So last night marked my first meal in residence. What better way to cure any homesickness than to whip up something gourmet. You heard me; microwave not included. As with most of my cooking, neither was a recipe. All you need to do is make a trip to the supermarket. Pick up the ingredients and flavors that are calling to you. It also helps to buy things that are in season (they are cheaper and often on sale). This meant local corn and wild blueberries. Next, the protein. I chose pork which carries sweet flavors (like corn and blueberries) quite well. Not to mention one chop cost me all of $2. When cooking for yourself, you obviously don’t need to buy in bulk. So if you want one pork chop, just ask the butcher to wrap up an individual one for you, they should be more than happy to do so. Finally, I needed a starch. I love risotto so I picked up some arborio rice (a special, Italian, short grain variety used in applications like risotto). People are often intimidated by risotto because they think it is fancy and therefore difficult to make. But if you can stir and have the patience to wait maybe 20-25 minutes, you can make some for yourself! So it was all decided, I was having a seared (cooked in a really hot pan until nice and golden) pork chop with risotto, sauteed corn and blueberry sauce.
Now let the cooking begin. It is best to prepare the “mise en place” first. In French this means, “everything in its place”. Then when you actually start cooking, all your ingredients are there and ready to go. For this meal, all that entailed was getting the ingredients all lined up on the counter. I also took the husk off the corn and used my knife to shave the kernels off.
Next I started with the risotto because out of everything, it takes the longest to cook. I sauteed some garlic (half a clove but it all depends on how garlicky you like it) and olive oil in a pot over medium heat until it was golden brown and nutty smelling. At this point I added about 1/4 cup of arborio rice, which is plenty for one serving. You let it all toast for a minute or two, after which you start adding chicken stock. It is a process of adding and stirring, adding and stirring. Once the liquid has absorbed, you add more. You know it is done when the rice is tender and creamy (like I said, this takes about 20-25 minutes).
Meanwhile I cooked the corn in a separate pan (over medium heat) with salt, pepper and white truffle oil. Now this is an expensive, specialty ingredient with almost a delicate, garlic undertone. Not everyone has it on hand, I understand that, in which case you can just use olive oil. The corn will begin to become more yellow when it is finishing cooking. Remove it from the heat. I just put it in a separate bowl and covered it with foil to stay warm.
Then in the same pan that I cooked the corn, I added a bit more olive oil, turned the heat to medium/high and browned my pork chop. It was quite thin so it took no more than 4 minutes per side. The key with searing meat is 1. get your pan hot enough 2. DON’T TOUCH IT! If you try to flip it too soon, the meat will stick to the pan. Stop yanking at it and let it be! It will let go of the pan when it is ready, telling you that it is time to flip. Yes, you heard me right, listen to your pork chop!
Bare with me, we are almost there. The pork chop finished, so I took it out of the pan to rest. When you cook meat, the juices get all agitated. If you cut it right away, they will flow right out of the meat, causing it to become dry (eww). Wait 5-10 minutes, problem solved. In the meantime, it was sauce time. I deglazed the pork chop pan with chicken stock. By pouring in the liquid, it gets all of the yummy brown bits off of the bottom, adding richness to your sauce. The only other ingredients were blueberries and sugar. I let everything bubble down and reduce. The liquid evaporates leaving you with a slightly thickened, almost syrupy glaze.
Plating time! Sure you could slop it all on and it would still taste good, but what’s the fun in that? Get artistic and make it look pretty. After all, you went to all this effort to make a gourmet dinner.
The only part I forgot to mention, is season, season, season. The 2 most important ingredients you will ever use are salt and pepper. Without them, you are doomed! And the only way to know how much to use is to taste. If you think something needs more salt, add it! Don’t listen to all the high sodium shananigans. When you are using fresh ingredients that aren’t salty to begin with, you need to add it in order to elevate their flavor potential. It’s not going to give you a heart attack, I promise!
I will admit, this isn’t the simplest thing I could have chosen as my first meal. Hopefully I didn’t scare you off already! But in all honesty, it shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes to make. And there aren’t any parts of the recipe that you can mess up. The worst you could do is overcook the pork. So get cooking and don’t forget to have fun 🙂