Thursday, January 3, 2013
Laptop Lunches #134
You'll note this post is tagged gluten free, which is kind of astounding for something breaded and fried, but it's absolutely true. The pan-fried pork chops in the 2012 Cooking for Two book use a dredging of corn starch, then a buttermilk-and-mustard mixture, then a cornstarch-and-corn-flakes mixture. No flour in sight.
It does, however, require me, as I cook dinner for one, to dirty up something like 12 dishes just preparing the main course: a plate for the prepped chops, on which to season them with salt and pepper, three shallow dishes for the dredging, a skillet, a wire rack over a baking sheet, another plate with paper towels on it, and a host of measuring cups and spoons. But that's the thing about America's Test Kitchen. You read their recipe and think, "Are they crazy?" But they give you a long, involved explanation for why involving lots of scientific language, and you say, "What the heck. I have all this buttermilk I need to use up."
Sidenote: Why, for the love of all that is holy, can I only find buttermilk in quart-sized containers? Do you know of any recipe on earth that involves an entire quart of buttermilk?
Anyway, you start, and you grumble, and score pretty hash lines nobody will ever see on the pork chops, and dredge, and set on the rack, and wash your hands, and fry, and transfer the paper towels, and time it for thirty seconds, flip, and time again, and then you, cursing the people of America's Test Kitchen, sit down to eat.
With the first bite you repent, and bless their names for all eternity. What's a dozen dishes between friends? They've given you something magnificent! And so the vicious cycle continues.
The recipe I'm giving you today does not involve dozens of dishes, but it is one I really, really like. For you northeasterners, a bulletin: green beans are not meant to be crispy and slightly bitter. They are meant to be melt-in-your-mouth soft and comforting, braised for hours with a ham bone, with hints of sweetness and salt. (The bacon-braised green beans pictured here are one of the few times America's Test Kitchen has failed me completely and utterly. They gave their explanation of all that was wrong with braised green bean recipes. It's just that they were disregarding almost everything I loved--the softness being one of those things.)
Trust me on this. The only real drawback to this recipe in my opinion is that there is no way to make it as a cooking for one or two kind of affair.
Braised Green Beans and Ham
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 ham bone (about 8 oz. or so)
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1/4 cup brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat vegetable oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ham bone, green beans, brown sugar, some black pepper, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a slow simmer. Simmer until beans are softened, about 2-3 hours. Halfway through cooking time, taste and adjust seasonings.
Do not rush this. If you need to, cook them for an hour or more longer. You don't want even a hint of the memory of crunch in the beans. When they taste like something miraculous you cannot stop tasting from the pot, they're done.
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