Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Pork Chops in a Dijon Pan Sauce from Weeknight Cooking with Your Instant Pot

When I found out that Kristy Bernardo, who blogs at The Wicked Noodle, had written a cookbook featuring recipes for the Instant Pot, I put it right in my Amazon cart.

The book, not the Instant Pot.

As soon as the book arrived, I pawed through it, looking for recipes I could make right away. Without going to the store.

You see, the title of the book is Weeknight Cooking with your Instant Pot, so I assumed the recipes would be doable without a whole lot of shopping. And ... I was right.

The first recipe I made was sesame chicken, since I happened to have some chicken thighs on hand. It was freaking delicious and really simple. Definitely something that could be made any old night after a busy day.

I made the sesame chicken in my pressure cooker while I had rice in my rice cooker, and dinner was done with so little effort it was ridiculous. It would have taken more effort to pick up a phone and call for delivery.

This is the ideal meal for those days when I've not planned well and it's half-past hungry and there are no leftovers waiting for me. Because that happens around here way too often.

The great thing is that not only is the recipe fast and easy, but it's also a really nice meal. Not like graham crackers and peanut butter, which is what often happens when I haven't planned well.

The second time I made this recipe, I cooked some frozen broccoli (a freezer staple around here) to go with it. A perfect meal, really.

If you like spicy food, an easy adjustment here would be to have fun with red pepper flakes or a sliced jalapeno, or even a squirt of your favorite hot sauce.

The second recipe I made from the book was Pork Chops in a Dijon Pan Sauce. The sauce was totally awesome and completely the star of the dish. Not something I would have thought about, myself. Although I'm a huge fan of mustard, I don't think about cooking with it very often.

But ... I wasn't thrilled with my choice of pork chops. No matter how you cook them, pork chops can be a little finicky. Instant Pots (and other electric pressure cooker brands) cook so quickly that every minute of cooking is a big deal, so the wrong cut of pork can end up overcooked in the blink of an eye. I kind of blame the pig. Or perhaps the pork producers, who are raising leaner pigs than the ones from years ago.

Of course, some folks prefer their pork chops very well done. So there's that, too.

But I liked the sauce so much, I decided I had to make the recipe again, this time changing the type of chop. The second time, I used pork shoulder steaks, which work much better for braising or slow cooking, which also means they're more forgiving of overcooking. So I figured they'd be perfect for pressure cooking.

And to be honest, I like pork shoulder steaks more than other types of chops, anyway.

Meanwhile, I fiddled with the recipe a bit, adding onions and potatoes to the pot, so it was pretty much a whole meal. Okay, a salad or green vegetable would have been nice, too. But it was a good meat-and-potatoes recipe.

This one is definitely a keeper.

Pork Chops in a Dijon Pan Sauce
Adapted from Weeknight Cooking with your Instant Pot by Kristy Bernardo

2 pounds bone-in pork chops (I used two pork shoulder chops, but didn't weigh them)
1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil (I just eyeballed it here)
(I added 4 smallish red potatoes, quartered)
(I added 1 onion, cut in a large dice)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 cup chopped parsley (mine was sad and wilty, so I skipped it)

Season the chops with salt and pepper. Press saute to preheat your Instant Pot (I actually used another brand of pressure cooker).

When the word HOT appears on the display, add the olive oil, then brown the chops on both sides. You'll probably need to do this in batches. It will take 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the chops and set them aside.

At this point, I added the onion and potato and cooked them until the onions were soft. The potatoes are kind of a wild card here. Bigger potatoes will need to be cut, while smaller ones should be left whole. It might take some trial and error to figure out exactly what size potatoes you need to be perfectly done at the same time as the meat.

Add the wine and stir to deglaze the pot. Allow the wine to reduce slightly, about two minutes. Add the chicken broth, then return the chops to the pot, along with any juices.

Close and lock the lid. Set it to high pressure for 6 minutes, making sure the vent knob is set to sealing.

When the time is up, allow the pot to release pressure naturally for 10 minutes, then release the remaining pressure manually.

Remove the chops from the pot and tent them with foil to keep them warm.

(If you have potatoes in that pot, test them for doneness. If they seem really soft, remove them from the pot, so they don't fall apart with more cooking.)

Press the saute button and allow the sauce to reduce by half, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the Dijon. Add the butter two pieces at a time, stirring constantly until they are incorporated. This creates an emulsified sauce which is thick and luxurious.

Taste the sauce and add more salt or pepper, if desired.

Return the chops to the pot and toss them in the sauce to coat them and re-warm them if necessary.

Sprinkle parsley over the top as a garnish, if your parsley isn't all sad and wilty like mine was.

What's next?

I'm planning on making a stuffed pepper soup, which is kind of brilliant. Less fuss than making actual stuffed peppers, but the flavors are all there.

After that, maybe lemon risotto with peas, or perhaps one of the pasta dishes. Then again, there are also side dish recipes and desserts. Or maybe I'll go back to that sesame chicken, because it was brilliant.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Some Green Sauce #AbramsDinnerParty

So, I was browsing through my most recent acquisition from #AbramsDinnerParty (where I get free cookbooks) and I ran across a recipe for a green sauce that's supposed to be much like That Green Sauce sold by the HEB food stores.

