Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Baked pork chop with date and bacon stuffing

Tonight was our last night of actual cooking in my George Brown cooking class (sniff!). I've absolutely loved this 12-week course, and I know for a fact I'll be taking more classes from GBCS. It's just a matter of where to go from here - Italian? French? Asian? Sauces? Knife Skills?

But anyway, back to class. On Tuesday we made a baked pork chop with date and bacon stuffing, and a warm apple compote to go alongside. Chef Marty gave us more incredible tips on how to ensure the finished dish is exactly how it should be. The pork chops had the bone still attached, which definitely makes for better presentation.

We started off by making the apple compote, comprised of 4 Spy apples peeled and cut into a one-inch dice (so quite large), ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, grated ginger, some white wine, about a third of a cup of white sugar (although you could use brown), a teaspoon of sea salt, the zest and juice from a lemon, a tablespoon or two of butter and 1/4 cup or so of chicken stock just to round out the flavour. If you were making apple compote for dessert, you could omit the stock.

I've avoided putting precise measurements in my description because really this is one of those "make it to taste" dishes. We were adding ingredients as we went, more cinnamon if needed, more butter or stock if the flavours were too acidic or harsh. More lemon juice if more tartness was required. It's one of those recipes that really makes you feel like a chef, because you're constantly tasting, and trying to improve on, what you've done. One thing to note though is that Chef Marty added half of the apples at the start with the spices and other ingredients (except for the stock and butter), cooked them down until they were quite soft, and then added the rest of the apples. What happens is you end up having a variety of textures -- the apples added in first will soften to the point where they're breaking down, while the late additions will still have a welcome bit of bite to them.

Once the compote was all but done we were able to start on the pork dish. First we started with the stuffing, which was essentially sauteed bacon , onions, and celery. Add some chopped dates that have been soaking in Riesling or another white wine. Season with salt and pepper, as always, and cook the mixture down, deglazing with white wine or water as needed. When there's still a bit of liquid left in the pan, but not much, add some bread cubes from a stale loaf (1 or 2 slices' worth). You should be able to stir it all together by this point and the bread will soak up the extra moisture.

It's important to cool down the stuffing before you shove it into the pork chop cavity, so let it rest for a few minutes. Use your boning knife to cut into the chop and use it to make a sizeable pocket in the chops. Once the stuffing has cooled slightly spoon it into the waiting chops.

Heat up some oil and butter a large skillet, on high heat. Rub the chops with oil, salt, and pepper, and when the pan is hot, put the chops in to sear. Shake the pan to ensure the chop isn't sticking. Turn down the oven temperature. After a couple of minutes turn the chop to cook the other side. Then put the pan in the oven so that the chop can finish cooking. Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness -- if the internal temperature reaches 150C you're in business.

This was all in all a delicious meal. Everything went together and it was that perfect balance of savoury and sweet. Can't wait to try it again at home.



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