Feb 26
Just when you think you can cook …
posted by: dawn in Columns, Pork, Rants and Raves on 02 26th, 2009 | |

Yesterday, full of inspiration, hope, and the aroma of my kick-ass (there’s really no other way to say it) Ropa Vieja I decided to start a blog. I’ve been reading lots of blogs and felt I too could inspire and perhaps even help those learning to cook at home. And if not that, maybe I could make some people laugh. I needed help from DH to launch it, so I didn’t get to writing until today.

Had I written this post yesterday I would have been brimming with confidence. But today is another day. Yesterday I put a meal on the table worthy of any restaurant, what I lack in food styling I own in flavor. Tonight, I assaulted pork chops in a manner so deplorable that I should be incarcerated.

I want to tell you about both of these meals. But my first post is going to be about my horrible desecration of a cut of meat that an animal graciously died for. (a cute animal I might add, I love pigs, if only they looked like a scorpion I would not eat them so what does that say about me? I only eat cute animals!)

There are so many cooking shows and blogs dedicated to marvelous menus; the adaptation of a recipe; the savoring of the meal; that it’s easy to be intimidated into thinking that if you can’t always deliver a perfect result, you can’t cook. I fondly remember the finale of Hell’s Kitchen Season 4, Christina yelling “perfect food every time” the entire episode. It quickly became my mantra, my standard for myself. I demand perfect food when I am paying someone else to cook for me. But the honest truth is that I can’t always deliver it (I would argue nobody can).

Bill, my DH and chief taste tester tells me I’m crazy, tonight’s meal was great — he dutifully had seconds. I’m convinced that act of kindness was only be to make me feel better.

Since you are following a Whineaux — may I suggest you go get a glass of wine now. This may be a mistake for my first blog post, but I’m on a roll and I have some things to say. I’ll wait for you to come back.

So, did you get red or white? For me, it’s almost always red — tonight we are enjoying a good but garden variety Cab Sav.

Back to the topic at hand:

Tonight started with big expectations. I had four beautiful bone-in pork chops waiting for me to dazzle them with my creative brilliance. The problem was, I’ve had a rotten day and my creativity wasn’t there. Suddenly, inspiration hit! I wanted to go “old school” memories of buttery, golden rice pilaf inspired my meal. We’d have the rice pilaf and I wanted to bred and fry the pork chops and make a Marsala and mushroom sauce.

I floured the pork chops (the flour was nicely seasoned with garlic powder, pepper, salt and some paprika) and let them rest. Then I started the pilaf. The smell of sauteed onion and garlic wafted through the kitchen. I was off to a good start.

Then, I heated a saute pan and dipped the pork chops in egg wash and then a second coating of breading, the secret to a good crispy coating. Anticipation flowed.

Once the oil heated, I cooked the pork chops in batches so not to crowd the pan and cool the oil (a carnal sin when frying). Then, I removed excess oil, and cooked some onions and mushrooms in the pan — I was working on a pan sauce. I deglazed with Marsala wine and then added some home made beef stock to the sauce. At the very end I hit it with a small dash of cream.

Doesn’t this sound good?

Sadly, it was a greasy mess. The pork chops were by far greasier than anything I’ve ever had in a diner, the sauce broke. The plate was so ugly that I refused to allow it to be photographed.

I sat at my plate and ate it wondering what I did wrong. I told my husband not to help with the dishes; I deserved punishment for what I did to the pork chops and I needed time to think. “What did I do, where did I go wrong?” I had all the right flavors, a great tasting (though UGLY sauce) why were they greasy?

Then it hit me. You can pan fry thin cutlets because they’ll cook quickly. I should have browned the chops and finished them in the oven. the reduced time in the oil would have kept them from getting greasy and the oven would have finished them evenly.

I tell you this story so you don’t repeat my mistake. Another day I’ll tell you about my perfect Ropa Vieja (It’s a Cuban Beef Stew). Tonight I wanted to tell you that sometimes dinner doesn’t turn out the way you envisioned it, but it’s OK, you’ll cook another day and it will be amazing.

I wish more people would talk about their disasters — we’d all learn more.

Until next time, don’t “whine” just “wine”.

P.S. I read this post to my DH and when I got to the part about him taking seconds, he gave me this inspiring quote; “That’s not true, I was starving. I would have eaten an old shoe!”

2 Responses to “Just when you think you can cook …”

  1. Thanks for sharing a not perfect meal. That was brave for your first post! DH was a meanie. Next time give him an old shoe! (might need to simmer it for a while!)Keep writing, need a (short)break from hockey now and again.

  2. […] Paris  Bistro cookbook I wouldn’t even write this entry.  But I did commit — and if my first post was about a ruined dinner then I can certainly write about an uninspiring […]

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