Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Meeting Alton Brown!

There's a bookstore in my neighborhood called Octavia Books. For years this small business has fascinated me. You know how at Books-A-Million or Barnes & Noble, the end-caps of the aisles always have the most interesting books, well imagine an entire bookstore filled with nothing but those types of books. You can walk in and swear to yourself that you won't buy anything, and end up needing a dolly to get all your books back to your car.

Another fascinating aspect of this little hole-in-the-wall place is their celebrity book signings. Enter Alton Brown, host of Good Eats and Iron Chef America. Promoting his new book, Good Eats 3: The Later Years, he was at Octavia Books tonight signing books, kitchen utensils, giant stand mixers, and answering questions. One interesting question someone posed to him was "If you have any advice to give to someone who wants to become a professional chef, what would it be?" His answer, unsurprisingly, was "Don't." He elaborated that tainting a wonderful hobby like cooking by attaching monetary values to one's product will only make one miserable and develop a disdain for that former hobby which was once loved. This exactly mirrors a case study I had in the Tulane MBA program in a class called Managing People. The study elaborated on Brown's notion, but went into much more detail. It mainly focused on singers, who once only sung for sheer enjoyment, but after being rewarded monetarily for their talents, now view singing as a pain, and will often times refuse to utter a note unless they get paid. Basically, it said don't turn your hobby into a profession, because you will end up hating it. Tonight, Alton said the same thing. Interesting...

When it was finally my turn to get my book signed, I asked him if I could pick his brain for a minute. He said sure, but that I'd have to make it quick. I told him that my aged steaks are coming out much more well done than normal steaks, even though I'm cooking them the same way. His answer was that since the aging process removes about 35% of the moisture from a steak, there is no longer that water barrier/buffer inside the cut of meat to slow the cooking process, thereby cooking the dry aged steak much quicker than one would expect. Ok, so now I don't feel as bad about serving up three medium-well 28+ day old aged steaks, but it was still a pricey learning curve. He also said, a little more enthusiastically, that he would get the butcher to cut the steaks a little thinner next time, and do just a quick sear before tenting.

Anyway, he was very enjoyable, humble, and witty. I went with my friends Laura and Ross and Ross told me he'd read that instead of sitting down like most authors at a book signing, he insists on standing up the whole time so that his feet will hurt just as much as those of everyone in line. He also made sure to answer questions from every little kid, and promised he wouldn't leave the book store until each and every person got their due time with him. And they say you shouldn't meet your heros...

Dry Aged New York Strip

Notice the perfect marbling, the hallmark of
a cow allowed to slowly mature and age. 
So, it was going to be a guy's weekend at our farm. I volunteered to bring up the food and decided on 4 dry-aged NY strip steaks. At $22/pound, it was going to be one of the finer things we've eaten up there, only to be out done by the half case of wine we drink every night. I arrived a day early, removed the steaks from the butcher paper, placed them two to a plate, and let them age another day in the fridge with a paper towel over them. When it came time to prep them, I took them out about an hour before cook time to let them rise to room temperature, them seasoned each with fresh cracked pepper and truffle salt. When I put them on the skillet (a major decision, but ultimately it was decided a skillet would preserve more of the hard-earned flavor, instead of taking on BBQ pit flavors) and they sizzled and seared to perfection. 

I stood by the ready, constantly flipping and taking internal temperatures with my Thermapen, and my plan was to take them off when they reached precisely 125 degrees, tent them in foil, and let them rise another 5 or 10 degrees to the medium rare range. Imagine my horror and shock when they were basically medium well inside! What had happened!? All this work, this dreaming, for naught! I suspected they may cook quicker due to the lack of typical moisture inside, but I was still upset. I still had one steak that hadn't been cooked, so I promised myself a redemption.

