Pause for happy dance. Happy, happy, joy, joy :D!
Considering myself an intermediate cook, I am learning skills and techniques all the time all the while putting pretty good food on the dinner table. Italian Family has been textbook for a lot of my recent culinary education experience. In Anne Casale's book there are detailed illustrated instructions for the at-home butcher and pasta maker as well as loads of four-to-five course, Italian-style dinner menu suggestions all from the inards of recipes. Have I mentioned the recipes because its about flipping time. Here is the blunt recommenation; if you love food but have an adoration for Italian cuisine beyond what most people would define as 'rational,' this is a must have cook book. There are traditional and flavoful, updated old county recipes ranging from appetizers, to rice, to vegetables, to sauces, to homemade desserts! So go buy it already :). This past Tuesday night I turned to my trusty favorite Italian cookbook after buying some boneless, skinless pork chops. Of course I find the perfect dish for the night,
Involtini di Maiale or Herb Stuffed Pork Chops
Many times when a home cook turns to a cookbook they go in with full knowledge that they are not going to have all the written ingredients in their kitchen. For me (and probably a lot of cooks), this is one of the most rewarding and fun parts of making the meal. For the homemade stuffing I had some leftover Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix so I used that along with 2 gloves of chopped garlic, 1 carrot, and 1/2 a medium sweet onion cooked in butter and chicken stock. When the stuffing is soaking and fluffing in the veg/stock mixture is when the addtion of oodles and oodles of herbs occurs. In my freezer I had some fresh sage and thyme so I added about 1-2 teaspoons of each of those, teaspoon of dried basil, teaspoon of dried parsley, salt, red pepper flakes, and an Italian seasoning mixture. If I had any nuts in the house, I would've toasted and chopped some up as well like Casale does with pine nuts, but alas, I was out!
Since I bought some pre-butterflied, boneless pork chops all I had to do was stuff the chops, secure with toothpicks, dredge in flour flavored with salt and pepper, and put them in a preheated pan with 2 tblsp. of extra virgin olive oil and 1 tblsp. of butter to brown on all sides. Next following Casale's instructions I took the chops out once they browned leaving drippings in the pan and then deglazing it with some white wine while scraping the goodness that has cooked onto the bottom. At this point, Casale advises adding back-in the chops and rest of the cup of wine, covering the pan and putting the whole thing in a 300 degree oven for 20 min. basting about every 15 min. However, I did not use an ovenready pan on the stove so I used a glass casserole pan putting the chops and all the juices in the dish in a 350 degreee oven for 20 minutes, uncovered, basting when I could. This adaptation worked out just as beautifully as the published one and made for one satisfying night in!
Ok, so enough about the chops already! How about them gorgeous twins the side dishes? The rice is an herb basmati rice with many of the same flavors as the stuffing without the heat. I dont't really know why but I am especially proud of my seasoned balsamic vinegar zucchini because like Iron Chef Cat Cora this veg dish came right from hip! It was so simple to put together and so incredibly easy to make, this dish should be illegal for real. For Pete and I one medium zucchini was enough so always figure that as the base ratio of serving sizes. In a medium sauce pan over medium high heat bring extra virgin olive oil up to temperature so the veg sizzles once dropped in the pan. While the oil is heating, cut 1 1/2 inch pieces of the zucchini leaving the skins on. Add balsamic vinegar to the hot oil and then start putting in the zucchini letting them lightly brown on all sides. Here is the only tricky part-don't overcook this veg because it cooks very quickly! 1-2 minutes on each side for the color and that's it. When you've got the color, have a papertowel over a regular bowl ready to receive the hot and fresh pieces of the zucc. In the papertowel I seasoned my veg with a creole blend, flipped over the towel into the bowl, and voila! Finito. Delicate, delicious, flavorful, perfectly cooked zucchini makes me so happy I should tell Anne Casale about it!
(sorry there isn't much variety in the pics! It's tough to take pics of dinner when you are ready to eat!)