Smoked Balsamic & Rosemary Pork Chops

Balsamic Rosemary Smoked Pork Chop
Balsamic Rosemary Smoked Pork Chop

Hopefully, you have access to a good butcher.  If you are truly fortunate, you have a butcher who also smokes his/her own meat.  I am truly fortunate and found a smoking butcher, although it is a three-hour drive, it is worth every minute in the car.  My husband and I make a day of it and enjoy the ride, catching up on all the conversations we didn’t quite finish and studying the Italian language.  When we arrive at the market, happiness. Local smoked meats from a butcher you can talk to, fresh vegetables and fruits that were grown locally and organically, fresh-baked breads, pretzels and goodies for the kids and fresh seafood.  It’s a great day.  

So, back to our favorite butchers at Smokehouse Meats.  This week I bought his smoked pork chops (which, by the way, I got to pick the thickness and watch as each chop was sliced precisely as requested).  At the house, the chops were in the refrigerator for 2 hours before I started dinner.  The smoke in the meat is so pervasive that when I opened the refrigerator door, the deep aroma of smoke wafted out into the kitchen and my husband’s eyes glazed over. We knew we made a good choice.  Onto making the entrée.  With no further delay, let’s get to the cooking.  This dish can be made any night of the week or on short notice, because it requires so little effort for such great gastronomical reward!  Tonight’s smoked chop was served with a mashed potato, mushroom gravy and sweet Brussels sprouts (also from the market).  

Smoked pork chop with Glaze
Smoked chop with the glaze.

Ingredients

4 smoked pork chops, 3/4″ cut

2 sprigs fresh rosemary (remove leaves from stem) or (1 Tbsp. dried), chopped

1/3 c. balsamic vinegar

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.(not pictured, but recommended)

Glaze

Add 1/4 c. white wine

1 additional sprig rosemary, chopped

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Preparation

1. Season the chops with salt, pepper and rosemary on both sides.  Place on a plate and allow to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.  You don’t want to put cold chops in the pan.

2.  Bring a non-stick or stainless saute pan to medium heat.  Add oil and butter.  When the oil/butter begins to bubble, add the balsamic. When the mix again begins to bubble, add your chops.  Make sure the pan is large enough that the entire surface of the meat touches the pan.  If necessary, do this in batches and place the cooked chops in the over at 250 degrees to stay warm.  Cook for about 3 minutes on each side or until you achieve some caramelization.  Keep warm in the oven.

3.   Serve.  See, I told you it was easy!  If you want to go a little deeper, when you remove the chops from the pan, pour out any grease then deglaze it with a 1/4 cup white wine, then add another 2 tbsp. balsamic (or any flavored balsamic, I used a Cherry Bordeaux) and the extra chopped rosemary.  When the vinegar and wine have reduced by 1/2 and become a little thick, add 2 tbsp. butter and swirl to make a nice glaze.  Remove from heat until you are ready to use or it will become thick and burn.

Fennel Braised Short Ribs over Mushroom and Pea Risotto

This is easily my favorite dish to make when I’m serving guests. Universally loved, endlessly versatile and just as good if made ahead, there is no downside to this meal. It is at once hardy and elegant. Its presentation is impressive. The beef is so tender you do not need a steak knife, the sauce is complex, the creaminess of the risotto hold up to the strength of the beef. And best of all, braising the short ribs is much more a matter of technique than exact flavor ingredients so the dish is easy to customize to your favorite flavor profile. This recipe uses fennel, but rosemary or chili are also a great options.

While an easy dish to make, it is important to not cut corners with the preparation or the cuts of meat. It is little time-consuming, but all of the steps can be done the day before you want to serve the meal, (arguably the better alternative!) giving you more planning options.

Everyone must have a good butcher, sometimes this can be found at your local grocery store, some folks are lucky enough to have a true butcher shop where your butcher knows you and will cut meat to your requests and sometimes, the super-fortunate, live in farm country and know a farmer with truly exceptional stock; raised and butchered humanely. I’m lucky like that. We live in farm country.

