Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pork, the New Pink

The USDA has finally realized that whole muscle pork meat is safe at temperatures much lower than those previously reported. From a very well done 160 degrees down to an acceptable 145 with a three minute rest. I can eat this.

This new guideline defies the tenets of Central Pennsylvainia pork chop cookery. Pork chops, the thin ones on sale at Riverside Market, are seasoned, floured, and fried, well, on two sides until the juices run clear. Grandma shingles them into her Pyrex dish and covers them with a can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup. She pops this in her oven and lets it braise until bubbly. Mmm. I remember this meal being served with unseasoned canned green beans (that actually tasted good with the pork chop/mushroom soup "gravy") and steamed rice. Chew chew.

Grilled pork chops, another delicious dish. Unseasoned, unoiled, and sometimes undefrosted, the chops land on the screaming hot grill. They cook until bowing off the grill. By this point the chops are cooked pretty much through. We turn 'em now, allowing the second side to cook. Now exhausted, bowed into bowls from the tension of the silverskin, holding the last drops of desperate final juices, the chops are allowed to cook "the rest of the way". Luckily for all of us, grilled pork chops necessitate runny macaroni (not pasta) salad. Miracle Whip replaces the juices and flavor lost to fear.

Trichinosis nearly eradicated, incidence of bacteria inside whole muscle meat gone, the USDA awakens from its torpor to proclaim it safe to properly cook the muscle from the top of the pig. I imagine the joy at this news in Punxatawney.

"Mom, you mean we can have pork chops that don't suck the saliva out of our cheeks?"

A new day for America.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Feeding Hungry People With My Feet

Tomorrow morning, I'll be on Pittsburgh Today Live. I'll be talking about the upcoming Pittsburgh Marathon and how big Burrito has promoted it among the staff. We are sponsoring 44 employees to enter, from first time half marathon walkers to full marathon runners hoping to qualify for Boston. There are relay teams galore as well as a number of chefs out to run the half. Danielle Cain, Sean Ehland, and myself will all be running the half. We all expect to die.

In addition to promoting health and general well-being among our teams, we are raising money for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Transforming, as it is, the fat calories on our butts into food calories on the plates of out less fortunate friends and neighbors. We have established a website for giving; big Burrito's Donation Site. Please take a moment and drop a few bucks on the hungry. I'd like to raise a total of $5,000 company-wide. We have exceeded the half way point but can use all the help we can get.

In case you are curious, I'll be cooking a pasta dish in the morning, Fresh Ricotta Cavatelli with Asparagus, Chicken, add A Lot of Fresh Herbs From My Garden. I'll be on the show first thing @ 9 AM, so tune in quickly.

Oh, and I'll be on air in the hot, new big Burrito Marathon shirt. And shorts.

BTW, here's the recipe:

Fresh Ricotta Cavatelli With Asparagus, Lemon, Chicken, and Herbs

1 # Ricotta Cavatelli (See below)

3-4 Tbs. Olive oil

4 ea. Small chicken breasts

3-4 ea. Small, young carrots, sliced thinly

3-4 ea. Cloves garlic shaved thinly

2 # Asparagus, cut into 1” chunks

zest of 1 lemon, julienned thinly or zested

juice of 2 lemons

2-3 Tbs. Fresh oregano, picked

1-2 Tbs. Fresh tarragon, picked

2 ea. Sprigs thyme, picked and chopped finely

A few leaves of lavender, chopped finely

½ C. Grated parmesan

Soft whole butter

Salt and pepper

Pine nuts

1.Place a pot of salted water on to boil.

2.Heat a wide skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil.

3.Add chicken breasts. Brown on both sides. Remove allow to cool slightly and slice.

4.Add carrots and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until barely tender.

5.Add asparagus, and lemon zest. Reduce heat. Add lemon juice

6.When at high boil, add cavatelli. Cook until pasta just floats. Drain and reserve pasta water.

7.Add pasta, herbs, cheese, and a little pasta water to vegetables making a little sauce.

8.Finish with butter. Place on plates and top with sliced chicken breast.

9.Sprinkle with pine nuts

Ricotta Cavatelli

1 # Lamagna ricotta

3 ea. eggs

4 C. All purpose flour

1.Combine ricotta and eggs in mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix well

2.Add flour. Mix for approximately five minutes.

3.Touch. If dough is sticky, add a little more flour. Mix.

4.Turn out onto counter. Wrap in plastic and allow to rest at least half an hour.

5.Roll dough out to ½” thickness. Cut into ¾” strips.

6.Roll through cavatelli maker onto lightly floured tray.

7.The pasta freezes excellently at this point. Make a lot and have it around.