Tuesday, July 26, 2011

pickly porkchops and heat-pickled people. (hint: one is a recipe and one is not.)

ooph. it is hot out there, y'all. or to swap dialects or levels of urgency, it's wicked hot out there, and it's a freakin' swamp in here. it's so effing hot that my toilet seat burned my ass, and yes the overshare was necessary because it's hotter than a pepper-black cat covered in tabasco sauce wearing jalapeno-skin kitten mittens on an impractical tin roof at high noon. i'm sweating from my eyelashes, you guys. and that's just not right.

so naturally i thought 'oh hey, i'll do a bit of grilling and pair it with some potato salad for a nice summer in the city type of dinner,' right? i applaud my own idiocy sometimes, because i definitely gathered the necessary ingredients for a thick-of-the-summer pork chop marinade and went ahead and whipped up a batch of my granwin's potato salad- all while forgetting that in our paltry spaghetti noodle budget, the pilot and i lack a grill and probably won't have the expendable cash to get one til it's winter and we're counting icicles on the eves above our fire escape because of course that's what we'll be doing, i mean, haven't you seen those bailey's commercials? no? nevermind.

anyway- point is, i may have suffered a bit to cook these damn chops, and sure they may not be pretty, but they are at least tasty, and at the very least, sort of improvised on my part. i'm a fan of throwing stuff to the tile to see what sticks, and thankfully the pilot generally approves my kitchen deviations or spots from afar where i'm about to go horribly awry- like a failboat spidey sense, if you will. on this afternoon, however, he was in a class that keeps him on campus until early evening, and i was left to my own devices. but to myself i thought, hell. i can whip up a marinade that doesn't totally fail without supervision. i mean for pete (or whoever's) sake, i moved my ass (and its wardrobe, various books and shoes, and all the other effects it and the rest of its being requires) across the country without incident --this included lugging a cat in a carrier on three separate flights and fighting for six hours at the columbus regional airport to get a rental car (more on that story another day- perhaps when i'm sharing a recipe for something that takes six tries to succeed with)-- so surely i can craft a marinade of my own design and macguyver a way to grill some freakin chops in a kitchen that is, to say the least, eensy weensy schmeensy teensy, right?  (also? longest sentence ever. please accept my apologies.)

this would be my kitchen. no, really. that's the entire gosh-
bedanged thing. note the oh, what, 1 1/2 feet of counter space?
so  from hereon out, marvel at my ingenuity. marvel!
outcome: yes, yes i can. unfortunate lesson learned: when broiling things, it's best to save it for when you're, uh, not living in an un-airconditioned apartment in the middle of hades' summerfest of hellsweat featuring the heatstroke experience. a box fan is an awesome companion if you're into doing that whole 'luke, i am your faaaatherrrrr' thing when you're bored, but it's not the best way to cool down a kitchen with the broiler whirring full-tilt. but i recognize that if is my plight, i may as well suck it up and tell myself i'm doing culinary bikram, right? ...i tried for about three minutes just now to come up with a joke about my flexibility but i couldn't concoct one that didn't sound dirty and for all i know my mother is reading this, so, no dice on that particular tangent.

in any event, so, yeah. the midwest is boiling like the potatoes that make up the salad i'm about to divulge (and i'm not actually even sure i'm supposed to, being that it's a family recipe- but it's so perfect for summer and easy to make that i'd be remiss not to, and yes, i just love to use the word remiss and sound pretentious, what can i say). but hot as it may be, eat we must, and hence, i present pickly basil and garlic porkchops with ssssssssssssecret family potato salad. (extra s's for dramatic emphasisssss. yay!)

pickly basil and garlic porkchops
(this recipe cooks for two, so if you've got more mouths than i'm feeding, obviously multiply to your pantry's content)

you will need:
2 medium porkchops
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice (or lime, take your pick really.)
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup pickle brine (i promise. trust me.)(for the record, i use clausen. straight from the jar, i'll drink that stuff. what?)
2 cloves of garlic, minced/smashed/cut up into pieces of garlicy goodness
3-5 basil leaves, chopped (you can do more or less, i just love a lot of basil in summer. if a cannibal ate summer, it would request basil for garnish.) (that made no sense. i know.)
a dash of pepper (or however many you want)

this is super easy, i promise. basically, mix all the ingredients except for the pork chops together in a bowl, and then slather it over your chops. make sure to massage some of the basil and garlic into the meat to get some uber delicious flavor action going on, and, after covering, put that bad boy in the fridge for a couple hours- or overnight if you want.

mmm. raw naked meat action. i know it's why you
tuned in, right?