I finally achieved my perfect center, along with the best,
crunchiest crust I've ever had on a steak!
Two or three days later, after the steak had continued to age, I decided to cook it. By now, it was probably 34-35 days old, and had taken on a crispy dry appearance reminiscent of beef jerky. Forgoing the Thermapen altogether, I seared it one one side for a minute or two, then flipped, then took it off. Whatever happened happened, and I would find out soon enough. Well, what happened was tantamount to the second coming of Christ. What was once a miserable little dried piece of jerky ended up being the most succulent, moist, flavorful cut of meat I'd ever put in my mouth. The best and only way I can describe it is the whole steak turned into an inch and a quarter thick slab of bacon. IT REALLY TASTED LIKE BACON! Needless to say I was spoiled, and now I'm afraid I can never go back to non-aged steaks.

Smokes Sausage with Banana Peppers and Onions

This one is beautiful in its simplicity, and satisfyingly filling. To make it, I chopped cut one pound of smoked sausage and browned the pieces in a heavy cast iron pot. After drizzling in a little oil (not before or else the sausage won't brown), I added banana peppers and onion rings to the mix (the ratios of which depend on your own taste) and let them slowly cook down while adding in dried chives, hot sauce, and spicy cajun seasoning. Simple, effective, and delicious.

Roasted Tomatoes with Fresh Basil and Mozzarella

Hey everyone, all six of you! I haven't updated in a while, and for that I apologize. I've been busy and though I've occasionally had time to create things in the kitchen, I haven't had time to upload them.

To my left is a promising dish gone bad. To create this little culinary appetizer, preheat your oven to 450 degrees, then pour a little olive oil into a glass or enameled baking dish. Cut your tomatoes in half and roll the cut part in olive oil, then turn over and arrange in the dish, cut side up (duh). Sprinkle each tomato with chopped fresh basil, crushed garlic, salt and pepper, and then a thin slice of cheese. Drizzle again with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Garnish with whole basil leaves.

Sounds delicious right? What the recipe fails to note, and failed to alert me to, is that there is nothing more disgusting on earth than a hot tomato. Ultimately, I just ate the cheese, and the crispier, the better. PS, I won't be making this again. Caprese salads are much tastier.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jamaican Spice Salmon

Hey Folks!

Admittedly, this recipe isn't very involved or complicated, but it is delicious. I had a close friend in town this past weekend so there wasn't much time for grocery shopping and cooking. Come to think of it, I'm not entirely sure what I ate from Thursday through Sunday, except for Saltines and Goldfish.

Anyway, I was at Rouse's on Tchoup and saw this big, gorgeous salmon fillet. Ever since I've heard of lightly brushing the fillets with olive oil instead of putting the oil directly in the pan, I've been very pleased with the way my salmon's been coming out, so I thought I'd try it out with some Shakin Jamaican Ronnies Spice Blend this time. I found it on the spice aisle of Whole Foods but I'm sure it's available everywhere. As you can see it created a wonderfully flavorful black crust on the flesh of the fillet, with the skin of the fish of course infusing the opposite side with its own flavors. I pan-fried until my Thermapen read 140 degrees, then served on a bed of baby spinach, drizzled with lemon juice.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Carbon Steel Pan

If anyone reads Food Network magazine, or has seen pictures of "famous kitchens," there is always one particular type of pan present in every photograph. For years now, I've seen this pan, but never knew what it was, and honestly never thought much of it. What always did perplex me, however, was how cheap this exalted pan looked! It's just a simple black pan that looks as if the handle cover has been ripped off. In the picture to the right, you can see this mysterious little pan in Julia Child's kitchen, on the second row from the top, second from the left. Finally, however, in watching an old Child episode on the internet, she actually used the pan, and called it a carbon steel fry pan. This was all I needed. That information, coupled with a few quick internet searches, opened up a new cooking frontier that had previously been unknown to me! These carbon steel pans, made from the same steel as woks, though typically much thicker, are supposed to be among the best in the world for searing meat. Most reviews I read say they're much better for steaks and pork chops that cast iron, and they also are supposed to do a find job of quickly pan frying vegetables, keeping them crunchy just like a wok does. I read that they get so hot that they glow blue.

