef Tenderloin (Joe Carroll, p.183), Asparagus with Caesar dressing
Tuesday Tart Greens with roasted pistachios, goat cheese and pickled Blackberries. App of salumi, pickles, crackers.
Wednesday: Bourbon-brined, grilled pork chops with pickled blackberries, grilled green beans
Thursday: Spinach, bacon omelette with Fresh Goat Cheese, Tomato Salad
Friday: Tart Greens with roasted pistachios, goat cheese and pickled Blackberries, naked pizza.
Saturday: Crab Salad with Pickled Cucumber
Sunday: Eve of Fourth of July celebration: Fountainbleau Cheese with Crudités, Bourbon-brined Pork Chops, Grill-Smoked Chicken with Jamaican Gravy, Arugula and Watermelon Salad (Linda Stewart), Grilled Asparagus, Ice Cream with Macarons
I bow to Joe Carroll’s grilling and smoking techniques and recipes, and Frances Mallman is okay for an Argentinian who can’t play soccer, but the foundation of all knowledge about grilling is either your crazy Uncle Cecil from South Carolina who wears bib-overalls with nothing underneath and has a tattoo of George Wallace on his forearm or . . . Steve Raichlen. Raichlen is, at a guess, more literate – a great teacher and evangelist for barbecue and cooking over fire. He has a bunch of good grilling cook-books and I’d buy them all, but you must have a copy of How to Grill – his bible.
Go to Uncle Cecil if you want raccoon jerky, but go to Raichlen to improve your cooking on the grill
This last week was filled with good weather and we continued our pattern of alternating between salads and grilling. We also had a nice family gathering on the 3rd (absent Billy, world-traveling soccer player and fan, who is in France to watch the final rounds of EURO 2016 – and Andrew and Julia who couldn’t make it down from Connecticut for the weekend, but who bought their first house by way of consolation and as part of their general habit of delightfully surprising us with their activities.)
The party featured a watermelon-arugula-feta salad from Linda Stewart, a bottle of Auchentoshan and one of the heaviest pours in Christendom from UFR,
the grilling technique of Greg Stewart, the encouragement of John, and the lively and delightful presence of Kelly and Mike Stewart and Lauren Smith. I love family gatherings, particularly ones that require grilling. We don’t even mind the clean-up (well, here is where I might have to retreat to the first person as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed did most of the cleaning up and may not, I fear, agree with me).
Earlier in the week we made a salad of tart greens with herbed goat-cheese with roasted pistachios and pickled blackberries and onions that you need for those nights when it’s just too hot to start a fire (or when you need to recuperate from Uncle Cecil’s jerky).
But most of all, you need one of our favorite recipes from Raichlen – “Bourbon-brined Pork Chops.” Do not cook extra chops, because you won’t be able to stop eating these and will soon look like Uncle Cecil. But, unlike Uncle Cecil, who can disguise his obscene bulk in those overalls, you will discover that you no longer fit into those skinny pants and slim-fit shirts in your wardrobe. All of which means that you’ll need to watch your weight (and your pork-chop consumption), or give up that metro-sexual image you’ve been secretly cultivating.
As an extra, we’ve tossed in something from J. Pépin that has become a favorite pre-prandial nosh – his ‘Fountainbleau Cheese.’ This is a simple appetizer that takes me back to my childhood – to 1950’s Betty Crocker kitchen hors d’oeuvres which featured those jars of whipped pimento or blue cheese which Mom would stuff into sections of cold, crisp celery. Except that the Fountainbleau with a nice toasted baguette or good crackers is better. I had a great 1950s and 60s* – so we eat this stuff a lot.
*I wouldn’t say that it’s all been down-hill since then. But I feel that I did peak sometime in the 60’s when I made the 14th Ward little league all-stars and debated at Central Catholic High School. To be clear, my life peaked somewhat later, when I married Barbara and Billy and Andrew came along. But if you had met me in the fifties, I think you would have been impressed.
BOURBON-BRINED PORK CHOP (with Atomic Applesauce)
(Adapted from How to Grill by Steve Raichlen)
Note: You’ll want to brine the chops for at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours before cooking
Supplies: (for 4*)
4 loin pork chops, about 1” thick (i.e.,not the thin chops or “frying chops”
1 small onion, thinly sliced**
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
10 black peppercorns
5 allspice berries
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 cup hot water
2 cups cold water
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (Raichlen suggest you might use walnut or hazelnut oil instead – we have tried the walnut oil and found it too strong – the chops are very flavorful with the vegetable oil – we used canola)
*”4” – if you double or triple the recipe, I would make separate marinades for each batch of 4 (or 5), since you need the sugar and salt to dissolve thoroughly and this takes some serious whisking.
