Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Veal Chops with Caramelized Onion Sauce & Mushroom-Cherry Couscous

This meal comes from Rachael Ray. I'm not a huge fan, but she has done wonders for women who used to think that making dinner was a huge undertaking and required a ton of skill. I think she's also helped people think outside the Kraft box when it comes to taking on standards like Chicken Marsala and chilli. However, one of my biggest beefs with RR is that her 30 minute meals rarely take 30 minutes. This one took me about an hour. It was pretty good--not my favorite, but pretty good--but we ate close to 7 p.m. that night! I think the 30 minutes is a little more realistic when you're fast with your knife and have all your ingredients exactly where you need them. Oh well. That's my vent!

Anyway, this meal was pretty good. I didn't follow the instructions exactly, but there are a few things I'd change about it for next time. Graham liked it okay. He wasn't a huge fan of the couscous, but most of this meal was about experimenting and playing around. See my notes at the end for my thoughts and changes.

4 T. EVOO
1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped
5 or 6 fresh Thyme sprigs
Salt & Pepper
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
2 T. butter
1/4 cup parsley
2 bone-in pork loin chops, 1 1/2 inches thick

Sauce:
Preheat a large skillet over medium heat with 2 T. EVOO. Add the onions and thyme, then season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occassionally, for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute. Add the vinegar and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer over high heat and cook until the sauce has been reduced by half--approx. 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove thyme twigs, and add the butter and parsley. Stir until the butter melts.

Pork Chops:
Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat with 2 T. EVOO. Season the pork chops liberally with salt and pepper and add them to the skillet. Cook for 5 minutes on the first side. Turn the pork chops and reduce the heat to medium. Cook on the second side for 8-10 minutes (or desired doneness). Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to rest.

Mushroom-Cherry Couscous:
3 T. EVOO
3 portobello mushroom caps, thinly sliced
5-6 sage leaves, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
Red Pepper flakes (to taste)
Salt and Pepper
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dried cherries (or more)
1 cup couscous

Heat the EVOO in a skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms. Cook without stirring for 3 minutes. Add sage, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Continue to cook for approx. 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and dried cherries and raise the heat. When the mixture comes to a boil add the couscous, shaking the skillet to settle it into the liquid. Remove from heat, cover, and let it sit for 5 or more minutes (until all liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Notes:
  • This was probably the most intense meal I made since we got married. So much watching and double-dutying! Next time, I'm making the sauce first and just letting it sit until I'm ready for it. If it's on the stove, it won't cool down too much.
  • We didn't have balsamic vinegar, so I just left it out. You couldn't tell that it was missing.
  • I also used dried thyme--2 T. Just flavorful enough without distracting from the pork chops.
  • RR says you can also use Veal chops for this. Veal scares me, so pork is good enough for me!
  • The sauce came out really well! Probably my favorite part of the whole meal.
  • It took way longer for the pork chops than 15-20 minutes. For some reason they just wouldn't cooperate! Build this into your time if you take this on.
  • The couscous and Graham didn't cooperate. He didn't like it so much. I liked it a lot, but it was too grainy and dry for him. It looked like stuffing, so he wanted moist. It was dry, but it didn't taste like rice. I'll save my couscous eating for a time when he won't be around for dinner.
  • No mushrooms. I left them out--so I omitted most of the steps. I boiled up some chicken stock and poured in the couscous. I used a little more than 1 cup since there was a little left over. Not enough to make another serving.
  • I tossed in the cherries after the couscous was off the heat and all the stock had been absorbed. They warmed up right away and gelled nicely with the flavor of the couscous.

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