This was enough for me! I did my in-depth research and settled on what I believed to be the best carbon steel pans available. After they arrived (they arrive unfinished and the silver color of steel), I looked up how to season them for cooking. This, it turns out, is a rather involved process, and tricky to do correctly on the smaller pans. Anyway, true to what I read, they do turn blue when they're heated, however, I witnessed something that I never thought I'd get to see in a kitchen. For the first time, I saw a fry pan get SO hot that it actually GLOWED WHITE HOT. Up until tonight, I thought the term "white hot" was just an expression. Can you imagine what a filet mignon would taste like with a proper sprinkling of salt on each side then thrown onto a literal white hot pan? I know, I know, I wouldn't believe me either, so I am attaching a picture of the pan to the left. This picture shows the white-hot center of the pan, a pan I saw go from silver, to golden, to blue, to white.

New Cookbooks!

In a recent Alton Brown rerun, he mentioned that most of the American cooking canon comes from the industrial revolution, when giant canning companies were being formed. These companies, he said, needed a gimmick to sell their canned goods, so many produced cookbooks using what else, but their own products. Over time, these recipes trickled down and even today, one can easily find recipes like this one, the very first Google entry for "Green been casserole":


  • 2 (10.75 ounce) cans Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup or Campbell's® Condensed 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 cups cooked cut green beans
  • 2 2/3 cups French's® French Fried Onions

As time progressed, most recipes called for "a can of" or "a box of." True, this made cooking easy for "the servantless American cook," as Julia Child put it in her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, however this robbed a few generations of using fresh vegetables, of making ancillary ingredients themselves, and of learning useful kitchen techniques, like how to make garlic paste. As the organic movement slowly took hold, cookbooks gradually became more complicated, leaving out the ready-made cans. Now, however, I notice something really exciting happening. Cookbooks are actually focusing more on education and theory, rather than on filling their pages with recipes.

It makes sense, I suppose, that in the age of the internet, most people would use the web for recipes. In a cookbook, if one wants to make a brisket, one may only have one or at most two recipe options. With the internet however, the options are practically limitless! Publishers are smart, and writers need to make money. With that in mind, I'm excited to see most cookbooks focusing less on the ingredients list and more on the how and why of cooking.

I typically do a lot of research before buying something. I read consumer reviews, sample pages, and compare overall ratings with similar books in the same genre. I just got in a shipment from Amazon of a list of books that took me a month to compile. They represent what I believe is the best-of-the-best in the cookbook market today (that I don't already have). All of these look like they have a healthy mix of education and recipes, so don't worry, you'll get a little bit of both!

Vegetables Every Day by Bishop
The River Cottage Meat Book by Fearnley-Whittingstall
Fat by McLagan
The River Cottage Cookbook by Fearnley-Whittingstall
Cooking by Peterson
Fish & Shellfish by Peterson

Sea Bass alla Fiorentina

As I sit down to write this post, there is a show on the Travel Channel profiling the ghost haunting at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop down in the French Quarter. Great night, or the GREATEST night? Anyway, I know my small handful of followers (don't think I'm not grateful though, I know you all by name), are probably sick of all the meat dishes. It's true- I'm a carnivore. I view green things either as garnish, or rabbit food. To me, a baby spring mix is the food that food eats. It's the stuff that's a few notches below me on the food chain. I am trying to change, however, but that is for a different post.

