So, here we are at Idiot’s Kitchen…day 1, recipe 1.
I pondered about what would be a great starter recipe for those who feel less than confident in the kitchen. What to cook that’s not too fussy but also tasty enough to PROVE to you that YES, you can cook.
What should it be…cookies? Always good, but some people have baking issues. Soup? Um, I live in Florida and it’s a million degrees outside. Veggies? Don’t want to lose you on day one by bringing up childhood green veg trauma.
So it hit me. DINNER! Yup, we’re making dinner. The whole dang thing. Oh, and when I say we…I mean YOU.
So here it goes…TA DA! (cue the trumpet fanfare)
Pork Chops with Tomatoes and Sage, Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots and Couscous.
Okay, let’s get started. You will need the following goodies…
Bone-in, center cut, thick pork chops. The T-Bone of the piggy family. You need a chop that is at least 1/2 -1 inch thick. Please, please, please do not buy those little wimpy thin chops. They’re great for fryin’ up at Grandma’s house but lousy in this dish. If you don’t see the thick, juicy chops at your grocery store, go make nice with the person at the meat counter. Really! They will most likely have some thick chops hiding in the back where they keep all the secret good stuff.
Okay, moving on. The other items are easy: flour, salt, pepper, sage (either fresh or dried leaf sage…more on this later), one can of diced tomatoes (I’m using fire roasted because that’s what I had in my pantry…regular diced tomatoes are just fine) fresh green beans, shallots (they’re in the same section as the onions), butter, olive oil (not pictured, sorry) and couscous.
We will be BRAISING these chops (fancy foodie word o’ the day) which means that they will cook slowly over low heat in a liquid. The chops will cook for an hour so let’s get started.
(A word from the chief idiot: If you just read that this is going to take an hour to cook, please do not give up already. During this hour, you don’t have to do a single thing. You can go watch Sportscenter. Have the (adult) beverage of your choice. Rake leaves. Anything at all. Remember, this is an EASY recipe. Don’t hold it against the chops that they need a full hour to rise to their fabulously, tender, deliciousness. Thank you.)
First, put a few spoonfuls of flour into a small, flat dish or plate. Season the flour with a little salt and pepper.
Season your lovely, thick chops with salt and pepper.
Now, flop yer chops onto the plate and coat them evenly with flour. Gently shake off the excess flour.
Heat up a LARGE skillet or pan on your stove to medium high. Use a bigger pan than you think you need. These chops don’t like to be crowded. If you’re cooking for several people and don’t have a pan large enough to hold the chops without them touching, do yourself a favor and use 2 pans. These guys need room to slosh around in all the delicious tomatoey goodness we’re going to add in a minute.
Add 2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. You don’t have to measure this…just put a bit of oil in the pan and tilt it around to coat the bottom. I would err of the side of less oil since it’s always easy to add a bit more.
Add your floured pork chops to the hot pan. You should hear a sizzle but not send up smoke signals to your neighbors. If you have a dumb electric stove like mine, pay attention to your heat and adjust it (I have to lower mine as I am cooking). We want these to brown, not blacken.
Leave these chops alone for a few minutes. Don’t go scooting them around in the pan. Trust me, they’re fine just cooking there all on their own. After about 3-4 minutes it’s okay to peek. You should see a lovely, golden brown crust on the bottom. Time to turn these bad boys over!
Cook on the second side for another 2-3 minutes. (Hint, the second side never takes as long as the first because your pan and oil are already warmed up and ready to go.)
While your chops are cooking. Take out your sage.
We have some options here: Fresh sage is widely available in most grocery stores. Look in the produce section somewhere near the lettuce for little plastic packages of fresh herbs. The are SOOO worth it. They will keep for several days in your refrigerator or in a glass of water. I grew this sage in a pot on my patio.
If you can’t find fresh sage, you can also used dried sage. HOWEVER, please look for dried LEAF sage or RUBBED sage. Do not use ground sage (looks like powder) as it doesn’t add any texture and has an overwhelming flavor for this dish.
If you have fresh sage…and I hope you do…pluck about 6-8 leaves from the stems. Stack the leaves on top of one another and slice them into thin strips with a sharp knife.
When the chops have browned on both sides, add the sage leaves to the pan.
Turn down the flame/burner to medium low and carefully add the can of diced tomatoes and their juices to the pan. Since your pan is very hot, these will sizzle and snap. Be careful!
Nestle the chops down in the bed of tomatoes. If it looks like the juice from your tomatoes has already evaporated, go ahead and add just a bit (maybe 1/4 cup or 1/4 of the size of the can) of water to the pan. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Put the lid on and cook on low heat for 1 hour. We want the sauce to bubble gently while the chops cook. No need for heavy boiling here.
About 30 minutes into your cooking time, go take a look at your lovely pork chops, turn them over to get sauce on both sides, return the lid and continue cooking.
