The Secret To Killer Pork Chops at Home

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There’s a psychological phenomenon–and I’m not a psychologist, so cut me some slack here–by which, even though we know what’s good for us, we don’t do the thing that’s good for us. So, for example, let’s say we’re an aspiring journalist and there’s a convention downstairs, in our building, for working journalists who are looking to hire interns. And let’s say we want to be an intern–it’s a crucial step in our professional trajectory–but, on TV, is a marathon showing of The Real Housewives of New York City and it’s the episode where Jill Zarin shows up, uninvited, to the Caribbean. Even though all we have to do is turn off the TV, splash some water on our face and walk downstairs, we don’t. That’s a real phenomenon (perhaps it’s called self-sabotage?) and I’d like to talk to you about it today in the context of pork chops.

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Anatomy of a Pork Chop Dinner (A Three Part Series)

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9:24 PM, Friday, October 30th. The scene? My kitchen. In attendance? Myself and Craig. The event? The creation of one of the best plates of food I’ve ever made.

It started like this, see, I was at the farmer’s market, taking pictures with my new camera when I spied these Jerusalem artichokes. Or was it at the butcher shop when I asked the butcher to cut me two thick-sliced pork chops? No, wasn’t it on the couch reading The Barefoot Contessa’s roasted apple sauce recipe in her new cookbook?

Look officer, maybe I’d do better to split this into separate posts; that way future generations can piece together this pork chop dinner using the links I provide. Here they are in sequence:

Roasted Apple & Pear Sauce

What To Do With Jerusalem Artichokes

The Secret To Killer Pork Chops at Home.

And that’s my full confession. Haul me away, if you must, at least I know I did what I thought was right.

Six-Hour Ribs

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Oh blog, you poor, neglected thing, I’ve abandoned you for almost a week! I was in Washington, D.C. cooking with three chefs for my cookbook and before I knew it I was back and it was the weekend.

So let’s catch up. How’ve you been? As you know, I’ve been busy–scheduling, cooking, writing, traveling–but before I left for D.C. it was July 4th and I made dinner for my brother and his wife Tali. I made those ribs you see above; don’t they look good? They cooked for six hours in the oven wrapped in foil as suggested by that pre-eminent food scientist Harold McGee in this article for The New York Times.

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How To Roast a Leg of Lamb

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“Pete’s Dragon” is a movie I hadn’t seen since childhood. I remember being terrified of Shelly Winters, covered in all that mud, and bored by the Helen Reddy boyfriend-lost-at-sea subplot. But when my friend Chris Dufault stated recently that “Pete’s Dragon” is one of his favorite movies, I felt a sudden need to see it again. And so we made a “Pete’s Dragon night”: Chris would bring the DVD and his boyfriend Jonathan and I’d cook something appropriate that’d complement the viewing experience. What would that be? Why leg of dra…I mean lamb, of course!

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The Best Chili of Your Life

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If Craig had his way, this post wouldn’t have this title. I just asked him, “Would you call the chili I made the other day the best of your life?” And he answered: “I don’t even think of it as chili because there weren’t any beans; just lots of meat and stuff. But it was certainly delicious.”

Luckily, when my friend Diana ate it, she said the words that justify this post’s title. “This is seriously the best chili I’ve ever had.”

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The Best Meatloaf I’ve Ever Had

It’s hard to get excited about meatloaf. That is, unless you’re standing in the kitchen at Craft in New York and Chef Damon Wise (Tom Colicchio’s right-hand man) is mixing together ground beef, pork, crisp shitakes (that taste like bacon), golden soffrito, soy sauce, fresh oregano and Parmesan cheese. The resulting meatloaf–which Chef Wise called “Umami Meatloaf”–was, without question, the best I’ve ever had. And then, as you’ll see in the following Food2 video, I went and recreated it at home. All the proportions and ingredients and steps are listed in the video, but, just in case, I’ll share them after the jump. And now, without further pause, here’s one killer meatloaf:

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Sunday Gravy

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The thing about Thanksgiving is that people have expectations. They expect some kind of squash soup, they expect turkey, of course, and stuffing and taters (mashed and sweet) and all kinds of pies for dessert. Maybe that’s why I don’t like cooking it: the element of surprise is fairly limited (“Oooh look, he put cranberries in the stuffing!”) and even if you half-ass it, people will still enjoy themselves as long as there’s plenty of wine. Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the challenge? It’s not just the tryptophan that makes Thanksgiving dinner a sleepy affair.

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Cassoulet in 10 Easy Steps

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When Anthony Bourdain cooks with Michael Ruhlman on the Cleveland episode of “No Reservations,” he layers meat and beans together in a giant drum, tops the whole thing off with breadcrumbs and produces a dish most of us aren’t used to seeing on Food TV (and I say that as someone who now works for Food TV): a classic French cassoulet that’d put Julia Child to shame.

Cassoulet is a dish that just makes sense. Why does it make sense? You take fatty, flavorful meat, put it in a big pot with moisture-hungry beans and bake the whole thing until the beans are infused with all that fat and flavor and the meat is cooked. It’s not meant to be a fancy dish–this is the kind of food French people make at home–and it’s infinitely variable, as evidenced by the infinite cassoulet recipes you will find in my infinite cookbook collection, recipes that vary the type of meat, the type of bean, even the amount of time it takes to make the dish (Bourdain’s recipe, in his “Les Halles Cookbook,” calls for three days). I didn’t have three days to spare on Friday night when I set out to make my very first cassoulet. So I turned to an under-praised, underused book in my collection: Daniel Boulud’s “Daniel’s Dish: Entertaining at Home with a Four-Star Chef”.

It’s a great recipe for its simplicity (it’s called “Casual Cassoulet”) and yet the recipe has a serious flaw: it’s meant to be cooked in a 15-Qt Dutch Oven. I completely missed that part when I shopped for my ingredients, so I prepped enough food for a pot 3X bigger than the one I had. Therefore, the recipe that follows is my adaptation of Daniel’s recipe for Dutch Ovens of a more realistic size. Daniel’s recipe calls for lamb shoulder, but I left that out too: sausage + duck + bacon = plenty of meat for one dish, thank you very much.

Since winter’s almost over, this is the perfect dish to make on one of our last cold winter’s nights. I promise it’s easy and I promise the pay-off is big. And so, without further ado, Cassoulet in 10 Easy Steps.

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