Monday, July 13, 2009

Tempura Squash Blossoms with Asian Pork Chops and Mashed Potatoes

Oh yes. It's that time.

Get your butt out there and buy some squash blossoms. It really doesn't get much better.

When we saw a basket of these at the farmer's market I couldn't resist. The dude wasn't familiar with these edible blossoms as yet, and thus protested the whopping $3 investment, but my powers of persuasion (aka repeating over and over "TRUST ME. IT'LL BE DELICIOUS") wooed him into allowing me to bring them home with us.

Boy was he glad.

Before I get to them, I'll start with the main dish of this meal. We have really cut down on our meat consumption recently, and have largely cut our supply down to locally sourced, sustainably fed, humanely slaughtered meats. We buy our grass-fed ground beef from the Amish, our chicken from the coop (which isn't local unfortunately, but is organicaly fed free range) and all of our pork products now come from a very sweet couple we meet at the farmer's market.

I wandered up to the woman at Saturday market, knowing she sold meat by the coolers on her table, and asked for bacon. She asked if I wanted cottage bacon, or "real bacon". I looked at the cottage to check the marbeling, when she piped up, "Me, I prefer the real thing." I am inclined to follow the advice of the provider of my food, so I took a pound of bacon home with me after checking it's perfect fat and meat ratio, much meater than commerical bacon. It was around $6, which is a little more expensive than grocery store bacon. but there's no question in my mind that it's worth it. I see it as an investment for a variety of reasons. First, bacon is a highly processed fatty product, so I strive to use the highest quality product minimally and effectively, getting the most out of a small amount. Aside from the qualtiy, I had the opportunity to meet the woman who raised the pig I was about to eat. I knew I'd see her next weekend. And I knew she'd answer any question I had about its life, and its death. The next vendor I visited for potatoes said, without prompting, that she treated her animals extremely well.

Having bought bacon from her, oh, every Saturday for the last month or so, the dude and I decided it was time to branch out and try some other pork products from from this same family. I'd seen AB roast a pork tenderloin, and that sounded fantastic. We lucked out to find out that she sold presliced loin, which seemed to be what we think of as tenderloin, plus a small muscle and fat still attached.

We went the way of AB and marinated the sliced chops, but we chose to use asian flavors and tons of fresh herbs. We had 4 chops for the following amounts.

1/2 c. soy sauce
1.3 c. olive oil

2/3 c. stock
5 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. shriracha, or chili sauce
1 tbsp. fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. sesame oil

I marinated this for around two hours, flipping the chops in the marinade. (Sure it's easier to use a plastic baggie, but I try to avoid those whenever I can.)

Once I finished marinating them, I patted the chops dry and coated them with a flour mixture, shaking of excess of course.

1 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. salt (I use kosher)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

I fried these in a pan with

2 tsp. butter
1 tsp. olive oil

Once the chops were just brown on the surface, I pulled them out of the pan and deglazed it with the leftover marinade, which I cooked down to about two inches deep in the pan, for me around 10 minutes.

Then, I put the chops back in the pan, and threw it into a preheated 350 oven.

Honestly, I judged their doneness by feel and stopped these chops at just the right point where the carryover cooking was enough to finish them off. I would say it was a total of 13-15 minutes, but every oven is different, so going by the feeling of the meat is the ideal. I'm sorry, but I'm just not one of those home cooks who puts a digital thermometer in their meat. This is a skill that comes with experience, but you can also feel how the meat should give when you poke it by using your hand.

By this time the sauce was sufficiently reduced. If the meat is finished before the sauce is thick enough, simply reduce the sauce futher on the stovetop. (Don't be an idiot and touch the handle of the pan though, it's hot. Duh.)

Make mashed potatoes like you know how. These were new potatoes with extra sharp cheddar, sour cream, TONS OF CHIVES, and a little milk, plus generous salt and pepper.

I poured the sauce over the pork, which is very ugly but I insist was absolutely delicious with a crispy crust and perfectly tender and moist meat.

mmmmm. delish

I had it with lettuce from our garden, plus these tomatoes

and this cheese. just goat cheese with tons of fresh herbs, salt, and pepper.

We wanted to make the blossoms in the most simple straigtforward way that would showcase their quality. Everyone recommends frying them, some say stuff them first. We decided to fy them the best way we could think of: tempura.

This light and fluffy batter should be very thin, like crepe batter. (It's Portugese in origin, not Japanese, betcha didn't know.)

Tempura Squash Blossoms

Begin with some oil. I always strain and save oil that I fry with.

Put it in a heavy pan and heat it to 350.

Meanwhile, prepare the batter.

Begin with

1 c. flour
1 tsp. salt

Mix together, then add

1 c. club soda, ice cold

Dip in the blossoms whole and let as much excess batter drip off as possible.

Fry until golden brown on both sides. (I did need to use my tongs to hold them down and flip them over.)

I put all my fried stuff on a rack over paper towels.

I also always lightly salt (with regular iodized salt, which has a much finer grain) anything I fry as soon as it comes out of the fat. Trust me.

That guy is the only one that got photographed. Everybody else was eaten as quickly as humanly possible.

After being smitten with the blossoms, which were tender and earthy, the dude wanted me to start tempura frying EVERYTHING. So, I thinly sliced some carrots and they were deeeelish.

That's all for now, but come back soon, because I have a fun little project in the works!

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