I wish I could blame the moon or the alignment of the planets for last Friday’s chaos, but I don’t know if I can. I wish I could point my fingers at too much wine, or not enough sleep, but no. I can only blame myself for taking on a subject that I have little knowledge, aside from Bourdain’s adventures to Southeast Asia, and a vaguely remembered conversation involving adzuki beans and plum sauce a few days beforehand with one of my culinary friends named Ryan. Yes, I have two culinary friends named Ryan. Truth be told, I really had no idea what the heck I was doing. And I’ve got the burned fingers and bruised bones to prove it. Yeah, it got physical.
As you may have read in an earlier post, I’ve recently found myself intrigued by Asian cooking. Not sure where that came from as I’ve had little to no interest in cooking Asian in the past. Perhaps it was the adventurer in me. The itchy feet and almost constant desire to explore unknown lands and peoples. Or maybe it’s simply the challenge of learning to balance new and exotic ingredients and tastes. Either way, I had no business taking on something so vastly different than what I’m used to cooking without a map. Read: cookbook.
Thus, it begins. The first thing I attempted to make that fated morning seemed simple enough. At least in my head. Barley and adzuki patties with leeks and golden beets. Of course, it started out innocently enough. Beans and grains cooked nicely on the stove, beet was roasted to perfection, leeks thinly sliced and laying adorably with their little spiraled anticipation. Then I remembered I needed breadcrumbs. Despite having a galley kitchen, our counter space leaves us wanting. Our toaster was, unsurprisingly, shoved behind a few random pans so the logical thing to do, of course, was pop a couple of slices of bread in the oven for a quick toast.
Oh why haven’t I learned my lesson with that one? How quickly memories of burning slice after slice of bread in our oven when we were between toasters drift from my mind.
So, I’m in the kitchen, bread gently toasting in the oven as I am, as usual, distracted with something else. Oh geez! The bread. I open the oven door and not only are my once lovely slices of whole grain bread burnt to a blackened char, They Are On Fire. Yes, fire. Flames, Dina yelling, “OH GOD”, Adam jumping out of bed and into the kitchen as I’m blowing out these giant flames trying to remember where the heck the fire extinguisher is in our building and how quickly could I get to it before this turned into a REAL fire. Blowing, blowing, blowing, and by the time Adam reaches the kitchen the flames have been reduced to smoldering char. It happened that quickly.
And I try again. But using our toaster this time, and magically the bread toast perfectly. After a quick zoom through the food processor, lo and behold! Breadcrumbs.
Just so you know, when things like this happen I usually blame the Catholic in me. For some reason, even if we are no longer practicing Catholics, we have a knack for making things as difficult as possible. Our version of self-flagellation, I suppose. Did I mention that I burned my fingers on a not quite cooled pan AND fell down the stairs (bruising my hip and straining the heck out of my right arm. Thank goodness I’m left-handed) taking out the trash? ALL in the same morning?
Despite my perfect breadcrumbs, failure still reared his ugly little head. The adzuki-barley mixture tasted wonderful, but I couldn’t get the patties to hold together in the pan. Maybe it’s because I’ve never made non-meat patties before and I, big surprise, didn’t have a recipe guiding me. So I stirred in an egg, and then two, into the mixture and then realized that I just royally screwed up and had no energy to try to save the dish. Into the trash it went.
Here is where I didn’t fail: pork chops glazed with homemade plum sauce. You are going to hate me because I made the sauce by taste, a splash of this and a dash of that. So this is where I say trust your instincts. Lick your fingers and let the flavors mingle on your tongue until it, well, feels right.
As Ryan number two says. This is where you cook.
Pork Chops Glazed with Plum Sauce and Micro Greens with an Appetizer of Braised Baby Bok Choy and Miso Soup
Feel free to use bottled plum sauce. I just couldn’t find any when I was shopping, so I decided to make it myself instead of going to another store.
What you’ll need~
~ For the Plum Sauce
One jar of plum jam (I used Susinata Italian Plum Preserves). The fewer the ingredients, the better.
One clove of garlic, minced
Two teaspoons or so ginger, finely shredded using a microplane
About 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
A splash or two of shoyu
A splash or two of sesame oil
A few dashes of crushed red pepper flakes
A handful of chopped cilantro
~For the Pork Chops
Two pork chops
~For the Appetizer
Braised Baby Bock Choy and Miso Soup
Adapted from Epicurious.com
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons butter
3-4 baby bok choy
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Splash of rice wine vinegar
Juice from one small lime
Large pinch of freshly ground green peppercorns
Combine all of the ingredients, minus the cilantro, in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove pan from heat, stir in cilantro, and let sit for 15 minutes or so to let the flavors meld.
Preheat your oven to 350
Warm olive oil in a cast iron skillet or oven-safe pan over medium to medium-high heat. When your oil begins to shimmer, gently place pork chops in a pan and sear one side for about 3-4 minutes.
Using your tongs, flip pork chop to sear other aside. As chop is searing, brush plum sauce over seared side.
Flip chop, brush second side with plum sauce and place pan in preheated oven.
Cook pork chop for about 15-20 minutes, turning it with your tongs a few times during cooking time. If you have a meat thermometer, the center of the cut should read at 165.
Serve over a bed of micro greens.
~Braised Baby Bok Choy
Bring broth and butter to a simmer in a large saucepan. Add bok choy, garlic and rice wine vinegar. Cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes until bok choy is tender.
Remove bok choy from pan and place in a serving dish. Keeping it warm.
Bring broth mixture to a boil and let reduce to about 1/4 cup. Stir in sesame oil, lime juice and ground pepper to taste.
Pour mixture over bok choy and serve with miso soup of your choice. I like chickpea miso made by Miso Master.
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