Sunday, June 15, 2008

keep it simple

'Cause I'm easy, yeah, I'm easy...--Keith Carradine, "I'm Easy"

I guess if you always have access to the best quality meat, well, then you can be as adventurous as you want with it. Kind of like cooking with wine--I'm sure everything tastes even better if you happen to be in a position to cook with high-quality wines, but most of us have had limited experience (if any) with doing so. As a result, when we, here at " endless banquet," get our hands on really good meat, our tendency is to, yes, keep it simple (just as when we get our hands on a really good bottle of wine our tendency is to, well, drink it--we're kind of old-fashioned like that). The point is, in both cases, we want to really taste the difference.

So when we were lucky enough to get a gorgeous pork rib roast that had been sourced, slaughtered, and dressed by a friend of ours (!),* we turned to our friends from London's River Café to give us a little guidance on pork and minimalism.

ca cook boo fig. a: Ca Cook Boo!

If you're not familiar with Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers' River Cafe Cook Book Easy and Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes from the London River Cafe, you love Italian and Italian-inspired cuisine, and you're a believer in keeping it simple, well, you really ought to be. As the titles suggest, most of their recipes require a minimum of ingredients, a minimum of time, or a minimum of effort, and some fall under all three categories. Some of our favorites contain literally three ingredients and take just minutes to prepare. Seriously. And don't let the vaguely glam cover of River Cafe Cook Book Easy throw you: the minimalism of the content is mirrored by the minimalism of the books' design. Virtually every photograph is taken from directly overhead, and many feature a stark white background. Seriously perfect.

lemons fig. b: lemons on their way to the grill

The one we chose on this particular occasion requires two ingredients, just a few more if you make a salsa verde to go along with it (and we highly recommend that you do).

Pork chops with lemon

4 pork chops
1 lemon

Preheat a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Preheat the oven to 400º F (200º C/Gas 6).

Season each chop generously with salt and pepper (okay, you need two more ingredients), put the chops in the pan and sear them on each side quickly, no more than 30 seconds per side. Take the pan off the heat.

Cut the lemon in half. Squeeze the lemon juice over the chops, and place the squeezed lemon halves in the pan along with chops. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Press the lemon halves on to the chops and baste with the juice. Roast for another 10 minutes or until firm to the touch.

note: if you don't have a cast-iron pan that's large enough to fit four chops, sear them in batches in a cast-iron pan, and then transfer them to a preheated oven tray and continue with the recipe above.

[recipe from River Cafe Cook Book Easy]

Now, the oven recipe works like a charm, but it being BBQ season, a few weeks ago we decided to adapt the above recipe for the grill.

We rubbed a little bit of olive oil into the chops before generously seasoning them. We took a small cast-iron pan, added a tablespoon of olive oil to it, and brought it out to the barbecue with us, and we cooked the lemon halves in the pan on the grill while we grilled the meat over a hot flame. Before flipping the chops we used tongs to pick up a lemon half and rub it all over the chops. Total cooking time was almost the same as above and we tried to flip the chops as little as possible. The lemons got nice and caramelized and we served them alongside the chops and drizzled a little of the delicious sauce they'd created overtop.

When we started our chops looked like this:

raw fig. c: raw

When we finished cooking them they looked like this:

cooked fig. d: cooked

And minutes later they'd been picked clean.

This recipe really doesn't need anything additional--the flavors are honest and clean and pretty much perfect as is. All you really need to finish the ensemble is a vegetable side, a salad, and a glass of wine. But, if you wanted to dress them up just a little, you can't go wrong with this salsa verde:

Salsa Verde

2 tbsp parsley leaves
1 tbsp mint leaves
1 tbsp basil leaves
extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp capers
3 anchovy filets (1 or 2 will do, if you're using salt-packed)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
black pepper to taste

Finely chop the herbs, put into a bowl and cover with olive oil. Chop the garlic with the capers and the anchovies. Add to the herbs and mix together. Stir in the mustard and vinegar, season with black pepper and add more olive oil to loosen the sauce.

Serve a spoonful over your chops. Also excellent with steaks--grilled or roasted.

[recipe from River Cafe Cook Book Easy]


* TY, S.!


soupnancy said...

That sounds so good, so summer, so simple.. and I had pretty much forgotten about salsa verde, which I used to make every day for carpaccio in the first restaurant I worked at eons ago. I loved the stuff, but you rarely see it anymore despite all the carpaccio around.. Thanks for the reminder - I'll be putting a wild version on my menu soon..

aj kinik said...

Hi Nancy,
Great to hear from you. You're welcome for the reminder. We've got all the necessary herbs growing right at home, so it's one of the easiest and most satisfying things to whip up. Great with carpaccio, as you say--great with grilled meats too. I'm wondering what you'll be putting in the wild version. We're long overdue for a visit. One of these days...

soupnancy said...

For a wild version of salsa verde: I'm thinking maybe some sea parsley (lovage like), some crinkleroot and/or garlic mustard leaf, some wild mint (following your example), and some pickled daisy buds or day lily buds instead of the capers.. I did make a more singular version last summer with caquiller de mer (sea rocket), but it would be better with a mix such as above. Even some daisy would be good in there for sweetness, but it's almost too late for that.. I guess what goes in will depend on when I get to it - the offerings are changing by the week!