St John’s Sirloin Pork Chops Braised in Milk

Milk, you say? Milk, I say. Some say that leche's lactic acidity does the heavy lifting in the tenderizing department during the braise. Whatever its role, I can't imagine a better braising medium for pork because, unlike broths or juices, the milk breaks itself down, too, into little curds or nuggets that taste something like Sugar Babies.

Swordfish Poached in Olive Oil

Serves 4

Ingredients
4 swordfish steaks or other suitable cuts, each 1-inch thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-6 cups good quality but modestly priced olive oil (see note)
Straight-sided pan large enough to hold all fish in 1 layer

Directions
Bring fish up to room temperature if removing from refrigerator, at least 1 hour ahead. Heat oven to 225F. Season fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Pour oil into pan and heat over stovetop burner until oil is 120-130F (use instant-read thermometer). Slip pieces of fish into pan and immediately place in oven. Let poach for 25 minutes. To serve: remove fish with slotted spatula or spoon.

Note: It's not necessary, of course, to use your expensive drizzling oil for this recipe. Also, you may filter the oil, once used, for another fish poaching; it will remain OK in the frig for a couple of weeks, in the freezer for a couple months.

Tips on buying, storing and cooking fish:

— When buying fresh, stretch out your thumb and first finger. Fresh fish must feel like the pad of flesh in between them, never mushy like the same pad when relaxed. 

— If the fish seller allows you to sniff, it should smell neutral, at most like a sea breeze and, of course, never “fishy.” If the seller won't let your nose near the fish, see if she will fan its aroma toward your schnoz. 

— A whole fish makes for cool cooking, so don't shy away from buying such. Taut skin and scales; bright red, moist gills; shiny clear eyes - all are good signs. 

— It’s risky to refrigerate fish for more than a day after you buy it. After the trip to the store, keep it in a closed plastic bag set atop a bowl of smashed ice. Use the back of the lowest shelf above the bottom bins, the coldest place in the icebox.

— Keep on the skin of more delicate types of fresh fish (sole, flounder, halibut) and also salmon. The skin not only helps hold the fish together when eventually cooking it, but also adds flavor. (Score skin lightly with a very sharp knife or razor blade when cooking to prevent curling under the heat.)

— With certain sorts of fish (for example, salmon), when preparing to cook, run your fingertip over the filet to feel for "pin" bones, little pesky pains that run perpendicular to the backbone or rib cage and that lie hidden in the flesh. Remove them with tweezers, pulling "along and away" more than up and out.

— Patting fish dry before cooking ensures crispness of both skin and flesh.

— When cooking fish, many cooks adhere to the "10 minutes per inch" injunction; that is, whatever the method, they cook fish for 10 minutes for every inch of thickness of the flesh. 

— But that adherence rules out considerations such as the firmness or fat content of the fish (or, looked at another way, the delicacy or leanness), or whether, in some methods of cooking over direct heat, the left-on skin provides, in effect, a heat shield.

— It's better to tailor the cooking method - sautéing or frying in a pan; deep-fat frying; roasting or baking; poaching; or grilling - to the type of fish.

— For example, the more tender chicks of the sea such as flounder, sole or halibut are well suited to sautéing, ill-suited for grilling (unless they are the whole kahuna, nose to tail and both sides now). Grilling is great for “the cows that swim” that are tuna, swordfish, mahi-mahi or, often, salmon. Their firm, sometimes-fatty flesh is like fish beefsteak. 

— Packets of fish, in crimped parchment paper (“en papillote”) in the oven, are ideal for fish such as cod, pollock, sole, haddock, snapper, halibut, trout, char — in short, many a white fish and any that are delicately fleshed. 

— Slowly poaching in the oven - submerged in a court bouillon, or white wine, or good quality olive oil - filets of firm-fleshed fish such as salmon, tuna or swordfish, turns out such diaphanously delicate fish flesh that it's like pudding with gills.

— If you bake or broil fish, be sure the flesh is dense, firm and well-fatted. The latter character will baste the fish as it cooks.

Pete's New Mexican Green Chile Stew

Intro to Pete Marczyk's recipe by Pete Marczyk himself

My first experience with Green Chile (caps intentional and used out of reverence) was about 20 years ago. I had moved to Denver from Massachusetts, and the only "chili" I knew was the red kind with lots of overworked finely ground beef and kidney beans. It was my first autumn in the Southwest, and I was captivated by this new scent of roasting chiles wafting from the roadside stands with giant signs proclaiming, "Hatch Green Chile War!" Instantly, I was like a dog on point. I could smell chiles being roasted from a mile away. All of a sudden I was pursuing green chiles and green chile stews of all kinds — and they were everywhere.

