Saturday, August 19, 2017

Southern-Style Smothered Pork Chops

September is just over the hill and will mark a return to cooking up comfort food. This Cook's Country recipe is a favorite of mine. Thick, bone-in pork chops become incredibly tender after braising in one of the most remarkable, southern-style gravies I have ever tasted. I like to serve the chops with buttered, dumpling egg noodles. (Note: Follow step #4 very carefully. To get the gravy to the correct consistency, only use 1/4 cup of fat.)

2 tablespoons Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and ground black pepper
4, 10-ounce bone in pork chops, about 1-inch thick
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 onions, quartered through root end and sliced thin crosswise
3 cups water
1 tablespoon cider vinegar


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet. Combine seasoned salt, onion powder, granulated garlic, paprika, and 1 teaspoon pepper in bowl. Pat chops dry with paper towels and sprinkle each chop with 1 teaspoon spice mixture (1/2 teaspoon per side).
  2. Combine 1/2 cup flour and 4 teaspoons spice mixture in shallow dish. Dredge chops lightly in seasoned flour, shake off excess, and transfer to prepared rack.
  3. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add 2 chops to skillet and fry until deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Let excess oil drip from chops, then return chops to rack. Repeat with remaining 2 chops.
  4. Transfer fat left in skillet to liquid measuring cup. Return 1/4 cup fat to skillet and stir in remaining 1/2 cup flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until roux is color of peanut butter, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onions and remaining 4 teaspoons spice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until onions begin to soften slightly, about 2 minutes.
  5. Slowly stir water into roux mixture until gravy is smooth and free of lumps. Bring to simmer and cook until gravy begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Pour half of gravy into 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Nestle browned chops in dish, overlapping slightly as needed. Pour remaining gravy over chops and cover dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 1-1/2 hours.
  6. Carefully transfer chops to serving dish. (Chops will be delicate and may fall apart.) Use wide spoon to skim fat from surface of gravy. Add vinegar to gravy and season with pepper to taste. Pour gravy over chops. Serve.

Wine pairing: It's time to be a hero and rescue some Merlot trapped in a bottle. I have found Shafer Merlot to be incredibly grateful.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Grill-Roasted Beef Tenderloin

This August has been one of the most spectacular months for grilling...ever. Temperatures in the 70's and dew points down in the middle 50's. And it's been like that every single day this month. (Thank you, Cody!)

This recipe was published last May in Cook's Illustrated. I kept it because it is a great reminder that grills are not just for grilling. They are also great for roasting. This recipe uses 2 little tricks to great advantage. First, baking soda is used in the rub. This alters the pH of the meat and makes it brown better.

The second trick is bacon. Beef tenderloin is extremely lean and therefore has little to contribute by way of drippings. By placing bacon over the hot coals, you will get those wonderful fat drippings that really go the distance to flavor the meat. This recipe serves six.

2-1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
1, 3-pound center cut beef tenderloin roast, trimmed and tied at 1-1/2" intervals
3 slices bacon threaded onto a metal skewer


  1. Combine salt, pepper, oil and baking soda in small bowl. Rub mixture evenly over roast and let stand while preparing grill.
  2. Prepare your grill for both direct and indirect cooking. Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter two-thirds filled with charcoal briquettes (4 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
  3. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place roast on hotter side of grill and cook (covered ) until lightly browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Slide roast to cooler side of grill, arranging so roast is about 7 inches from heat source. Place skewered bacon near center of grill, above edge of coals. Bacon should be 4 to 6 inches from roast and drippings should fall on coals and produce steady stream of smoke and minimal flare-ups. If flare-ups are large or frequent, slide bacon skewer 1 inch toward roast.
  4. Cover and cook for 1 hour. Transfer roast to a carving board, tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Discard twine and cut slices from roast 1/2" thick.

Wine pairing: A big Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. A Ramey, if you are really lucky.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Steak 'N' Bacon Cheddar Meatballs

Costco never stops surprising me. For those of you that shop there Fridays through Sundays, they have those incredible seafood kiosks brimming with King Crab, lobster, fresh mussels, giant prawns and a complete array of fresh fish. It's quite impressive and there is always a long line of people waiting to take advantage of the great pricing.

When Becky and I were shopping there on Thursday, we found a little bit of heaven. They had taken one of those kiosks and converted it to a showcase of USDA Prime Beef...the cuts usually reserved for the finest restaurants in town. They had USDA Prime Rib Eyes, New York Strips, Porterhouse, Tomahawk Steaks and even USDA Prime Short Ribs!

Needless to say, we grabbed 3 steaks and grilled them up last night. Typical of Costco, the cuts of steak are large, so we always have leftover steak. And thanks to Julia Moskin, I have now found an incredible way to use that leftover steak to create a meal of my favorite comfort food, meatballs.

Besides cooked steak, Julia's recipe also calls for cooked bacon...8 ounces to be exact. So you can cook that up if you want, but I prefer a shortcut. Costco sells 20-ounce bags of cooked bacon bits for just $16.99. So instead of having to cook my bacon, I just dip a cup into the bag and I'm done. This recipe yields about 2 dozen meatballs, enough for 6 to 8 servings.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
8 ounces cooked bacon crumbles
1 pound cooked steak, diced
1 pound 80% lean ground beef
6 ounces sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until it is translucent, about 10 minutes. Transfer onions to a plate and cool them in the refrigerator.
  2. Heat oven to 450ยบ. Use the remaining 2 tablespoon of oil to coat a 9" X 13" baking dish.
  3. In a large bowl, combine bacon, steak, ground beef, onion, cheese, eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Mix lightly but thoroughly by hand.
  4. Roll mixture into golf-ball size balls. Place the balls into the baking dish and roast for 20 minutes. Remove dish from oven, let the meatballs cool for 5 minutes, then serve.

Wine pairing: If we are talking steak, bacon and need to reach for an Oregon Pinot Noir. If you are lucky, one from the Willamette Valley.