Super Thick Pork Chops!

Being able to explore and find different places to buy and eat amazing foods is something I love to do. One of those places is McCann’s Local Meats in the Southwedge, in Rochester, NY. I can’t say enough good things about this place. Not only do they sell some amazing locally-raised meats and butcher everything in-house, but they also have an amazing cafe! I have eaten at the cafe a number of times and it is always AWESOME!

I decided to try some of their thick-cut pork chops. I had never cooked a thick-cut pork chop before. My experience cooking pork chops in the past has always left me wondering why they are so dry. This was very different. I used a cooking method that combined pan searing and oven roasting (full recipe linked here) as a guide and the results were awesome. I was able to cook a very different pork chop than I had in the past.

I did NOT brine the chops. Considering how good they tasted without the brine, I can’t wait to brine them next time. There are several variables that may have contributed to how different these chops turned out. The cut of meat was of high quality and the cooking method was also something I never had tried before. Whatever it was, it worked! Compared to my previous pork chop cooking experiences, the most noticeable difference was the texture of the meat. It had the consistency of a good, tender NY Strip steak. There was no chewiness or dried-out texture.

I served the pork chop with some roasted, local, organic beets, and a homemade pasta salad. DE-LI-CIOUS!

Please feel free to share any thoughts, ideas or inspiration.

Roasted Tomato and Onion Pasta

I previously mentioned in the Truffle Butter Pasta post, that I love to tinker and play with pasta recipes and basically make them up from whatever I can find in the fridge. This recipe is a variation on something I made years ago when I was stuck on vacation in a lake house and there was very little in the fridge. Essentially, all I had to work with was some fresh tomatoes and onions. It turned out pretty well, and I have been messing with it ever since.

For this particular recipe I used the following ingredients:

  • Wegmans Food You Feel Good About Flavorful Medley Snacking Tomatoes, FAMILY PACK – cut them all in half – 24 oz.
  • 1 Vidalia or sweet onion – sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1.5 pounds of pasta (your choice) I used pappardelle
  • 8 oz of fresh mozzarella
  • 1 cup black olives from the olive bar – not canned -, sliced in half
  • ½ cup olive oil – I usually use good organic olive oil
  • ½ cup of parmesan/romano cheese

I always start with the important parts first, good music and a little wine, then I preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating, I cut the tomatoes, onions, and olives. I put the tomatoes and onions in a bowl with the olive oil and toss it all together so that all of the veggies are evenly coated in oil. I place the oiled up veggies in a glass 9 x 14 pan and put it in the oven to roast. While that is going on, I cut up the mozzarella into small cubes and I put the pasta water on medium to high to get started.

I don’t have a specific cooking time for the tomatoes and onions. I check after about 20 minutes to see if the skin is falling off of the tomatoes. The basic goal is to get the tomatoes and onions soft and juicy and for the skins to be falling off the tomatoes. I do my best to finish the pasta slightly after the tomatoes and onions are done roasting.

When the tomatoes and onions are done, I take them out of the oven and put the butter and olives in and mix it all together. When the butter has melted, I toss the mixture in with the pasta and do my best to mix it all evenly. After it’s all mixed together, I put the fresh mozzarella and parmesan/romano on top and mix that all in, but I don’t need that to be evenly distributed. I usually mix everything together right in the pasta pot.

Then, I serve it all right away! Done and delicious!

I have made several variations of this with different tomatoes and it almost always comes out great. Let me know if you try it or if you try something similar!

Enjoy!!

Naan Pizza

I love all kinds of pizza! When I have time, I enjoy experimenting with different kinds of dough and trying different sauces, toppings, spices, crust thickness…I could go on and on. But, sometimes I just want something simple, quick and tasty. That’s when I go to the naan pizza. Naan is a simple flatbread that is served with Indian food.  I purchased naan bread at Wegmans, Aldi and Trader Joe’s. The Trader Joe’s naan (available in frozen or fresh, and garlic or plain) is the most similar to what I had at an Indian restaurant.

Another reason why I love making naan pizza is that they are family-friendly and party-friendly. Make your own pizza parties get super easy using naan bread as the crust. I usually keep it pretty simple in terms of toppings. I use jarred sauce or tomatoes, fresh veggies that I have on hand. If you are using fresh vegetables, it might be worth a little extra time to do a quick saute before putting them on your pizza. Depending on the vegetables you use, they excrete moisture and make your pizza wet and soggy. The texture of the vegetables can remain crunchy if they don’t have a chance to pre-cook. I will cook and drain them on a paper towel to remove some of the oil. I like to use fresh mozzarella cheese when I have it as well as regular shredded mozzarella. I always top the pizza with some a combo of parmesan and romano cheese. You can use the naan bread to make breakfast pizza (this will be another post). For this pizza, I am using a simple strained tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, dried oregano, olives, grape tomatoes and mushrooms with a sprinkle of parmesan and romano cheese on top.