Recently, though, I've put myself on a diet, and have therefore been eating more fish. I think this culinary quest will culminate in my roasting a whole fish on a bed of lemon slices and fresh herbs, but we're not there yet. Tonight, I decided to make use of the barramundi I purchased a few days ago. Avid readers (dad) will remember that barramundi is Asian sea bass. This knowledge came in handy when searching for barramundi recipes online. After reviewing both of them, I decided just to search for "sea bass" and found the attached recipe. You'll be able to read the recipe below, as well as view my picture of the dinner, but I do want to say that I wish I had had baked some garlic bread to go along with it. There was also a curious thing that happened when I turned the fillets, and if anyone has an explanation for this, please email me. I first pan-fried the fillets fish-side down for two minutes. Then, upon flipping them to let the side with the attached skin fry a bit, the whole fillet curled up like giant downward-facing Cs on the pan. I had to keep pushing them down just so that the heat would hit the center of the fillet, and thankfully I managed pretty well. Also, anyone planning to cook this (and you all should because they were delicious), be prepared to have a splatter screen available, wear a kitchen apron, dress in all black, and wear a class 3 Tychem Dupont hazmat suit, because the tomato sauce will invade your soul during the 10 minutes you let it cook down a bit in the pan. If you have a Rondeau pan, now would be the time to use it.

In other news, while getting the ingredients out of my fridge for this dish, I took out my sage again. Some of you will remember this herb from my ill-fated attempt to make pancetta-wrapped figs. Now, I can't be certain, but I do think it might have been the sage that made me fling the possibly innocent figs in the trash. Smelling it again made me gag a little, so maybe I just hate sage :-\


  • c4 (6-ounce) pieces sea bass
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning fish
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning fish
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves


Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a shallow bowl, dredge the fish, tapping off the excess flour to create a light coating.
In a medium nonstick fry pan, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Cook the fish until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer fish to a plate.
Wipe out the pan with a paper towel and heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, tomatoes, water, parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook at a simmer for 10 minutes. Add the basil and the fish and heat for 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs

Out of everything I've ever cooked, and possibly ever eaten (sorry mom, but we all remember the deathcakes), this was the most succulent. I originally saw the recipe in a Williams-Sonoma catalogue in a spread in which they were using the dish to sell a cooking vessel called a tagine, and the food looked so delicious that I saved the sheet.

Now, admittedly, the butcher will look at you rather oddly when you walk up to him and ask for four pounds of short ribs, but if he only knew the succulent wonderment that was to come of them, he wouldn't ask any questions. Mine, however, made some crack about Christmas dinner. I'll include the recipe below, but first I want to keep talking about this culinary quest.

This was the first time I've ever coked something with the bone still intact. I've had short ribs plenty of times before, but never with the bone. Now I understand what chefs and cooking experts are creating such a fuss about. The flavors were so rich, complex, and layered that it's hard to describe. Couple this bone-in advantage with about 3 hours of braising inside my 5 quart Staub (I'll post soon about Staub vs. Le Creuset) with the self-basting lid, and everything was literally falling apart with tasty juices. I really could have cut it with a spoon.

Unfortunately, I forgot to buy mashed potatoes in the Whole Foods prepared food section. This, it would turn out, would be a big mistake. The short ribs were SO rich that I desperately needed something like mashed potatoes to soak up the grease. My advice to anyone who makes this is BUY THE 'TATERS FIRST. In all, however, it was delicious, and I have a few leftovers for another dinner, this time with mashed potatoes!

Cooked and served in a classic Moroccan vessel known as a tagine, this dish makes a dramatic presentation at the table. Accompany with mashed potatoes to soak up the flavorful sauce.


  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 3/4 lb. bone-in beef short ribs (6 to 8 pieces)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 celery stalk, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3/4 cup finely diced shallot
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 3 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 3/4 tsp. crushed Aleppo chili
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Mashed potatoes for serving (see related recipe at left)


Soak a tagine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place the tagine on a diffuser over medium-high heat and warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil.

Season the short ribs on all sides with salt and pepper. Dredge the ribs in the flour until evenly coated, shaking off the excess. Add half of the ribs to the tagine and sear until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes total; transfer to a plate. Repeat with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil and the remaining ribs.