Among my friends there was much discussion and debate: I quickly joined the fray. Thick or thin? Tomatoes or tomatillos? potatoes or flour? Oregano or cumin? Pork loin or shoulder? How could I have lived twenty-some years without even a hint of such an exquisite and complex thing? Such was the plight of a turtlenecked New Englander.

I soon developed a self-proclaimed sophisticated green chile palate — and being a hands-on kinda guy, I set out to make the perfect green chile. What I really learned over the last fifteen or so years is that green chile is as individual as driving, sex or grilling. Everyone has an opinion and, of course, each opinion is the best opinion.

Here's my opinion:
This so-called master recipe is the basic core of a traditional Southwestern-style green chile stew sometimes referred to as New Mexican green chile stew, or Pueblo green chile stew. The recipe has as many variations as there are stars in the Taos night sky. I always serve mine with plenty of freshly browned warm tortillas.

Some notes on ingredients…

The Pork: I use pork shoulder (also known as pork butt) cut into 1-inch cubes. I use pork shoulder for two reasons: The price is right, and it has a far superior taste to loin cuts when you're browning it. I use Niman Ranch pork, which comes from heirloom breeds of pigs that are raised outdoors -- not in confinement. Niman Ranch yields a superior tasting pork (and, yes, it even matters in a stew) with more highly developed connective tissue, which results in an unmistakable pleasing texture.

The Green Chiles: I always opt for milder chiles like Anaheim or Big Jim for this recipe, because the longer you cook the stew, the hotter it gets. You can always add heat with crushed red pepper or cayenne — but you can't take the heat away. I have had many green chile stews that were simply too hot to enjoy because someone tried to perfect the heat with mind-numbing chiles. My opinion is that you should enjoy a slow, steady and gentle burn in your mouth, which makes you want to eat more.

New Mexican green chile stew
(remember, this is peasant food, so don't stress)

Serves 6 with great leftovers

2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and coarsely diced
1 1/2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 pound fresh tomatillos, peeled and diced (canned tomatillos can be substituted)
2 pounds roasted and peeled Anaheim or Big Jim green chiles, chopped
1 pound very ripe tomatoes, coarsely diced (canned is also fine)
4 cups chicken stock
2 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Kosher salt, pepper to taste
Optional: Cayenne pepper

Directions: 

Roast peppers in a 450°F oven for 20-25 minutes until the skin blisters. Place peppers in a plastic bag and cover for about 20-30 minutes until cool enough to handle. Remove the skins and seeds from the peppers and discard. Chop the flesh and set aside.

Season pork thoroughly with salt and pepper. Heat oil over medium heat in a heavy shallow skillet until it just begins to glisten. Add pork in small batches until all the cubes are browned on all sides. Do not crowd the pork. (We use a shallow skillet because a deep one will steam, rather than brown the pork.) Take your time and complete this step correctly, because it makes all the difference. Set pork aside and save some of the rendered pork fat for the rest of the recipe.

Add two tablespoons pork fat (mo' fat, mo' flavor) to a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and gently sweat onions, garlic and tomatillos until all vegetables are soft. Add the remaining ingredients, including the pork and cook until the pork is fork-tender, about one to two hours. About 45 minutes before you want to serve the stew, add the potatoes, cayenne pepper (if desired) and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with warm flour tortillas.

Braised Beef Ribs with Vegetables

BY BILL ST. JOHN

Of the two types of beef ribs - back ribs and short ribs - we’re generally more familiar with the latter. Beef short ribs sport straight bones, are 3-4 inches long, and have a good chunk of meat laying on top of the bone. By and large, we braise them, so you’ll find them on many a cold-weather menu. 

Beef back ribs are 6-8 inches long, slightly curved, and have very little meat on top of them, but a nice finger-thick piece of meat in between them. They’re bare of top meat because that meat was taken for the great ribeye, butchered as steaks (the best of the seared steer?) or roasts, without which the English could not get through Sunday. 