if you have a grill, i'm really jealous of you and assume you already know how to grill a chop. if you are pan frying, fry 'em up over medium-high heat for about five minutes on each side, looking for crispy doneness, and use your tongs to feel for that satisfying cooked-through, won't-be-getting-trichinosis feeling. they should spring back a bit, but not squish too much. if you have a meat thermometer, make sure they read at least 150 degrees in the middle. and lastly, if you're an unlucky wench like me, preheat your broiler for about ten minutes, and put the chops on a broiler pan and let them sizzle near the back of the heating element for seven to eight minutes. look to make sure some fat is rendering and turning crispy and brown, and flip those bad boys over. let them broil for another six or seven minutes, and test for donenness like the above instructions for pan-frying. in any event, make sure the thickest part of the chop reads at least 150 degrees. if you've got any picky, panicky eaters like the pilot in my house, by all means cook it to 160 or 170 so they won't complain of pinkness and impending death by pig flank. (also, i'm going to go out on a limb here and say picky panicky pinkness of pig flank is going to be my band name if i ever decide to butcher people's ears for a living. i feel like it'd be an alt-rock fusion rockabilly bluegrass outfit with some electronica elements, no? okay maybe not.) and on that note...

om-nom-nom potato salad

6 white or red-skin potatoes
3 hard-boiled eggs
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
6 scallions/green onions, finely chopped bc they're totally copying the celery, those bitches.
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 to 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 to 2 tablespoons mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper
dash of salt

standard procedure: in a pot with about three inches of water, boil the potatoes, fully skinned, for about 20 minutes until they're soft when you get all medeival and stab them with a fork. (i know they didn't technically have forks in medeival times, shut up.) while they're boiling, go ahead and hard-boil the eggs if you don't already have some on hand.

mini-recipe! if you've never learned the fine art of hardboiling eggs, have no fear. if i can do it, anybody can. hence: put your eggs in a small pot, fill it with just enough water to cover the eggs, and set to boiling. as soon as you get some roiling boiling madness, turn it down to simmer and keep covered for 15 minutes. after that point, take them off the heat and let them sit for a few minutes, and then transfer to the freezer or fridge to cool before peeling. also, if you have newer eggs, they might be more obnoxious to peel bc the shells are all clingey like that, so you can throw a tablespoon or so of vinegar into your water to help alleviate the i-don't-wanna-peel-itis that new eggs are oft so fond of.

(this is what you don't want. i'll be the first to admit i'm
tragically human. don't ignore your potatoes, or they'll
suck up all the water and get a little burninated. oops.)
so while all this boiling is taking up the stove's attention, go ahead and chop the celery and the green onions. also, in a small bowl, mix up the mayo, mustard, salt and pepper. you can adjust all those ingredients to your heart's content, but i find my favorite is about 1 1/4 cups mayo, 2 tablespoons of mustard, and a couple dashes of pepper and a teensy bit of salt.) once your potatoes and eggs are boiled, your greens are chopped, and your sauce is mixed, it's time for the assembly.

mmm. ingredients.

skin the potatoes, which, okay- i know what you're thinking, because yeah, they just came out of some boiling water and they're kind of hot. true story. but keeping the skin on traps all the heat in and allows for a better boiled consistency, and also, something about how you can't argue with tradition, or something. i like to cut across both hemispheres of the potato so i have four quadrants, and then peel the skins that way. it's a bit faster and you risk fewer burned fingertips that way. in any event, once you've got the potatoes peeled, go ahead and chop them up into bite-size pieces and throw them into a big bowl or pot, whichever you've got handy. sprinkle them with the three tablespoons of vinegar, and mix in the celery, green onions, and chopped hard-boiled eggs. on top of that, spoon the mayo and mustard mixture, and mix gently with a big spoon or spatula until everything is evenly covered in deliciousness. cover it with whatever you've got (in my kitchen it's usually a plate, because i lack saran wrap or aluminum foil) and refrigerate for four to six hours to let all the flavors mingle like a frat/sorority mixer.

okay, not the most attractive picture- but it is dinner, and
it's tasty. i promise!

et voila. i'd say make the potato salad first, and once that's done and chilling in the fridge, whip up the marinade and let the chops start resting in their acidic, garlic, basil bath of deliciousness. you can make this stuff the day before, or you can make it the afternoon of the day you want to please your tummy with summer fare- but regardless of when you make it, just make sure you have a good beer and an air conditioner with which to enjoy it. though if you don't, rest assured that you're at least probably not sweating into your corneas and burning your ass in the commode. and that, my friends, is probably worth all the potato salad in the world.

up next time: the original pizza of italy, and tales of being a telemarketer who interrupts your dinner but she totally doesn't mean it but she has to bc it's the only job she could get in this godforsaken town after applying for approximately 200 jobs in over a month. or not, but until then, that's the projected verbal menu. and also until then, goodnight, my gentle omelettes.


  1. Oh girl, your kitchen is gargantuan compared to the one in my humble NYC abode! I will take a pic some time and show you. Are you making your famous pizza next?! I love that stuff!

  2. oh my! i fear for the teensiness of your kitchen. i must see a pic. pic or it didn't happen! :p and yes, you bet your bottom dollar my pizza is coming up next. (the pilot insists it's italy's pizza and not mine, but, details...)