Category Archives: Sauces

The hallmarks of greatness.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

“Mom,” I texted, “would you please send me your recipe for sweet and sour pork chops?”

“Will try,” she replied. “Not sure what condition it’s in.”

Four hours later, three photos arrived, each a yellowed sheets of paper, splattered with more than 40 years of food, the hallmarks of a good recipe. The top of the first page reads, “McCall’s 1969.”

Mom's sweet and sour pork chopsThis is the recipe that defines sweet and sour pork for me. Far from small scraps of pork hidden in thick, doughy breading, choked in a gelatinous blend of corn syrup and Red Dye #40, Mom’s recipe is a simple but elegant balance of vinegar and brown sugar, tied together by sweet, acidic pineapple. Earthy soy and the underlying bitterness of green pepper ground the dish, whose flavors are mellowed and bound by rich pork.

A online scan of 15 sweet and sour pork chop recipes revealed few changes from McCall’s 1969 masterpiece. I dove in, eliminating bottled ketchup and canned stock. Mild, sweet, white balsamic vinegar and light Temari soy sauce let thick, porterhouse pork chops, fresh pineapple and vegetables shine through. Tapioca starch gently thickens the sauce.

It’s a good recipe. Really good. The kind you want to print out and start splattering with food. It should be nicely yellowed in 40 years or so.

Sweet And Sour Porterhouse Pork Chops

Serves 4

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 4 porterhouse or loin pork chops, about 1″ thick and bone-in
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup White Balsamic or Peach Vinegar*
  • 1/4 cup cup Tamari soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbs peanut oil
  • 1/2 large red onion cut in 1” chunks
  • 1 red pepper cut in 1” chunks
  • 1 green pepper cut in 1” chunks
  • 1/2 pineapple cut in 1” chunks
  • 1” ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 tbs tapioca or corn starch**

*Sapore’s Peach vinegar was delicious in this dish! White Balsamic would deliver similar mild acidity with light sweetness.

**What’s up with tapioca starch? If you can find, it is a very neutral tasting thickener, not dulling the flavors of the other ingredients. I use it exclusively for fruit and berry pies. Corn starch is a perfectly acceptable substitute.

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Directions:

  • Pat pork chops dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Whisk together brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and chicken stock. Reserve.
  • Heat peanut oil in a large sauté pan over med-high heat. Brown pork chops, about 3 minutes per side. Reserve pork chops.
  • Return pan to medium heat and add onions. Cook 2 minutes until softened. Add red and green peppers and cook 2 minutes longer.
  • Add pineapple and ginger. Cook an additional two minutes.
  • Return pork chops to pan, along with any liquid that has accumulated on the plate, nestling them in the vegetables. Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 50 minutes.
  • Remove pork chops and vegetables with a slotted spoon. Whisk together tapioca starch with 2 tbs warm water. Add to pan and cook, on med-high, stirring, until sauce thickens. Serve over pork chops, pineapple and vegetables.

Sharing the spotlight.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Not only have Brussels sprouts become the trendiest member of the Brassica family, but they have been pigeonholed for caramelization. No one wants to hear about a Brussels sprout today unless it’s roasted, flash fried, or sautéed in bacon fat…

…sorry, the thought of caramelized Brussels sprouts with salty, sweet, fatty bacon is so mesmerizing, I forgot what I was saying. I may actually have forgotten my name.

But it gets me thinking, “How do the other Brussels sprouts feel?” Can I create an equally tempting, saliva-inducing dish with no caramelization what so ever? Some quick reading on other flavors with a strong affiliation for Brussels sprouts offers clear direction. Strong bleu cheese and sharp mustard pair with shallot and vinegar, all folded into farm-fresh butter. Melting over briefly boiled Brussels sprouts, the dish is as tempting as any caramelized concoction.

These sprouts may not displace their sugary cousins, but they will certainly earn equal billing.

Blue Cheese and Mustard Buttered Brussels Sprouts

Serves 6

Use any leftover bleu cheese, mustard butter for steaks, chicken, green beans, cauliflower, squash, crusty Sourdough bread…

Ingredients:

  • 1-1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 pound butter, softened
  • 4 ounces sharp bleu cheese, softened
  • 2 tbs grainy mustard
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 2 tbs minced parsley
  • Cava Rosé vinegar or other red wine vinegar

*Sapore’s Cava Rosé won me over instantly this summer. It is refined, offering the depth and complexity of a high-quality red wine vinegar, but far less bold, a perfect match for summer vegetables and to add just the right bright, bite to this compound butter. 

