Sunday Family Dinner

‘Twas a S’Autumn Fam Din

Sept 2017 Fam Din
‘Twas a S’Autumn Family Dinner….

What’s S’Autumn? It’s when it’s technically Autumn but the weather acts like we’re in the peak of Summer. Which for inland Orange County–that means the mid-90s. Ugh.

It kind of makes our dinner themes a bit difficult which results in a mish-mash of dishes…. a bit theme-less. But delicious, nonetheless.

Or maybe it’s called F’ummer? S’all? Eh, I’ll stick with S’Autumn….

September 2017 Fam Din
I spy our fur babies above! Princess Leia was walking around near my feet and Bella is at her favorite spot–in front of the warm oven. ❤

After doing a little prep work, I got to fixing up a cocktail to match the heat we were having that day – SHANDIES! Shandies are a beer based cocktail that typically combines a wheat beer and a lemonade. That’s it? Yup–that’s it!

These refreshing lovies were made with a Hefeweizen and a sweet lemonade. Because shandies are so dandy….yeah–I had to do it.

September 2017 Fam Din
Leia
is still trying to figure out what S’Autumn is.

It means whatever you want it to be, you glorious pug.

September 2017 Fam Din
S.I.L. L was hankering for some duck for dinner and picked up a whole bird from Electric City Butcher in Santa Ana.

She seasoned them up with salt, pepper and dried thyme…..

September 2017 Fam Din
….and then threw it in a bag with some rendered duck fat to sous vide for a few hours. Because after all, she and brother V were the ones who gave me the Anova so it only seemed right for her to take a spin with hit.

The breasts went in at 130 degrees F for 2 hours.

September 2017 Fam Din
While the duck was taking a dip, the girls were giving me this look.

Which interprets to: We’ll smile for the camera but we’re starving so feed us some appetizers before we get hypoglycemic.

And that look is all I need because I have lived through their hangry phases. It’s scawie.

September 2017 Fam Din
I made two appetizers to tie the fam over until dinner. The first was this colorful Heirloom Tomato and Pesto-Ricotta Tart. Isn’t she a beaut????

September 2017 Fam Din
And guess what? It starts with store bought puff pastry–because ain’t no one has got time or patience to make their own!

I then smeared it with a thin layer of a pesto and ricotta mixture — and then shingled it with sweet, ripe tomatoes. The whole thing baked in the oven for about 25 minutes and was finished with large sea salt flakes and fresh basil.

Perfection.

It’s definitely one of those appetizers I make that would be perfect as a stand alone entree on a warm summer day with a chilled glass of white vino.

September 2017 Fam Din
And for my second appetizer, I made a big pot of Tomato-Fennel Mussels served with lots of crusty warm bread to sop up all that goodness.

The base that the mussels cooked in comprised of onions, garlic, fennel, wine, clam juice and San Marzano tomatoes. And once the mussels steamed opened, they released their own sea liquor into the mix and it was divine!

September 2017 Fam Din
Absolutely scrumptious! Definitely another appetizer that could have been a stand alone with just a loaf of bread or even over some pasta.

Then this happened.

V asked out loud: “Where did these mussels come from?”

Maya nonchalantly answered: “Oh…I work out a lot.”

September 2017 Fam Din
The rest of us gave a brief silent pause and then collectively bursted out in hysterical laughter.

That clever, funny girl.

By the way, I got them at Costco. The mussels, not Maya’s fierce muscles….I can’t take credit for those guns.

September 2017 Fam Din
And then the two hours were up!

L dried off the duck and threw them into a cast iron to crisp up the skin and finish them off.

September 2017 Fam Din
A wonderful medium-rare.

Man… that sous vide is the business.

September 2017 Fam Din
She then placed the sliced duck over a bed of greens, orange segments, raspberries, nuts and a light vinaigrette. A great showing of summer transitioning into fall–don’t you think?

September 2017 Fam Din
Heyyyyyy L!

September 2017 Fam Din
And then T was up to bat with the main course!

She took a spin on Jamie Oliver’s Grilled Pesto Pork Chops. Initially she wanted to sous vide them as well (because we’re addicted) but when she picked them up, she found that although they were thick chops, they’d be fine straight on the grill.

September 2017 Fam Din

T served them with this super cheesy Parmesan-Mushroom Israeli Couscous. And I’ve got to tell you, as a super carboholic, I was all about it. It actually resembled risotto and y’all know how much I love me some risotto!

September 2017 Fam Din
And this is the point when we gave in and let the younger munchkins get on their devices. At least they were all playing in some virtual world together, right? Sometimes you just have to make some concessions…particularly while we were trying to hold them over before dessert.

September 2017 Fam Din
Did someone say dessert???!?!!

Yes Nina and V, it’s almost dessert time.

