Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Pork in Citrus Sauce (plus, a tutorial on brining meat)

Here is the how-to on brining that I promised a couple posts back. It’s very easy! And it makes cooking potentially tough meats impossible to screw up. I’ve never had dry pork chops since learning to brine before cooking. 

I used to do this a lot back when we’d have dinner parties and I was a very strict vegetarian, and it always got rave reviews from our guests. So if you can make something good without even tasting it, it’s got to be a fairly decent method.

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How to: Brining

Brining is a process of soaking meat in brine, a.ka. salty water, often alongside onions and other vegetables or seasonings to draw in flavor, moisture and to tenderize cuts of meat that tend to dry out while cooking. Generally speaking, you can brine any meat using the following ratio: 4 TBSPs of salt for every 4 cups of water. You want to use enough water and salt to completely submerge your meat, so keep adding water and salt in a ratio of 1:1 (tbsp to cup) in whichever container you are going to use to brine. Since my fridge is small, I use a large plastic freezer bag sealed and nestled into a mixing bowl. Any container that closes will do. I brine overnight or while I’m away at work, but you can brine in as little as one hour! Just make sure you rinse off the meat between brining and cooking or the salt taste will be overwhelming. And as far as seasonings go, you can look to aromatics like fresh ginger, thyme, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks, garlic, even sugar. If you are hoping to brine a holiday bird, like a large turkey, or a roast, definitely make sure you give it overnight to soak. For the following recipe, I used sliced red onions, since I was planning to use them in the finished dish as well.

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Pork Chops in Citrus Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Pork chops (double recipe for larger crowd)
  • 1 red onion, sliced (you can use the same one from brining)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • flour for dredging (I’m still using and loving TigerNut)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • olive oil for the pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

If you’re brining, do that as early as the night before or as close to cooking time as one hour prior. Drain and rinse the meat and onions or whatever else you use to season the brine, reserving the pork chops and sliced onions.

Season the chops with salt and pepper on each side. Dredge in flour.

Heat a saute pan to medium-high and coat with olive oil. When the oil is hot, cook the chops until golden on each side, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

In the same pan you used to cook the chops, reduce the heat to medium and add another bit of olive oil. Add the red onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, quickly.

Add the lemon and orange juice and zest and bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced by a third, just two or three minutes. Return the pork to the pan and simmer until the sauce is thickened, 1 or 2 more minutes. Taste the sauce and if it’s too tangy, sweeten it with a pinch of sugar or maple syrup!

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I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart using what I had on hand.

When I sent Mark for pork chops at Trader Joe’s, he got the bone-in kind, which I don’t really eat because I’m not big on country-style cuts or rib meat and lots of fat. It did, however, come out just the same as when I use boneless loin chops, so you can get whatever you like! Here’s a good reference guide to pork cuts, which sometimes have non-intuitive names like “New York Chop.” 

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I hope you enjoy this one. I served it with a fennel & bean salad that could really be its own vegetarian main meal, which I’ll be blogging about next week! I always like to serve pork chops with mashed potatoes or roasted potatoes and applesauce. More often we have it in the fall, but I wanted to change things up a couple weeks ago and this was very light thanks to the citrus flavor profile! My family ate it up and I hope yours will, too.


Baby & Toddler · Recipes

Our Thanksgiving Traditions

This is going to be Georgia’s first Thanksgiving (and everything else!) and we are super excited to have her around for the holiday.

This time last year, we were just keeping our fingers crossed that she’d be coming into our lives soon, and a few weeks after Thanksgiving we found out that our wish had come true and she was officially on the way! I haven’t decided what she’s going to wear yet (well, other than this bib, since she drools like crazy) but I have decided what we are making. My father-in-law does the turkey, gravy, and stuffing, and our relatives split all the sides and desserts.

We bring:

  • Pumpkin, lemon meringue and apple pie. I order them from this bakery near where we live. They deliver for $1, and donate 20% to the Bread of Life, a local food pantry which hosts a huge Thanksgiving dinner every year for hundreds of people north of Boston, all for free.
  • Mashed potatoes. I have a great make-ahead method!
  • Cranberry Sauce from scratch. My specialty.

Click the photos below for my easy recipes for those buttery mashed potatoes and special cranberry sauce, which has little kick thanks to some ground ginger and orange peel.

Boil and mash these with half-and-half and cream cheese the day before, then bake topped with butter the hour before Thanksgiving dinner.
Sweet and tart.

Need more inspiration?

Don’t miss the New York Times Vegetarian Thanksgiving Guide, which includes Gluten-free options and plenty of ideas for leftovers this year.

