Hi all, Michelle’s friend Jen here. When Michelle asked me to post once or twice to this blog, I was just thrilled. Then I was immediately overcome by trying to figure out what I should write about. Do I try wine, even though I don’t feel like I have a great handle on how to write about it? Probably best to leave that to those who are more familiar with how to do it. Write about food? Well, that’s the sort of thing I can do, but how can I make it seem like it’s not completely out of place here? And then it hit me – talk about my favorite food, and link it to one of my favorite wine stories. Parts of this are taken from my own blog, but I can only hope Michelle won’t hold it against me.
There’s a joke that exists between my friends and I. If one of us mentions riesling, one of the others will instantly jump in with, “Oh, you mean the dessert wine?” This is a joke that I don’t find funny, as it refers to a time when I was right and everyone else was horribly, horribly wrong, but to be fair, here’s the whole story.
I spent 2006 living in New York with some very close friends. Myself and my roommate Lars were regular cooks, while the other two (Nathan and Matt) were, well, not. Lars decided that he was going to cook a comfort food meal for all of us on a Friday night. Pork chops, collard greens and mashed potatoes comprised the menu. The wine was left up to me – partially because I think Lars wanted to force me out of the kitchen, partially because I worked further downtown than everyone else, closer to our favorite wine store in the city.
“Riesling goes with pork,” Lars proclaimed to all of us. “Get a good German riesling.”
At this point, Nathan puts his foot down. “No. No dessert wine.”
Dessert wine? It’s at this point in our lives that we actually have a fight. A fight, over wine, and whether the phrase “dessert wine” means you have to drink it with dessert. It should be known that it absolutely does NOT mean you have to drink it with dessert, and it is perfectly suitable with many different foods in many different settings. You should probably try it with pork chops.
Riesling and pork are a stunning combination that I pull out pretty often. There are some combinations that get boring to me, but coupling a thick-cut pork chop with something fresh and green and drinking a generous glass (okay, two) of a good German riesling? Sign me up, any day. I recently decided I was going to perfect the pork chop, because most of them I’ve ever had have simply been unmemorable. It was also an excuse to bring out a bottle of wine that I bought at the great German riesling tasting Michelle invited us to awhile back.
Unmemorable pork, for the most part, until brining came into my life. Do you brine your pork chops? You should. I decided to invite my dad over for dinner, mostly because I like him, but also because I had this pasta dish I really wanted to make. We’ll get to that later. I had picked up three thick-cut pork chops the night before, so I decided they would go well with my pasta. (They did.) He was coming over at 5:30 and I started thinking about my pork chops at 1:30. Most recipes will tell you that you need to brine your pork chops for 24 hours. I got about five hours in on mine, but let me tell you, they’re the best pork chops I’ve ever eaten. A couple hours is better than nothing. Mine were even a little salty, so I’m not sure this particular brine would have been so great after four times as much of it.
A brine is a basic liquid that you immerse your meat in. The simplest brine recipe consists of one tablespoon each of salt and sugar to every cup of water. For my three pork chops, three cups of water was enough to cover it adequately. After that point, you can put anything you want with it. I added some finely chopped garlic, black peppercorns and dried thyme. My five hour brine wasn’t really long enough to infuse them with flavor, but it was more than enough time to keep them moist. They were thick, so to avoid having to butterfly them, I seared them on the stove in a cast-iron skillet, then put them in the oven to finish them off. Delicious.
The pasta, I’m a little ashamed to admit, is a Giada recipe. I’ve had a lot of free daytime hours on my hands, friends, so I’ve caught more than my fair share of her show. While I still think she has a television show because she’s super hot and bends over a lot, I’ll be the first to admit that every recipe of hers that I’ve ever made has been delicious. You can look up the exact recipe on Food Network’s website, but I won’t post it here because I definitely didn’t follow the quantities at all.
In a food processor, mince up a few cloves of garlic, add in two parts goat cheese to one part cream cheese (I think Giada’s recipe allots 2 oz. goat cheese and 1 oz. cream cheese to every pound of pasta. I used much more than that, and while it was incredibly tasty, it was THICK.), and add in some baby spinach leaves. The result will be a thick, creamy green mixture. In a big bowl, lay down some fresh baby spinach leaves, put some just boiled hot pasta over it, and toss with the cheesy mixture. Add some of the pasta water if you need to thin it out – I probably should have. My version was delicious, but so thick and rich that none of us could finish it. Add a little fresh grated cheese on the top for serving.
This meal, while delicious, also gets to stand out in my mind as one of the easiest things I’ve ever cooked. There’s something to be said for how long a meal takes you to cook versus how delicious it is. The greatest meals are the ones that are amazing and took you thirty minutes to throw together.
Thanks for having me, blog readers! I’ll be checking in again soon.
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