Monday, August 07, 2006


Note to Self: When a pot has sat in a 350-degree F oven for at least 90 minutes, and you take said pot out of oven to put on stove to reduce the liquid a little more, do not, I repeat, do not be suprised that when you grab the handle of said pot to scoot it over on the burner WITH YOUR BARE HAND, that you will let out a ear-piercing yell and jump up and down in a most unculinarian-like fashion. But, I didn't curse, which is saying a whole hell of a lot. A whole hell.

Today, we travel to the Mighty Midwest! No Miracle Whip, no Jell-O in sight, which most people (former and current Midwesterners) seem to find odd. Behold! The menu for the Midwest:

Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup (more on this later...)

Baked Stuffed Porkchops (you can guess what was our favorite dish today, can't you?)

Flounder A L’Orly (fried fish with tomato sauce and a fancy gussied up name!)

Braised Sauerkraut (very familiar with this dish, am I)

Glazed Sweet Potatoes (with fresh pineapple in the sauce...mmmmmmm!)

Gnocchi Gratinati (this is not your old Italian mama's was more like polenta. I think I mentioned we did this last quarter, and I can't figure out why it's called "gnocchi" unless it's because it's dumplings of a potatoes anywhere, though.)

Grilled Vegetables with a soy sauce glaze (lots of soy sauce usage in the Midwest?)

Soft rolls (fresh out of the oven bread!!!! Yes!)

Apple-Walnut Turnovers with Vanilla Whipped cream (yep, they were as good as they sound!)

My responsibilities for the day were the Sweet Potatoes, the aforementioned Sauerkraut of Doom, and the Wisconsin Cheese Soup.

Let's just get that sauerkraut out of the way. I rendered some salt pork to get the fat (don't ever eat the browned little cubes no matter how much they look like little chicharrones...they aren't or at least these weren't), and sauteed some chopped onions, grated apple, and grated potato in the fat. Then, I added in the sauerkraut (thank heavens we didn't have to make our own sauerkraut, or I'd still be there), some chicken stock, a few juniper berries, and some caraway seeds. Brought it back up to a simmer, and then clamped a lid on it, and slid it into the oven to braise for 90 minutes. I did mention that it was a 350-degree oven, didn't I?

The recipe noted that if you pull the 'kraut out of the oven and it seems too liquidy, you can pop it on the stove and simmer to reduce a little more. Which is what I did, safely, with my side towel. I promptly put my side towel back in place, which was my fatal mistake. I started to stir the soup, which was on the burner in back of the 'kraut. While stirring, I noticed that the sauerkraut pot was a little off-kilter and I instinctively went to scoot it back on the center of the burner. How I managed to forget in the space of about 5 seconds that the pot just came out of the oven, I have no idea, but I did. I've got a couple of nice blistery places to remind me of my folly. Let's just say that I'm going to surgically attach a side towel to my hand.

The soup. Yes, the soup. I just seem to suck at soup in class, and this one was no exception. It had a good flavor, but could have used more cheese (which I didn't have) and was too thin. I add a couple of arrowroot slurries to it, but it wasn't thickening up for love nor money.

However, I did rock right on out on the sweet potatoes. I baked them until they were tender, and while they were baking, I combined some sugar, fresh pineapple, cinnamon, lemon zest, butter, and a little bit of salt & pepper and let it sort of simmer and thicken up. After the potatoes were cool enough to handle, they were sliced and put on a sheet pan, and I poured the glaze over the potatoes and stuck them in the oven for about 10 minutes to carmelize a little bit. Yum, just yum.

The baked stuffed pork chops were the hit of the meal. Team 2 made a Thanksgiving-style stuffing, with sauteed bacon, celery, onion, and breadcubes, and then slit a pocket in the side of a bone-in pork loin chop. They put the stuffing in the pocket, pan-seared the chops to carmelize the outside and then finished them in the oven. Makes me hungry all over again.

We are much faster on clean-up now, but again we had to be pulled off and set to additional outside of class tasks. Today's task was unloading 4 pallets of wine glasses. 4 pallets! Fine Technical College will be offering some kind of wine tasting/training course to the general public starting this fall, and while it looks like great fun, somebody has to wash all those damn glasses!
Yes, I'll have a little cheese with my whine, please.


Linna said...

Poor baby! Sorry you burned your hand.

I don't remember much soy sauce in the Midwest, though one of my mother's prized recipes was for sweet-and-sour Spam. (Served over canned Chinese noodles.)

Definitely ate a lot of saurkraut. Lots of German influences. I've eaten a lot of pork chops.

Speaking of which, I do NOT like the new leaner, healthier American pig. I like the juicier, heart-unhealthy pork chops of my Chicago youth.

Kim said...

That menu sounds delicious, can I come over for dinner? You had me at saurkraut, which I can eat by the jar full:o)

Oww, I hope your burns heal quickly. I have a scar on my wrist from a few months ago and my run in with the oven door. Not fun.