I’m also dying to try this recipe for Sweet Potato Tart Tatin topped with Mascarpone (!) from The Chew, and this recipe for Mashed Sweet Potatoes topped with caramelized onions. Mark said next year he’s going to try his hand at cooking for Thanksgiving by whipping up these sauteed cipolline onions by Mario Batalli. My grandmother always made creamed pearl onions for Thanksgiving; it might be a Scandinavian thing. I really miss them so I can’t wait for Mark to try these!

I’m headed back to work the Monday after the holiday, so wish me (and Georgia and Daddy) good luck. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes

How to make a Pimm’s Cup

Mark and I went to a wedding last weekend which featured a fabulous signature cocktail — the Pimm’s Cup, which is best known as the official drink of Wimbledon, and which was significant as the preferred cocktail of the bride’s father. So refreshing and sweet for a summer wedding, we kept wondering how we’d never had a Pimm’s Cup before — and vowed to find a recipe for re-creating it at home. I’ve tried to do that here.

Ours featured oranges, raspberries and cucumber slices. Oh, and don’t you just love the swizzle straw? Reminded me of Pixy Stix!

According to Chow.com, Pimm’s No. 1 is a gin-based concoction made in England from dry gin, liqueur, fruit juices, and spices. Served with lemon soda or ginger ale, it becomes a Pimm’s Cup. Pimm’s No. 1 was created in the mid-18th century by English oyster bar owner James Pimm. The recipe is still a secret; supposedly, only six people know exactly how it is made. It has a dark, golden brown color, a medium body, and a taste of quinine, citrus fruits, and spice. Its low alcohol content of only 25%  has made Pimm’s a drink to have when you are having more than one.

Pimm’s Cup

  • 2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1
  • 1/2 ounce gin, preferably Hendrick’s
  • Ginger Ale
  • Cucumber, coarsely chopped or sliced
  • Lemon or orange, sliced into thin rounds
  • Raspberries

Place cucumber in the bottom of a cocktail glass (a tall Collins glass like the one shown is preferable). Add ice. Pour over the Pimm’s, then the gin (you can omit this if you want the drink to be less strong) and fill the glass with ginger ale. Garnish with berries and lemon (or orange) slices. Optional alterations: instead of ginger ale, use a tart lemon soda like San Pellegrino Limonata; I’ve heard this makes a great Pimm’s Cup but some ingredient in that particular brand of beverage — though delicious — triggers a migraine for me. I’ve also seen recipes that called for muddling the cucumber in a shaker first, then adding the Pimm’s No. 1 and pouring over ice, to which you’d then add your preferred soda mixer. Finally, I’ve also seen recipes that call for adding fresh lemon juice to the cocktail, but I didn’t prefer that. However you make it, enjoy a toast to summer!

Just can’t get enough? Neither can the New York Times. Read all about their obsession with this popular summertime libation.

Drinks & Smoothies

Spiked cinnamon-apple cider

Every new home deserves a housewarming celebration, and what open house party would be complete without a signature cocktail? For us, that meant serving 50+ people a hot apple cider infused with oranges, cloves, cinnamon sticks & ginger, and spiked with dark rum and cinnamon schnapps.

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) dark rum
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) cinnamon schnapps
  • 1 large orange, sliced (unpeeled)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • healthy pinch of ground ginger (about a teaspoon)
  • healthy dash of whole cloves (about a dozen)

Directions

In a large stock pot, combine the entire gallon of cider with half to 2/3 of the rum and half to 2/3 of the bottle of schnapps. Add the orange slices, cloves, ginger and cinnamon sticks.

Bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to low. Simmer continuously and serve hot. I kept mine on low throughout the whole party and we just ladled it out into Irish coffee mugs!

You can easily make a larger quantity to serve a bigger crowd by pouring in the entire 750-ml. bottle of rum (same with the Schnapps) and adding a half gallon or more of cider.

Adjust the quantity (and therefore the strength) of the alcohol to your preference.

Cheers!

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Recipes

Homemade Cranberry Sauce (with a kick)!

It’s such a weird feeling for me to not be cooking the meal this Thanksgiving, but in truth I couldn’t handle it this year. Between 10-hour workdays, a major move, a husband juggling two jobs, and the fact that my recipes and pots are NOT unpacked, I’m lucky I managed to unearth the simple ingredients and saucepan needed to make my favorite side: Cranberry Sauce with a kick!

Here is the basic recipe (inspired by one of my first copies of Rachael Ray Magazine, from about 2006). I double this so everyone has plenty to take home with their leftovers.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick (add more if you like; I do!)
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp grated orange peel
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries

DIRECTIONS

In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, fresh ginger (or 1/4 tsp ground), orange peel and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved.

Stir in the cranberries and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.


Transfer the mixture to a bowl and remove the cinnamon stick (unless, like me, you let it simmer wayyyy longer than 10 minutes so that the sauce turns gelatinous and the cinnamon sticks practically dissolve). Let cool.

Enjoy! And have a very Happy Thanksgiving!