BRAISED PORK CHOPS WITH WINE AND MUSHROOMS

Braising brings out the best in any protein and makes it butter tender. This simple pork chops braise is no different. The mushroom, wine, and veal Demi-glace pan sauce is incredible, thickened with a little cornstarch at the end. I served these with Potato Pancakes that take only a few minutes to make.

Find bone-in, center cut “porterhouse” cut chops at least 3/4 of an inch thick. Trim a little of the fat as necessary. Make sure you get a good sear on the chops as this adds so much flavor. If you don’t have Demi-glace, just use 1/2 cup chicken stock and 1/2 cup beef stock.

Ingredients:

  • 2 center cut bone-in pork chops at least 3/4 of an inch thick
  • Olive oil
  • Unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 ounces of white mushrooms, cut into quarteres
  • 1 medium shallots, thin sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thin sliced
  • 3/4 cup wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp demi-glace
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • Chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Lightly coat the pork chops with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  • In a large oven-proof skillet, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter. When the oil is hot, add the chops and brown thoroughly on both sides. Remove to a plate.
  • Turn the heat down to medium low and add 2 tbsp of butter, the mushrooms, and the shallots and saute, stirring, until the mushrooms release their liquid and start to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring.
  • Turn up the heat and add the wine. Bring to a simmer and reduce by half. Add the stock and the Demi-glace and stir to combine.
  • Place the pork chops back in the skillet and any juices from the plate. Spoon the mushrooms and shallots over the chops, cover, and place in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on the thickness of your chops. Add more liquid if they are getting too dry. You should have at least 1 cup of liquid when finished cooking.
  • Remove the chops to a plate and tent loosely with foil to keep warm. Place skillet over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir in 2 tsp of Dijon. Mix 1 tbsp of cornstarch with 2 tbsp of cold water. Stir into the sauce and simmer to let it thicken. Add 2 tbsp of chopped parsley.
  • To serve, place the chops on a platter then spoon the sauce over the chops. Garnish with more parsley.

MY BEST MAC AND CHEESE WITH FIVE CHEESES

It’s not enough to just throw a bunch of cheeses together for a good Mac and Cheese. There are 5 really good cheeses in this recipe. And no flour! Just macaroni, cream, butter, and cheese…plus some dry mustard and white pepper.

I have left off any crumbly topping just to keep it more refined. Of course, a few bread crumbs at the end is up to you.

Honestly, this is the best Mac and Cheese I have ever made. It’s painfully simple and basic. Try to use high quality cheeses and shred them yourself, the pre-shredded bagged stuff has potato starch and other things to keep it from clumping together in the bag.

Ingredients:

  • 5 ounces of small pasta (I used medium shells here)
  • 1 1/2 cups cream
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup Vermont or Irish white cheddar, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Gruyere, shredded
  • 1/4 cup smoked Gouda, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Velveeta, cubed
  • 1/4 cup Regianno Parmigiano, grated
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper

Directions:

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, do not rinse. Return to pan, stir in 1 tbsp butter, cover and keep warm.
  • Shred and grated the cheeses and place in a bowl. Reserve 3 tbsp for topping
  • Place a medium saucepan over medium low heat and add the butter. Add the cream. When the cream gets hot, add all the cheese and bring to a low simmer, stirring so the cheese doesn’t on the bottom of the pan. Add the dry mustard and white pepper and allow to combine.
  • Butter a medium baking dish.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Add the cheese sauce to the pasta in the saucepan and fold in completely.
  • Top with the reserved cheese mix and place in the oven for 4-5 minutes to melt the cheese.
  • Garnish with chopped chives.

BABY RED POTATO, BACON, AND EGG SALAD

I can’t tell you how many different potato salad recipes I’ve made over the years. None of which I was really satisfied with…until this one! I will actually make this one again.

