French Onion Soup Pork Chops

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Confession time: I loathe French onion soup.

I cannot freaking stand it. It is just wholly unappetizing to me which is strange when you consider all of the things that go into the dish. I love onions. I love soup. I love melted cheese and croutons/bread in soup. I love all beef-based products. But somehow, when you combine all of these in one bowl, my stomach turns.

My husband, however, loves the stuff so when I saw the flavors translated to pork chops, I went for it.

I started with a massive batch of caramelized onions in the slow cooker. Yes, you can make them in the slow cooker and yes it's easy and amazing and delicious and yes it's possibly changed my onion-loving life and your house smells rad when you come home from work the night you try them. I sliced up three or four large Vidalia onions (I like the added sweetness), tossed them with a little olive oil, and butter (about two pats, chopped small), and salt, then set them on low for 10 hours.

Once done, I covered the bottom of a casserole dish with a ton of the sweet, melty onions. Then, you mix the following in a bowl:

- one packet of Lipton onion soup mix
- 1/2 cup beef stock (unsalted preferably)

It's an extremely complicated recipe, I tell you. Once mixed, nestle some pork chops (I did three so I had one leftover for lunch) on top of the onions, then pour the sauce over the chops.

Pop them in the oven at around 350/375 degrees until the pork is cooked through.

You instantly get that rich aroma from the beef stock plus the real fresh caramlized onions and the fake re-hydrated onion soup mix flavors. I served them with some onions that cooked with them and a fresh Brussels sprouts + craisin slaw.

These are SO FREAKING GOOD. The one main complaint? These veer into Too Salty territory, but, duh, I poured a packet of Lipton soup powder all over them. Those packets are salt, salt, sodium, salt, and deliciousness. So, pour yourself an extra glass of water at dinner to flush some of it out and you'll live, I promise.

I could also see these flavors working well with chicken if you swapped chicken stock for beef stock. Onion flavors are ones I will always gravitate toward, even if it comes from a dehydrated packet. Luckily for my salt-loving taste buds, Lipton sells two packs at a time, so I have another oniony creation coming your way soon!

Oh, and what do you do with the rest of the caramelized onions in your slow cooker? If you're an onion freak like me, put 'em in the fridge and use them up. Or, you can portion some out into those sandwich-sized Ziploc bags and freeze them. You'll have them around for future soups, pizzas, or pork chop recipes.

Turkey Zucchini Burgers + Asparagus Lentil Salad

Friday, September 26, 2014

You guys - I finally found a recipe in Jerusalem that was suitable for a weeknight! Desperate to extend summer produce as far into autumn as possible, I bring to you turkey zucchini burgers.

And yes, I'm trying to make rosé happen this fall, too. I make no apologies.

You start off with the following:

2 medium zucchini
3 scallions, sliced (white, light, and most of dark parts)
1 egg
1 lb ground turkey (I go with 93%/7%)
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon za'atar
1 tsp sweet paprika
shake of cayenne

I mixed all of the ingredients together and, per the cookbook's instructions, made fairly small patties (about 9 or 10 total).

I seared all the patties a few minutes on each side in a cast iron pan and then transferred them all to a large baking dish. Once all the patties were seared, I put them into a 350 degree oven to finish cooking all the way through.

While they baked, I worked on the salad, inspired mainly by this one from Oh She Glows. It contained:

1 cup lentils
1 bunch asparagus, chopped in 3rds after removing the woody ends
one cubed Yukon gold potato (about the size of the palm of my hand)

I cooked the asparagus and potato in oil while I cooked the lentils. I mixed them all together once the potatoes were very softened and dressed the whole thing with a mustardy dressing (juice of ½ lemon, a few shakes of mustard seeds, a hefty squeeze of spicy brown mustard, a little olive oil, a splash of apple cider vinegar; as always, a very exact science).

Since the original lentil salad called for a tahini-based dressing, I had the flavor in my mind and drizzled a little bit over the patties.

These are SO light. The sweet fresh flavor and texture of the zucchini came through very strongly. Plus, the bold green stripes are pretty.

The lightness of the burger worked with the hearty salad. I drastically cut down on the amount of potato from the original recipe and I'm glad I did. The potato was just an ingredient instead of the main focus and the asparagus and lentils were able to shine.

Because I made small patties, there were a lot left over. The next day, I brought three of them to work in a mostly-empty box of arugula. I squeezed half a lemon over the patties and greens and had the perfect leftover lunch.

I highly recommend adding these to your rotation. They're pretty, they're inexpensive, and they're a one-two protein-veggie punch. Delicious!

