Monday, March 29, 2010

Mushroom Pork Chops

Several weeks ago, I bought a family pack of pork chops. I divvied them up and froze what I didn't immediately use. Some of the chops were HUGE - like twice the size of a normal pork chop. Easily six inches or more long.

This last weekend I decided to make pork. Of course, I pull out the packaging, thinking it was a roast that I wanted to smother in mushrooms. Oops! I decided I would smother them in mushrooms anyway.

Mushroom-smothered Pork Chops
1 375ml bottle of rose wine
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon bruised grains of paradise (if you don't have them, use 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper)
3 very, very large pork chops
1 lb mushrooms, sliced thinly
2 teaspoons or so oil (I used my Chardonnay Fumé grapeseed oil.)
1 tablespoon or so sea salt

Marinade pork in wine, cinnamon, and grains of paradise for two hours.

Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C).

Spread some oil on the bottom of the roasting pan. Lay first pork chop in pan. Sprinkle with salt. Spread a little oil on pork chop. Cover with a layer of mushrooms.

Place second pork chop, salt, oil, and cover with mushrooms.

Place third pork chop, salt, and oil. Cover top and sides with remaining mushrooms.

Roast for 2 to 2-1/2 hours.

The mushrooms keep the pork very moist and add tons of flavor. The long, slow roast gelatinizes the connective tissue, giving a really, really rich, unctuous savor to the meat.

This dish is really easy to make but tastes like you had to really work for it. But let's keep how easy it is to ourselves.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Venison Hash

As I've said many times, my parent supply me with several pounds of venison each year. And I try to make them last. This last time, my parents gave me several pounds of ground venison. So, I needed to figure out how to use it as I don't use much ground meat ever.

But last week, I was really, really tired and really, really, really sore from being out of town last weekend. I wanted a quick and easy, no fuss, no work meal.

Hmmm, ground. That's almost the same as pre-chopped, right? Got it!

Venison Hash
2 lbs or so ground venison (or ground beef)
1 lb southern-style frozen hash browns
1/2 chopped large onion (3-4 inches in diameter)
1/2 pound or so sliced crimini mushrooms
1 tablespoon or so garlic powder
1 teaspoon or so cinnamon
1 teaspoon or so powdered ginger
1 pound frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the venison, onion, and mushrooms in large skillet. Drain excess grease (if you are using venison, there won't be any).

Set heat to medium. Add potatoes and cover. Stir every 10 minutes or so until potatoes are done.

Add peas. Cook until peas are heated through and just past crunchy (they should still be firm).

Enjoy with a lovely microbrew.

My inspiration for this dish was a shepherd's pie. I used venison instead of mutton because that was what I had on hand and because I knew it would work well. I used frozen hash browns because all they really ever need is a heat-through and crisp. I did chop the onion and slice the mushrooms, but if you are really pinched for time or energy, you can use pre-sliced. I don't recommend it as doing it yourself isn't that much work, but you could if you needed to.

The result was a wonderfully warm and filling dinner that was definitely homey, very close to what I would call comfort food. And it only took about a half hour or so to make, great when you're on the go.

My only complaint was that it was a little on the dry side. I added a little water when I reheated it for lunch the next day and was very pleased with what I got. The water helped convey the spices much more effectively.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spice Bread

I've written a couple of times (3/30/2009 and 3/8/2010)about my medieval bread recipe, Fine Bread. Anise isn't the only spice that can be used in it. I've used cinnamon instead in the past, but I've found the flavor a little too one-dimensional.

I needed a quick and easy dessert for a party the other night. Fine bread is really quick and easy -- just weigh and mix the sugar, flour, and spices, and beat in four eggs.

Aniseed isn't to everyone's tastes. Most people don't like the strong licorice-like flavor and are reluctant to try it. But most people do like spice cake.

Spice Bread
8 oz flour (weighed)
8 oz sugar (weighed)
4 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon clove
1 teaspoon butter
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.

Beat the eggs well; there mixture should be evenly yellow with no globs of white or yolk. Add to dry ingredients. Mix until it's batter.

Melt the butter and coat bottom of dish. Add batter and smooth out in pan.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes (less if the dish is a thin, metal pan). Sprinkle powdered sugar lightly over the top of the cake. Serve warm or cool.

