Last week, I was driving my car to a coffee date with a friend when I spotted a woman walking 2 goats down the street. The goats were mid-sized, seemingly well-behaved, and leashed as if they were domesticated dogs. After I mentally noted the peculiarity of a woman walking goats through a city neighborhood, my thoughts tumbled about in a million different directions. I wondered whether she used them to cut her lawn. This would be a good idea, I thought. Goats love eating grass and such. I’ve seen them clear a whole city block of coveted (but invasive) blackberry bushes. Then, I wondered whether you could use the milk for goat cheese. I considered this for a moment and pondered the complexities of a home pasteurization process of which I have zero knowledge. Then, I wondered whether she picked up after the goats as you would a dog. Surely, the goats relieve themselves in the street? Any responsible goat owner would carry some sort of mechanism for dealing with this issue.
My mind settled a bit as I continued my drive.
I then decided the woman was an exhibitionist.
Seriously, who has goats in the city? The poor poor animals. Isnt’ the pavement hard on those hooves?
After making this decision, I suddenly felt quite bad. Who am I to say this woman cannot mangage to care for these goats properly in the city or whether she likes the attention they draw? After all, I am quite sure most animals would appreciate a good outing even on the grayest and rainiest of Seattle days.
A sweet goat I met on a country road in Montana.
So I sit here ashamed. What’s gotten into me? Where is my internal sunshine? Is it possible the sleep deprivation has finally token its toll? I believe this might be the case, but I’m not totally bananas yet. At the very least, I am able to recognize the spiral. And, with a few brain cells still in tact, I manage fairly well from day to day. I love my daughter to pieces and I have a million smiles in my pocket for her. It’s hard to focus on sleep or the lack thereof when I’m hovered over her making ridiculous faces and noises just to hear those adorable airy chuckles.
So I must move past those thoughts and do my best to focus, instead, on the food. I want so badly to do this. I will admit, however, to a culinary rut of sorts. Did this happen to any of you? I find myself thinking about dinner and the various meats and staples I might cook, but it’s the creativity of the process that currently alludes me. How else does one cook a chicken if it’s not roasted? How else to you make pork tenderloin if you don’t cook it this way?
I draw blanks again and again. That’s why I was so thankful this month for the latest copy of Bon Appetit. The gorgeous imagery on those pages never ceases to inspire. I can’t always read the magazine in its entirety in one sitting, but I savor the articles and pages nonetheless. When Maeve settles down for a good feeding, I use my remaining hand to flip through the pages and dive into a bit of inspiration or, if you will, food pornography.
And as I flipped through the pages just a couple of days ago, I saw it.
The ordinary pork chop. It’s so passe, really. One would never consider it for guests or for a melt-in-your mouth sort of meal. However, one recipe stood out amongst all the others. The main reason for this is because it’s a recipe created by Mario Batali. If you’re not familiar, he’s a culinary master with a Zorba-like lust for life. His recipes are brilliant and foolproof. Indeed, he wrote one of my favorite cookbooks. And, if I may go on here for a moment, he is a redhead. This is a man after my heart and a man capable of taking pork chops to a new and extraordinary level. No charred pieces of low grade pork here seasoned only with a bit of table salt. This recipe not only looked outstanding, it was.
Why is it so wonderful? I think the main reason is that the recipe calls for a 24 hour brine. That makes a tremendous difference. The pork was flavorful and juicy. There was no additional table salt necessary, which is often the case with your ordinary pork chop. Additionally, the aged balsamic and the mixture of vegetables worked perfectly to add a bit of sour acid to the meal. Brilliant. Brilliant.
After this masterpiece, I am willing to forgive Mario for the slight on my last two trips to New York when I tried in vain to obtain the golden stag of reservations at Babbo. I will make it there one day. In the meantime, I’m thankful for the inspiration Mr. Batali provides me whenever I use one of his recipes. I am also thankful to the goat owner. I have to applaud her, really. Where I was stuck in my rut, she was certainly thinking about city life in a far more extraordinary way than I was capable of doing.
Grilled Porkchops with Cherry Peppers, Cipolline Onions, and Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 cup coarse kosher salt. plus extra to taste
1/4 cup plus 1 and 1/2 tsps sugar
4 8 oz. pork chops with rib bone attached
1 lb. cipolline onions or pearl onions
1/4 cup plus 2 tblsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 bell peppers (preferable 1 red and 1 yellow), seeded, cut into 1/2 inch squares
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes
8 pickled cherry peppers from jar, finely sliced
Aged balsamic vinegar
Whisk 1/2 cup coarse kosher salt, 1/4 cup sugar, and 8 cups of water in a large bowl until dissolved. Place the pork in dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning the chops occasionally.
Blanch cipolline onions in large saucepan of boiling water for 1 minute. Drain. Cool slightly and peel. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add cipolline onions and cook until tender and browned in spots, turning occasionally, 8-10 minutes.
Transfer onions to a medium bowl. Increase heat to hight and add 1 tblsp. oil in same skillet. Add bell peppers and red onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add crushed pepper, and 1 and 1/2 tsp. sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer until vegetables are tender, stirring often, about 8-10 minutes.
Stir in reserved onions and sliced peppers. Cover and keep warm.
Heat a tblsp. of olive oil over medium in a heavy skillet. Add pork. Cook until the pork is cooked through, about 7 minutes per side. Place pork on plates, garnish with vegetable mixture and balsamic vinegar.
Adapted from Mario Batali/ Bon Appetit
NOTE: You can often find pickled peppers at the olive bar at your local grocery store.
Another NOTE: Have you seen this post? I’d love your support!