Romesco Pork Chops & Mediterranean Salad

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

In a scheduling decision that is a first for The Chardonnay Kitchen, I’m posting two recipes back to back that were actual dinners prepared back to back. While digesting our awesomely complex and delicious seafood dinner, J remarked about the romesco, “This would be great on pork.” Lo and behold, I had Skinnytaste’s Mediterranean pork chops on the agenda for the next day. In that recipe, she just advises you season the pork with whatever you want, but top them with a fresh and flavorful Greek-inspired salad. Because of J’s brilliant comment, I upped the ante and made the pork a main attraction as well.

Gina's recipe has you roast the vegetables in the salad in the oven. Blessed with End Of Summer Produce, I kept the oven entirely off and served all of the vegetables raw. I cut the zucchini and yellow squash into long thin strips and then halved the strips. I cut the grape tomato in quarters lengthwise. Then I tossed them with the crumbled feta, pitted kalamata olives, dried oregano, white pepper, and some white balsamic vinegar (there was enough residual olive oil from the kalamatas).

All in the salad was about 4 servings. I had one and J had two helpings of the salad - so fresh and crunchy and sweet! - and I took the fourth serving to work the next day for lunch.

Once the salad was finished, I cooked four thin boneless pork chops in vegetable oil on the stove, seasoned liberally with salt and pepper. I let them rest for a minute or two on paper towels to blot off excess oil and then topped each chop with a teaspoon of the romesco.

Eating the rainbow - orange romesco, yellow + green + red + purple salad.

The sweet crunch of the salad paired beautifully with the smoky, nutty romesco. Truly, I think I would have enjoyed this salad on top of plain pork chops, but the romesco - with it's even stronger second-day flavor intensity - was outrageous on the thin chops. This was a quick weeknight meal that didn't heat up the whole house with the oven on. You now have two different ideas on how to use romesco - I'm telling you, you'll love it and you will be glad if you try it!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp with Romesco

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

While menu planning recently, J asked for lots of seafood - specifically shrimp. To me, shrimp is like chicken - it’s a very neutral canvas for a whole lotta flavor. I referred to my Future Recipes Pinterest board and merged two different ideas. Williams-Sonoma’s blog, Taste, inspired me to make a romesco sauce and grill them. Foodie Crush inspired me to wrap the shrimp in prosciutto and grill romaine lettuce, as well.

I was mostly excited to try the romesco sauce. Jarred piquillo (or roasted red) peppers, toasted almonds, and smoked paprika? Sounds like flavors I adore, but would I like the texture? I blended the following ingredients together in my baby food processor:

1 jar (10-11 ounces) piquillo peppers, drained
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic (I applied Garlic Math and ended up using 6 - 7)
2 tsp. smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

I could (and did!) eat this by the spoonful, it’s that good. It’s a gorgeous bright orange color and it is smoky and sweet with a little bit of crunchy texture from the nuts.

The sauce completed, I moved on to the shrimp. I bought a pack of prosciutto and sliced each of the pieces in half. Then, I wrapped each shrimp with the prosciutto. I also apparently kept Esther Williams in mind while arranging them on the plate.

I skewered three shrimp at a time onto pre-soaked wooden skewers and tossed them on the grill pan.

I turned them after 3 – 4 minutes and continued to flip them until the shrimp were fully opaque.

Once the shrimp were done, I drizzled romaine halves with olive oil and put them face down on the pan. I did these one at a time because our pan isn’t that big.

I topped the shrimp and the romaine with the romesco and included a radish + pea side salad – so much crunchiness on this plate!

Grilling romaine is the best, isn’t it? I love those stripey char marks and the slightly wilted warm pieces in the same bite as the crispy fresh non-grilled parts. I’m glad I kept the sides so fresh and neutral flavor-wise because this shrimp was to die for.

The prosciutto became crispy around the super tender shrimp and brought the perfect amount of saltiness. If you like bacon-wrapped scallops at weddings, prosciutto-wrapped shrimp needs to get onto your menu.

My biggest takeaway from this delicious meal is that romesco is my new favorite condiment, hands down. I could do one with green peppers and cumin, with marinated onions and smoked salt, or really just stick with this original piquillo and paprika perfection. It was the smokiness of the paprika that got me hook, line, and sinker. It is absolutely aggressive in it’s deliciousness. I knew it would be incredible paired with other proteins and, if you come back and read tomorrow’s post, I will show that attempt!

Chorizo Breakfast Bake

Friday, September 19, 2014

A few weeks ago, we invited some of J's coworkers over for brunch. It was so nice for all of us to kick back and relax together. In addition to the main attractions - bellinis and Bloodies - I also served food. The biggest hit was a crustless chorizo egg bake.