Reduce the heat to medium and warm the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the celery, carrots and shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the Aleppo chili, bay leaf, thyme, broth, wine, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Return the ribs to the tagine. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook, turning the ribs occasionally, until the meat is tender, 4 1/2 to 5 hours.

Garnish the ribs with the parsley and serve immediately with mashed potatoes. Serves 4.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gourd or Kettlebell?

I found two pretty awesome things yesterday that I have to share on here. First, I went to a junk store on Magazine Street and cluelessly walked around in hopes of coming across some neat vintage kitchen gadgets. There were some old egg beaters and hand-crank mixers, but I doubt they'll do better than my big Kitchenaid. What I did find, however, was a little white trash-can-looking thing from the 1950s called an Ice-O-Mat ice crusher. Done. I'd been looking for one for a while, and saw one somewhere- Restoration Hardware I believe- but this little trash can was cheaper, and undoubtedly better made. I basically dismantled the entire thing in the store, discovered how it worked, and that it STILL worked flawlessly. I lugged the heavy thing around and eventually bought it for $30, along with an $8 map of 1870s Arabia (Lawrence of Arabia is a favorite movie of mine). All in all, not too bad if you ask me.

After that I met a friend at Pinkberry to catch up and then walked across the street to Whole Foods for a pumpkin, gourd, or squash. What I found was a kettlebell or some sort of alien egg sack. I quickly became pretty popular in the check out line, as everyone asked me what I was going to do with it. Apparently "I'm just going to sit it in my kitchen" isn't the right thing to say. I suppose in a place like Whole Foods the employees don't want anything to go to waste, and by the looks on their faces, and their verbal reactions, I could tell they weren't too pleased that I wasn't going to use it for some sort of sustenance. I told them they would see me again when this one rotted. 

Food on the Ground!

So last night I cooked my second pork chop. I initially bought two in case some beautiful woman entered my life in the span of a few days and wanted dinner, but that didn't happen. I had been trying to find another pork chop recipe, and while I'm certain that such a recipe exists, I was tired, and already had all the stuff to do the balsamic reduction one again. This time I used black forrest ham bacon, and I cooked it in a Lodge Press cast iron skillet, instead of my All-Clad French chef's pan. First, I can say the cast iron is definitely the way to go with this dish. It literally required no cleanup, and no Barkeeper's Friend. It caramelized the onions better, and I think it reduced the vinegar better (somehow).

The recipe initially calls for a searing of the chop on both sides, then moving it to a plate while you fry up some delicious bacon. After you've completed some more steps, you move the chop back to the pan. OK, this sounds easy enough, and I suppose if one doesn't swing one's arm while holding the plate with the same velocity as a NASA centrifuge, everything goes to plan. However, mid-swing the plate suddenly felt lighter, and I heard a nasty "thunk" on the floor.  :(   I looked down and saw my deliciously seared pork chop resting half on my rug, half on the floor. Thank God I had swept the floor and vacuumed not 20 minutes before. Still, upon picking up the offending cut, I took note of some wily rug fibers and dust. So now I was at a critical junction--because of the 5 second rule. Do I mix in something else into the reduction, or run the pork chop under the faucet? 5 second's almost up! I ran it under the water. Don't judge me. It just still looked so delicious. And you know what? Once it was all finished, it was at least twice as good as my one from a couple of nights ago! If you ever need something to spice up a dish or give it a little extra umph, just throw it on the floor. Step on it, kick it around, let the cat roll all over it. Frankly whatever doesn't wash off in the sink deserves to stay on.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kitchen Thermometers

Hey Folks,

For everyone who has sought after a medium-rare steak, perfect fish, or moist pork, nothing is more important than a good kitchen thermometer. Unfortunately, most of us don't know what constitutes a "good" thermometer! Because of this, I wanted to dedicate a post to going through some commonly used instruments, and the havoc they can wreak on your dinner.