**Small onions are impossible to find in most supermarkets. At G.E. we get this 2 pound honkers and I figure that ¼ of these babies equals one small onion.
4 ½ hours or so before you cook, make the brine and immerse the chops:
Put the chops in a baking dish just big enough to hold them. Cover with the onion, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, allspice and cloves. Put brown sugar and salt into a large bowl, add hot water and whisk until sugar and salt are dissolved. Stir in cold water, bourbon and vegetable oil and whisk again to keep sugar and salt in solution. Pour marinade over the chops, cover and marinate for 2 to 4 hours (a little more won’t hurt), turning once or twice. If your kitchen is hot, refrigerate – if not, the cold chops (you just pulled them from the refrigerator right?) should be fine.
For smoking – soak some hickory chips in cold water for at least 30 minutes (or as long as you want).
Set up a grill for indirect grilling. This means having coals on one side, or, if you are using a kettle grill (as we did) keeping a cool space in the middle of the grill. The easiest way to do this is to put one of those foil roasting pans you can buy (cheap) at the supermarket, in the center of the grill and pour the hot coals on either side of it. [If you have a gas grill, read your instructions about ‘indirect’ grilling]
When the coals are ready, scatter the hickory chips over the coals, put the grate on the grill and oil it and place the chops in the middle of the grate (with the hot coals to either side). Open all the vents and place the cover on the grill and smoke or cook the chops for 20 minutes. Uncover and move the chops directly over the hot coals to brown – about 4 minutes a side if they marinated at room temperature, about 7 minutes if they were still cool when they hit the grill.
Serve with Atomic Applesauce (Mix applesauce – any good brand, but not ‘organic’ or it will taste sour – with a lot of horseradish. Trust me here, applesauce can handle a lot of horseradish). The applesauce is not just great with the chops, it is necessary.
TART GREENS WITH HERBED GOAT CHEESE, PICKLED ONIONS AND BLACKBERRIES
This is our own concoction. I’m into pickling – both vegetables and myself (the first takes salt, sugar and vinegar – the second takes gin, in case you’re asking me over for drinks). Recently I pickled some blackberries and, having made this salad, put some of them along with some pickled onions and herbed goat cheese onto some substantial greens. It made for a beautiful and tasty salad. If you add some toasted nuts – pistachios would be great, pine nuts just fine – you will have a keeper of your own.
Note: Ideally, you will pickle the blackberries and onions 12 hours or more before using
Greens – we like a mixture of spinach and arugula for this salad, but softer and sweeter lettuces will also work.
Goat cheese (softened – i.e., taken out of the refrigerator about an hour before using)
Herbs – chives or parsley or both
Pickled blackberries (you can get a recipe for this online – and they will be ready to go after a few hours)
Pickled onions (same as above)
Cherry tomatoes, halved and lightly salted
Toasted pistachios or pine nuts or walnuts
English cucumber sliced into half-moons or quarters
Dressing of your choice – we just use lemon juice and olive oil, but a light vinegar works as well
Make small balls or quenelles of the goat cheese and roll in chopped chives and/or parsley
Toss the greens with a little dressing – OVERDRESSING IS A FATAL ERROR WITH SALADS – YOU CAN ALWAYS ADD MORE DRESSING OR SERVE SOME ON THE SIDE
Place the greens on a platter and scatter the other ingredients over the top. Drizzle a little moredressing over the assemblage and serve. We served this with some ‘naked pizza’ (pizza with just olive and a little sea salt on top – you can dust with parmesan if you like) – but a good piece of toasted bread or baguette works as well.)
EXTRA Fountainbleau Cheese (J. Pépin – Heart and Soul in the Kitchen)
Note: You need to refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving
8 oz. container of soft or “whipped” cream cheese
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
Toast or sliced baguettes or good crackers for serving – we also like crudités with this (slice hot-house cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, frisee, red onion)
Put the cream cheese (in a microwaveable bowl) in the microwave and heat for 45 seconds.
Combine the cream cheese in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, the salt and pepper and whisk well to combine thoroughly.
Whip the ½ cup of heavy cream until firm and combine with the cream cheese mixture.
Moisten the inside of two 1 cup bowls or ramekins with water and line them with plastic wrap. Fill the bowls with the cheese, cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
To serve, invert the cheese onto a serving platter and remove the plastic wrap, surround with toast, baguettes or crackers and crudités and let guests spoon the cheese onto these.
(Below: photo of Eiffel Tower taken by Billy, in Paris for Euro 2016)