Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there! Hope it was wonderful. Well, I found out that Isaac has never made a meal for the family. I immediately took action and forced Isaac to make a meal today. It was fun to be joined by another chef in the Hinckley Kitchen. We made Pork Chops with an Apple Compote, Steamed Artichoke with Herbed-Butter for dipping, Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, and the Most Delicious Gravy Ever (yeah, dorky I know... that's the only name I could think of). And for Dessert? Drumroll please...Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting. To sum it all up, the Mother's Day dinner was a big hit. It was absolutely scrumptious :)

Pork Chops with an Apple Compote

Pork Chops:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sea or Kosher salt
  • 1 quart apple juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 4 double-cut bone-in loin pork chops (we simply cut a pork roast into 4 thick slices)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Apple Compote:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced in 1/2-inch-thick chunks
  • Leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch dry mustard
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl combine the brown sugar, sea salt, apple juice, peppercorns, and thyme. Give it a good stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Transfer the mixture to an extra-large re-sealable plastic bag. Submerge the pork chops in the brine, seal up the bag, and put it in the refrigerator for 2 hours to tenderize the meat. Do not brine longer than that or the meat will break down too much and get mushy.
Remove the pork chops from the brine and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides of the meat with salt and pepper. Put a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add a 3-count drizzle of olive oil and get it hot. Lay 2 pork chops in the pan (most likely only 2 of these pork chops will fit comfortably) and brown 4 minutes per side. Remove the pork chops to a large baking pan; brown the remaining 2 chops and add them to the others in the pan. Put the baking pan in the oven and roast the chops for 20-30 minutes. The pork is done when the center is still rosy.
While the chops cook, melt the butter in a clean skillet over medium-low heat. Add the apples and thyme and coat in the butter; cook and stir for 8 minutes to give them some color. Toss in the raisins and add the apple juice, stirring to scrape up the brown bits. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and dry mustard; season with salt and pepper. Add in the lemon juice to wake up the flavor and simmer for 10 minutes or until the apples break down and soften. Spoon the apple compote over the pork chops.

Steamed Whole Artichokes
  • 2 sprigs parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken broth or water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 whole artichoke


Put the parsley, garlic, bay leaf, lemon juice, oil and broth in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Season the liquid with salt and pepper. In the meantime prepare the artichokes.
Wash artichokes under cold water. Using a heavy stainless steel knife, cut off the stems close to the base. Pull off the lower petals that are small and tough. Cut off the top inch of the artichoke. If you wish, trim the thorny tips of the petals with kitchen shears.
Place the artichokes in the steaming liquid, bottom up. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. The artichokes are done when a knife is inserted into the base and there is no resistance (almost like butter).
To eat, pull off a leaf and scrape the meat off the tender end with your front teeth. Dip the ends of the leaves in Herbed-Butter if desired. (Herbed-Butter is simply 1/2 cup butter melted with basil, oregano, and garlic.) When you reach the center cone of purple prickly leaves, remove it. This is the choke that protects the heart. Now, scrape away the thistle fuzz covering the artichoke heart. The heart is the meatiest part of the artichoke.

Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

  • 10 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated


Put the potatoes into a large pot, add the bay leaf, 1 tablespoon salt, and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain them well and remove the bay leaf. Immediately start to mash the potatoes. Add the butter, cream, garlic and season with salt and pepper. Mash the potatoes until you reach a smooth/chunky texture (or however you like them). Mix in the Parmesan with a spoon at the end.

The Most Delicious Gravy Ever
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream


In a saucepan, cook the butter and onions over medium-low heat for 12 to 15 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Don't rush this step; it makes all the difference when the onions are well-cooked.
Sprinkle the flour into the pan, whisk in, then add the salt and pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and cook uncovered for 4 to 5 minutes until thickened. Add the cream. Season, to taste, and serve.

Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
*This cake recipe is healthy, moist, and so delicious. (Sorry, but unfortunately the frosting is not healthy, but it sure tastes good!)
3 cups sifted whole wheat flour (sifted, then measured)
1 cup sweetened dried coconut
1 cup crushed walnuts
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
1/2 vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups finely grated carrots
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, well drained
1 1/2 packages cream cheese (8-oz), room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons coconut extract
3 cups powdered sugar (more or less)
1/2 cup sweetened dried coconut
For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Combine the flour, dried coconut, and walnuts. Add in the ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
Using electric mixer or fork, beat honey, sugar, and oil in a bowl to blend. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Beat into the dry mixture. Add in the carrots and crushed pineapple.
Divide batter among pans. Bake until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool in pans on racks about 10 minutes. Run knife around edge of pans to loosen cakes. Turn cakes out onto racks; cool completely.
For frosting:
Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in coconut milk and both extracts. Gradually add in powdered sugar. Stir in dried coconut. You may need to chill until firm enough to spread.
Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread 1/3 of frosting over top of cake. Top with second cake layer. Spread another 1/3 of frosting over. Top with third cake layer, pressing slightly to adhere. Spread the remaining frosting over top.  Sprinkle of crushed walnuts and dried coconut. Chill cake for 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead--this will give it a better flavor.) Cover with cake dome or plastic wrap and chill. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

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