First, let's look at the old fashioned dial thermometer. This has a metal coil inside that is supposed to expand at a specific rate as the temperature increases. This in turn moves the temperature dial and gives you a reading. Unfortunately, these are so inaccurate that you're probably better off without them, and if you do use them and wait for the dial to stop moving, your delicious dry-aged NY strip will be well done by the time you were waiting for a medium rare reading!

The second option in kitchen thermometers looks much like this dial one, but there is a digital readout on the end instead. This too is not a very accurate device, as the temperature reading node is actually located some distance away from the tip of the spike, not actually at the spike. This means if you want to take the temperature reading in the center of a steak, you actually have to push the tip up to a quarter of an inch past the center just to get the sensitive area at the desired spot. Not a big deal, right? Well, these can take up to 20 or 30 seconds to get an accurate reading, to which anyone who has ever taken a temperature reading and seen the digital numbers slowly climb upward can attest. On top of that, they're also not very accurate. Why even buy one?

The last thermometer is what everyone should use, if they don't mind spending the money. It's a thermometer that uses a thermocouple, which is two wires wired down to the very end of the tip, and the temperature is read through a voltage created between the two wires.

My Thermapen- Bright red so that I can easily find it again 
once I set it down. 
I am a fan of the Thermapen by ThermoWorks. It is splash proof, individually inspected and calibrated to 0.1 of a degree at both 32 degrees and 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and will take readings in under 2 or 3 seconds (this is the manufacturers claim, but I've watched mine read in real time over and over). The probe safely tucks away into the handle, and when swung out the device automatically turns on. With my Thermapen, I've inserted it into the middle of a steak, and actually watched the readout decrease by tenths of a degree until I reached the exact center of the steak, then increase again as I pushed past the center. With that information, I can backtrack the probe back to the center, and take the steak off at preciously the right temperature that will give me a medium rare center after 4-5 minutes of resting under an aluminum foil tent. Yum. I'll take my steak with a red wine reduction please :)

Pancetta-Wrapped Figs

Hello again!

First, let me include a picture explaining why I love Whole Foods around this time of the year. I'm not even sure most of these things come from the planet earth, but they look amazing, and if I had space in my postage-stamp-size of a home, I'd put them everywhere while I watched 1980s horror flicks as we lead up to Halloween.

So last night I finally made something that I've been meaning to make for probably a year now- pancetta wrapped figs. I first saw them in a Williams-Sonoma book on roasting, and they looked so delicious that I put them on my "to do" list. At my family's farm in the country, we also have three fig trees, so I thought it would be a perfect holiday treat once hunting season starts.

The recipe isn't online, so bear with me. Take some ripe figs, cut the stems off, then slice them down the middle. Lay a small sage leaf on the open side of each fig, then wrap it completely with pancetta. Lightly brush with olive oil, then put into a 475 degree oven for 5-8 minutes, or until the fig is soft and the pancetta is crispy. Serve on a bed of sage with lemon wedges for lemon juice.

Sounds delicious right? Even looks kinda good, right? I took one bite, did that look where you stop chewing for a second, look off into the distance, as if your facing wall will give you the OK to keep eating, chewed a little bit more, sorta gummed it down like a toothless animal, walked back into the kitchen, and with my fork slid everything off my plate and into the trash. Apparently I HATE roasted figs, sage, or some combination thereof. If I ever smell the odor of this dish again it will be too soon. I don't know if it was just a bad recipe, or if I have a deep, psychological aversion to one of the ingredients, but I can promise you, this dish will not be made again.

Balsamic Quick-Braised Pork Chops

Two days ago I was walking around Whole Foods in a state of wonderment. The large, 2-ton pumpkins had just arrived. The whacky gourds were on sale; figs were in the produce section. All of this on the heels of a cool front that came with a tropical storm a few days earlier, and it was like I woke up that morning and stepped into fall. All that was missing was ABC Family airing Hocus Pocus. 

