I think I may have mentioned that as a general rule, we don’t look too far ahead with this project, for fear of being completely overwhelmed and abandoning ship. Usually I make a shopping list on Sunday night while vaguely taking note of what we are going to be eating for the week. I rarely read the recipes in advance, so each day has a bit of a learning curve.
This evening, we started making Pork Chops with Grainy Mustard and Raisin Sauce by soaking the raisins in a simmering mixture of chicken stock and white wine. The 1 1/2″ thick pork chops were seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika, seared on each side for a couple of minutes and then put in the oven to continue the cooking process. This was supposed to take 8-10 minutes at a temperature of 375 degrees F. Meanwhile, we started to make the sauce by sautéing the onions and thyme in olive oil. The raisin-wine-stock mixture was added to the skillet once the onions became translucent, supplemented with some heavy cream and Dijon mustard. At this point we turned our attention to the side dish. What would we be eating with the meat and sauce? Apparently nothing. There is no mention of anything that you should make or acquire to accompany the pork. Normally if there is no recipe included for a side dish, Rachael Ray says to serve with a salad, or vegetables, or bread or whatever, but not today. Previously we had thought that if nothing was specified, then nothing would be exactly what we would make, but this dish seemed to be heading for the insanely rich category, so we broke our old rule.
At this point we had maybe 3 minutes until the pork and sauce were due to be ready, so we threw together some spinach and mini-gnocchi. Ideally, we both thought potatoes would be good- either boiled or roasted or pan fried, and with some asparagus it would be perfect. In the time we had, quick-cook starch was the way to go. We needn’t have been so concerned about time however, as a quick check of the pork revealed that we may aswell have been attempting to cook it in lukewarm water. We ended up nuking it in the microwave for a few minutes rather than eat at midnight. 1 1/2″ thick pork is a pretty hefty slab of meat to cook in a low oven for 10 minutes (and our oven is supremely efficient so that wasn’t the issue). It does make you wonder if anyone actually tried cooking the recipes in this book.
Anyway, eventually we ended up with cooked meat, and the sauce, and even a gratuitous side dish. I sort of opted out on eating it, but L enjoyed it. The pork was very succulent, and the sauce was rich and complex in flavour, with the raisins lending a slightly exotic hint of Christmas past. Overall, a success, but without a side dish this would have been just too much. Too much meat. Too unbalanced. Too low-carb. Just plain wrong.
So, in my ridiculously tired and late posting yesterday, I promised that I would recap the splendour of the hot dog salad. To set it into context I should mention that our friends specifically chose to come round last night to eat this glorious culinary delight. Well originally they chose to come over for balsamic-glazed swordfish, but we cancelled due to my ridiculous level of morning sickness at the time. I’m sure that the hot dog salad sounded just as classy and appealing and restaurant-quality as the swordfish. It was certainly cheaper. Anyway, we all took up residence in the kitchen and I threw together the salad while we chatted and had drinks. The dressing was made with yellow mustard, sugar, vinegar and salt and pepper. The greens consisted of shredded cabbage from a bag, Romaine hearts, red onion, chopped pickles and tomatoes. The hot dogs were chopped into inch long pieces and browned at the ends in the skillet (with some added fat, for good measure). The dogs sat on top of the salad, ta-dah; Chicago Dog Salad. The general reaction was that the food was not half as bad as it sounded, and that in fact it was reasonably good, well ok at least. Everyone ate a plateful, with one exception. That would be me, the only person who was drinking apple juice rather than gin or beer. I think that may be an important distinction- with a few beers this apparently tasted ok; either like a dish at a Midwestern pot luck or something served in a German Bierstube. Sober, this tasted like sweet acrid cabbage with chunks of hot dogs on the top. Och well, at least we had good ice cream to follow. (I abandoned my elaborate plans to have a Rachael Ray dog salad -vs- Nigella Lawson chocolate cake smackdown, shortly after spending the day entertaining Baby A).
Moving on, tomorrow we will be making Indian Spiced Vegetables, a rare vegetarian dish, our first Indian-inspired meal of the year, and a recipient of the extra annoying acronym MYOTO. That would be Make Your Own Take Out, for the uninitiated.