Sunday, October 9, 2011

Brining & Dining

We don't eat out much here, partly because Oscar goes to bed at 7pm, and partly 'cause we're such awesome cooks that it's hard to justify the expense. But as with the craft fair, it's hard to put a price on inspiration. So when Rebecca's parents were in town for Oscar-sitting privilege, they were generous enough to stay a few extra hours so we could go out to dinner together two days before our anniversary.

After some research, we decided on Corduroy for some new American cuisine (also because it's Oscar's favorite book). We set off from home on our bikes all dressed up. Jefe doesn't get a chance to dress up as much as Rebecca does, so this was a treat in itself.

A quick ride later and we were soon seated. The menu is simple, with an emphasis on seafood starters with a mix of surf and turf mains. The wine list is enormous when it comes to bottles, but a little sparse when it comes to wine by the glass. Luckily, they have a decent selection of half-bottles; something we haven't seen available outside of France. So, one half-bottle for starters (white) and another for mains (red) works out very well for two people.

The reason that this restaurant merits so much background in this post is Rebecca's choice of main course: a roast breast of capon (castrated rooster) with braised Napa cabbage, which was, according to the waitress, brined over night (the rooster, not the cabbage). I've always been a little wary of chicken in restaurants, partly because I've gotten food poisoning from chicken at a disreputable bar/restaurant. Even when the sauce that they put on the meat is interesting, or the sides are interesting, how novel can a chicken breast be?

Pretty novel, it turns out. This rooster breast was falling-apart-tender, could be easily cut with a fork, was oozing juice, and was incredibly delicious by itself. A revelation to be sure.

What did I do as soon as we got home? Tried to figure out the very next dish that would be suitable for home brining. Pork loin chops, of course.

Recipe in hand (or on computer at least), the method was fairly straightforward, and can be done in under 10 minutes (not including storage time of course).

Salt, sugar, bay leaf and chicken glace (homemade chicken stock concentrate, which Rebecca likes to call "Meat Honey") waiting for 1c hot water. Two center cut pork loin chops, and a pumpkin (for the accompanying pumpkin polenta).

Once the hot water is added and solids are dissolved, add ice (1c) to cool liquid to room temp so it doesn't cook the pork. Refrigerate for at least a couple hours (much more with larger cuts or roasts, up to 30 hours).

Nice and juicy in the middle, and still a little pink since the FDA lowered the recommended cooking temp for pork from 160 to 145.

Ta Da...add a little box wine and you're all set...

Update: The pork chops turned out great, but I over-brined some chicken thighs leaving them in the brine overnight. This page provides some more technical directions for brining. I did a whole chicken for 4 hours and it turned out great, and later did some thighs for 20 minutes, and they also turned out great.

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