I stopped off at the seafood section to find barramundi for sale, a fish I'd just read about in Paul Greenber's Four Fish (barramundi is actually Asian sea bass), then made my way to the butcher. There I saw it...the thickest, most beautiful bone-in pork chop I've seen in a long time. I immediately remembered a Williams-Sonoma recipe I prepared once after seeing it used in one of their catalogues to highlight a couple of French chef's pans, and decided that's what I would have for dinner. 

When you're preparing this, know that I use about twice as much bacon as it calls for, and know that you really need to stay with your pan. Because my house is small, and because my kitchen is centrally located within that shotgun house, I have a tendency to walk away from the stove when things are stewing, braising, or reducing. You'd think I'd have learned by now that that's not a smart idea. In this case, in a matter of seconds, the gas flared up on my old stove and about a quarter of the pan became intensely hot and burned. I mean BURNED. Luckily it was large enough that I moved everything over to the other side and let it finish cooking without any detriment to the appearance or taste (yes it's supposed to look like the picture) but it took me about thirty minutes of scrubbing with Barkeeper's Friend to get the burnt balsamic vinegar off my pan. So, stay with your pan, keep the sauce moving, and watch your stove for flare-ups!

Below is the Williams-Sonoma recipe, along with a picture I took when I plated my chop. 
Seasoned with balsamic vinegar, bacon and fresh thyme, these pork chops come together quickly. They’re perfect for a weeknight supper with the family or a dinner for guests.


  • 4 bone-in pork chops, each 1 inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 bacon slices, diced
  • 1 red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbs. firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. chicken demi-glace
  • Fresh rosemary leaves for garnish


Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the pork chops and sear, turning once, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

In the same pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy, 5 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off all but 1 Tbs. of the fat in the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onion and partially cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is caramelized and tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the brown sugar, vinegar, thyme and bacon. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the liquid is thickened and reduced by half, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the broth and demi-glace and bring the sauce to a simmer.

Return the pork chops to the pan. Cook, uncovered, coating the chops with the sauce, for 10 to 12 minutes. Garnish with the rosemary leaves and serve immediately. Serves 4.

First Post! Let the Quest Begin!

Hello everyone! My name is Patrick. I figured what better way to get you excited about cooking, eating, and general kitchen gadgetry than a wall of beautifully patina'd glimmering copper pots, right? I'm not a chef, nor do I profess to be one. I am, however, very inquisitive and love diving head-first into topics of which there seem to be endless amounts of information to learn.

Currently I live in a tiny shotgun house in Uptown New Orleans. My kitchen would be a decent size for someone who doesn't cook that often, or gets all his or her cooking done in one or two pots and pans, but my kitchen is about to collapse under its own weight. In fact, if I ever move into a bigger house, I think it will solely be for a larger kitchen. For instance, I have 59 cookbooks, and no bookshelf. I have these big heavy copper pots (not the ones pictured), but a little round pot rack that nearly flips and topples over every time I take one pot off and redistribute the carefully thought out weight-balance placement of them all.

That being said, I love to cook! I love learning new cooking theory (a trend I'm seeing more cookbooks focus on these days as more and more recipes are available en masse on the interwebs). I love trying to figure out the best way to introduce ingredients to a pot or pan, having my house smell of deep, rich flavor as a pot simmers for hours, and then diving in to my creation. Most of the time they're delicious, but once in a blue moon something comes out just awful.

The focus of this blog--my first blog--is not only to discuss what I'm trying to make each night- along with the recipe, but also share some cooking gadget knowledge that I've amassed over the years. For instance, what is better, Staub or le Creuset? What's the best cooking thermometer? To what temperature does pork really need to be cook to to kill all trichinosis hiding around in your meat?

I named my blog the Culinary Quest because for different people, the quest will be different. Some may just be looking for interesting recipes. Other's may want to walk away with an encyclopedic knowledge of 10 or 20 recipes that they can cook any time without ever having to look at an ingredient list. Maybe some others are just curious about what the hell a celery root is. I hope all of you can find answers in this blog.

Happy Cooking!