Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Last Night's Dinner -- Pork Chops with Peppers and Capers

A trip to the Hollywood Farmers' Market on Sunday morning yielded some really great finds. We decided to get whatever looked good and figure out a way to use it. There were lots of winter vegetables available, and we eventually settled on some leeks, bulb onions, broccoli, and fennel (I love fennel. There, I said it). Additionally, we found something called crosnes (pronounced crones), little white tubers that bear a resemblance to grubs. The guy who sold them to us said they are a favorite of Marilyn Manson, who enjoys their wormlike appearance. We tried a few raw at the market and found them pleasantly earthy and chewy, kind of somewhere between a potato and a radish, in terms of texture. Mmm, grubs.

On our say out, we stopped by the meat stand and got some bratwurst, some skirt steak, and two very good-looking pork chops.

I grilled the skirt steak that night for a late, post-Super Bowl dinner. Covered in crushed peppercorns and kosher salt, and served with the broccoli, it made for a good quick meal. For the pork, we decided to go with a recipe from Mario Batali's Molto Italiano cookbook, a recent gift from Edan's mother. You've probably seen Mario on the Food Network, where he constitutes something like two thirds of their total programming. Known for his orange shoes, be they clogs or Converse, he's a big red-headed lug who can really cook. Here in LA, he's one of the people responsible for the city's hottest restaurant, Pizzeria Mozza (He does the toppings, Nancy Silverton, of La Brea Bakery, does the crust). The recipe we settled on is Pork Chops with Peppers and Capers, or Cotolette alla Zingara , which means "pork of the gypsy."

I set out to make the recipe, heading to the market to get some bell peppers (I didn't see any at the Farmers' Market, which means the ones I got at the supermarket are probably from New Zealand or Jupiter or someplace where it's summer). What I didn't do, and should have, was read the entire recipe. It turns out I was supposed to brine my chops overnight, which I totally could've done if I had known to do it. As it was, I soaked them in a salty, sugary mixture for about two hours. It was more of a marinade than a brine. In spite of my error, I soldiered on, rinsing off the chops, patting them dry, and dredging in flour.

From there on out, things went well. The I fried the chops in oil, then removed them from the pan and put it my peppers (sliced nice and thin), my bulb onions, some spicy red chilies, and the capers. I didn't use any green peppers, because whenever I do, they dominate the entire dish, and I didn't use any olives, because I don't really care for them (I'm trying very hard to get into olives, but it's a slow go). After frying the peppers and onions for a while, I poured in some white wine and returned the chops to the pan to simmer. As I made the pork, I cut the fennel and leeks into big chunks, tossed them in olive oil and salt and pepper, and roasted them in the oven at 450 for about 20 minutes.

I was all set. Everything was ready. "What happened to the crosnes?" Edan said. The crosnes! I'd completely forgotten about those nasty little worms. Quickly, I threw them into a pan with some butter, freshly ground pepper, and salt. I sauteed them for about fifteen minutes, and they softened up to the texture of a just-done potato. Finally, we could eat.

The pork looked nice, with the peppers looking very colorful despite the lack of green. The flavors were good, but too salty. If I'd brined it, it might've been different, but who knows. Soaked in the capers and wine, the peppers and onions tasted delicious. I overcooked the veggies a little (Since the leeks roasted quicker than the fennel, I probably should've put them in later). As for the crosnes, well... When the rubber hit the road, Edan couldn't stomach them (mainly due to their appearance). I thought they tasted like butter and little else. I would try them again, maybe as part of a salad or something, where their texture would be a real asset, but I'm in no rush. At least I know what to serve for my Halloween feast next year. Cotolette alla Zingara
"I will gaze on your treasures now, gypsy. Understood?"

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