Wait, let me back up a bit.

The cookbook is The Austin Cookbook by Paula Forbes. It's all about recipes "from deep in the heart of Texas," so of course I expected a lot of beef, and some Tex-Mex. But when I saw that sauce recipe ... I kind of swooned.

You see, a while back, someone sent me a jar of That Green Sauce, and I put it on everything until the jar was empty. And then I kind of whimpered because that sauce isn't available here. Waaaah!

So I was pretty excited to see that recipe. And I was stunned to see how easy it is. Apparently this type of sauce is pretty popular around Austin, and the one sold by HEB is just one of many versions of that type of green sauce. But ... the HEB version was the first one of its kind that I tried, so it's the one that I wanted to find a recipe for.

Now that I've made it, I have a feeling I'll be making it again.

With variations. Many variations. Because now that I know how it's made, I can adjust the heat, add spices or herbs, and just generally mess around with the recipe. I might even order some of That Green Sauce so I can do some taste tests and see how close I can get to the original.

And now you can make it, too!

The Green Sauce

Adapted from The Austin Cookbook by Paula Forbes

Store-bought green salsa or Salsa Macha Verde (recipe follows)
Vegetable oil
Yeah, that's it. Just two ingredients.

Puree the salsa in a food processor or blender until it's almost completely smooth, then start slowly drizzling vegetable oil into the salsa while the processor is running.

You'll add about one cup of oil for the Salsa Macha Verde, which made just about a pint of salsa.

Continue adding the oil until you have a creamy but runny sauce - it should not be as thick as mayonnaise. And it will thicken just a little when you refrigerate it. Not a lot, but a little.

And there ya go. The oil makes the sauce creamy, which is why a lot of people think it has avocado in it.

Needless to say, the sauce will taste like your salsa, except creamier and perhaps a little milder.

Salsa Macha Verde
Adapted from The Austin Cookbook by Paula Forbes

6 large jalapenos
2 garlic cloves
Juice of 1 large lime

Grill, roast, or toast the jalapenos until you have grill marks or they've acquired some black spots (I used a roti grill). Remove the stems and put the jalapenos in a food processor or blender.

Add the garlic, a couple pinches of salt, 1 tablespoon of water, and the lime juice. Process or blend until it's as smooth as you like.

Now just carry on to make THE GREEN SAUCE.

Note: Since I used my Vitamix blender, the jalapeno seeds were blended to smithereens ... and this also helped to make the sauce rather spicy. If you prefer a less spicy version, remove the seeds - some or all - along with the inside ribs. This will help to make the sauce less spicy.

Another recipe that I thought was interesting - and that wasn't at all Tex-Mex - was the mustard and brown sugar crusted steak that was first cooked, then rubbed with a butter and mustard mixture, and then sprinkled with brown sugar, and then broiled to get the sugar caramelized. I've never had a steak quite like it. And then I made another one just like it the next day.

I'll just leave this here for you.

In case my statement at the top wasn't totally clear, I got this cookbook for free from the publisher.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Cream of Mushroom Soup (Pressure cooker or not)

Okay, you don't need to cook this in the pressure cooker - it's perfectly fine on the stove, simmering in a pot, but the pressure cooker speeds up the process of getting the soup tasting more like mushrooms and less like mushrooms floating in chicken stock.

The pinch of salt here is to help the vegetables release their moisture. Don't add too much, particularly if your stock has salt in it. I don't add salt to my homemade stock, but store-bought can be salty, depending on the brand.

The wine is also optional if you don't happen to have any on hand, but it does add a little something extra. Sherry is particularly nice, but a white wine would be fine, too. Red could work, but I'm not sure what it would do to the color of the soup.

You don't actually need the Better than Bouillon, but it adds more mushroom flavor to the soup. If you omit it, there's no need to add a substitute. Just carry on.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot diced
1 pound crimini or button mushrooms (or your favorite), cleaned and sliced
Tiny pinch of salt
Generous grinds of black pepper
1/4 cup wine (white is nice; sherry is awesome)
1 tablespoon Better than Bouillon mushroom stock (optional)
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock (home made is best, but packaged is fine)
Leaves from 1 sprig of thyme
1 cup heavy cream

Melt the butter in the electric pressure cooker (Instant Pot or other brand), then add the shallots, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the shallots are soft.

Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring as needed, until they're soft and they've given up liquid and they're simmering.

Add the wine and mushroom stock and continue cooking until most of the liquid is gone, stirring as needed.

Add the vegetable stock and thyme and give the soup a stir. Put the lid on and switch to high pressure. Set the timer for 15 minutes. When the time is up, release the pressure. Stir in the cream, taste for seasoning, and add more salt or pepper, if desired. Serve hot.

Note: The leftovers will separate into layers of stock and cream, but don't fret. Just stir it, and it will come back together, just like it was before.