Directions:

  • Trim bases of Brussels sprouts, cut in half and remove any loose or discolored leaves.
  • Bring a 4 quart pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Blend together butter, bleu cheese, mustard, shallot and parsley using a spatula or food processor.
  • Blend in 1/2 tsp Cava Rosé vinegar, a few drops at a time. Season to taste with salt, pepper and more vinegar as needed.
  • Add Brussels sprouts to the boiling water. Cook until just crisp-tender. The core should still be very firm.
  • Remove Brussels sprouts from water and toss with 3-4 tbs butter.
  • Roll remaining butter in parchment or plastic wrap and freeze.

Tarting up cranberries.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

With all due respect to my Mom’s version of Gram’s stuffing, Auntie’s Rum Chiffon pie and Aunt Jane’s coffeecake, it was Aunt Ali’s cranberry mold that made Thanksgiving dinner exceptional.

The meal, shared at a table that eventually held more than 30 Forgiel aunts, uncles and cousins, along with Auntie and Gram, was certainly delicious. Gram’s stuffing was flavored with giblets and onion, the squash was fresh, the peas and pearl onions frozen, and the potatoes light, full of butter and cream. But even the best Thanksgiving meal can be brought down by a table whose celebration of cranberries extends no further than a can of jelly.

Aunt Ali, my godmother, chopped fresh cranberries, mixed them with earthy walnuts and suspended them in gelatin, set in a Bundt pan mold. The result was tart-sweet and fresh, a welcome break from the rich vegetables, starches and gravy-slathered turkey that crowded the other 95% of our heaped plates.

Every year I celebrate cranberries, sometimes cooked with port and orange zest, other years bright with baking spices, and last year with rich pork belly. This year, however, I was inspired by Renee Shields-Farr at Sapore Oil and Vinegar, who asked, “have you ever tasted a pink peppercorn?” I hadn’t.

Biting in, I first tasted a mix of pear and berries that was reminiscent of sugary breakfast cereal. Then came the peppery bite. So pears and berries it was. I added jelly, rather than pure sugar, to sweeten, and rosemary for balance and depth. It’s different, and it’s good.

As for the can of jelly, I’m sure it will still grace the table for Uncle John and my brother Alec. Thanksgiving, after all, is first and foremost a meal of family traditions.

Cranberry Pear Pink Peppercorn Compote

Makes about 2 cups compote

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz, about 3 cups cranberries
  • 2 large Bosc pears cut in a 1/2” dice
  • 1 cup tart jam like red currant or beach plum*
  • 1 cup apple or pear cider
  • 2 tbs chopped rosemary, separated
  • 1 tbs pink peppercorns, crushed
  • Lemon juice

*My favorite is Sapore’s Cranberry Port jam. If all you have at home is strawberry or raspberry, add a splash of port and a little extra lemon juice to balance the simple sweetness.

Directions:

  • Combine cranberries, pears, Cranberry Port jam and cider in a 2 quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Cook for 5 minutes until cranberry begin to pop and release liquid.
  • Stir 1 tbs rosemary and pink peppercorns into the saucepan of fruit. Leave uncovered and continue to cook for 20-25 minutes until thickened.
  • Stir in remaining tablespoon of chopped rosemary and season to taste with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt.
  • If the compote is tarter than you’d like, add 1-2 tbs sugar or honey.

Meat on a stick.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

When I was a kid, fondue was a special family night. Mom would plug in the electric pot full of vegetable oil on the dining room table, as we grabbed for whichever long, two-tined fork was tipped in our favorite color. We cooked cubes of top sirloin in the hot fat, then dipped them into the homemade Béarnaise and burgundy sauces that Mom set out in small bowls.

I know fondue pots are a lost fashion of the 1970’s, but I have so many fond memories; like the time my godmother, Aunt Ali, served cheese fondue, and I spent the rest of the night throwing up. (Totally not her fault. It was an 8 year-old’s stomach bug. And the fondue was delicious!)

Whether at the end of a fork , skewered with wood  for a party or metal for the grill, meat on a stick is one of those foods – like anything smothered in cheese or made with bacon – that leaves us clamoring for more. These kebabs, spicy with Tunisian Harissa – a paste of sun dried chills, sweet with brown sugar, rich with tomato paste and earthy with fresh thyme, are exotic but easy. Oh, and if your fork handles have colored tips, I’ll take the blue.

