Monday: Grape Salsa on Toasted Baguette with Goat Cheese
Turkish Potato Salad with Dill, Mint and sliced, cold Sirloin
Tuesday: The Elbow Room
Wednesday: Grilled Vegetables, Shrimp and Chicken over Saffron, curried rice
Thursday: Scallion Pancakes with dipping sauce, Quick Pho
Friday: Oysters, Whole Shrimp with Tomato Salad and Aioli
Saturday: Dinner party at Julie’s: Flank Steak, Peaches and Boursin wrapped with Prosciutto (Katie), Grape Salsa on Toasted Baguette with Goat Cheese (Psycho Chef), Aunt Debbie’s Summer Vegetable Salad, Potato Salad, Tomato Salad (Hilda), Berry Cobbler with Coconut Ice Cream
Sunday: Dinner with Mere, UFR and Billy –
Vietnamese-Style Pork Chops with Fresh Herb Salad, French potato salad (Ina Garten
App of toasted homemade baguette with crudités and herbed ricotta, Watermelon Granita
“The baking of bread is as great a mystery as the making of a sonnet . . . “
Another spectacular week of food, weather, friends and family. We seem to have hit the peak of life for some arbitrary and wonderful reason. And from the texts and pictures I have gotten from Dick G. and others, I’m thinking many of you are on the same high plateau.
It is difficult not to tell you about the whole shrimp or the Pho or the Turkish Potato Salad, but I have to begin (well, follow up) with the wonderfully pleasant dinner at our friend Julie’s on Saturday night. Julie is a great cook and all-around creative force – I want to be like her when I grow up. She has been hosting family and several thousand dogs (I may be a bit high on the number) for 6 months and, in the midst of all this has put together a cookbook of her family’s favorites which I am going to steal from her (please don’t tell her). When she finally had a break, she decided to cook for 6 good friends*. I’m hoping we behaved well enough to get invited back.
*Did I mention that she’s pathologically energetic?
The highlight of the week was Julie’s potato salad (don’t tell your Mom, but trust me, Julie’s is better). However, I don’t have the recipe. Close seconds were Katie’s appetizer of peaches and prosciutto, Hilda’s tomato salad and Julie’s amazing dessert (look at the picture). But I don’t have those recipes either.
So, you’ll have to settle for third best (though I’m not sure, given your attitude, that you deserve even that) – Vietnamese Style Pork Chops with Herb Salad and Grape Salsa on Toasted Baguette with Goat Cheese. Each of these dishes will give you a taste you’ve never quite had before: the chops a powerful whap of savory spiciness and the grape salsa a mixture of sweet, sour and savory tempered by the goat cheese and baguette. Both dishes are made for summer and for eating out of doors. We’ve already had the salsa twice and I’m guessing, from the reaction of Mere, Rick, Billy and Beez, that we’ll be having the chops again soon. The herb salad is a perfect side for the peppery chops. If you are a super model or a severe ascetic, it might even do as a meal on its own.
As part of the salsa appetizer, I’m going to throw in a recipe for baking baguettes in a standard oven. This is not difficult, though you’ll have to adjust timing and heat and (if you live high above sea level) maybe wet and dry ingredients – but whatever you do will be edible and it will be yours and you will be involved in the mystery of bread-making.* So, when you curse the ability of flour to sift over everything, or the dogged adhesiveness of wet dough, remember that you are simply the latest in a millennia-long line of frustrated, surly, surprised and floury predecessors who have cursed dough or flour or the heat of ovens, or the distraction that caused them to burn the bread in a thousand different languages.
*The quote at from Christopher Morley (near the top of this post) is, of course, a ridiculous exaggeration. Baking bread may be as mysterious as a sonnet by Edgar Guest, but it fades in the light of Shakespeare or John Donne. But I am a devotee of ridiculous exaggeration, and the citation was à propos, so quit your griping.
