August 1, 2012

Juniper and Dry Mustard Pork Chops with an Accidental Potato Gratin

So, my sister has this incredible potato side dish, which she's been making for at least 10 years, maybe more, where you use this Japanese ceramic bladed mandoline to slice the potatoes really thin, then you alternate with layers of gruyere that you grate with a microplane, did I mention there's also freshly grated nutmeg in it?  Well, it's divine.  It's actually so good, that, this is seriously a true story- I was hosting a luncheon party about 8 years ago for a few girlfriends.  I had made this potato side dish, and I actually forget what else was served- because it didn't matter.  One of the women had just had a baby and was called back home by her husband, and she left after we ate our salad.  One of my friends- and I think I might think she's even cuter for this, after we had eaten our salad, our entrees, which, included a serving of this potato dish for each person, she asked if she could eat the person's potato serving that had left!!!  I remember that so vividly and so happily!  I feel like that is precisely why I love to cook and entertain, every now and then, you make one of your friends really, really happy :)

Anyhow, today, during a rare occasion when BOTH CHILDREN were napping at the same time, (I know!  Awesome!!!) I thought I might make this wonderful potato dish.  But, wouldn't you know it- sleep deprivation, potty training and sleep training all conspired against me and I completely blanked on the fact I had kind of forgotten the most important ingredient, the gruyere.  Oh well!  Let's look in the cheese drawer (yes, I have a cheese drawer, it also houses cured meats, right now it has some lovely prosciutto and speck and a crazy looking robiola I haven't opened yet...)  So, this became the Accidental Potato Gratin.  But, it's still pretty awesome, so awesome, that I think my 30 pound toddler ate almost a 1/2 pound of it during his dinner...  Anyhow, this is good- and the techniques are the same as my sister's dish, which, I am promised will receive a blog entry at some point :)

What about the juniper and dry mustard pork chops?  Well, the inspiration for these is a little round about- when my daughter was first born and I was up frequently at night nursing her, I would sometimes watch TV to stay awake.  Well, at 3 in the morning, you never know what you are going to find on the movie channels, I found Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!  And, you probably remember that the childcatcher is pretty creepy.  But that's not my point.  My point is that when they are in the country of 'Bulgaria,' but I'm not sure it's actually Bulgaria, it kind of just looks like Germany, the color palate and the dresses that they put Sally Ann Howes in are just too adorable.  So, it made me want German food.  So, I have this very old German cook book that had a recipe for 'Mock Wild Boar,' and it involved rubbing a pretty fatty cut of pork with juniper berries and then roasting it, then making a sauce with sour cream and red currant jam- trust me, sounds so much better than it was.  While my husband was eating it, he looked at me and said, 'Have you tried this yet?'  which, from him, is pretty much like, 'What on earth are we eating?!'  So that was a bust.  But, here's the thing, my interest was peaked to rub juniper on any pork I could get my hands on.  That and the fact that I literally have a 1 pound bag of juniper berries in my cellar (seriously, if you know me and need juniper berries, just ask).  So, I saw some nice 1/2" boneless pork loin chops and got to thinking...  Let's rub it on them with a little dry mustard!  Voila, dinner.

Juniper and Dry Mustard Pork Chops
Rub (enough for 1 lb. of pork chops, increase as needed)
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp juniper berries (ground)
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper (I used white, but black is fine, too)

4 1/2" thick boneless pork loin chops (roughly 1 lb.)

Use a spice mill, or a pepper grinder to get your ground juniper berries.  Combine the rub, then rub it on both sides of each pork chop.  Store in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before cooking.  The salt in the rub and the 3 hours function like a brining, they'll make the chops very moist.  Yay!

When it's time to cook them, heat some canola oil over medium high to high heat on the stove.  Fry each pork chop for about 3 minutes per side.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving / eating (they'll have less runny juices this way, this is letting your meat 'rest.').

Accidental Potato Gratin
2 lb. yukon gold potatoes
sea salt
white pepper (freshly ground)
nutmeg (freshly ground)
1/4 cup finely grated Grana Padano (with a microplane)
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano (with a microplane)
roughly 3/4 cup or more heavy cream (enough to come almost over the top of the potatoes)

First of all, you need a mandoline like this one:
for your potatoes.  First, peel your potatoes, then, make them into very thin slices using this or a similar mandoline.  Be very careful of your fingers!!!  In a shallow dish, like the one I used, which was a pyrex dish that was about 5" x 12", create layers of the potato slices, and about every two layers or so, sprinkle sea salt, freshly grated pepper and nutmeg.  When you get to the top, place the grated cheese on the top, then, pour the cream in at each corner, that way you don't disturb the cheese.  Use as much cream as you need to to just come up the sides of the potatoes, but not cover the top.  The cheese should nicely cover the top.

Here's how I baked this- first, I baked it at 250 degrees for 1 1/2 hours earlier in the afternoon, then I put it in the refrigerator until dinner time.  Then, I put it back in the oven at 225, covered with tin foil for an hour.  Basically, you want to cook this at a low temperature for a long time.  Let's face it, anything low and slow, even and old boot, would probably taste delicious!

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