This was an unmitigated success!!!! The sharpness of the ginger was well-balanced by the warmth of the cinnamon with the clove and nutmeg providing a nice deep richness to the flavor.

The eggs kept the bread really moist, almost like it had fruit in it, but without the chewiness or sogginess that often accompanies the fruit.

Several of the guests put a little whipped cream on the top and couldn't get enough of the combination! Yea!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Internet Fail

I am having trouble with my modem at home. It won't talk to any of the wireless devices in the house. So I won't have a recipe tonight, but expect one Tuesday or Wednesday.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fine Bread

I have to apologize a little to my readers. I've been a bit distracted this year -- preparing for an medieval arts competition. I didn't win, but I didn't expect to. I mostly wanted to get some feedback on some ideas I've had and I wanted to have fun. I succeeded!

For this competition, I've been playing again with a late-16th/early-17th century recipe called "Fine Bread." This recipe isn't a bread as we would describe it; it's more like a biscotti that is flavored with anise.

Before you say "I don't like anise/licorice," you should try this recipe.

Fine Bread
8 oz. unbleached all-purpose white flour
8 oz. sugar
4 large eggs
2 oz. anise
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).

Put the anise seeds in a mortar and pestle and bruise (grind gently) until the anise becomes aromatic.

Beat the eggs well until they are a fairly uniform yellow; you don't want globs of white and yolks.

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the eggs. The eggs will absorb all the dry ingredients; have faith. You will know you are almost done stirring when the batter forms a dough. There will still be some dry ingredients to be incorporated, so keep stirring. A few strokes more and the mixture will become a batter.

Melt the butter and pour into baking dish. Swirl the pan around to coat the bottom.

Pour batter into pan and bake until done -- 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the baking dish. Poke the center with a toothpick; the bread is done when the toothpick comes out clean.

Cook for five minutes or so, until the fine bread pulls away from the edges of the baking dish. Turn out onto a baking rack and let cook. Sprinkle powdered sugar lightly over the top.

I know; I blogged this a while ago. This time, though, I baked it in a cast iron skillet. I really liked how this turned out; the crust was more crispy than before and it really stayed moist.

Remember how, above, I asked you to wait until you tried this before you said you don't like anise? I've had multiple people who really, really don't like licorice/anise tell me how much they enjoyed this. One person actually wanted to know what other flavors I used in the recipe to offset the anise flavor and was surprised to find there weren't any.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Venison, Lovely Venison

I adore venison. I grew up in a hunting family; between my parents and my siblings, we would get 3-4 deer a year (yes, I've hunted for my own dinner - and brought it home).

Most people who don't like venison think it tastes too gamey. This is usually a result of an improperly field-cleaned deer. The trick to field-cleaning to take your time removing the offal, being very careful not to puncture any internal organs, as this will taint the flavor of the meat.

The second-most cause of gamey meat is improper cooking. Venison is a very lean meat and as such should be cooked in a relatively moist environment over medium heat. If you try to grill or broil it like beef, you will end up with tough, dry, gamey meat.

I prefer stews, braises, and stovetop sauces, like stroganoff, for my venison. Crockpot cooking is another wonderful way to get tender, delicious venison.

Venison in Onion Mushroom Sauce
1 to 1 1/2 pounds venison, tenderloins or steaks are best
1 large onion, sliced thinly
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced thickly
2 tablespoons canola oil
7 or 8 cloves garlic
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Heat oil in skillet. Carmelize the onion and mushrooms in skillet and remove. Briefly sauté garlic in skillet and remove. Mix flour, salt, and pepper and dredge meat in it. Dredge meat in flour mixture and brown in skillet, removing pieces as they are done.

Deglaze pan with water. Return meat, onions, garlic, and mushrooms to pan and simmer at a medium low heat until gravy is thick and meat is done.

Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, noodles or even fried potatoes.

The gravy provides nice moist environment to cook the venison in. The longer the venison simmers, the more tender it will be. This is one of my favorite ways to prepare venison as the meat will be melt in your mouth tender in a relatively short time.

And when there are only two of us, we get to have leftovers!!!!!!