Thursday, April 13, 2006

Converting Veal into Pork

It's not often that I have time to cook a full meal. If I do, the food ranges from a fallback dish I'm very familiar with to new, more time-consuming recipes. Two weeks ago I found myself with a night off and I decided to experiment with a potato and fennel dish in February's Gourmet. I also had pork chops on hand, so I searched through my aesthetically pleasing Boulevard cookbook. Boulevard is an elegant restaurant in San Francisco, and the cookbook itself was actually nominated for an award because of its beautiful photography.

Anyway, what appealed to me at the time was a recipe for veal chops stuffed with porcini mushrooms and asiago cheese. I figured the ingredients could also go well with pork, so I decided to alter the recipe a little according to the contents of my freezer. After a trip to Kroger, I changed the flavors again slightly because there weren't any porcini mushrooms (I bought cremini instead, which are my favorite mushroom).

A few pages before the veal chop recipe, Boulevard includes a page with this sentence:

"There is a lot more to cooking than getting to the end of the recipe." (It's an intelligent cookbook.)

That was something I actually thought about a lot while I was making this meal, because it turned out to be a little trickier than I'd anticipated. I'm certainly not a professional chef, but I do consider myself somewhat experienced in the kitchen. When the amount of water I added to the pot with the braised fennel and potatoes continued to evaporate at a fast pace, I continued pouring more in. I think it ended up being four times the amount the recipe requested. The dish turned out slightly more well done than I'd prefer, but was still very flavorful because of the fennel (at the end of the recipe it calls for the addition of chopped fennel fronds, which gave everything another layer of anise flavor).

The pork chops weren't "bone-in-center," nor were they thick enough for the sage, mushroom and asiago "sandwiches" in the instructions. I did my best to cut into the center of the chops without going all the way through, and I managed to get a couple slices of cheese, sage leaves, and pieces of mushroom inside before I started to pan sear the pork in olive oil. The recipe also involves a meat thermometer, which I don't have, and I had to gage the cooking time for pork instead of veal. The instructions say to add butter and sage leaves to the pan "about 2 minutes before you think the chops are done," which made me laugh because I was doing everything according to what I thought was going on with the pork chops anyway. I ended up throwing a quartered zucchini into the pan while the pork finished (my original plan was to saute the zucchini) and finishing the sauce on the stove by reducing the pan juices with sherry.

It was a more challenging meal than I've made in awhile, but all of the time and effort paid off because the plate looked appealing and tasted even better. The veal chop page in my cookbook is a little splattered with olive oil, but it's a nice reminder that I can improvise and still achieve desirable results.


Esther said...

Wow, that was some ambitious meal you cooked! Let me know if none of the more immediate (or closer geographically) relatives step up and buy you a meat thermometer -- and I'll get one in the mail to you. :)

Madelaine said...

thank you! i'll let you know about the thermometer...