Like their siblings, the short ribs, beef back ribs are made for autumn and winter dining, although, unlike them, they also are very popular at warm-weather barbecues. Beef back ribs are finger-lickin' meat all year 'round.

About the only profitable way to cook beef back ribs is “slow and low,” so that means using the indirect method on a charcoal grill to smoke ‘em and melt them, or to braise the ribs either in or out of the oven (or in a slow cooker) for a couple-plus hours. The braise may be as ornate as French-style wine, aromatics and herbs, or as simple as capturing the meat’s own steam in a closed container.

This recipe comes from The New York Times. You’ll note that it also allows for beef short ribs, should you chose to cook those. 

Braised Beef Ribs with Vegetables
from The New York Times — serves 4

Ingredients
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 pounds beef rib bones or short ribs, washed
2 medium onions, peeled, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon sweet butter
3 medium Yukon potatoes, peeled, roughly chopped
6 brown mushrooms, washed, sliced
3 large carrots, peeled, cut into thick rounds
2 celery stalks, cut into 1-­inch lengths
3 broccoli crowns, washed, the florets cut apart
10 Brussels sprouts, trimmed, quartered
1 cup Italian parsley, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
4 cups water 

Directions
In a Dutch oven or high-sided frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Brown the ribs on all sides, then remove, and discard the fat. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and brown 1 onion and 2 garlic cloves. Deglaze the pan with the water, add back the ribs, cover, and put into a 400-degree oven for 1 hour. Remove the pan, turn over the ribs, and put back in the oven for another hour.

Check the ribs. The meat should be tender and almost falling off the bone. If you're using short ribs, you may need to increase the cooking time another hour and you may have to add another cup of liquid. Put the ribs into one container. Strain out the onions and garlic and discard. Put the braising liquid into a second container and refrigerate.

The next day, peel the thick layer of fat off the braising liquid and discard. In the same pan you used the day before, heat the olive oil and butter. Brown the potatoes, mushrooms, and the rest of the onions, add the ribs and the braising liquid. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, broccoli, parsley, the rest of the garlic, and Brussels sprouts. Cover and simmer another 15 minutes. Serve the ribs in bowls with plenty of vegetables, the braising liquid, and a fresh baguette. 

Pork Skewers Five Ways

Pork Skewers Five Ways

BY BILL ST. JOHN
Butchers or home cooks typically compose pork skewers (or “kebabs” or “kebobs” as they also may be called [although I always have shunned the latter because it’s too much voodoo on my brother, Robert]) from the loin cuts of pork. You might use tenderloin, although as is the case with tenderloin, any pork proposition with it is a gamble: with virtually no fat to guard against overcooking and drying out, “regular” loin cuts such as sirloin call merit to themselves. 

Here are five ways to prepare pork kebabs. Grill any of these on very hot coals for 10-15 minutes, turning once or twice, or until the pork pieces are well browned all over but also being careful to not overcook the meat.

Trout Doobies

Trout Doobies

BY BILL ST. JOHN
When Marczyk Fine Foods customer John Roberts was growing up as a Boy Scout in California, he quickly grew “sick and tired of freeze-dried food.” But on his many camping trips in the Sierra Nevada as a Scout, “we could catch trout” and he quickly developed a recipe for cooking them that he calls “trout doobies.” In an earlier age, these would be called “trout nickel cigars” but this is not that age.

Basic Sear-Roasted Salmon

Basic Sear-Roasted Salmon

My friends, Marv and Renée Rockford, prepare salmon this way nearly every Friday night. Needless to say, they get their filets from Marczyk’s; “always,” says Marv. “[Their] salmon is so good and adapts to this recipe so well.”

You’ll need a spatula to slide each filet onto a plate, but from then on, no need for utensils (well, unless you want to carry the morsels to your mouth with something other than your fingers …). I like to squish each bite against the roof of my mouth - they’re that pillowy - and look forward to the (inevitable) day when my yapper is free of teeth and all that I have to chew with is my tongue.

Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

BY BILL ST. JOHN

A reason underlies why Marczyk’s offers both an unmarinated and a marinated pork tenderloin this week. All by its lonesome, pork tenderloin is notoriously [euphemism alert:] mild in flavor. That’s why most everyone heavily seasons it before grilling, roasting or pan-searing it. Marczyk’s Marinated Pork Tenderloin merely does all that work for you; the Unmarinated Sibling is all yours, ready for your flavorings.