Vietnamese Style Pork Chops
(adapted from bon apetit “The Grilling Issue,” July, 2016)
Supplies (for 5 diners):
5 1/2″ thick bone-in pork rib chops (You will probably have to ask the butcher to cut these – even the ‘thin-cut’ chops at Whole Foods are about 1″ thick. The thickness is important – it allows you to get a nice sear no the outside without burning it in order to cook the inside)
1 large shallot, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped (I used one mid-sized clove)
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup of Fish Sauce
2Tablespoons of Soy Sauce (light or dark)
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 Tablespoons freshly ground pepper (do yourself a favor and grind your own pepper for this – it brings a great edge to the marinade that coarse-grind store bought can’t match)
3 firm red plums, cut into 1/4″ – 1/2″ wedges
1 Fresno or jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced
3 cups of mixed herbs and greens (we used 1.5 cups of arugula and a mixture of Thai basil, parsley and dill)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup bean sprouts (we used brocolli sprouts – we like the taste better)
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
Lime wedges for serving
Prep (1 hour up to overnight):
Blend the shallot, garlic, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, oil and pepper in a blender or food processor and transfer to a large, re-sealable plastic bag.
Place pork chops in bag and turn to coat.
Seal bag (pressing out air) and chill at least 1 hour – up to 12 or overnight.
For herb salad: Toss plums, scallions, sliced pepper, arugula, herbs, sprouts and vinegar in a large bowl and season with salt, then toss again.
Fire up your grill or heat a grill pan over medium-high
Grill chops, turning once, until charred – about 2 minutes per side.
Serve with lime wedges and herb salad – this is one damn tasty meal. Share it only with people you like.
Grape Salsa on Toasted Baguette with Herbed Goat Cheese
Supplies (should give you enough for two small or one large, toasted baguette):
2 Cups seedless grapes, quartered
½ Cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
½ Red Onion, diced
3 Tablespoons chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Teaspoon chopped oregano
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
Dash of Cayenne
Salt and Pepper to taste
Softened Goat Cheese (4 oz. package) mashed with thyme, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Baguette, sliced into rounds or ovals and toasted in 400 F oven to your taste (see “Extra” to make your own)
Gently toss grapes, onion, parsley, lime juice and oregano in a bowl.
Add salt, pepper, vinegar and cayenne and adjust as needed
Add tomatoes before serving
Serve: With bowl of goat cheese and serving knife and plate of crostini (toasted baguete)
EXTRA Long Proofed Baquette (Adapted from Essential Pèpin)
Timing – You will need to let dough rise for at least 5.5. hours, but the first rise of 4.5 hours can go longer – I wouldn’t go beyond 7)
Equipment: Spray bottle for spraying water into oven to create steam
Supplies (for 4 Baguettes):
4.5 Cups of Bread Flour, plus 2 plus tablespoons for sprinkling
1 envelope active dry yeast (2.25 teaspoons)
2.5 teaspoons salt
2 cups cool water (just run the tap)
2 tablespoons cornmeal
Put the 4/5 cups of flour, the yeast, the water and the salt in a large food processor and process for 30 to 45 seconds – until it comes together into a tight ball.
Transfer the dough to a plastic buck or a deep ceramic or stainless bowl and cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (about 708 F) for at least 4.5 hours, or until doubled in bulk. (We use a closet in our family room in summer – it’s unairconditioned – and the power room in winter – with the door close it stays toasty)
After the first rise, break down the dough by bringing the outer edges into the center and pressing down to release the air inside. Then form the dough into a ball.
Sprinkle a work surface 2 Tablespoons of the remaining flour, place the dough on top, and press down to form it into a rough rectangular shape. Now cut the rectangle lengthwise into 4 equal strips and roll each one under your palms into an 18-inch length.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick mat and sprinkle with cornmeal. Place the baguettes on the baking sheet. Let the baguettes rise, covered with an upside down baking sheet or roast pan – back in that warm draft-free place for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 F (we heat to only 400, our oven runs hot)
Beofre baking, sprinkle the tops of the risen loaves with the remaining ½ tablespoon of flour. Cut 4 diagonal slits in the top of each loaf with a serrated knife.
Now spray the inside of your oven with a water spray bottle to create steam, put in the loaves and close the door.
Bake for about 35 minutes or until brown and crusty. (If the bottoms get burnt, try 30 minutes, or turning the loaves over at about 20 minutes)
Cool the baguettes on a rack for at least 45 minutes before slicing.