I start off preheating the oven to 425℉. If you are using a pizza stone, it’s always good to let the stone get hot before using it. I like the crust to be somewhat crispy, so I use a pizza stone and I put the naan on the stone for a 3 – 4 minutes to pre-cook.

I construct the pizza on a large wooden cutting board. This allows me to easily slide the pizza into the oven and onto the hot stone. You may find it helps to use a spatula to slide the pizza around on the stone if you want to cook more than one at a time.

I am not a “time specific” person. The cooking time will vary based on how I want the pizza cooked. Sometimes I like it well done and crispy, sometimes I want it softer. I check the pizza frequently after about 5 – 6 minutes or so. The cheese can get burned quickly if you don’t pay attention.

All told, it takes about 30 – 40 minutes from preheat to table. This is a tasty, customizable, simple, quick meal that I have really enjoyed making and eating!

Do you have any simple pizza recipes or ideas? Share away!

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My Go To Dinner

I have been making a variation of this dinner for years. I love salmon, and I like to buy the wild caught but it’s not always in the budget. I have cooked salmon so many different ways over the years, but I usually come back to this method. It’s a combination of searing and roasting in a cast iron skillet. This NY Times Cooking post does a great job of explaining the many ways you can cook salmon. As with all cooking, finding the best way to do something is entirely up to you. I was taught a long time ago that all recipes are guides and not a set in stone list of linear instructions. Do what feels right or good to you.

I am paring the salmon with a simple pasta dish. This also varies depending on what is in the fridge. Today, I have mushrooms, shallots, and some canned organic tomatoes in juice. I will be using Wegmans Italian Classics Linguine (Wegmans will be its own post at some point, I LOVE Wegmans!) and I have some amazing crusty bread Torpedo Italian Bread from Martusciello’s Bakery in Rochester, NY. I buy the bread from a local Italian deli called Casa Italiana (This will also be its own post at some point, great subs!) in Canandaigua, NY.

 

First, I take the fish out to sit for about 15 minutes or so to let it get to room temperature. When I am ready to start cooking, I make sure I have a Spotify playlist playing. I can’t be messing with music while my hands are dirty and wet! Then, I turn on the oven to 400 to preheat. While that is going on, I prep my veggies and set them aside. I also start the pasta water on a lower heat and turn the heat on the cast iron skillet to med. I like to give the cast iron skillet about 5 minutes to get nice and hot. Next, I prep the fish. I put a light coating of olive oil on first and then season the fish with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cumin. The spices vary sometimes too. I have used chili powder or even a BBQ rub. IMG_5220

Next, I start the pasta sauce. I saute olive oil, shallots, and mushrooms until they get soft and then I put in the can of diced tomatoes and I add some sea salt. I lower the heat and let that all simmer for a 5 minutes or so. I then add some butter and a splash of red wine. I will vary the butter depending on what I have in the fridge. I love the Wegmans Truffle Finishing Butter, it has great flavor (I make another pasta with this – future post 😊). I like to add in garlic at different times depending on my mood. Sometimes I will add it with the shallots, sometimes I will toss it near the end to poach in the sauce. It’s fun to play with those flavors. 

img_5221.jpgOnce the skillet is hot, I place the fish on the skillet skin side up. I want to sear the top of the fish first. I do this for about 3 – 4 minutes. Once I flip the fish over (skin side down), I put it right in the oven for about 8 – 10 minutes.

While the fish is cooking I finish the pasta. The pasta only takes about 3 minutes in boiling water and I strain it and stir it in with the sauce and let that all simmer together. I add a good amount of parmesan/romano cheese for some good salty flavor.

 

Plate it and serve. My guilty pleasure is to include a little BBQ sauce on the side to img_5233.jpgaccompany the salmon. Serve with a little red wine, crusty bread and enjoy!

Let me know what you think.

Tony

Pasta Ingredients

  • Wegmans Linguine
  • Wegmans Organic Canned Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Wegmans Truffle Finishing Butter
  • Red Wine

Fish Preparation

  • Farm Raised Salmon – Wild Caught is preferred

Spices

  • Smoked paprika
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Olive Oil
  • BBQ Sauce

 

 

 

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