I’m a pretty big fan of Giada de Laurentiis; in addition to learning a heckuva lot about Italian cookery from her, she’s just a big sweetheart.  Anyways — lazy cookery mode in still in full swing — I was thinking about what to make for dins tonight without taking up too much time (there’s Diablo III to play) and WHAMO! a pasta craving hit me.

I haven’t made stuffed manicotti in years, and was pottering about online for ideas when I came across a recipe of Giada’s.  I’m pretty sure I’ve made it before, but looking at the ingredients now, I’m shocked by the FAT content there must be in this recipe — FAT that I don’t particularly think adds any flavor.  We all want to enjoy full-flavored food (FFF), but this just sounds unnecessarily heavy and not that tasty.  So I’ve decided to fix it.

Giada's FAT Beef and Cheese Manicotti

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For the Honor of Lazy, or a Simple Dinner

UGH!  I am the absolute worst about posting updates to this blog despite my good intentions; I mean, my kimchi post is DONE and waiting to be uploaded but I’ve been too lazy to grab the photos off my camera!  I am shameless!

In honor of that laziness, today I’m posting a pretty basic recipe that I like to do on weeknights (sans pictures, of course, which kind of makes for a crappy blog, but oh well). I generally use pork with it, but it can be used with chicken breasts or even salmon.  And heck, if you don’t have tarragon, use thyme; if you don’t have vermouth, use white wine or all chicken stock.  I like to serve this with some green beans and some crusty bread, which, you can imagine, is the perfect utensil for mopping up the extra sauce (as this recipe provides more than you will possibly need).

Sauteed Pork Chops with Tarragon and Mustard Sauce
Serves  4.

4 boneless pork chops, about 3/4″ thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 bunch scallions, white and pale green parts, chopped
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1 glove garlic, finely minced or grated
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup good Dijon mustard
1 tsp good stone-ground mustard
2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel, and sprinkle the tops with black pepper and then the salt, generously.  Once the pan has come to heat (the oil should be shimmering slightly, but not smoking), place the chops in, seasoned side down.  They should sizzle.  Season the exposed side of the chops and cook until both sides are browned, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove the chops to a plate.

Ditch the oil from the pan, lower the heat to medium, and add the butter, chopped scallions, red pepper flakes, dried tarragon, and a sprinkle of salt.  Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the scallions have softened and the tarragon is very fragrant.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds.

Pour in the vermouth and let it bubble up fiercely, scraping any brown bits from the bottom.  Add the chicken stock, the reserved pork chops and any of their juices collected on the plate, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the heavy cream, mustards, and tarragon in a measuring cup.  After the 5 minutes are up, remove the pork chops to a serving platter and cover loosely with foil.  Add the cream mixture to the pan and whisk to incorporate.  Simmer sauce, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened nicely. Taste for seasonings and pour over chops.

My Superbowl

I’ve been throwing Oscars parties for years now, and am proud to say I’ve thrown them on three different continents.  Despite living in a primarily uninhabited pine forest, I decided this year to do one anyway!  It’s my version of the Superbowl, after all.

Here’s the menu (the border is a bit strange due to the peculiarities of my printer), and hopefully I’ll have a few good pics of the food to share too.  I wish more loved ones could come, but for some reason the damned Academy always has these things on Sundays.

Oscars 2012 - Menu


Did you enjoy my clever portmanteau of ‘awooga’ and ‘gyoza’?  Probably not; I didn’t enjoy it much myself.

Last night as part of a healthful Asian meal, I made some gyoza (aka potstickers).  Perhaps it wasn’t the most health-conscious move to pan-fry them, but considering the rest of the meal shied away from fat, I didn’t feel that guilty about these crispy, savory submarines.  They are a bit larger and not crimped like I’d normally do gyoza, hence the submarine-like appearance. And yes, I know this is an AWFUL picture, but when you’re doing six other dishes a la minute and you’re starving, your photography can get shoddy.

Chicken and Celery Awoogyoza

The original recipe can be found at Epicurious; I ground up my own chicken thighs into mince and used two stalks of celery.  Like they do in Japan and China, I also added a dash of la-yu (chili oil) to the dipping sauce.

King Valentine and Bacon Brownies

My stint in Japan unfortunately spoiled me rotten for Valentine’s Day.  Although expensive gifts of jewelry and the like were never on the menu (ha ha, I’m punning!), on this most commercialized holiday women are socially obligated to give the men in their lives chocolates.  Being the dashing man I am, I obviously received a ton.

Now that I’m back in the States, I am once again giving chocolates on St Valentine’s Day.  What better way for King Valentine to love the women with whom he works than with brownies?  BACON BROWNIES.  Thank you, Nigella Lawson (get the recipe here).

Brownie Batter

Adding chopped dark chocolate and crispy bacon in golden syrup.

Dark Chocolate Brownies with Bacon

A bit dark and dense, the bacon adds a delicious burst of saltiness to the brownies.