Full disclosure…I combined elements from several recipes including something I learned (stole) from my sister-in-law 40 years ago: Ranch dressing mix. I only use a small amount of this versatile powder here as it is a cut down recipe that serves maybe 3-4 small people. You can use your own favorite potatoes, but the little gold ball sized red potatoes work so well. Just one caveat: do not overcook them. These small gems cook up in about 10-12 minutes, not the 25 minutes we’re used to with full sized potatoes. Cool them in the fridge right away and wait until they are completely cooled before cutting.

If you’re a potato salad fan, try this one…you’ll like it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs small red skinned potatoes
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped 1/2 inch
  • 2 thick slices of bacon, cooked, chopped
  • 1/4 cup celery, minced
  • 2 tbsp red onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp Ranch dressing mix
  • 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp chopped chives
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Do not peel. Bring to a hard boil, lower the heat, and cook for about 12 minutes. Don’t overcook, it’s easy to do with these small potatoes. Drain and place in the refrigerator until completely cooled, at least 1 hour.
  • In a medium bowl, combined the mayonnaise, celery, onion, cider vinegar, chives, and parsley. Mix well and place in the refrigerator.
  • Slice the cooked potatoes into 1/2 inch chunks and place in a large bowl and add the chopped bacon and chopped eggs. Gently mix completely. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Fold in the dressing mix until completely combined reserving 2 tbsp of the dressing. Cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • Take potato salad out 20 minutes before serving and mix in the reserved dressing if desired.

SRIRACHA HONEY CHICKEN

Loretta found this recipe today and it sounded too good to pass up since I had chicken thighs ready to go in the refrigerator. Although the original recipe calls for chicken drumsticks, it would work with wings, breasts, or thighs.

Don’t be weary of the sriracha, this is not super spicy. We even adjusted the honey versus sriracha ratio and it came out perfect for us.

I served ours over leftover creamy cheese grits from the night before. I just heated them up with a little cream and 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.

I can’t wait to try this recipe on chicken wings! It’s sweet and spicy to the tee.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs of chicken thighs, drumsticks, or wings (we used bone-in thighs)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp sriracha sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • Chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line small sheet pan with foil.
  • Dry the chicken thighs completely and coat with olive oil.
  • Mix together the ground thyme, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl.
  • Season the thighs on both sides with the seasoning mix and place on the foil lined sheet pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, about 45-50 minutes.
  • Combine the butter, honey, sriracha, and soy sauce in a small saucepan and heat to a simmer. Stir and let simmer about 3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn off heat and set aside.
  • When the chicken is done, spread some of the sauce on the thighs with a pastry brush or spoon. Place back in the oven for another 2 minutes to let the sauce glaze.
  • To serve, place a chicken thigh on the plate and drizzle on more sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley. I served it on top of creamy cheese grits. Rice or mashed potatoes will work as well.

BONELESS McRIB STYLE SANDWICH

McDonald’s McRib is a ground pork sandwich pressed and formed to look like pork ribs. Hey, I love ’em! But, I wanted to try making this home version from real Pork Spareribs. Basically, cook the s***t out of the ribs, either in a smoker, BBQ, or in the oven. Then carefully pull out the bones…and voila! Boneless McRib Style Sandwich.

Here’s my oven recipe for them. Note: You can use Baby Back Ribs, but they are not as meaty and juicy as the St. Louis ribs. Plus, cook the BB Rib a little less as they are much smaller.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium rack of St. Louis cut pork ribs or Baby Back Ribs
  • BBQ rub (your favorite)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup BBQ sauce (your favorite, I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
  • 1 tbsp chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 1 tbsp bourbon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Soft hoagie or sourdough rolls
  • Diced onions
  • Sliced dill pickles
  • Mayonnaise

Directions:

  • Remove the silver skin from the back of the ribs. Place the ribs on a sheet pan and season both sides with BBQ rub, salt, and pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add some apple cider vinegar to the bottom of the sheet pan. Place the ribs meaty side up on the sheet pan then cover tightly with foil. Bake in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Note: If using small Baby Back Ribs, reduce the cooking time slightly as they cook quicker than St. Louis ribs.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the BBQ sauce, chipotle, bourbon, and honey. Set aside.
  • Carefully remove the foil and let cool enough to handle the ribs. Gently remove the bones by pulling them out the side, they should come out easily if the ribs were cook enough. If you cook them too much, they fall apart.
  • Cut the ribs in half, then carefully cut them down the middle the size of a sandwich roll. Spread some BBQ sauce on the top and bottom of the ribs then place back in the oven on an oven-proof plate for about 5 minutes to glaze the sauce.
  • Spread some mayonnaise on the bottom bun then add the ribs. Top with more BBQ sauce if desired. Add chopped onions.