Your short ribs should be boneless and at least 3-4″ thick. Always always try to buy your cuts of meat that are fairly uniform in size. If you cook a 4″ short rib along with a 2″ rib, the smaller one will overcook and become dryer than it should be in the time it takes to fully cook the larger rib. This holds true for all meat. So, insist on uniform sizes. On average, I prepare 1 1/2 boneless short ribs per person. (At 3-4″ thick each).2014-11-14 14.17.52

Another “always do” is to toast your spices. I’m a true believe in fresh herbs, but not here; you will want to use nice fresh dried spices. To toast, toss your spices in a warmed saute pan over medium-low heat, and move them around the pan frequently. When you smell them releasing their fragrance, remove from heat and onto a plate to stop the toasting process. This takes 4-5 minutes but trust your nose on this one. You never want to darken or burn your spice; if you do start over.  (What?  Yep, don’t waste any more time. Okay, that’s a bit harsh brush or scrape off any burnt pieces and keep going if it isn’t too bad, but don’t blame me if you final dish has a bit of a carbon taste.)

Also see the related post on how to make Risotto.

Let’s cook.

Ingredients and Necessities

Fennel Braised Spare Ribs

Large Dutch Oven

Parchment Paper

Approximately 8 3-4″ thick cut boneless spare ribs

1/4 c. orange juice

2 c. chicken stock

2 c. dry red wine (or beef stock if you don’t like cooking with wine)

8 oz. can of chopped tomatoes with juice

1/4 c. tomato paste

1/4 c. Balsamic vinegar

4 Tbsp. dried fennel

S&P

LETS COOK – Pre-heat your oven to 300°

1.  Heat a large dutch oven over medium low heat.  Once warm, toss in your spices and let them toast for 4-5 minutes or until they make your kitchen smell delicious.  When you smell them, they are done.  Remove from the dutch oven and place in a bowl.

2.  Dry your short ribs with a paper towel, extra moisture is not your friend at this point.  Once dried, rub the toasted spice on both sides of the cut and sprinkle with cracked black pepper and salt.

3.  With the same dutch oven, turn up the heat to medium-high and sear the meat on all sides, about 6 minutes per side, but use common sense and adjust this according to the size of the cut.  Do not crowd the meat, do this in batches until all the meat is done.  Do not worry if the meat cools while you do batches, it will not matter as we will be braising it also.  Pour any oil and grease out of the pan. Do not wipe or remove the bits stuck to the bottom. They are your flavor nuggets.  Say something nice to them and continue on.

4. When all the meat is seared, and hopefully there are little bits stuck the the bottom of your dutch oven, it is time to make your braising liquid.  Working quickly, add your wine to the pot and scrape the little bits off of the bottom.  Reduce by about 1/3.

5.  Add the Balsamic vinegar, allow to reduce by half again.

6.  Add the tomato paste and swirl to combine.  Don’t worry if it isn’t completely combined.

7.  Place your ribs back into the pot, hopefully in a single layer.  Place the ribs on their sides to make room if need be.

8.  Add the chicken stock, orange juice, tomatoes and fennel. Be sure the liquid covers the meat.  If it doesn’t, add more liquid (stock, wine, juice…whatever).  Bring to a boil.

9.  When it hits a boil, THIS IS IMPORTANT – fully wet a large piece (or two) of parchment paper.  Place the parchment over the meat and liquid, put the lid on the dutch oven, and place in the oven for 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

10.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 30 minutes.

11.  You can serve as is (the pictured dish was served at this point), or remove the meat and cover with foil then bring the liquid to a boil and reduce to to thicken the sauce.  Of course, if you make this dish ahead of time, refrigerate the juice and remove the solidified grease first.  because the ribs are seared, much of the grease is removed early in the process.  But the meat will continue to render fat when being braised (which is why we do this!).

12. I served this over a creamy risotto with peas as pictured, but it is great with smashed potatoes.

ENJOY!

Now, with all recipes, you can adjust flavors to your liking.  I also follow this technique using chili garlic paste instead of the tomato paste and soy sauce instead of balsamic.  Have fun with it and send me pictures of your creations.

Linguini Alfredo with Shrimp Scampi (gf)

GF Linguini Alfredo with Shrimp Scampi, served with carrots sauteed with leeks and garlic bread (yes, it's gf too).
GF Linguini Alfredo with Shrimp Scampi, served with carrots sauteed with leeks and garlic bread (yes, it’s gf too).

