Pan-fried brined pork chops, plus soda bread and a spin on roasted potatoes.

Brined pork chops presented in a column of roasted smashed potatoes and sweet English peas, with crumbles of goat cheese.

Brined pork chops presented in a column of roasted smashed potatoes and sweet English peas, with crumbles of goat cheese.

Pork chops for St Patty's Day?

Absolutely. St Patrick's Day -- which lands right in the middle of Lent -- traditionally is a day where Catholic churches let people eat and drink what they want. 

So why not pork chops? Any day is a good day for these brined babies. With my big EuroCAST skillet, I can cook up four of them, perfect for me and the folks I gather around the table. 

I recommend bone-in chops because they magically keep the chop moist during cooking -- and to my eye makes the dish drop-dead gorgeous.

EuroCAST's largest skillet is perfect for this dish. The peas lurking in the background are offering some green on the plate. Take them up on the offer. 

EuroCAST's largest skillet is perfect for this dish. The peas lurking in the background are offering some green on the plate. Take them up on the offer. 

Pan fried brined pork chops

Ingredients

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 3 T. black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • 4 bone-in pork chops about 3/4" - 1" inch thick

Procedure

For the brine

  1. Add salt and sugar in a large plastic zipper bags -- or two zipper bags if you're like me and want some extra security -- along with two cups water.
  2. Add the pork chops and leave the whole business in a large bowl (extra extra security) in the refrigerator.
Photo Mar 13, 12 48 09 PM.jpg

Ideally you could leave these babies in the fridge for a few days, but it sometimes happens that you've just come back from shopping the day you're cooking these up. Just fish out the chops first and get these working in the brine step above. By the time you’ve put the groceries away and the got the rest of dinner sorted, you’ve got a nicely bathed and brined chop.

For the chops

  1. Remove the chops from the brine and pat dry. 
  2. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  3. Heat the skillet over medium high heat and add 3 tablespoons olive oil. I use the biggest skillet so all four fit quite nicely in it.
  4. Fry the first side until well-browned and caramely, 2-3 minutes, then turn over and brown the other side, until done through.
  5. Turn off the heat.
  6. Slide 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter into the pan.
  7. Leaving the chops in the pan, let them rest, my friends. Let rest.

Serve with the melted butter and pan juices.

The brine leaves a thin veneer of sugar that browns beautifully as you cook the chops in the skillet. 

The brine leaves a thin veneer of sugar that browns beautifully as you cook the chops in the skillet. 

Irish Soda Bread

Cheese and apples gather around the loaf because it's gorgeous.

Cheese and apples gather around the loaf because it's gorgeous.

I'm spinning this soda bread my way, and I think you'll love it.

Soda bread is a quick, reliable bread ... quick because it doesn't use yeast to generate carbon dioxide for fluffiness, but instead uses a combination of a base (baking soda) and acid (lactic acid from the buttermilk) which -- as all you chemistry nerds remember -- immediately results in carbon dioxide. It's reliable because you're not at the mercy of temperatures and healthy active yeast cultures.

Oh, did I mention it's wicked tasty? I mean, Lent is suspended for a day on St Patty's Day, after all. 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup, softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/2 cups full-fat buttermilk

Procedure

  1. Mix above ingredients until well-blended. Let rest 10 minutes ... because chemistry.
  2. Dump out onto a lightly-floured board and knead gently to bring it together into a round loaf.
  3. Don’t overdo it, though. The bread should look slightly unkempt when you place it on your slightly-oiled EuroCAST skillet. That's what will make it flakey when it's baked. 
  4. With a very sharp knife, cut a large X over the top. You'll be glad you did. 

Brush with:

  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk

Bake the bread at 375 degrees F on your the EuroCAST griddle or in your EuroCAST skillet (handle removed!) until well browned. 40-50 minutes. 

Butter peas

I did these without the onion. 

I did these without the onion. 

This is my nod to a salad in the menu.

Get some frozen peas and, if you like, one-fourth of an onion, diced. And some sweet butter. This is easy-peasy. Oh, wait, did I just make a joke there? Hmmm. 

