Sunday, October 13, 2013

A First Attempt at Pork Chops with Orange Gastrique

October 6, 2013

Pan Fried Pork Chops with Orange Gastrique
Steamed White Rice
Homemade Applesauce
Ravens Wood 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel

Professional chefs competing on shows like Top Chef and Iron Chef often make things that I have never made, never seen in a recipe or, frequently, never heard of. While most of the recipes you see on these shows are unique creations there are some preparations that appear frequently. Sometimes its just a fancy name for something familiar; what they call crostini most people would call toast. A common addition to a TV chef's main course is a "gastrique": red curry gastrique, fig gastrique, spicy red wine gastrique, spicy blood orange gastrique, and so on. I'd never heard of a gastrique, never encountered one before seeing them time and again on TV, so what is a gastrique?

I recently updated a recipe for orange-glazed pork chops. In the comments of my blog post about this recipe, Caleb suggested brining the pork overnight in orange juice and serving it with an orange gastrique. Ah ha! An opportunity to learn what a gastrique is. So I went to the universal fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, and looked up gastrique. Is it complicated? Exotic? Subtle? Strange? Nope,  a gastrique is a sauce made by caramelizing sugar, deglazing it with vinegar, and adding flavors, often citrus. Caleb even provided an orange gastrique recipe, which I followed, but it didn't caramelize the sugar but rather just mixed it with the vinegar and reduced it. Either way, I guess it is a gastrique, a sweet and sour sauce that uses a mixture of vinegar and sugar (or honey) as its base.

So, I came up with a recipe for that used the orange gastrique recipe that Caleb provided and a recipe I found on-line for an orange-juice brine. The pork chops (standard supermarket chops, about 1-inch thick and weighing about one-half pound each) were brined in the refrigerator overnight, then pan fried, browning them on both sides (3 to 4 minutes a side), and served with the gastrique.

My recipe needs more work before I have something to share. The biggest problem was over-salted pork chops. They were nicely cooked, juicy and tender with a little chew, but much too salty and lacking in any flavor from the orange juice. The gastrique was interesting, it was less sweet and more complex than the orange-glaze I have used before thouugh it was too thin and didn't stick well to the meat. I will try this recipe again making changes based on this first attempt: brine for less time and skip the orange juice, omit the orange sections from the gastrique, reduce the gastrique more, perhaps caramelize the sugar or honey used in the gastrique, and maybe add some orange zest to increase the orange flavor.

The side dishes were good, complementing the pork, and pretty simple to make. Steamed rice is good for dishes with flavorful sauces as the sauce soaks into the rice. Applesauce was made from newtown pippin apples we had picked recently; they were so good that I didn't add any sugar or spices to the applesauce.  The wine, however, was a poor choice. We chose zinfandel based on the recommendation of an app that Diane has but this wine was much too bold to pair well with pork and fruit.

We are looking forward to the second try of this promising recipe for pork chops.  Look for a blog post in a month or so with a description of the results.

Not on Sunday
We made some interesting snacks this week. Inspired by all the apples we have, Diane has been making cinnamon apple chips.  Our apple peeler-corer-slicer really makes this easy.  The machine cores and slices the apples and they bake for 7 hours at the oven's lowest temperature. They're so good she's had to make three batches so far. I tried a recipe for Fairy Gingerbread Cookies. These cookies are almost like crackers, they are thin and crispy and full of ginger flavor. The dough is spread in a thin layer on the bottom of a backing sheet for baking, and then scored, hot from the oven, with a pizza wheel so the cookies are easily separated when they’ve cooled. Anything that thin has to be calorie free, right?

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