Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dinner at the Improv: Pork Chops, and Kale, and Pasta, Oh My!

I like to improvise sometimes, which means I just throw things into the pan and wing it. Every once in a while, it is horrible, more often though, it turns out pretty darned well. I wanted to share these improvisations to inspire other cooks who feel comfortable cooking by taste.

For episode one of Dinner at the Improv, I've made Honey Parmesan Grilled Porkchops served with Creamed Kale with Bleu Cheese, and Homemade Mac and Cheese.

Last night I was shopping for other ingredients and saw that the meat counter had really nice looking pork chops, so my previous dinner plans flew out the window. I can't resist a nice piece of pork. Then, since I've been on a kale kick lately, I grabbed a bunch. If you haven't tried kale yet because it is the healthy thing you're supposed to eat whether you like it or not, this might be a good introduction for you. The creamy sauce perfectly compliments the slightly bitter spinach/cabbage flavor of the green.

Once I had pork and greens, not yet knowing what I was going to do with them, I set my heart on having homemade mac and cheese as our starch.
I generally cook for three people, so I started by boiling water to cook the macaroni. Once the macaroni was in the salted water, I started my grill pan heating over medium high heat and then I unwrapped the three boneless pork loin chops, rubbed them with about a total of a tablespoon of creamed honey (the spread kind), salt and peppered them, and rolled them in grated Parmesan cheese. Thanks, Pinterest, for the idea.

I cooked the first side of the pork chops until they had really nice grill lines, then flipped them and finished them in the oven at 425 F for about 8 minutes.

While grilling the meat, I melted some butter in a large saute pan, removed the ribs from the kale, roughly chopped it and added it to the pan with a lid. After letting it sweat for a while (about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally), I added heavy cream, some chicken stock, salt, and two Laughing Cow Bleu Cheese triangles, which gave it a nice background flavor of bleu cheese without overpowering the dish.

Mac and cheese, I started with a roux in a small sauce pan (one part butter to one part flour), let it cook till it smelled a little nutty, added a generous splash of heavy cream, whisked, then added about about a cup of chicken stock, some sharp cheddar cheese and a handful of shredded swiss cheese, salt, pepper, and small amount yellow mustard, tasting as I went to get a cheese sauce that pleased my palate.

I must say, I was very pleased with the entire ensemble. The pork was juicy, with a tang from the parm, and a slight sweetness from the honey. The kale, I was contemplating leaving my husband for, and the mac was as creamy as anyone could hope for in their favorite comfort classic. I'm definitely adding the pork chops and kale into my regular rotation. The mac and cheese, it was there all along!

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