SHORT RIB CHICKEN FRIED STEAK

I’ll admit I was a little skeptical when setting out on this recipe project. Using short ribs to make Chicken Fried Steak worried me…was it going to be tender…or, like shoe leather? I mean, I cook short ribs a lot, but I braise them for hours or cook them in a pressure cooker. They need that kind of cook as they are not a tender cut. Then I thought, “Old Chicken Fried Steak recipes call for using heavily pounded and tenderized Top Round, possibly the toughest cut in the world!”. So why not Short Ribs? They are so flavorful. And the boneless version I get from Costco is prefect for pounding thin and tenderizing. I wasn’t wrong! They turned out tender and delicious.

Admittedly, for me, half the attraction to C.F.S. is the creamy gravy and garlic mashed potatoes that go with it. I followed that precedent with one little change. I served Creamy Cheese Grits along side instead of the potatoes. It was all delightful.

C.F.S is not something I make very often as it is messy with the breading and the frying and all, but it is worth the mess every once in a while. I urge you to try making it with Boneless Short Ribs on occasion instead of Sirloin or Ribeye…you might be pleased with the change.

By the way, it’s pretty essential to do a double breading with the buttermilk/egg mixture and seasoned flour (buttermilk, then flour, then buttermilk, then flour) like good fried chicken. It will give you a crispy, flavorful coating.

Ingredients:

  • 2 thick boneless short ribs, about 1 lb total, cut into 3 inch long chunks
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp seasoning (like Lawry’s)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp Frank’s Hot sauce
  • Canola oil for frying

For the Cream Gravy:

  • 2 cups half and half (or whole milk)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
  • 1 small shallot, peeled, thin sliced
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp chicken base (I use Better Than Bullion)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Chopped chives

For the Creamy Cheese Grits:

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup white grits (I use Geechie Boy)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp cold butter pats
  • Chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Pound and tenderize short ribs with a mallet. You should get them 1/4 inch thick. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Heat 2 cups of half and half in a sauce pan to a simmer and add the garlic and the chives. Turn off heat, cover, let sit for 30 minutes to infuse the half and half.
  • In a medium saucepan, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and start adding the grits 1/4 cup at a time while whisking constantly. When all the grits have been added, cook and whisk about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit about 20 minutes, whisking every 5 minutes.
  • Add the cold butter pats, the parmesan cheese and the cream and whisk together until creamy. Add more cream or stock if it is too thick. Keep warm.
  • Strain out the shallots and garlic from the half and half. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add 2 tbsp of butter and make a roux, cook for about 1 minute. Whisk in the half and half 1/2 cup at a time. Add 1 tsp chicken base, season with salt and a lot of black pepper. Continue whisking and cooking the gravy until it reaches the consistency you want. Keep warm. If it is too thick, add a little more half and half or cream. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • Set up a breading station with 2 flat bowls. In one bowl, add the flour and the seasoning and mix thoroughly. In the other bowl, add the buttermilk, Frank’s Hot sauce, and the beaten egg.
  • Make sure you have seasoned the pounded steaks with salt and pepper.
  • Heat about 1/2 inch of canola oil in a large skillet to 350 degrees.
  • Dip the steaks into the buttermilk, then the seasoned flour, then the buttermilk, and then the seasoned flour again.
  • When the oil is hot, carefully add the breaded steaks to the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. You can baste the steaks with the hot oil as they are cooking so the breading sets up quicker. Keep warm on a wire rack over a sheet pan.
  • I recommend plating some grits first, then lay a steak across the edge of the grits. Spoon on as much gravy as you like leaving half the steak exposed so it stays crispy. Garnish with chopped chives and chopped parsley.

