Thursday, May 16, 2013

In the Kitchen with Alex Guarnaschelli - Pork Chops and Chantilly Mashed Potatoes!

Okay, she wasn't cooking with me, unfortunately, but I did have her new cookbook to guide me. It is on my bucket list to cook with Alex but, like my dream of being an Iron Chef American judge, that bucket list item will probably not be fulfilled. BOO. But at least I have her cookbook.

Okay, if you have no idea who Alex Guarnaschelli is then you must live under a rock. Alex is the new Iron Chef and she has had several shows on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. Every time I see here cook, I want to be like her!

She has a new cookbook: Old School Comfort Food - The Way I Learned to Cook. I bought it because I loved her recipes. The new cookbook is actually quite different that what I thought it would be. I thought it would be fancy cooking but it turned out to be home style recipes that even I can cook!

My first foray into the book was to make Alex's "Bacon Wrapped Pork Chops with Apple and Brussels Sprouts" and "Mashed Potatoes Chantilly". As you all know, I cannot follow a recipe to save my life but I tried and it actually came out pretty good.

I have no idea why I chose pork chops because I cannot cook a decent pork chop to save my life. I have tried a zillion times and they always come out dry or raw. I mean, it's surprising because I am a pretty good cook. Plus, I can make the best pork shoulder or pork butt. But pork chops are my downfall.

The pork chops were actually pretty easy. You need 4 center cut pork chops preferably bone in. Our grocery store only had no bone chops so I went with that. Remember we live in the boonies and you get what you can. Sigh. Then you need some bacon. I got the thick home style bacon. Yum!!

Okay, first you salt and pepper the chops on both sides and then wrap these babies in bacon. Can I just say that anything wrapped in bacon is always better?

Then you need to brown the chops. If you have a decent skillet that will also go into the oven, you can just transfer the skillet into the oven. I don't have a cast iron skillet. Yes, I know I should get one but I haven't. Anyhow, once I had browned the chops, I transferred them into an oven safe casserole dish and put them into a 350 degree oven for about 20 more minutes.

In the meantime, I started on the Chantilly Mashed Potatoes. I made regular mashed potatoes by boiling potatoes and then mashing them. The recipe calls you to drain the potatoes and then heat milk and add the potatoes to the pot. Then you add salt, pepper, and butter until they are all mixed.

Then I took a casserole dish and buttered the sides and coated it with bread crumbs. Then the recipe called for whipping 1 cup heavy cream until it is firm. You season the cream with salt and pepper and gently fold the cream into the mashed potatoes. You are also to add 1/2 of grated Parmesan cheese to the mix and then put everything into the casserole dish. Then you take 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and top the potatoes. Then you bake the potatoes for 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.

As all this is going on, I started on the brussels sprouts. These were easy peasy, lemon squeesy. You separate the leaves. Then you saute them in the pan drippings. Then you salt them and add some sherry vinegar. I had no sherry vinegar so I used apple cider vinegar. Then you cut the apples into thin slices and add vinegar and salt and pepper to those.

I loved this recipe. My only problem is that I overcooked the pork chops. Pork chops are my nemesis. But one day, I will make a perfect pork chop if it kills me!

Luckily, the bacon made up for that because once you cut into the chops and ate them with that crispy bacon, life was good. The apples also cut through the richness of the chop with the bacon. Because of the vinegar, it worked super well together. The Brussels Sprouts were the best thing ever. I think it was because they were cooked in the pork and bacon drippings. I mean what isn't good cooked like that.

The best thing, however, were the Mashed Potatoes. They were so delicious. This recipe is better than my own mashed potatoes, which are pretty damn good if I do say so myself. I think folding the whipped cream into the potatoes just lightened them up and made them fluffy. The Parmesan cheese also added a nice flavor to potatoes. Tom LOVED these. So did I. This dish is amazing!! I will be adding it to my regular repertoire of recipes!!

The whole meal was delish. I love this cookbook! The recipes are easy enough for me not to mangle. The stories she writes are great and there are some handy dandy tips interspersed throughout as well. If you want a delicious and easy recipe cookbook, this is it. I have a few other recipes I want to try. I will be posting them when I get back from our vacation!

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