So I had some pretty rocking wines in my bag the other day (I’m a wine rep, remember?) and I wanted a nice dinner to go with them but we were a bit low on funds… I definitely didn’t want to do take-out, nor did I want to just make a sandwich or hot dog. So driving home from my last appointment, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Garden State Parkway (otherwise known as the Garden State Parking Lot), I starting doing a mental inventory of what I had in the house… which wasn’t a whole heck of a lot.
Baby potatoes, organic carrots, apple sauce, butter, and a ton of spices in the pantry… yeah, that’s about it unless you count Eggo Waffles, frozen tater tots and dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets (I have three kiddies that are picky eaters).
Well what the hell am I going to do with that!? Then I remembered I had $8 sitting in my wallet, forgotten money from the other day. So nowwwwww… what can I buy with a whopping eight bucks that can work with what I have at home. Apple sauce and spices kept running through my head… apples… spices… apples… pork. Wait, that’s it, pork! Pork chops are cheap, I can swing that!
So I hit one of the local supermarkets that I know usually has some nice thick cut chops. Sure enough, two nice thick cut pork chops (12oz each) for the meager sum of $6.74, perfect.
Ok, so now I am zoned out standing in the meat section staring at nothing, thinking about my home inventory and these two beautiful chops… What am I going to do? What else do I need? More importantly, what do I need that will cost me less than $1.25!!!??? Ouch, talk about slim pickings. To the people around me I possibly looked psychotic, standing there seemingly staring at the packaged meats and doing nothing… But this is what I do. Almost like the movie “The Perfect Game” with Kevin Costner when he would get on the pitchers mound and mentally “clear the mechanism” and everything around him dimmed down to nothing, allowing him to focus on the task at hand. When I get into this zone, the puzzle pieces that are flying around in my head usually snap together, and they did this day too. In a flash I knew what I was making for dinner, and I knew the missing ingredient that was less than $1.25… Light cream, $1.19, ta-dow!
So what vision of culinary puzzle pieces finally clicked together? Seared pork, spiced apple puree, carrots two ways and roasted potatoes. Perfect.
So listed below is the recipe and wine pairings… Enjoy!
2 Thick Center Cut Pork Chops, bone in
6 Baby White Potatoes, cut the edges off the potato to make a rectangle
2 Baby White Potatoes, peeled and diced
5 Medium-to-Large Carrots, 2 diced on an alternating bias, 3 sliced into ribbons longways using a peeler
4oz Apple Sauce
2 1/2tsp Salt
2 1/2tsp Ground Black Pepper
1tsp Chili Powder
1tsp Garlic Powder
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
1tbsp Unsalted Butter
1tbsp + 1tbsp + 2tsp Olive Oil (separate)
1c Light Cream
1/2c White Wine
1/2c Chicken Stock
Ingredients (pork rub):
1tsp Ground Black Pepper
1tsp Smoked Paprika
1tsp Chili Powder
1tsp Garlic Powder
Heat your oven to 425F.
One thing I would like to make a quick note of… Everybody’s oven is different. Sure, in a perfect world every oven set to 425F would actually BE 425F, but we know that’s not true. For instance, if I really want 425F with my oven, I need to set it to 440F’ish. The temperatures and cooking times in my recipes are based on a perfect world scenario. However, you know your oven and its quirks. Adjust accordingly if necessary.
Ok, so first thing to do is get your pork rubbed so those flavors can really sink in. Mix the rub ingredients together in a bowl and liberally coat the outside of the chops. Set aside at room temp, you’ll be getting back to them shortly.
Bring a medium sauce pot to medium heat and melt your butter. Add your diced baby potatoes, sprinkle with 1/2tsp each of salt and ground black pepper, sautee at medium heat stirring occasionally until they turn slightly golden. Increase heat to high and add your white wine. Allow to reduce by half, then add your chicken stock and light cream. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to medium. Add your apple sauce, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and vanilla extract. Stir until the apple sauce melts into the liquid. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally.
Put 1tbsp of olive oil in a sautee pan and heat on high until the oil just slightly begins to smoke. You want the pan night and hot to really sear the rub into the chop. Place your chops into the pan and sear until browned, roughly three minutes, then flip and repeat. Once both sides are nicely seared remove them from the pan and set aside at room temperature to rest. It is very important to rest your meat both during cooking and after cooking (before you cut it) to allow the natural juices to reintegrate themselves throughout the meat. This will give you a much more tender and flavorful end product.
Toss your potato rectangles and diced carrots with 1tbsp olive oil and 1tsp each of salt, ground black pepper, chili powder and garlic powder. Cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Turn the potatoes and carrots periodically to prevent any sides from burning. The finished product should have a nice brown on the outsides.
Toss your carrot ribbons with 2tsp of the olive oil as well as 1tsp each of salt and ground black pepper. Spread out on a on a small baking sheet and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, stirring periodically to prevent uneven cooking. Remove once the edges start to char and set aside at room temp, set on paper towels to oil some of the oil to drain.