Okay it’s a little bit of a combination of a few great classics. Sometimes when I’m cooking gf, it becomes a mashup. That’s how I roll (groan now). Until our local grocery store began carrying fresh, gf pasta, dinners such as this were non-existent. While there is a place for everything, I find few uses for dried pasts, gf or not. The few times I made a sauce and used a dried corn or rice flour based pasta, I was disappointed. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t worth a repeat effort. The fresh pasta changes everything! It is so close to a wheat based flour pasta I can hardly tell the difference. We are fortunate, our grocer carries gf linguini, fusilli and lasagne sheets, allowing us to make many recipes we otherwise wouldn’t enjoy. And for that I say, grazie.

This dish is not just tasty, it is quick. You can have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes after your shell and devein your shrimp. Oh, the shrimp, everyone has their own opinions on shrimp, and I am not one to not have an opinion. Ever. But that’s another story….back to the shrimp. I buy only uncooked shrimp. They are so quick and easy to steam, even when you are in a hurry, that I have never understood why you would risk buying pre-cooked, a/k/a bland and flavorless, shrimp. There are more and arguably better, reasons too. You have shells to use to make a seafood stock; you can cook the shrimp right in your sauce to add depth of flavor; you ensure the freshness of the shrimp, and, my favorite is that if you are cooking a meal, you should never ever ever never ever start with pre-cooked meat. Ever. Now for the recipe.

Wait, a last observation. This is my version of two classics, but certainly not the only versions nor necessarily authentic. If I was making only an alfredo, the recipe would be a bit different, but becasue of the added flavors of the scampi, it is slightly toned down. Okay, that’s my disclaimer, now go cook!

Ingredients:

ALFREDO
fresh gf linguini or pasta of your choice (8 oz.)
1 c. whole milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. grated parmesan cheese (the real stuff, not from a green can) plus more for garnish.
1 egg yoke (reserve the white for velveting chicken!)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
S&P to taste
*crushed red pepper, optional, to taste

SCAMPI
4 large; 6 medium or 8 small shrimp per person
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4-6 cloves of chopped garlic
1 lemon, first clean the fruit and grate the peel, not touching any of the white pith, then cut in half and reserve
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley, plus a bit more for garnish
1/4 c. chopped tomato (fresh is great in season, but if not you can substitute a canned variety)

Making the Sampi
1. Melt the butter over medium low heat. When it begins to bubble and before it browns, add the garlic and sautee for 30 seconds. Do not brown the garlic!
2. Add your shrimp on an even layer and do not touch it until you see it begin to turn a beautiful shade of orange half way up the side; turn.
3. Continue cooking the shrimp, without touching them, until they are no longer translucent, about 6 minutes in total. When the shrimp are fully cooked, squeeze the lemon over the entire pan and swirl. Add the chopped parsley and top with fresh cracked pepper. Remove from heat immediately, add the tomato, cover and set aside.

Making the Sauce
1. Place a large pot of salted water on the stove and keep at a simmer, this will make cooking the pasta quick as soon as your sauce is ready.
2. Heat a medium size sautee pan to medium low to medium, depending on your stove. You do not want to scald the milk.
3. Add the milk and warm it. When it begins to steam, add your cream.
4. When the mixture is steaming, add your cheese and stir with a spatula frequently, to melt the cheese.
5. Once the cheese is fully incorporated, remove from heat and add the nutmeg, and pepper. Be careful to not add additional salt until after you taste your sauce, the parmesan will add considerable saltiness. If it needs additional salt, add it in small increments.
6. After the sauce has cooled a bit, stir in your egg yoke. BE CAREFUL to not do this too soon, or you will have scrambled yoke in your sauce instead of creaminess. Put a lid on over your sauce while you cook the pasta. Fresh pasta should only take 2-3 minutes to cook, and will reheat your sauce just prior to serving.
7. When the salted water comes to a boil, add your fresh pasta and stir. Check for doneness at the earliest cooking time indicated on the packaging. It is important to keep your pasta strong (al dente) to hold up to the sauce and seafood. Do not overcook. Strain the pasta, shake once or twice and then add to your sauce, incorporating gently with rubber tongs.

Plate your pasta, sprinkle with more cheese and top with shrimp. Garnish with a bit more of the chopped parsley.