Thursday, 3 November 2011

Another Road Trip, Another "From Scratch" Dinner

Prior to the academic year starting its full swing, I had a wonderful visit from road trippers Trevor and Helena. Within a span of 14 days, their goal was to make it to L.A. and put B.U.'s academic training into practice. Just a few days ago, two more B.U. Paris Internship Program classmates--Jillian and Samantha--embarked on a ten day road trip journey of their own from the northeast with sights set on Myrtle Beach. (Check out their awesome road trip blog linked above.) Having safely arrived from their earlier stop in Cleveland earlier today, I had presented one of two choices: hibachi-style steakhouse in Columbus or cooking in my apartment... like I even had to ask. We went to the Granville market to buy ingredients, though there was no plan prior to entering (other than for sure wanting to have chocolat chaud at some point during their visit). My prompts: what are you in the mood for, and name a region in France. With cheese and the Alps in mind, and without much thought as to the (in)accuracy of what would be proposed, I eventually ended with the following menu for dinner: breaded pork chops with a freshly grated Swiss Mornay sauce served atop chunky garlic mashed potatoes with a red wine au jus gravy, a side of crispy green beans and onions, and baked brie with toasted baguette. Whew. And for breakfast in the morning, freshly made donuts.

To start everything off, the oven was set to 375 °F and a small pot of water was boiling. As I began to construct what would eventually become the best Mornay sauce I've made to date (the difference had to have been from the fact we used freshly grated Swiss cheese--grated by Jillian-- instead of the packaged stuff), Sam put together the puff pastry packaging of a medium-small brie roll with a few teaspoons of strawberry preserves. The brie then went into the oven for about 15-20 minutes; once the puff pastry had puffed and was beginning to turn golden brown, I switched the oven to broil for a few minutes to finish browning.

While the brie was baking, Sam egged and breaded the pork chops with Italian bread crumbs, Jillian trimmed and washed the green beans, and I finished off the Mornay sauce and got two peeled russet potatoes into the boiling pot of water.

With a frying and sauté pan pre-heated, I cooked half a small, diced onion in some olive oil and mixed in the green beans. Once lightly coated in onion and olive oil, I add a tablespoon of water, covered the fry pan, and reduced the heat to lo-medium to finish cooking. As that was going, I fried one side of the pork chops in a tablespoon or so of olive oil for a few minutes until I get a nice char and deep golden brown color. By the time I flipped it to cook the other side, the potatoes were fork tender; Jillian and Sam got to pressing those through a potato ricer, adding any unriced potato into the riced pile. As they did this, I covered the pork chops with a lid and reduced the heat to low and once nearly cooked off completely, allowing the heat trapped under the lid to finish off the cooking process.

By this time, the brie was ready to come out of the oven and transferred to a clean plate to cool. Soon after, the pork chops were cooked and kept under tin foil to rest until we were ready to eat. At this point, I transferred the riced (and chunks of) potatoes to a small pot and, with lo-med heat, added a few tablespoons of heavy cream and a few teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper to the potatoes.

With the potatoes now complete, I uncovered the beans to allow most of the moisture to evaporate. I then added slightly less than a teaspoon of all-purpose flour to the fond and then deglazed the pan with about 1/3 c red wine. Stirring very well with a spatula (make sure the flour cooks down and you're incorporating everything from the pan), I allowed this sauce to reduce to about half. I then transferred this to a small bowl and used the residual heat to melt in about a teaspoon of butter.

As all the components of our dinner were being finished up and transferred to the dining table, I toasted a baguette we bought in the grocery store at 350 °F. After about five minutes or so, we were ready for plating (see the opening photo) and most certainly eating.

But before we ate, we finished the second part of our wine taste test: we wanted to know if the wine aerator Jill and Sam got me actually worked, and if we could tell the difference. Quite intriguingly, it worked! Something about the way the wine flows out the bottle and through the aerator introduces an immediate "airing" effect, "lightening" the wine to such a degree that it actually feels the wine is "jumping" around the palate.

Wine aerator a qualified success, we went onto the food component of our evening, the sauces of which proved to be equal successes. The Mornay sauce (perhaps also better because of the longer cooking time given to it) was creamy and smooth, and helped to give additional moisture to the pork chops. The red wine au jus gravy had both the depth of flavour from the pork chops and the subtle sharpness from the red wine, adding a richness to the potatoes. As for the starch, I enjoyed the textural differences from the chunky mashed potatoes, and against all of these components were the crispy beans. The baked brie also turned out quite well, though the brie tasted noticeably different for some reason compared to other brands I've baked with in the past.

Following dinner, I introduced Jill and Sam to Whit's for dessert (we all got Whitsers) and then headed to the bar lounge on the second floor of Bella's. To cap off the night, I made my chocolat chaud and topped that off with freshly whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings. All in all, this was certainly a great foodie kind of night which included a sense of nostalgia and reminiscing of study abroad semesters past.

In the morning, I'm using my homemade dough to make fresh donuts for breakfast (N.B. photo posted after the fact), in honour of National Donut Day (November 5th). More to blog about soon! For the complete album, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Mark Anthony, thank you for taking such good care of my daughter and Jillian! Your blog is fabulous, the meal sounds scrumptious and your apartment looks gorgeous in your pictures. Sounds like you all had a great time.