Once the chops have rested for at least 5 minutes put them in the oven, uncovered, for 20 minutes. This should leave you with chops that are a perfect medium. If you like your chops cooked at a different temperature (well done, medium rare, etc.) then adjust accordingly. Once the pork is done cooking remove from heat and allow to rest at room temperature for another five minutes before serving. If you cut into them straight out of the oven the juices will bleed out of the chops.
While the chops are resting it’s time to finish the puree. With a blender, food processor or hand emulsifier puree the hot potato, apple sauce, cream mixture. It should have moderate thickness, and it will thicken further as it cools.
The way I prefer to plate the dish is smear the puree across with a spoon, place the chop on top of that and the ribbons on top of the chop, then stage the carrots and potatoes to the side. But hey, to each their own.
So as far as wines go you’re definitely looking at a red, and more specifically something with a touch of acidity to cut through the richness of the dish, and also some pantry spice notes to play along with the apple puree. Here are my recommendations, the first of which was what I drank the night I made this dish.
Donkey & Goat Fenaughty Vineyard Syrah, El Dorado, CA – Donkey & Goat is a super cool, outside of the box winery started by Tracey and Jared Brandt back in 2003. They were essentially a couple of tech nerds that in 2002 decided that they were going to quit their jobs and start a winery. The only problem was they didn’t have the first clue how to make wine, they only knew how to drink it! So, Jared reached out to their favorite winemaker, Eric Texier of the Rhone Valley in France, and offered to have him and Tracey come work for Eric FOR FREE, and in return Eric would teach them about making wine. Well, he went for it, and boy am I glad he did! Their Syrah is like nothing I’ve ever had out of California before. The first thing I have to make note of is the fact that the alcohol is only 12.2%! The only other time I’ve had a Cali Syrah with a low ABV like that was Arnot-Roberts out of the North Coast (that’s a real beauty as well). On the palate you’ll find notes of tart cherry and raspberry, with subtle hints of tobacco, dried herbs and pantry spices with some surprising high tone acidity and a subtle tannic backbone. They only make 216 cases, so saying it’s not the easiest wine to find is like calling the sky blue, but if you can find it grab it! But please take into account what I’ve written here… This is not your typical lush, dark Cali Syrah. You have to keep an open mind with this one. (Retail $40-50)
Bodega Bernabeleva Camino de Navaherreros, Madrid, SP – The Madrid DO of Spain has a bad rap, and rightfully so, as that is where most of Spain’s mass produced jug wines are made. However, on the western edge of the DO there is a little sub-zone called San Martin de Valdeiglesias where you will find a number of tiny growers that are making superb wines. Bodega Bernabeleva is one of those wineries, and quite probably the best of them. The Camino de Navaherreros is considered to be their entry level wine, but it’s the one they are best known for as it is stunningly beautiful but at the same time very reasonably priced. It’s 100% Garnacha (Grenache) from some pretty gnarly old vines ranging in age from 30 to 80 years. Unlike most Spanish Garnachas that are big, dark and super masculine, this wine is beautiful and delicate. Think of it more like the pretty little sister that the entire family dotes on. On the palate you’ll find notes of bright cherry, ripe raspberry, dried rose petal, orange zest, clove and coriander, with moderate acidity and very soft, fine tannins. I was shocked to see the wine was 14.5%, but it doesn’t drink hot at all. They make roughly 4,000 cases of their Camino, but only about 1,000 cases come to the States every year so if you find it take everything the store has, trust me, you’ll thank me later! (Retail $12-15)
Michel Guignier Morgon Vieilles Vignes, Beaujolais, FR – Unfortunately over the past 20 years Beaujolais has become synonymous with cheap and light… Wines like Georges Duboeuf’s Beaujolais Nouveau that are mass produced, sub-par, sourced juice that people buy because it’s floor stacked at $8.99 and has a flashy label. It is truly upsetting, because there are many great Beaujolais producers that are putting out some wines that can go toe-to-toe with 1’er Cru Burgundies! Michel Guignier is one of those producers… I think John Gilman of “View from the Cellar” said it best, so I’ll share his review of this wine. “The old vine bottling of Morgon from Michel Guignier hails from sixty-one year-old vines in the vineyards of La Roche Pilée and Les Grands Cras. The 2011 Vieilles Vignes offers up a deep, red fruity and very pure nose of cherries, sweet cranberries, woodsmoke, beautiful herb tones, a complex base of soil, a touch of orange peel, incipient notes of gamebird and a gently smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and beautifully delineated, with a fine core of fruit, superb transparency, very good acids and fairly moderate tannins for the vintage and simply stunning length and grip on the vibrant and youthful finish. This is a dynamite and absolutely classic bottle of Morgon in the making!” I couldn’t have said it better myself John! (Retail $17-21)
So that’s my recipe, my wines, my story. I hope you enjoyed the read, and I hope that some of you make the dish or pick up the wines. Let me know if you do! I’ll be posting again soon, but in the meantime crack open a bottle of something and relax. Life is short, enjoy it!