Tuesday, December 5, 2006

"The New American Cheese" - Grilled Pork Chops with Cheddar-Corn Spoon Bread and Apple-Sage Chutney

Date I made this recipe: October 22, 2006
The New American Cheese by Laura Werlin
Published by Stewart Tabori & Chang
ISBN: 1-55670-990-0
© 2000

To learn more about Laura and some of her other books, go to: http://www.laurawerlin.com/

Recipe: Grilled Pork Chops with Cheddar-Corn Spoon Bread and Apple-Sage Chutney – p. 176-177

On June 9, 2000 (and I know this because of the inscription), a co-worker of mine from the Italian deli and restaurant where I worked at the time, went to the author’s book signing to get this book for me since I couldn't get off my shift to go myself. Laura wrote the following inscription: “To Ann, Maybe this will be enough to create a switch from Italian to American cheeses! Well, at least I hope you enjoy learning about the new American cheese.”

Laura, I am happy to report that I am indeed enjoying learning about the new American cheese…and the new French cheeses and Spanish cheeses and…..

To say my husband and I love cheese is an understatement. We love all types of cheeses – goat cheese, cow’s milk cheese, sheep cheese – and enjoy stinking up our refrigerator with ripe cheeses such as Taleggio and Gorgonzola. We are frequent shoppers at Surdyk’s, a local liquor store/cheese shop/deli – http://www.surdyks.com/, and Whole Foods - http://www.wholefoods.com/, both of which are not that far from us.

Although cheese is included in the spoon bread accompaniment, the recipe really should read: pork chops (with sage), with cheddar-corn spoon bread (with sage) and apple-sage chutney(whew, sage was already in there) since sage was in every component of the dish. If you’re not a big fan of sage, you might not like this recipe, but if you are, press on.

Take note that the pork chop recipe must marinade at least 6 hours, something I usually miss until right before I’m ready to roll. I’m trying to train my eye to pick up those fine points. (Don’t we all hate that when we miss it?!)

So here’s the thing that just kills me about going meat shopping these days: in my day, pork chops came 4 to a pack but now it’s 3 to a pack. Why three? Did pork manufacturers determine that families now consist of mom, dad and one kid? Is a 4th pork chop excessive? I just want to know these things.

Three chops or not, the marinade recipe was for four and I stuck with it and it was delicious. My only complaint about the chops was that I stuck to the time limit for broiling and that was a bit too long. I like my chops to be tenderer than what I got but use your personal preference as a guide. The recipe calls for 6-7 minutes per side.

The chutney was easy to make and was your basic mix of apples, raisins and then the savory items such as onion, mustard seeds and crushed red pepper flakes. I think this recipe could easily be matched with other meats.

As to the spoon bread…with cheese (and sage, naturally), it was delicious although I thought it was a bit salty, likely due to the uh…cheese. This recipe uses sharp cheddar cheese; the book recommended Bass Lake cheddar but Whole Foods didn’t have it so I asked for the next best thing (Widmer’s aged cheddar – http://www.widmerscheese.com/) and it was quite tasty. I also recommend pulling this out at the 40 minute mark (the recipe recommended 40 to 45 minutes) and then testing it for doneness as ours got a little too brown and a little too firm. (As a note, I am puzzled that Whole Foods didn’t carry Bass Lake cheese since they’re located in Somerset, WI which is not too far away but maybe I missed something…or maybe Whole Foods needs a write-in campaign, no?!)

Timing is also everything when it comes to (randomly) selecting the cookbook to use. A mere three days before this, the New York Times reported that cheese maker Laura Chenel, creator and owner of Laura Chenel Chevre, sold her business to a French cheese producer. Wouldn’t you know, Laura’s bio and accompanying recipe are on pages 116-118 of the book – small world.

What’s impressive about the sale and about Laura is the fact that she will retain her entire herd of 500 sheep, all of which have been personally named by her (yes, but Laura, for 10 points, recall those names!). That alone is enough to entice me to revisit this book in the future to make her recipe (once I get done with my other 700 or so cookbooks, you understand!).