Top Sirloin Cherry Tomato Harissa Kebabs

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbs Harissa
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup Pomegranate Vinegar* or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 quart cherry tomatoes
  • 2 large green peppers cut in 2” pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds top sirloin steak cut in 2” cubes (about 2 steaks)

*Pomegranate vinegar is back at Sapore (and it’s delicious!).

 

Directions:

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Photography by Sam Armocido

  • Make marinade: Whisk together Harissa, brown sugar, tomato paste, red wine, Pomegranate Vinegar, cinnamon, thyme and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Mix together tomatoes, peppers and steak and toss to coat with marinade. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
  • If using wooden skewers, soak them for an hour before grilling.
  • Load skewers with beef, tomatoes, and peppers.
  • Prepare a hot grill and cook over direct heat for 2-3 minutes per side, about 8-10 minutes total for medium rare.
  • While grilling, place remaining marinade, and any extra tomatoes, in a small saucepan and cook at a high simmer until thickened.
  • Brush cooked kebabs with sauce and serve.

Have I mentioned my book?

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

My husband Jason and I received I a picinic “basket” as a wedding gift from our friend, Jess. The vintage suitcase arrived, filled with beautiful, reclaimed flatware and serving ware, linens and wine glasses. Like Jess, it is fabulous-casual. You know, like those friends who roll out of bed, pull on whatever clothes lay about their feet, and end up looking like the cover of Vogue?

Now I needed a dish as fabulous as the picnic case. Something that we could serve with a bottle of sparkling rosé, sipped by ladies in gloves and men wearing hats and suspenders.

Et voilà, I succeeded! This herb-poached chicken is perfectly moist. The dry wine, peppercorns and bay ground a beautiful sauce. It’s made slightly sweet by the chicken, tarragon and butter. Cook it ahead and serve it cold with cucumbers dressed in Merlot vinegar, French potato salad and slices of sweet, clean, white peaches and nectarines.

Now I just need a hat.

*I was recently advised that I needed to get comfortable with shameless self-promotion in order to sell my upcoming book, Simple Summer: A Recipe for Cooking and Entertaining with Ease. Here’s one of the recipes. I hope you enjoy it. How was that for shameless?

Herb poached chicken

Serves 6

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 chicken breast halves
  • 3 sprigs tarragon
  • 3-4 sprigs parsley
  • 4-5 chives
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbs Champagne Mimosa* or other white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs cold butter, cut in pieces

*Sightly sweet and beautiful balanced, the mild acidity of Sapore’s Champagne Mimosa vinegar brightens this dish and many summer salads without overpowering the fresh ingredients.

Serve light-tasting French potato salad with this white wine, herb-poached chicken.

Serve light-tasting French potato salad with this white wine, herb-poached chicken.

Directions:

  • Warm oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onion and sauté until softened and translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Reduce heat if needed, to cook onions without browning.
  • Add garlic and cook two minutes, until fragrant.
  • Place chicken breasts in pan in a single layer. Tuck herbs between chicken.
  • Mix together wine and stock, and pour into pan.
  • Cover pan and bring to a simmer. Cook chicken for 10-15 minutes until done, 165 degrees. Be careful not to let poaching liquid boil.
  • Remove chicken to a platter and tent with foil.
  • Add peppercorns, bay leaves and vinegar to pan and simmer until reduced by half. Strain sauce, discard solids and return liquid to pan.
  • Add any juices that have collected under the chicken and cook until reduced to 1 cup.
  • Remove sauce from heat and whisk in butter to thicken.
  • Serve warm or chill and serve cold. Either way, don’t forget the sauce.

A little American innovation.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Norman Rockwell drew an illustration for the Mass Mutual insurance company titled “Cookout.” As mothers and children set the picnic table, fathers hover around the grill. Nowhere is there any food.

But imagine, give me your very best Family Feud guess as to what will appear on those quintessential American plates.

Burgers, of course, and corn on the cob. What’s on top of those burgers? A single square of cheese melting into the smoky, crevices in the beef patty. Theres a plate of iceberg lettuce available for topping, and if it’s a really good day, mom has fried up some bacon.

This burger, then, is not so far from American tradition. The corn, off-the-cob and tossed with bacon, tops the burger. Baby spinach replaces lettuce and our cheese is upgraded to a far-more-American cheddar. It’s fun, delicious and a little creative.