Shall we make some delicious sides to go with this dinner? Man can not live by pork chop alone!
Green beans with Caramelized Shallots & Couscous. Here we go!
These green beans are quick, crisp and easy. They take about 10-15 minutes to prepare from start to finish so if you want everything coming together at the same time for your dinner, start the beans when the chops have been cooking for about 45 minutes.
Most fresh green beans that come from the grocery store need to be trimmed. You can snip off the ends individually OR to save time, line the beans up on a cutting board and cut off the ends with a sharp knife.
Now we need to chop up a shallot. Shallots are members of the onion family but with a milder flavor. My grocery store sells them in the onion aisle in a little mesh package of 2 or 3 shallots.
To clean the shallot, you will need to remove the outer, papery skin. Slice the ends off the shallot, make a small slit in the side and peel away the outer skin and top layer of the shallot.
For these beans we want fairly small pieces of shallot or what’s called a small dice. Carefully slice the shallot lengthwise from end to end.
Then, turn it the other direction and cut across the cuts you just made. Voila! Small diced shallot!
When you’ve trimmed all the beans and chopped up your shallot, you’re good to go. To cook the beans, add them to a medium-sized flat pan. (This is called a frying pan or a saute pan, depending on how fancy you want to get.) Cover the beans with water and cook on high heat until they come to a bubbling boil.
Cook your beans only for about 4 minutes. Do not over cook the beans. These should be crisp and crunchy. To test the beans, gently poke a bean with the tip of a sharp knife. If it feels slightly tender, it’s done!
Drain the beans into a colander or some sort of straining device.
Note: you can cook the beans ahead of time, however, after draining them, put them into a bowl full of ice water. This will “shock” the beans, stop the cooking and keep them crisp and green.
Add a generous pat of butter (about 1 Tablespoon) to the empty green bean skillet and place it over low heat to melt.
When the butter is melty and foamy but not brown, add the shallots.
Gently stir the shallot around in the pan of melted butter. We want to cook these slowly over low heat so that they caramelize into nice little golden bits. If your pan is too hot, the shallots will quickly burn.
Heat gently until the green beans have warmed up. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Yum!
By now the pork chops should almost be finished. However, we need one more thing…something to soak up all that tasty tomato sauce. Enter — Couscous!
Yes, Couscous in a box…pre-seasoned and ready to go. You could make and season your own couscous, but why? (For this dish I like to serve either the Parmesan flavor or the Roasted Garlic Olive Oil flavor.)
Couscous is a member of the pasta family. Who knew? You will find it in the store by other prepared rice and pasta side dish mixes. A few good things about couscous: it’s delicious, it cooks in 5 minutes, and it’s delicious.
Follow the instructions on the box for stove top cooking. (They give microwave instructions too, but I prefer the stove top method.) Pour 1-1/4 cups water and the contents of the little spice package into a small pot with a lid and bring to a boil.
When the water is boiling, pour in the little grains of couscous. Stir to combine. Put a lid on the pot and TAKE IT OFF THE HEAT! This is the most important part of making couscous. It cooks OFF of the heat. Set it aside for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, all the water has magically absorbed. Fluff up the couscous with a fork to separate all those little bits.
Hey, guess what? You did it! We’re ready to eat!
Put a serving of your fluffed up couscous on a plate. Add your pork chop and spoon all that amazing tomatoey goodness over the top.
Add a few of the beans…don’t forget the shallot bits…they’re the best part.
Enjoy your dinner. Raise a glass to yourself. You did it!
Kitchen Idiot? Not you!
Enjoy your dinner!
Here are the recipes!
Pork Chops with Tomatoes and Sage
Pork Chops with Tomatoes & Sage
Recipe from www.idiotskitchen.com – adapted from Marcella Hazan
2 large, thick bone-in pork chops (at least ½ to 1 inch thick)
salt & pepper
fresh or dried leaf sage
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
Season chops with salt and pepper.
Lightly coat pork chops in flour.
Add olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of a large skillet.
Brown chops on both sides in large skillet. (I use non-stick.)
Add chopped fresh sage or 2 Tablespoons dried sage to pan.
Add canned tomatoes with their juices to the pan. Add a little water if more juice is needed.
Cover and Simmer for one hour over medium-low heat until sauce is thick and bubbly and chops are tender.
If sauce is too thin at the end of cooking time, remove chops and boil sauce slightly to reduce.
Serve with Couscous and Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots.
Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots
Fresh Green Beans
1 Large Shallot
Salt & Pepper
Trim the ends off the green beans.
Place the green beans in a medium sauté pan, cover with water.
Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook beans 4 minutes until tender but crisp.
Drain the beans and “shock” them in an ice water bath to preserve color.
Chop the shallot into a small dice.
Melt 1-2 Tablespoons of butter in sauté pan. Add shallots and cook over low heat until golden brown.
Return green beans to skillet, reheat and season to taste with salt and pepper.