- 10 large eggs
- 1/2 cup fresh salsa (or jarred if that's your thing)
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 (or more!) cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 poblano pepper
- 1 bell pepper (I chose yellow, but pick your favorite color)
- 8 ounces chorizo
- shredded cheese of your choice (I tried Sargento's Nacho & Taco blend - not paid, not an endorsement, but it was pretty good!)
- salt and pepper

First, I browned all of the chorizo - if you opt for pre-cooked, you can certainly skip this step and simply cut it to your desired size. I removed it from the pan onto a paper towel-covered plate to drain a bit and scooped out most of the fats from the pan. I left a little bit behind and sautéed the onion in it. After a few minutes, I added the garlic and peppers in as well and cooked until the peppers just started to soften. I pulled the vegetables off the heat and let them cool.

Once cooled, I tossed the chorizo and vegetables into a lightly oiled casserole pan and covered with one or two handfuls of shredded cheese.

In a separate bowl, scramble all 10 of the eggs thoroughly. Having learned from my last multiple egg cooking attempt, I added three heavy pinches salt and a bunch black pepper (as much as you want, really). Add in the salsa and mix to combine. Pour the egg mixture over the chorizo and vegetables.

I topped it all off with another hearty helping of cheese. Because cheese is wonderful. I baked it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees until the top looked golden and the eggs looked cooked through.

YUM. I let it cool for about 10 minutes before serving, but it is as delicious room temperature - I confirmed this 4 hours later when there was only one helping left and I ate it directly out of the dish with a fork.

I also made zucchini and cream cheese muffins that were... Not Good. J swears they were delicious and not a single muffin remained, but I thought they were dense and chewy, almost gummy. Avoid. I also made a fruit salad of sliced strawberries and red grapes with a balsamic vinegar-vanilla extract-Campari-lemon zest reduction. It was Fancy and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who actually used the reduction. More for me!

All in, the egg bake was a hit. It was so simple to put together, and I'm sure you could even cook all the vegetables the night before to save time day-of. It was spicy from the chorizo and salsa, but it wasn't so hot that it completely burned out your taste buds. I think serving some fresh avocado on top would also be an outrageous and tasty addition.

There weren't any leftovers (after I scarfed down that last serving when the guests left) , but I had hoped for some to take a square to work for lunch! I'll definitely be making this again!

A "Chopped" Double Date

Thursday, September 18, 2014

This past weekend, J and I hopped a Metro North train to spend Saturday evening with our friends Matt & Kat. Beyond just the pleasure of their company, we were excited and ready for a battle. The four of us decided to turn our evening into a Chopped-style night!

Over email earlier in the week, we agreed to skip time limits so we could just enjoy ourselves. We went roughly with 1 Protein, 1 Vegetable, and 1 Weird. They cook as often as we do so they also offered up their fridge and cabinets to be the "pantry" ingredients. There was plenty of wine and beer and a great Pandora station to fuel us through the rounds - here's what went down:

Appetizer: Team Connecticut
Mystery ingredients: (chosen by Team NYC)
Bay scallops

They served up radish and red apple salad served in cucumber boats with bay scallops seared in bacon fat with fresh sliced green onions and a Greek yogurt "aioli" with horseradish. The cool crunchy salad plus the creamy scallops and the tangy aioli was bomb dot com. I want to make it all over again for a dinner party.

Dinner: Team NYC
Mystery ingredients: (chosen by Team Connecticut)
Red snapper
Cremini mushrooms

WTF is rambutan? It's that crazy urchin-lookin' fruit above. It tasted very much like a lychee mixed with a pear. The fruit itself was really translucent and mild so I figured it could be a sweet pop in the mushroom stuffing.

J handled the shrimp and made a pan seared snapper topped with spicy peanut sauce (peanut butter, soy, chili flakes, cayenne, rice vinegar). I made stuffed cremini mushrooms filled with chopped mushroom stems, rambutan, crumbled crackers, and Worcestershire. The cauliflower turned into pan-cooked "rice" seasoned with fresh lime juice.

Dessert: The Wives
Mystery ingredients: (chosen by The Husbands)
Granny Smith apples
Ginger snap cookies

Kat started on the apples, slicing them thinly and mixing with orange segments. She cooked them in butter with grated fresh ginger, lemon juice, and lemon curd until the apples softened. I crumbled the ginger snaps and made maple-candied prosciutto. My first attempt? We threw it in the oven.... under the broiler. There were flames. I almost set my friends' house on fire! My biggest regret is not taking a photo of the pan engulfed in flames. Alas! (We all laughed about it mere minutes later.) The second attempt, I did the prosciutto in a pan on the stove and 'basted' it with maple syrup as it crisped up. We served the whole mess of fruity gingery bacony deliciousness with a scoop of pumpkin spice Talenti in bowls.

