December 5, 2010

Boozy Pork with Polenta and Roasted Broccoli

I love to cook with alcohol.  Meaning, I enjoy a beer or glass wine while cooking AND I enjoy splashing a little of my libation of choice into what I'm cooking.  I think booze can be utilized in so many different dishes, and often it's not even something I've planned in advance to do.  Sauces are an obvious place to put some wine or beer, or even liquor.  But I also like to use alcohol to deglaze sauteed veggies, add acidity to soups or marinades, and whet my appetite (oh I mentioned that already, right?). Plus, if you're cooking fish, they can really help remove the fishy odor when added to the pan.   

Anyway, I wanted to use some polenta in the pantry and since E's favorite protein is pig, I picked up some pork chops.  However, I am a big fan of having many colors on my plate- and pork chops and polenta seemed like too much in the yellow-brown vein.  Red wine to the rescue! A nice drizzle of buttery, oniony, red wine sauce over some crispy pork chops and creamy polenta... all topped off with a beautiful splash of green from the world's best vegetable- broccoli.  (You'll have to just trust me on the beautiful part- my camera parties like it's 1999 because that's when it was made.)

I've never tried anything but instant polenta.  After reading Heat, I'm pretty sure I have no idea what real polenta tastes like.  (He has a whole bit about how he stirs a pot of it for hours on end, and it still isn't "right" according to the ancient Italian way.)  The instant stuff doesn't have a terribly exciting mouth-feel, and this batch turned solid pretty much instantly after coming off the heat.  This isn't entirely bad, because solid polenta is perfect for frying up... which I fully plan on doing.  But I think the next time I use instant polenta, I will add a lot more liquid, so that it really stays creamy. 

Pork Chops
brine chops 2-4 hours in:
   3 cups water
   1.5 tbsp salt
   1 tbsp sugar
   1 tsp cinnamon
   1 bay leaf
   a couple grinds of pepper
season chops with:
   garlic powder
   salt and pepper
Drain chops and rinse, then pat dry.  Season each side with salt, pepper, cinnamon, and garlic powder.  Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan at med-high.  Add chops and sear for a few minutes.  Turn heat down, cook for another 5 minutes, then flip.  Depending on the thickness of your chops, the cooking time will vary.  Mine took about 15-20 minutes total, one was thinner than the other and came off early.  You can take them off before they're completely done because that bit of pink in the center will finish cooking on the plate as you finish your sauce.

Red Wine Sauce
1/4 onion, or one shallot, sliced thin
1 tbsp coarse mustard
salt and pepper
1/2 cup beef or chicken broth
1.5 cups red wine (any tasty kind you have)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 nice-sized knob of butter

Heat a little olive oil at med-high and add onions.  When they begin to soften, turn the heat down and add mustard, salt and pepper. Let onions get translucent, then pour in wine and broth.  Turn the heat up so the sauce gets to a low boil and let it reduce by about half.  Add the balsamic vinegar and turn to a simmer. Up to this point, you can make the sauce and let it rest on the stove until you're ready to serve.  Then, heat the sauce back up, then take it off the heat and stir in the butter.  Pour over chops and polenta, add some broccoli, and enjoy!\

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