Grilled Pork Chops with Cheddar-Corn Spoon Bread and Apple-Sage Chutney
For the pork chops
4 bone-in loin pork chops (8-12 oz each)
2 ½ T Dijon mustard
1 ½ T. Calvados (apple brandy) or apple juice (Note: I had Calvados on hand so I used that)
2 tsp red wine vinegar
3 T. olive oil
2 tsp chopped fresh sage leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

For the chutney
1 ¼ c. cider vinegar
5 T. packed light brown sugar
1 ¼ pounds Granny Smith apples (about 2 ½ apples), peeled, cored and chopped into 3/4-inch cubes
Juice from 1 lemon (about ¼ c.)
Grated zest of 1 lemon (about 1 ½ T)
Heaping 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/3 c. golden raisins
1 yellow onion, chopped (about 1 c)
2 tsp chopped fresh sage leaves

For the spoon bread
¾ fresh corn kernels (or use ¾ c drained canned or defrosted frozen corn)
¾ c. yellow cornmeal
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp sugar
Freshly ground pepper
2 c. whole or low-fat milk
1 c. buttermilk
¼ c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs, separated, yolks lightly beaten
2 tsp chopped fresh sage leaves
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, such as Bass Lake cheddar, coarsely grated (about 1 c.) (Note: you will use ½ c. at a time)

NOTE: The directions took up almost an entire page of the cookbook but don’t despair. This dish was relatively easy to put together.

To marinate the pork chops: In a nonreactive dish (i.e. glass) arrange the chops in one layer. In a small bowl, mix together the mustard, Calvados (or cider), vinegar, olive oil, sage, and pepper to taste. Pour over the chops and coat both sides with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

To make the chutney: In a medium-size heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the vinegar and brown sugar and bring to a boil. (Are you like me? Do you just once want to see someone call for a light-bottomed saucepan?!) Cook until the mixture is reduced by one third, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the apples, lemon juice and zest, raisins and onions. Stir the ingredients together, turn the heat to a low simmer, partially cover and cook for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally but gently, to avoid breaking the apples.

Add the chopped sage and cook until the apples are very soft and the vinegar has mellowed, about 30 to 40 minutes. (Okay, just what constitutes “mellowed” vinegar? For some reason, I’m picturing the vinegar laid out on a couch sipping a glass of wine but that’s just my overactive imagination….). You may need to add a little extra brown sugar. The mixture should be thick. If you will be serving the chutney the same day, let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours before serving. Otherwise, refrigerate it overnight and bring it to room temperature.

To make the spoon bread: About an hour before serving time, preheat the over to 375F. Butter a 2-quart casserole or soufflé dish.

In a small saucepan, bring about 1 c. of water to a boil. Add the corn and blanch for 1 minute. Drain and run cold water over it to stop the cooking process. Pat dry and set aside.

Place the cornmeal in a large heatproof bow. In another bowl, mix the salt, baking powder, sugar and pepper together and set aside.

In a 1-quart saucepan, bring the milk to a low boil over medium heat. Be sure it doesn’t boil over. Pour over the cornmeal, stirring until all lumps are gone and the cornmeal has thickened slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the buttermilk, melted butter, egg yolks, corn and sage. Mix well. Stir in the reserved dry ingredients. (Note: most recipes recommend that your dairy products – milk, eggs, butter – be at room temperature. This one doesn’t say so but you get better results that way so I’d take the ingredients out of the refrigerator in plenty of time to have them warm up to room temperature.)

In a mixing bowl, beat 2 egg whites until stiff peaks form. (Again, the recipe doesn’t say but cold egg whites do not form peaks very easily. I’m just saying…). Save the third egg white for another use (or do like I do and shoot the thing down the drain since really, who ends up having another use for an egg white so soon after making a recipe?!)

Gently fold the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture along with half of the cheese. Mix just enough to incorporate the egg whites but try not to overmix. (This is critical because you don’t want to loose the fluffy consistency of those egg whites). Pour into the prepared casserole and sprinkle with the remaining ½ c. cheese.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the cheese is brown and the center is still somewhat loose, jiggling slightly when touched. Let cool for 4 minutes before serving. (As I said earlier, I’d test the recipe around the 30-35 minute mark to avoid overcooking the spoon bread).

Just before the spoon bread is done, preheat the broiler (or fire up the grill). Remove the pork chops from the marinade and broil (or grill) on one side 6-7 minutes, then turn and cook on the other side for 5-7 minutes. The meat should be slightly pink on the inside…but trust me, I followed these times to the minute and thought the chop was still a bit overdone so use your best judgment.

Spoon the chutney onto the pork, serve up some spoon bread and you are ready to roll.

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