INSTAPOT CARNITAS

I opted out of the 3-hour braise of pork shoulder this time for a 50 minute pressure cook of pork tenderloin in my Instapot. This is easy and brings the incredible dish of Carnitas to the table in no time. Super tender!

I’m a fan of rice and beans just like the next fella…but, this one is ala carte today.

Utilizing a cooking sauce of O.J., stock, garlic, and spices for the Instapot liquid this recipe does not disappoint. One step I left out was to deep fry the carnitas after braising. This keeps it a bit less greasy and more diet friendly.

Garnished with fresh chopped cilantro and diced white onions, it’s just right…not too filing by any means. Add fresh sliced jalapeƱos to serve if you want more heat…these Carnitas are mild using diced green Anaheim chiles.

Ingredients:

For the cooking liquid:

  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed or store-bought orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, thin sliced
  • 1/2 medium white onion, quartered
  • 1 small can diced green chiles
  • 1/2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

For the pork:

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 1 tbsp Southwest seasoning mix – 1 tbsp paprika, 1 tsp granulated garlic, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp cumin. 1 tbsp ancho chile powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • Kosher salt
  • Canola oil

For serving:

  • Diced white onions
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Guacamole (optional)
  • Sour cream
  • Corn tortillas, softened in hot oil

Directions:

  • Whisk together all the cooking liquid ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Season the pork tenderloin chunks with Kosher salt and the Southwest seasoning mix.
  • Set Instapot to Saute and add 2 tbsp or canola oil. When the oil is hot, brown all the pork chunks on both sides. Remove to a plate.
  • Add the quartered onions and break them up, stirring for about 3 minutes. Add the cooking liquid and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to release any cooking bits. Turn off Saute.
  • Add the pork chunks back to the pot. Seal and pressure cook for 50 minutes. Let it release the pressure naturally.
  • When the pork is done, remove to a large bowl. Add some of the cooking liquid and shred with two forks. Season with Kosher salt.
  • Add some shredded Carnitas to a softened corn tortilla. Garnish with diced white onion and chopped cilantro. Serve with guacamole and sour cream.

SOUTHWESTERN COTTAGE PIE

So what do you get when you combine a long time pub favorite with southwest flavors? You get this: Southwestern Cottage Pie.

First, what is Cottage Pie? It’s a Shepherd’s Pie using ground beef instead of ground lamb. Honestly, I’m not a fan of ground lamb, so I prefer this G.B. version. Also, whether it’s Cottage or Shepherd’s Pie, it can be (in my opinion) a little bland. Let’s face it…it’s ground beef and mashed potatoes! So, with a few southwestern style ingredients added, this version raises up the flavor and spice level a bit.

The photo of it is not very photogenic…but, the flavors are fantastic!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb lean grund beef
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup, white onion, 1/4 inch chop
  • 1/2 cup carrots, 1/2 inch chop
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp Chile powder
  • 1 small can diced roasted green chiles
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cold, cut into 12 little cubes
  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cooked, mashed with butter and cream

Directions:

  • In a large skillet over medium heat, add the ground beef and the diced onion. Break up the ground beef and cook until the ground beef is no longer pink and it is browned. Drain the excess grease from the pan. Add the tomato paste and stir in thoroughly. Season with salt, pepper, chile powder, garlic, and cumin.
  • Add the beef stock, salsa, carrots, green chiles, Worcestershire, herbs, and bay leaf and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes over low heat. Taste and reseason if necessary. Remove the bay leaf and stir in 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese and the peas.
  • Place the meat mixture in a baking dish or casserole. Spread the cream mashed potatoes evenly over the top leaving a 1/4 space around the edges. Then make ridges all over with a fork. Add the butter cubes evenly over the top.
  • Bake at 375 degrees about 30 minutes. Raise heat to Broil and bake until it is golden brown and bubbly, another 3 minutes or so.