Breakfast, prepared by The Husbands, required the use of avocado. After a late night with lots of feasting, wine, and beer, they opted for a classic -- fresh bagels topped with mashed avocado, fresh tomatoes from the garden, and soft boiled eggs. Beyond perfection and my phone died so I took no pictures.

Collectively we decided that the Appetizer round was the best of the bunch. It was so pretty and they used the mystery ingredients really well with other pantry ingredients. The biggest winner? The whole idea! We cannot wait to do it again and invite additional participants as well.

Simple Side Dish: Cauliflower Gratin

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

One of our go-to side vegetables is cauliflower. It is easily transformed into soups, purees, “rice”, and pizza crust and it takes on a variety of flavors beautifully. Recently I made this cauliflower gratin and loved it.

I’m always so terrible about using actual recipe-recommended measurements and started with a full head of cauliflower of an unknown weight. I also had closer to 25 black olives and did not cut them in half. I also skipped parsley. So basically I did it all wrong, but I kept the main three components: cauliflower, olives, and that wonderful blessing called cheese.

All in all, it’s a pretty simple recipe. I started off by quickly blanching the cauliflower florets (boiling for a few minutes and then dunking in ice water). Once cooled, they went into a casserole dish.

I cooked a chopped onion in some oil until it began to soften, then added 2 cloves of chopped garlic and the non-sliced olives to heat up oh-so-briefly.

I tossed the olive/onion mixture onto the cauliflower and attempted to mix it. Do you know what happened? The Small Pieces (O&O) fell to the bottom in the nooks and crannies of the Big Pieces (cauliflower). I would personally recommend that you toss the florets, onion, olives, and some of the cheese in a large bowl, maybe with a bit of oil as well, so everything incorporates more evenly.

Oh right - the cheese! I went with Parmesan and it was not anywhere close to half a cup all in, but I covered the top of the casserole and it looked great.

Bake at 350 degrees for at least 30 minutes until the cheese browns.

It is so, so good. You have the cheesy crust on top, the tender cauliflower, and then the bright salty burst of olives. I served this on appetizer-sized plates next to massive bowls of mussels, but I assure you that I had seconds (and maybe J had thirds). Cauliflower fans, definitely give this one a try!

Napa Chicken & Vegetable Bake

Monday, September 15, 2014

On Friday I mentioned my habit of auditing my kitchen cabinets. What do I have stuck back there? How can I use up what I’ve already purchased? Enter Napa seasoning.

I have no idea where we got this seasoning blend. The website listed on the back goes to a granola company. Googling the brand brings us to the Napa General Store, but it's not for sale. I found it on Amazon but you can't actually purchase it. It's basically a tin of herbs blended together that are scrumptious on chicken. The first of the ingredients listed? "Spices." I know, I can't. It reads: spices, sea salt, dried garlic, orange peel, chiles, lemon peel. So it's a little spicy, definitely salty, and zingy from the citrus. Plus spices. Even though it's a mystery, it's delicious.

I was inspired by a trio of recipes - two from Real Simple and one by The Pioneer Woman - that all involved baking green beans.

I went with green beans, quartered button mushrooms, peppadew peppers, fresh rosemary, a diced half onion, and chopped bacon.

I also tucked some lemon slices into the mix. I simply tossed everything but the lemon and rosemary together, poured it into a lightly oiled lasagna or casserole pan, and nestled the lemon wedges and whole sprigs of rosemary on top.

I want to lay down and take a nap on this. Or at least bottle the aroma and maybe burn it as a candle or possibly spritz it onto my pulse points.

I liberally rubbed the Mystery Napa Spices onto 8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, getting as much underneath the skin as possible. Those went on top and the whole thing went into a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.

And all of your taste buds kick into overdrive. The chicken is crispy and moist and so flavorful. And the vegetables are rocking, as well.

The bacon has crisped up, the mushrooms and peppadews have released all of their glorious juices, the green beans are tender but not mushy, and everything smells like lemon juice and rosemary. I could make this dish chicken-free and it would be a hit.

My iPhone illustrates that this whole plate visually skews toward brown, but the flavors are a rainbow. Yes that is a cheesy and ridiculous thing to say, but bear with me. All of the vegetables are done perfectly and, like I said above, would be delicious on it's own. I could also see this working well topped with pork chops or a tenderloin, or even a hearty fish like salmon. I'd also consider using this Napa blend on non-chicken, but it really was made for it.

This is a thing of beauty, no? You can see the pieces of chiles and the large flecks of sea salt - spicy and salty chicken alone is a gorgeous combination. But then you add the dried citrus peel and the elusive "spices"? If you can get your hands on this stuff, grab some. Take it hope. Massage the hell out of your preferred cut of chicken. It is so worth it.
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