One suggestion is to ur-pork the tender by wrapping it in more pork, in this instance with one of the higher forms of pork itself, bacon (or prosciutto). The addition of sage leaves is a great touch, veddy Mediterranean you know.

Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin

Ingredients
1 pork tenderloin, 1 pound or more, at room temperature
8-10 strips bacon or prosciutto, each a foot or so in length
Several small fresh sage leaves
Salt and pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay the strips of bacon or prosciutto, one next to the other. Lay the sage leaves on the strips. Season the pork tenderloin with salt and pepper and sear on all sides in a film of olive oil until browned. Lay the loin over the bacon strips and roll and wrap up, covering the loin completely. (Tie the roast every inch with butcher’s twine if desired.) Lay the pork seam side down and cook for 25-30 minutes, basting with the pan juices twice, until internal temperature reads 130 degrees. Rest roast for 5 minutes before slicing thin.

Halibut with fennel, asparagus, olives and thyme

Halibut with fennel, asparagus, olives and thyme
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 filets halibut
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 cup pitted black or purple olives
3/4 pound asparagus, stems trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
Lemon

Directions:
Sprinkle halibut filets with thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Heat oil in large heavy skillet and add fennel. Soften fennel 5–6 minutes, stirring. Stir in olives, mixing well. Push fennel and olives to the side and to the skillet add the halibut filets, using a bit more oil if necessary. Cook for 3 minutes. 

Turn the filets over and add the asparagus along the sides with the fennel and olives. Cover and cook until the fish and asparagus are just cooked through, another 5–6 minutes. (If the asparagus needs more time to cook to your taste, remove the fish to warmed serving plates.) Serve evenly distributed with squeezes of lemon juice.

Pan-Grilled Lamb Chops 3 Ways

These three recipes each cook six lamb chops in a searingly hot pan atop the stove. Simple enough, but they do it in three different ways for three terrific turns on lamb. When the recipe says “Cook the chops through,” it means grill the chops, which should be at room temperature, in a very hot cast iron skillet for three minutes on the first side, then two on the flip side. Film the skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil if it’s otherwise dry. (Internal temperature on the chops should be 140 degrees for medium-rare.)

Liar’s lamb chops: “Oh no, there’s no anchovy here.” No fishy flavor remains; just buckets of umami. They’ll be wowed and won’t know why. Sauté 3 teaspoons salt-cured capers, well rinsed, and 3 oil-preserved anchovy filets in 3 tablespoons olive oil until the filets break down, 2-3 minutes. Cook the chops through. Remove them to a board to rest and sauté 2 finely minced garlic cloves in the skillet. Top the chops with the sauce from the skillet.

Emerald Isles: Make a paste, in a mortar or food processor, of 2 peeled garlic cloves, the leaves from 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Rub the paste over the chops and let them rest to marinate, at room temperature, for 1 hour. Cook the chops through.

Greek to you: Marinate the chops overnight in a dressing of 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons oregano (Mediterranean preferred; Mexican OK), 1/4 cup lemon juice, the zest of 1/2 lemon, 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt. (Make sure the marinade gets in and around all the chops.) Cook the chops through. Remove to a board to rest 5 minutes. You may make a sauce of any leftover marinade, a knob of butter and a few tablespoons of broth, red wine, juice or water. Scrape up any brown bits in the pan, reduce the liquid a bit and serve with the chops.

Two-heat Top Sirloin Steaks

If the meat's coming from the refrigerator, unwrap it and allow it to get up to room temperature, anywhere from 30-45 minutes. Salt it liberally (which means just to the point where you're beginning to feel uncomfortable about the amount); use a super salt such as Maldon or another salt where the crystals are both large and flat. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Coat a cast iron (preferred) or heavy-bottomed oven-safe skillet with a cooking fat that can tolerate torrid heat (avocado, safflower, soybean or ghee all do nicely). Put the skillet atop the burner and get it very hot.

Plop the steaks into the pan so that they don't touch each other and sear them for 2 minutes on each side (or 1 and 1/2 minutes a side if the steaks are less than 1 and 1/2 inch thick). Use tongs, not a fork. Then straight away, place the skillet into the oven.