September 2017 Fam Din
Wowsers, N! Now that’s some frosting! Cream cheese frosting that is—one of my faves!

September 2017 Fam Din
N ended up making this Hummingbird Cake which is a traditional southern goodness with pineapple chunks, bananas, vanilla and lots of spices. It may seem odd if you haven’t had it before but the pineapple just gives it the lightest sweetness and moisture—essentially it tastes like a kicked up spice cake with lots of cream cheese frosting.

Yes please!

September 2017 Fam Din
Now please Mother Nature… turn down the thermostat so that we’re back at our normal 74ish degrees for Fall.

xoxo

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Shandies, Various Wine
Appetizers: Heirloom Tomato and Pesto-Ricotta Tart, Tomato-Fennel Mussels
Entrees: Grilled Pesto Pork Chops
Sides: Seared Duck Salad, Parmesan-Mushroom Israeli Couscous
Dessert: Hummingbird Cake

Pork · Vietnamese

Cơm Sườn Nướng {Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops with Rice}

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
I’ve been craving a lot of Vietnamese foods lately. It’s comforting, nostalgic and just damn tasty.

I’ve said it many times before but I didn’t realize how good we had it growing up with all of that deliciousness around us all of the time. I definitely took it for granted.

And now when I want good quality Vietnamese food, I have to make the haul up to Orange County where I beg my family to feed me or resort to swinging by one of the gazillion Việt spots in Little Saigon.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops

But then there are times where I’m home in San Diego and have to fend for myself.

Don’t get me wrong–I do like cooking Vietnamese foods, I’m just not the best at it. For sure, Mom reigned supreme and the aunties too. And nowadays, I’d say big seester N and our cousies A and T are right up there. That alone makes the idea of ever moving back to OC palatable because they’ve got skills!

There are a few Việt dishes I’m happy to make and feel pretty good about.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
Seestrah T posted a pic the other week of her grilling up some Vietnamese style pork chops which made me think of two things. First — hey! She never makes that for me! And second –sheesh, now I’m really hankering for some pork chops!

It was time to take matters into my own hands and luckily, I had all the ingredients already! My version of the marinade has staples like fish sauce, soy, sugar, shallots, lemongrass, garlic, ginger and chilies. Our cousin T that lives in Đà Nẵng makes the most EPIC sườn nướng (grilled pork chops). Years ago she told us what she marinated them with but I think the woman is holding out on us because mine never taste the same! And maybe it has to do with the fact that she grills them over this teeny-tiny charcoal grill on her patio floor and perhaps that’s where the essence of Việt Nam somehow creeps in and flavors it.

Who knows….

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
For these chops, I generally prefer to use a thinner cut—about 3/4 inch thickness. They remind me more of how we have them in Việt Nam or at the restaurants here. But if you prefer a thicker cut, go for it! Just be sure to marinate them overnight or at least for 6-8 hours.

Next, I throw them on a screaming hot grill and they cook up for 1-2 minutes on each side. Easy peasy! Keep in mind that the grilling time will increase if you choose thicker cuts.

Once finished, you’ll get all of these lovely charred bits from the sugar in the marinade. It’s at that point that you’ll want to quickly brush them with hành mơ — scallion oil.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
I serve these pork chops pretty traditionally with a heaping scoop of steamed rice, sliced cucumbers & tomatoes, lots of spicy nước chấm (dipping sauce) and of course – a sunny side up fried egg with crispy edges. Now I know these days, some frown upon crispy edges on eggs. Quite frankly, I don’t know when that became out of fashion—but dang it! It’s darn tasty that way and adds texture.

If you order this dish out, you may also find that instead of a fried egg it will be served with Chả Trứng which is like a steamed egg meatloaf. It may sound strange to you but trust me, it’s awesome. Honestly, I was too lazy to make it (though it’s not difficult) but I promise I will someday soon and will share it with y’all.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops

On this particular day, I plated them with a few Chả Giò . It’s not something I always do but seeing how I had a stash in my freezer, it seemed like the proper occasion to bust them out.

And with that dear peeps, Ăn Ngon!

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Cơm Sườn Nướng {Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops with Rice}
Serves 4

Ingredients:

Sườn Nướng – Grilled Pork Chops:
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh lemongrass
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
½ tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
2 Thai chili peppers, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 bone-in pork chops

Nước Chấm –Spicy Dipping Sauce:
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 Thai chili peppers, minced
½ tablespoon Sambal chili paste, more or less to taste

Hành Mơ – Scallion Oil:
½ cup light olive oil
1 cup chopped scallions

Serve With:
steamed rice
4 crispy fried eggs
sliced cucumber
sliced tomatoes
lettuce or mixed greens

In a bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, oil, soy sauce and sugar together until the latter has dissolved. Stir in the shallots, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, chili peppers and black pepper. Place the pork chops in a shallow dish or large resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the pork, ensuring that the meat is well coated. Cover the dish (or seal the bag) and allow the pork to marinate in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours. (If using thick chops, marinade overnight.)

