I’M BACK (BRINED PORK CHOPS & CHOCOLATE MADELEINES)

It’s been a little over two months since I last posted here. In that time I moved with my boyfriend into a new neighborhood, Downtown Los Angeles (more on that soon). I took on a new role at my day job. Whenever I had a spare hour, I was trying to make my new apartment into a home. I was eating a whole lot of salads from a place called “Simply Salad.”

But you can’t deny the Alpenglow. I’m back and things are moving, beginning with this stalwart trio of dishes. It’s a Sunday dinner that’s inspired by things I love in restaurants but don’t want to dine out for: the brined pork chops from Brooklyn’s Vinegar Hill House, vibrant broccolini smothered in salsa verde and anchovy croutons, and dark chocolate madeleines fresh out of the oven. It feels good to be back.

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PAN-ROASTED BRINED PORK CHOPS  

recipe by Brian Leth of Vinegar Hill House, Brooklyn:
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 head of garlic halved, plus two cloves for basting
several sprigs of fresh thyme
1 2-inch thick bone-in pork chop (about 1 1/4 lb.) or 2 1-inch chops
2 tablespoons grapeseed or or vegetable oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
flaky or coarse sea salt

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add kosher salt, sugar, juniper berries, peppercorns, halved head of garlic, and 1 thyme sprig; stir to dissolve salt and sugar. Transfer to a medium bowl and add 5 cups ice cubes. Stir until brine is cool. Add pork chop; cover and chill for at least 8 and up to 12 hours.

Preheat oven to 450°. Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Remove chop from brine; pat dry. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large cast-iron or other oven-proof skillet. Cook chop until beginning to brown, 3-4 minutes. Turn and cook until second side is beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Keep turning chop every 2 minutes until both sides are deep golden brown, 10-12 minutes total.

Transfer skillet to oven and roast chop, turning every 2 minutes to prevent it from browning too quickly, until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center of meat registers 135°, about 14 minutes. (Chop will continue to cook during basting and resting.)

arefully drain fat from skillet and place over medium heat. Add butter, 2 unpeeled garlic cloves, and remaining thyme sprig; cook until butter is foamy. Carefully tip skillet and, using a large spoon, baste chop repeatedly with butter until butter is brown and smells nutty, 2-3 minutes.

Transfer pork chop to prepared rack and let rest, turning often to ensure juices are evenly distributed, for 15 minutes. Cut pork from bones, slice, and sprinkle with sea salt.

BROCCOLINI with SALSA VERDE & ANCHOVY CROUTONS 

an improvised recipe that works well with many cruciferous vegetables:
2 bunches of broccolini
big handful of flat-leaf parsley
big handful of chives or green onions
3-4 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup or so of extra virgin olive oil
juice from 1/2 a lemon
pinch of red chili flakes
kosher salt to taste
bread, torn up
unsalted butter and olive oil
anchovies

I steamed the broccolini, but you could saute or grill them as well. Add the parsley, chives, garlic, olive oil, chili flakes, and salt to a blender and pulse into smooth. Set the salsa verde aside. Set the oven to 350. Heat the butter and oil in an oven-safe skillet. Add the anchovies and use a wooden spatula to dissolve them in the butter and oil. Add the torn bread to soak up the butter and oil thoroughly. Transfer the pan to the oven until the croutons are crisp and golden brown. To serve, plate the broccolini, spoon the salsa verde over the broccolini, and scatter a generous amount of the anchovy croutons on top.

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DARK CHOCOLATE MADELEINES with CARAMEL SAUCE  

recipe by Chef Gale Gand:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter softened for the madeleine mold)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Brush madeleine pans well with 4 tablespoons softened butter; refrigerate 5 minutes. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt remaining 1/2 cup butter over medium heat. Continue to cook until butter turns golden brown, being careful not to let the butter burn. Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip eggs with granulated and brown sugars until light and thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt, and stir on low speed until combined. Add vanilla and reserved browned butter; mix just until blended.

Insert a 1/2-inch plain tip into a pastry bag and fill with batter. Pipe mounds of batter into prepared pans until each mold is full, mounding batter in the center of the molds but not filling to the edge. Alternatively, you can use a teaspoon to fill the molds with batter. Bake until madeleines are firm and a little mound is puffed up in the middle, 10 to 12 minutes. Madeleines are best eaten the same day they are baked.

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