Maybe that’s why Mr. Rockwell left the plates empty. There’s nothing more American than taking traditions, making some changes, and making them our own.

Corn and Bacon Salsa Burger

Using beef with some fat makes this burger rich and moist. These are big burgers and could certainly be made into 6 smaller patties.

makes 4 large 1/2 pound burgers

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground beef 80% lean
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, minced
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 pound cheddar cheese, sliced
  • 4 Kaiser rolls
  • 1/4 pound baby arugula
  • 1 cup Corn and Bacon Salsa (see below)

Directions:

  • Mix together ground beef, bacon, eggs, parsley and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and form into four large patties.
  • Heat your grill to medium-high and grill your burgers just off to the side of the coals. These are big patties, so you’ll probably cook them for 5-7 minutes a side for medium rare.
  • Place a slice or two of cheese on burgers 1 minute before removing from grill.
  • Layer bun bottoms with arugula and burgers. Top each with 1/4 cup corn and bacon salsa and bun top.
  • If there’s not juice running down your chin, you’re doing it wrong!

Corn and Bacon Salsa

For a nuttier, toastier flavor, toss corn kernals with 1 tbs olive oil and 1/4 tsp cumin and roast in a 400 degree oven until golden, about 7-10 minutes. Add right before seasoning the salsa. Serve this over grilled, cumin-lime marinated chicken or with chips.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups salsa

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 5 slices, thick cut bacon
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 2 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • Sherry  or Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry* vinegar

*Where do you get Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry vinegar? Sapore, of course! You can order online too.

Directions:

  • Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until browned on both sides. Remove from pan and dry on paper towels. Leave 2 tbs bacon fat in pan.
  • Return heat to medium and add red onion. Cook until softened.
  • Add red onion and jalapeño. Sauté 3 additional minutes.
  • Add raw corn, increase heat to medium high, and cook for 3-5 minutes until edges of corn turn golden.
  • Stir in cilantro, cumin and chili powder. Remove salsa from heat.
  • Chop bacon and stir into salsa.
  • Season to taste with a splash of vinegar, salt and pepper. Add additional cumin or chili powder as needed.

Sweet enough.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

My Babci’s* rhubarb plants grew on the edge of her large garden, near the  maple tree, where we would sit and eat lunch at during the summer. My Mom’s plants sit on the back edge of my parents’s garden near the blueberry bushes. Each June the bright red stalks ripened about the same time we went strawberry picking.

Mom baked pies. My great aunt, Mary, made quick jam with rhubarb and strawberry jello. Babci gave us cups of sugar into which we’d dip the stalks and eat them raw.

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Rhubarb is sharply bitter. Even with sugar it elicits a pucker. Cooked down into a thick, jammy chutney, I could still not imagine it without the balance of brown sugar.

But somehow, in this relish, it works. Balanced against ripe cherries, kept savory with shallot, bright with vinegar and warmed by cardamom it sits perfectly alongside rich meats – pork chops, grilled steaks and wild boar sausages*. You can use the food processor, but we hand chopped it. I like the texture and it keeps the flavors clearer. The extra few minutes in the kitchen provide extra time to chat, listen to music, or just enjoy the warm breeze coming in the window.

*Babci is Polish for grandmother. Wild Boar Sausages are available from Canales Quality Meats at Washington, DC’s Eastern Market.

Rhubarb Cherry Relish

Taste your cherries and your rhubarb. If the cherries don’t have much sugar or the rhubarb is particularly tart, you may need a pinch of sugar.

Makes 1 3/4 cups

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped rhubarb
  • 1 cup pitted and roughly chopped cherries
  • 1/4 cup diced shallot
  • 2 tsp minced basil
  • 1.5 tsp White Balsamic or Ruby Red Grapefruit Vinegar*
  • Cardamom

*A bright, fresh treat from Sapore Oil and Vinegar.

Directions:

  • Mix together rhubarb, cherries and shallot in a food processor.
  • Pulse a few times to desired texture. I prefer mine about the size of a fine dice. Remove to a small mixing bowl.
  • OR – finely hand chop the rhubarb, cherries and shallot and mix together in a small bowl.
  • Mix in basil and Ruby Red Grapefruit Vinegar. Season to taste with a pinch each of cardamom and salt.
  • If you make this ahead of time, check seasoning right before serving. As juices develop you may find you want a pinch more of salt or cardamom or a little more fresh basil.