Prepare the nước chấm (spicy dipping sauce). In a small bowl or jar, mix ¼ cup sugar with the hot water until the sugar starts to dissolve. Stir in ¼ cup fish sauce, lime juice, chili peppers and Sambal chili paste. Set aside.

Prepare the hành mơ (scallion oil). In a small sauté pan, slowly heat the canola oil. Add the chopped scallions. Cook the scallions on very low heat until they are wilted but still bright green. Approximately 2-3 minutes. Pull from heat and set aside.

Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to take the chill off. Bring your grill to medium-high heat and lightly grease the grates with oil or cooking spray. Grill the pork chops for 1-2 minutes on each side until browned and slightly charred. If using thick chops, add an additional 2-3 minutes per side—depending on thickness. Remove the pork chops from the grill and generously brush them with the hành mơ. Cover and set aside while 4 plates are prepared.

On each plate, place a generous mound of rice and brush it with the hành mơ. Place one fried egg over the rice and add a few slices of cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce/greens on the plate. Add one pork chop along with a small bowl of nước chấm.

Serve immediately.

 

Pork

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Tomatoes & White Wine-Garlic Sauce

Pan Seared Pork Chops in White Wine-Garlic Sauce
I’m not sure if I’ve told you but I have had a crazy bout of insomnia….of some serious epic proportions. And before you ask — YES, I’ve tried everything. (But THANK YOU!)

And my poor co-workers and loved ones have been subjected to my deliriousness. Trust me, I’ve been the hottest mess in all of the land. It’s not pretty.

In conversations I vacillate between speed talking (think of Six from Blossom), slow-motion speech and then just blank stares when I forget my train of thought mid-sentence.

I repeat, it’s not pretty. Ugh.

Pan Seared Pork Chops in White Wine-Garlic Sauce

How have I been filling my time?

Through a questionable amount of binge watching shows (how have I never watched Into the Badlands before?!?!), Podcasts (I’m crushin’ on Pod Save America) and reading everything I can get my hands on (any recommendations?).

There’s also been a good amount of QT in the kitchen. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that I’m obsessed with using my Anova Precision Cooker. Yup, I pretty much want to sous vide everything I can get my hands on.

But I still love my quick meals….ones like this little number.

Pan Seared Pork Chops in White Wine-Garlic Sauce
One of my go-to proteins for weeknights are pork chops–particularly these really thin cuts sometimes sold as “breakfast pork chops”. They generally are about ½ – ¾ inch thick and are bone-in. Not only do they have great flavor but they’re super quick to cook up in a skillet.

These Pan Seared Pork Chops with Tomatoes & White Wine-Garlic Sauce can be whipped up in under 20 minutes. After a light seasoning, they’re browned up in a skillet before white wine and stock are added to deglaze the pan. Finally, lots of garlic, herbs, tomatoes and butter join the party to make a light sauce that the chops are simmered in for an additional few minutes. The chops are wonderfully savory and there’s great acidity from the wine and tomatoes along with brightness from the fresh herbs.

Total winner.

And I’m not just saying that because I’m half asleep as I type this. 😴

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Pan Seared Pork Chops with Tomatoes & White Wine-Garlic Sauce
Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 thin bone-in pork chops, ½ – ¾ inch thick
black pepper
kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken stock
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1½ cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, more for garnish

Make 4-5 notches around the edges of each chop with a sharp pairing knife about ⅓ inch deep. This will help prevent the edges of the pork chops from curling up. Season each side of the chops with pepper, salt, garlic powder and onion powder.

Bring a large, heavy bottom skillet up to medium-high heat. Melt 1 tablespoon butter into the olive oil and swirl it around the skillet. Sear the chops for about 2 minutes on each side and remove them from the skillet—this can be done in batches if they do not fit all it once in the skillet.

Lower the heat to medium and add the minced garlic to the skillet. Stir around for 45 seconds to a minute –be careful not to burn the garlic or let it get too dark. Pour in the white wine, chicken stock and use a wooden spoon to scrape off the browned bits off the bottom of the skillet. Once the liquids come to a boil, add the red pepper flakes, fresh thyme, tomatoes and allow the liquids to reduce by about a third. Stir in and melt the remaining butter and add all the pork chops back into the skillet. Allow the pork to cook in the sauce for an additional 3-5 minutes, spooning the sauce over the chops every so often so that they are well coated.

Fold in the chopped parsley. Taste the sauce and add additional salt and pepper as needed. Plate the pork chops and spoon the sauce with tomatoes generously over each serving. Garnish with additional parsley and serve with your choice of salad, roasted veggies, rice, potatoes, etc.