Sunday, September 11, 2011

Variations on a theme: Meat, Caramelized onions, and Reduction of EtOH

So this will be a quick post given that it is one week until the first exam week of Year 2 of medical school here at UC. But in the past two days I have made two dishes with meat, caramelized onions, and a reduction of an alcoholic beverage.
Heres the quick low-down. Friday afternoon, guest photographer EL and I were reading cookbooks and I came across one that sounded tasty and simple. It was for chicken with caramelized onions and red wine. So we went to the grocery store and picked up the ingredients, along with what we needed to make one of my favorite side dishes (yes, I have exposed yet another unsuspecting soul to the wonders of brussel sprouts). The results were pretty delicious if I do say so myself.
Saturday I was back in my apt at dinner time after a long day of studying. I looked in my fridge and noticed I had pork chops, onions, brussel sprouts, and pumpkin cider, and since it felt much like fall outside, I went with a more fall-flavored version of the previous night's dinner.

Variation 1
Chicken and Red wine:

2 chicken breasts (pounded down to 1/2 thick, or you could butterfly them)
1 onion (~1/4 in thick slices) (the original recipe called for shallots)
1/4 c chicken broth
1/4 red wine (recipe called for something "fruity" not sure what that means...used a Pinot Noir)
1 Tbs sugar
fresh tarragon (the original recipe called for chervil and rosemary)
Salt and pepper to taste
Loads o' butter

Throw down some butter in a saute pan on med/med-high (make sure it is big enough for the next step). Put the onions down in a single layer if possible. Now here is the though part. DON'T TOUCH THE ONIONS. Well, until they are nice and golden-y on the first side. You will be tempted to stir the pan. Just drop the spatchula and walk away. You can turn down the heat a bit if you think they are going to burn before they caramelize. Once the first side is done, stir the pan, add the sugar (and maybe a splash of chicken broth) and continue with the caramelization. Once they have a beautiful color on them, remove them from the pan, and set aside.
The recipe then said to wipe out the pan before adding the chicken. I ignored them, which required me to add extra cooking liquid at this stage to prevent burning of the sugar left in the pan. So, do what you want.
Add more butter to the pan. Add your chicken that you have pounded and generously seasoned with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until it is nice and golden brown on the outside, and fully cooked on the inside. (We were in a bit of a rush, so I threw in some extra broth, cranked up the heat, and put a lid on the pot...)
Once the chicken is done, remove it from the pan, and place on a plate and tent with aluminum foil.
Add the onions back to the pan, pour in the red wine and chicken broth to deglaze, and toss in some finely chopped fresh herb (about a tsp should do the trick, or more if you like). Stir and let it come to a boil to reduce to a thick sauce.
Serve the chicken with generous scoops of onion-redwine.

Brussel Sprouts a la delicious: (Sure to turn any doubter into a lover of the sprout.)

1/2 bag of brussel sprouts (coarsely shredded, I halve them, and then run the knife quickly through the halves)
Butter. Lots.
Pecans (toasted and coarsely chopped)
Dried cranberries (yup, coarsely chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste (we happened to have bourbon-smoked sea salt. go ahead, get fancy)

In a saute pan, melt 2 Tbs of butter. Then brown the butter (i.e. leave it on medium heat and swirl the pan every once and a while. Wait until the color changes from yellow to lightly brown. Then, get that sucker off the stove because we do not want burnt butter). The browning of the butter produces a nice nutty flavor. Pour off the butter into a dish. Add maybe 1 Tbs of fresh butter to the pan. Saute the brussel sprouts. You want them to be cooked, but not to a mush. Once they are done, add back in the browned butter, the pecans, and cranberries. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Variation 2
Autumn Pork Chops with Caramelized onions and Pumpkin Cider (a.k.a. taste of fall in your mouth)

2 Butterflied pork chops
1 onion
toasted pecans (chopped)
Woodchucks Pumpkin Cider (good luck finding it. probably any other cider would do).

As recipe above, caramelize those onions. I added a swirl or two of honey instead of sugar. And a generous amount of cinnamon, and a dash of allspice and nutmeg and a bit of the cider. Then, remove from pan. Add a bit more butter, and the pork chops seasoned with those same spices in addition to some salt and pepper. Cook until they are done (Internal temp of 145 so you don't get trichinosis). Remove the pork. Add back in the onions, toasted pecans, and maybe a 1/4 c of the cider. Reduce it down. Serve pork with onion/cider mixture spooned over the top.

Brussel Sprouts for Brussel Sprout Lovers:

1/2 bag of brussel sprouts (cut into quarters)
hint of garlic powder

Heat up butter in saute pan. Add in the brussel sprouts. Cook 'em until they are pierce-able with a fork. Lightly season with salt/pepper/garlic.

**Special thanks again to guest photographer EL for the pictures of Variation 1.

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