About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Apple Cider Braised Pork Chops

What a nice fall meal! Apple cider braised pork chops, Alex Hitz's pumpkin flan and and French green beans with shallot.  I went to bed thinking, "I should post this, it was really good".  I had done a little research because I had some apple cider on hand from another recipe test and came up with a fairly simple dish that put all those essential fall ingredients on the plate.  That's the beauty of the seasonal change.  I always think I'm going to miss those summer vegetables and fruits and then the next wave of savory and sweet inspiration knocks on my door with the cooling temperatures and falling leaves. I really feel sorry for those in static climates.  I asked a tour guide in Alaska what they ate for Thanksgiving - salmon.  Guess what they ate for Christmas, New Years, Easter, and 4th of July, etc.  Four seasons is something to be thankful for.

4, 1 inch, bone in pork chops
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbls canola oil
1 cup sweet onion  in rings
1 tbls minced garlic
1 tsp minced thyme
 1 1/2 cups apple cider
1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced into chunks

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Mix the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder on a plate. Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy brassier or large skillet.  Dredge the pork chops in the flour mixture and shake off the excess, then brown in the skillet on both sides, about 4 minutes per side.  Remove to a plate.  Add the onion, separated into rings and saute until limp.  Add the garlic and saute 30 seconds (do not let the garlic brown), add the thyme and cook 30 more seconds.  Add the apple cider and deglaze the pan.  Return the chops to the pan and add the chopped apple.  Heat to a simmer, then cover and cook in a 300 degree oven for 1 hour and 30 mins.

Remove the chops to a plate and tent with foil. Mash the cooked apple with a fork and reduce in the remaining juices and vegetables in the pan by half. Pour over the chops and serve immediately.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Toddy Coffee

I really don't drink that much coffee but I also can't function without just one mug to get me going.  I like those blend names like "Fog Lifter" and "Day Break Morning".  If I were naming a coffee just for me it would be "Cobweb Cleaner".  On an early rise,  the only thing that gets me out of the bed is the thought of the first sip of a hot, rich cup of coffee.  My anxious dogs must wait to be let out while I take the first sip. It's essential to the order of my being, I contemplate the day and life first thing in the morning while it's quiet and I'm drinking that cup of coffee.  Morning coffee and I have that kind of  essential intimacy. I don't want it at a drive thru with rush hour traffic but I've done that.

Over the years, I've experienced many different methods of coffee preparation beginning with my Mother's percolated coffee.  Daddy was the coffee drinker so it had to be perfect, and it was.  I don't know what happened to the little pot she fixed his coffee in but eventually it disappeared in favor of a popular, but inferior, Mr. Coffee maker, which puzzled me. My girlfriend and I where students abroad and spent some time in Paris.  We had an syrupy espresso late one evening and never slept a wink.  I mean, we were jitter bugs we were so beaned up. Swore that off and French pressed coffee also; too murky. I began to drink coffee seriously shortly after my first child was born when sleep deprivation hit me hard.  Maybe a cup of coffee would prop me up for another day of diapering, etc.  Then came the office coffee pot.  Vile commercial stuff that tasted like it was brewed card board and the pot was never cleaned. I declined that brew altogether.  My husband's aunt was quite serious about coffee and had a Kemex.  She had whole bean coffee shipped monthly from Community Coffee in Louisiana and ground it fresh daily.  I was impressed that she was so particular about coffee.  So I got really snooty and started ordering and grinding my own beans too.  I  honestly, could not stand the noise of the grinder that early in the morning.  Who wants to hear a buzz saw before you've even had a sip.  It woke up my children too.  Then Starbucks arrived and coffee became an American obsession.  I stick with my single a.m. mug at home but have found myself in many a Starbucks store when out of town.  It's quality is reliable but you couldn't pay me to drink one of those flavored varieties.  Those where designed to suck in the younger generation much the way flavored wine and vodkas are.  Make mine strong, straight up with a splash of half n' half. As one of my friends said, she wanted her coffee so strong it would make her nipples stand up.  Cafe au lait is as far as I'll stretch.  And now, those Keurig single serve packets.  Expensive for the home, great for the office but an environmental disaster overall .  I bought one and feel guilty every time I see all those little plastic cups in the trash.

Well, here's my problem in a word, acidity. I found the more robust the flavor the harder it was on my stomach.  Then I retreat to something puny and boring.  Finally, I have the answer.  I heard about Toddy from New Orleans friends.  A cold steeping method that takes out most of the acid?  So on my recent trip to New Orleans, I tracked it down and brought it home.  It's a process adjustment but produces a rich, smooth coffee without all the acid and oils.  The Toddy Cold Brew System.  They where right, pour water over coarse ground coffee and let it sit 12 hours.  I'm simplifying it but it's still very simple, just different. Then it runs through a filter into a carafe to make a concentrate.  For a cup or more, add water to desired strength and microwave.  The concentrate keeps in the refrigerator for two weeks! The cold water method delivers smooth coffee no matter your choice of coffee. 

A good cup of coffee in the morning is just one of those essential items in a civilized life.  Nothing will replace my Mother's coffee. I wish I knew what happened to that little percolator.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Spirited Halloween in New Orleans

I was twenty something the last time I was in New Orleans and one of those Hurricane concoctions on Bourbon Street must have blurred my experience. This city is a jewel even after Katrina slapped her senseless.  They say it will never be the same but, I can't tell.  Except for some remaining bruises, she's come through it, I'd say.  New Orleans decorates for Halloween the way others would decorate for Christmas.  A trolley ride down St. Charles past elegant old homes whose front lawns are littered with skeletons and ghouls tells you they aren't prim here.  Our niece lives on State Street and the two pumpkins on her porch are modest compared to her neighbors' spooky displays. We heard a guide lecturing quite seriously about Zombies in Lafayette Cemetery and we frankly, didn't venture into the French quarter on Halloween.  It looked too scary.  But that's normal for NOLA, it' just loaded with "characters" and has that avant garde aura.

I wasn't planning to spend too much time in the French Quarter but decided I shouldn't miss a visit to Cafe du Monde. It was a mad house so I ordered from the window and took a bench in the side alley.  I faced a window where I could watch them running big hulks of dough through a machine and tossing the pieces into vats of frying oil behind them without looking.  Lunch was a stroke of genius.  Fortune smiled as we got a seat at the highly touted Coquette.  I was in my element sitting at the bar watching them whip up cocktails in glasses first sprayed with absinthe.  I sort of expected Toulouse Latrec to hobble in. Did I mention the food?  I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich with a side salad.  It's the perfect example of exalted food I love.  Everything on the plate was homemade, home grown or artisanal. I'm not much on restaurants but this place is superior in my gastronomic experiences.  Big score.

Seated at another bar over cocktails we slurped fresh oysters with a shot of Tabasco. I've gone too long without this briny delight. We ended the evening with a famous banana brown butter tart at Herbsaint.  They do it right there.

On Saturday, we worked up our appetite for lunch at Cochon Butcher with a long walk down
Tchoupitoulas (took me all weekend to get the pronunciation). It was packed but we persevered for a distinguished Cubano sandwich that left your lips with the perfect trace of heat.  We wrapped up our visit at Dominica in the venerable Roosevelt and the original Art Deco Sazarac Bar.

New Orleans has a unique cultural signature in America.  It's brand is synonymous with jazz, architecture, the Napoleonic code and, most of all,  food.  Living large is still the way of life in NOLA.  I'm going home a bit larger but happier.