  1. Melt 2 T butter in a saucepan.
  2. Add 1/4 diced onion if you like and cook till soft.
  3. Add 1 pound frozen best-quality peas, not thawed.
  4. Add 1/2 cup water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, simmer on low for five minutes or until they are just cooked. You don't want them mushy.
  5. Add a dash of salt.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a bowl, serve alongside other dishes, or see the hero photo at the top of this posting for a lovely serving suggestion.

Smashed Potatoes with herbs and goat cheese

Crispy outside, creamy inside, served warm with good quality olive oil and herbs imparting a rich flavor, and topped with goat cheese crumbles. Behold, smashed potatoes. The rosemary in the pic could be added to the dish (see the recipe) but, and it's worth all caps, "IT'S WOEFULLY STRONG. PROCEED WITH CAUTION." See the tips below. Or, be safe. Use marjoram.

Crispy outside, creamy inside, served warm with good quality olive oil and herbs imparting a rich flavor, and topped with goat cheese crumbles. Behold, smashed potatoes. The rosemary in the pic could be added to the dish (see the recipe) but, and it's worth all caps, "IT'S WOEFULLY STRONG. PROCEED WITH CAUTION." See the tips below. Or, be safe. Use marjoram.

I'm tempted to call this Irish Potato Revenge, because, first, you aggressively smash potatoes (a lack of which in Ireland spurred the Irish emigration to North America), and second because these are new potatoes, which are a waxy potato (as opposed to Irish russets, which are starchy potatoes). 

But, as fun as it is to smash little potatoes with a cookie sheet, the goal is to delight, not to even a historical score about a disastrous potato famine. 

Photo Mar 13, 12 48 35 PM.jpg

These smashed potatoes are terrific because you boil them to develop creaminess inside the potato, and then you smash and roast them to build a crust on the outside. They roast faster because they're flatter (and parboiled), too -- a bonus. 

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F. In salted lukewarm water in a pot on the stove, add the new potatoes. When they're soft enough that you can put a fork in them with some ease, pour out the water, places the potatoes on tea towels on your counter and let any residual water run off.
  2. Cover the potatoes with wax paper. Get out a cookie sheet, place on top, and lean into it. You're smashing the potatoes down so the skins split. 
  3. Put them on a EuroCAST skillet or griddle (handle removed!), top with S&P and olive oil, working the olive oil into and all over the potatoes. 
  4. Put into your pre-heated oven for about 15-20 minutes. Remove. You can now either dress them with goat cheese and leave them be, or put on some herbs of choice, some goat cheese, and put them back in the oven for five minutes. 
  5. Then remove and let them cool for a while before eating. 

As for herbs. I think rosemary is wicked strong. I wouldn't put it into the pan at the beginning if you use it at all. Maybe five minutes before being done (see Step 4), sprinkle some rosemary pulled off the stem (just run your hands backwards over the stem). Not much. 

I prefer adding something like shallots (paper off) diced perhaps added in Step 4. And then add marjoram, too. You can leave the marjoram on the stem or take it off. If you leave it on the stem, you can remove the marjoram before presenting. 

And then, of course, goat cheese. I like some fresh at the end -- even if some goes into the pan for the last five minutes. 

Dinner is not just about food. It ought to be as much about restoring your joy. Hence, the spinning tops you see in the photo above. And lo, the simplicity of a sweet apple. Plus, the saltiness of marcona almonds. They go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong. (Hat tip to Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, whose lyrics for the musical  Grease  get away with lots and lots of boogedy boogedy boogedy boogedy.) Remember, restore your joy.

Dinner is not just about food. It ought to be as much about restoring your joy. Hence, the spinning tops you see in the photo above. And lo, the simplicity of a sweet apple. Plus, the saltiness of marcona almonds. They go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong. (Hat tip to Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, whose lyrics for the musical Grease get away with lots and lots of boogedy boogedy boogedy boogedy.) Remember, restore your joy.

Paul WardComment