ENRICHED HOME MADE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

O.K., so July is not a soup month! But, I couldn’t resist. I cooked the spatchcock chicken on the smoker the other day, then made an enriched stock from the roasted bones. It was just a step or two away for this incredible home made chicken noodle soup.

Cooking the vegetables for 25 minutes uncovered will help enrich the soup even more by reducing it by about 1 cup.

To freeze, let the soup cool completely then add some cooled noodles to your container. If you add the noodles when the soup is very hot, they will soak up and dilute the soup.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 cup of enriched chicken stock, home made preferrably
  • 1 cup white onions, 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 cup carrots, 1/4 slice on bias
  • 1 cup celery, 1/4 inch slice on bias
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken breast, torn into 1 1/2 inch long pieces
  • 1/2 tsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 4 ounces wide egg noodles

Directions:

  • Place the stock, onions, carrots, celery, salt, pepper, granulated garlic , and cooked chicken in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes. You should be left with 4 cups of soup as it will have reduced slightly and enriched the flavor.
  • Cook the noodles in salted water for 9-10 minutes. Drain and reserve.
  • After cooking the soup for 25 minutes, add the dill and the parsley.
  • Ladle some soup into a soup bowl then add some noodles just before serving.

MAKING CHICKEN STOCK

Not to be confused with “taking stock” (review or make an assessment of a particular situation), making stock is a bit more involved.

As a side note, what is the difference between stock and broth? Stock is generally made from roasted bones and parts…broth is made from boiling meat.

I use stock a lot in my cooking, especially chicken stock. Stock is invaluable when making gravies, soups, or sauces. Most of the time I like to use Better Than Bullion Low-sodium Roasted Chicken stock base. But when I have the time and the ingredients, I go ahead and do the “cheffy” thing of making my own stock. It is not hard, but it is a pain in the neck and takes some attention. Don’t believe anything you read in on the internet or on cooking shows that claim it is “easy” and “a better way to go” from prepared stocks. It’s not.

In restaurants that make their own, at least two stocks are simmering in various stages all the time…chicken and beef. Beef stock can take 24 hours or more to make properly, including straining and reducing. Chicken stock is a bit easier. Here is my recipe and method.

You will, as always, find dozens of recipes for home made chicken stock. Mine is pretty basic and does not include garlic, I prefer to infused my stock with garlic when I am using it in a particular recipe. I also prefer to make a “clear” or “light” stock using bones and chicken parts that have not been roasted first. Roasting the bones will give you a browner looking stock and a different favor profile. This particular cook on this day used roasted bones as well as fresh bones. A rotisserie chicken carcass is perfect for making stock. However, you will need more chicken parts or more than one rotisserie chicken to get decent results.

Don’t forget the fresh herbs. I use a lot of parsley, thyme, and rosemary, but dill, cilantro, and others will work as well. Don’t add any salt until the stock is done, strained, and reduced. That is the time to season. Note: This stock will NOT taste like store-bought stock immediately because it is not full of sodium. Add enough seasonings to suit your needs at the end. Also, be sure to reduce the stock at the end to really make it the flavor you have come to love.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 pounds of chicken parts like backs, necks, wing tips, or carcasses. Adding a few wings is also a way to go.
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 6 wedges, no need to peel
  • 2 medium stalks of celery, rough chop, leaves included
  • 1 large carrot, cut into about 6 pieces
  • 4-5 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 whole peppercorns

Directions:

  • Place all the ingredients in a medium stockpot, chicken parts first then the vegetables.
  • Add about 8-10 cups of cold water, enough to cover everything.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat then lower heat and simmer for 2 hours, uncovered. You can skim the foam from the chicken if needed until it stops forming. Stir everything occasionally.
  • Make sure there is enough water and add water if necessary.
  • When done cooking, let cool for a while then strain the stock through a fine metal sieve into a bowl or another saucepan. Discard all the solids.
  • Place the stock uncovered in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, skim any congealed fat from the surface and discard the fat.
  • Reheat the stock then strain through a cheesecloth over another pan or bowl.
  • Bring to simmer, uncovered, and reduce until you get about 3 cups.
  • Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.