Test the steaks with an instant-read thermometer after 3 minutes. The final cooking time will depend on the thickness of the steaks, their starting temperature, and the sturdiness of the skillet. It may take 5 minutes rather than merely three. You want to pull the steaks from the oven when the internal temperature registers 5 degrees below the following desired temperatures for doneness: rare, 120; medium-rare, 130; medium, 140; and - although you really oughtn't go here - 150 for medium well; and 160 for well done. (For example, if you desire a medium-rare steak on your plate, take it from the oven when the thermometer reads "125.") Immediately on removing the steaks from the oven, tong them from the skillet and place them on a cutting board to rest.

At this point, one listens to Anthony Bourdain: "It should rest on the board, meaning sit there at room temperature for 5 to 7 minutes, at which point, stay away from it. The steak continues to cook in these crucial moments and it must be left alone to ensure perfect distribution of the juices inside. All the difference in the world between a good steak and a totally messed up steak is going on in that period of time that you're just doing nothing. Don't wrap it in foil, don't cover it, don't poke it, don't prod it, don't even look at it. Just let it sit there. Leave it alone, and you will be rewarded."

~ Bill St John

Some cooking tips on perfecting that humble corned beef

- Mulling or pickling spices that you might want to add will stay in one place (rather than float around like so much confetti) if you wrap them in a square of cheesecloth tied into a "tea bag" with kitchen twine.

- Thousands of Jewish bubbas can't be wrong: the best way to cook a brisket (which is what corned beef is at base) is to "steam" it in the oven rather than boil away the flavor in a bath of water or broth. Flat baking pan, an inch of cover with the wet, 2-3 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 165F. Den you vill know from corned beef.

- And for the water or broth, up its ante by adding a cup or two of beer, or some terrific apple juice or dry white wine.

- But do use plain water to rinse the corned beef before cooking it. Gets excess salt out of the picture.

~ Bill St John

Walleye Poached in White Wine

Makes 6 servings

This is a novel way to poach filets of fish. The recipe’s keys are two: a super-low simmer and an unholy amount of dry white wine. Unlike other poaching methods that use slightly more boisterous heat, the result is an excruciatingly tender filet. It’s like pudding with gills.

Because most white wine is high in acidity, it’s wise to avoid using cast iron for this preparation. Also, many other types of fish lend themselves to this poach: salmon especially; halibut, snapper, mahi-mahi; and coho.

Bring a bottle (or more, depending on how much fish you will cook) of dry white wine to a soft boil in a large flat pan or skillet; lower heat to a bare simmer and add a good pinch of salt and a few grindings of black pepper. Add 6 walleye filets, about 1/2 pound apiece, at room temperature; cook through, until the fish is opaque, never allowing the liquid to boil above a very low, bare simmer, about 15-20 minutes. Gently lift the filets with a slotted spatula and serve.

An exotic take: Before adding the wine, in the dry pan, toast until fragrant 2 teaspoons coriander seeds and a short length of cinnamon stick; remove and set aside. Sauté a tablespoon of garlic-ginger paste (available at Indian markets) in a tablespoon of oil or ghee, add back the toasted spices and proceed as above.

Put to bed: Place the finished filets on a bed of mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, mashed cauliflower or sautéed green leafy vegetables. Reduce 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid to 1/4 cup and spoon a bit of the sauce on each filet and its bed.

Note: If you’d rather not use up your white wine stores - or if you shun alcohol for personal or religious reasons - the walleye also may be poached in exactly the same manner in a medium of slowly simmering olive oil. No need to use flavorful extra virgin olive oil here; any good quality “pure” olive oil will do nicely.

~ Bill St. John

Brown Sugar-Glazed Pork Loin Chops

INGREDIENTS
3 fresh garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons McCormick's Montreal Brand steak seasoning
3 pork loin chops
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1⁄4 cup pompeian burgundy cooking wine or 1⁄4 cup red wine or 1⁄4 cup chianti wine

DIRECTIONS

  • Combine brown sugar, garlic, and Montreal steak seasoning. Divide mixture amongst the pork loin chops and press on both sides of each chop to season.
  • Place 1 tbsp of the butter in a sauté pan and melt on medium heat. After butter is melted, put chops in pan and brown slowly on both sides. Remove meat from heat.
  • Add remaining 1 tbsp of butter to pan and let melt. Mix with remaining garlic and brown sugar bits left from browning meat.
  • Add wine. Bring to a boil and let simmer down to make a nice glaze. You can add meat back and keep spooning liquid mixture over meat or leave meat out of the pan and pour finished glaze over to serve.