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Pork, Fig, & Rosemary Browned Butter

To frame this post, I’d like to tell you Dan’s recommended names.  First was “Pork Fig Fat.”  Secondly, he went with PORK FIG AWESOME.  I was partial to both, but thought I’d give a more descriptive title.  No matter what you call it though, this dish was exactly what I needed.  You see, tonight was the first night that we have been home to cook dinner since last week, something that has left me feeling off center and a bit cranky.  Also, I ate some old marshmallows so that could be a contributing factor.

I started dreaming about figs mid last week, but beyond stuffing them with goat cheese and wrapping them in proscuitto (done) and fig ice cream (coming soon), I couldn’t think of anything interesting.  I wanted something sweet yet salty, juicy yet firm.  Figs are such a strange texture and flavor, I knew I needed to pair them with something that wouldn’t overwhelm them.  Something that would act as the facade broach to your neck scarf.

Incidentally, this dish was over 50% accident.  On Sunday night I was drinking a beer, but then I got too tired to finish it.  I didn’t want to waste half of a very nice beer, so I thought beer brine!  And that is what I did.  I was going to cook this Monday night.  But then we had to go to Pennsylvania to sort out some issues transferring the title of our car, so instead of marinating 24 hours, the pork marinated 48.  I was also going to put goat cheese on top of the pork, but I forgot that one.

I am glad to say that, with the exception of forgetting the cheese, this dish was a combination of happy accidents.  Like making a mixed tape of a handful of artists that don’t seem to go together but completely work (so much so that you start writing letters to them encouraging a tour).  I want to write letters to the pork and fig boards.  I want to let the browned butter association know about this.  I’ll probably just settle for letting you know.  It’s good.  Damn good.  As Dan described, the fig almost tastes like it’s the pork fat, but sweeter and more succulent than expected.  Which explains his first title suggestion.  Also, it explains his face whilst waiting for me to finish taking pictures.

Pork, Fig, & Rosemary Browned Butter

2 boneless pork chops

6 black mission figs

1 cup beer

2 tbsp honey

1 stick of butter

1 sprig of fresh rosemary

2 garlic cloves

4 slices goat cheese

Salt & pepper

Olive oil

Place pork in a bowl and pour honey and beer over, completely submerging.  Stick in the fridge and marinate at least 4 hours, or up to 48.

To Grill This Dish:

Remove the pork from the marinade.  Pat dry and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.  Fire up the grill.

Cut figs in half.  Brush both sides with olive oil.  Set aside.

In a medium skillet over low heat, melt butter with rosemary and sliced garlic.  Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until it is dark brown.

Grill pork for 5-7 minutes.  Flip.  When you’ve flipped the pork, put the figs on the grill open face down.  Place cheese on top of the pork, allowing it to melt slightly.  Cook 5 minutes and remove everything.  Let meat rest at least 5 minutes.

Combine figs and pork on a plate.  Top with browned butter sauce and serve.

To Roast This Dish:

Remove the pork from the marinade.  Pat dry and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Heat oven to 350.

Slice figs in half.  In a roasting pan combine pork and figs.  Slice the butter and place the pats around the dish.  Slice the garlic thinly and sprinkle over everything.  Add rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Cover.  Let cook about 30 minutes.  Top with cheese and serve.

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Blackberry Purple Basil Pielets

Last week we were in North Carolina for my brother Ryan’s high school graduation.  We spent a whirlwind 23 hours in Durham seeing family and friends, eating and drinking and laughing and dancing.  One of our last stops out of town was barbeque with my brothers at the famous Allen & Son’s in Chapel Hill.  As a way to pack as much south as possible in our trip, Dan and I had a (very late) breakfast of chicken biscuits about an hour before we were supposed to be at my brother’s farm.  So when we rolled into Reid’s driveway, I didn’t think I was in any position to eat anything, let alone slow cooked pork in a vinegar based sauce topped with cole slaw.  With a side of fried okra.  And sweet tea.

However, it turns out I am always in a position to eat something.  Which is what I realized when I spotted Reid’s blackberry bush, bursting with ripe fruit, and started stuffing my face.  I ate, and ate, and ate, and then I made a few references to children’s books about hungry bears.  And then I ate more blackberries.  And when we left North Carolina, I was unable to think of anything else.

At the Baltimore Herb Festival a few weeks ago I picked up a purple basil plant, something that  is the strangest combination of sweet and a little savory, warming almost.  I spent the drive home from North Carolina daydreaming about blackberries, then blackberries and basil, then blackberry and basil pie.  And ginger whipped cream. So while I was planning the menu for our housewarming party, I knew what was happening for desserts.  It was a give in.  It was all I could think about.

The day before the party I baked off eighteen or so little pie shells.  The pied dough was infused with honey and basil and baked the shells in a cupcake pan, all by their lonesome.  The next morning I hit a major roadblock when I realized (at the farmer’s market) that blackberries aren’t in season yet in Maryland.  So, I adjusted and mixed a pint of North Carolinian blackberries with two pints of black raspberries.  I tossed the berries in honey (that I purchased during our bbq lunch at Allen & Son’s) and minced basil.

And it was so good.  They weren’t very sweet, but the honey was warm and inviting.  The blackberries and raspberries were tart and juicy, and the basil pulled everything together.  I was happy with them, and I think my guests were too.  The real star of the show, however, was the sprinkler.

Blackberry Purple Basil Tart

Pie Dough:

2 1/2 cups flour

3 tbsp sugar

Pinch of salt

Pinch of powdered ginger

5-10 leaves purple basil, minced

1 1/2 sticks butter (cold)

4 tbsp shortening

4 tbsp honey

1/3 cup water, cold

Filling:

3 pints blackberries (or black raspberries)

1/4 cup honey

Handful of purple basil leaves (or regular basil), minced

Whipped Cream:

1 pint heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp powdered ginger

Start with the dough.  In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, sugar, ginger, and basil.  With your fingers, work in the shortening.  Chop the butter into squares and cut that in with your hands, until the texture resembles cornmeal.  Stir in honey and water.  The dough should form a loose ball.  If necessary, add more water/flour.  Wrap the ball in plastic and refrigerate for at leas an hour.

After your dough has chilled, break off pieces the size of ping pong ball and roll them out.  Place the dough rounds into a greased cupcake tin, trimming the edges so that they are neatly sized.  Bake the shells at 400 for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Allow to cool.

About 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve these, mix your berries in the honey and the minced basil.  Then, use a beater or stand mixer to whip the cream, sugar, and ginger until stiff.  Serve a scoop of blackberries in the shell, topped with whipped cream.

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Apple Sage Fritters

About a month ago I started a new job at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, working in their education and programming departments.  It’s amazing and I love it.  And, in an effort to keep work life separate, that is all I will say about it.  Except that I love my coworkers because they are sweet and wonderful and on occasion bring sage in from home.  Which, it turns out, I use by frying it.  Because I have to stay true to my roots.

There is something about sage where, when I smell it, I can only pictured it paired with a granny smith apple.  Sometimes that means on top of a burger or a pork chop, and other times that means in pie.  When I first started dreaming up the apple/sage dessert, I was picturing something akin to a hand pie.  Something bite sized but definitely in the realm of pie.  But I kept describing it to people (Dan) as a fritter.  Not because I can’t tell the difference between a pie and a fritter, but because apple sage fritter sounded better than apple sage pie. And because I’m crazy.

So I set out to make fritters.  And they were so good.  And I was in heaven.  And for a brief, fleeting moment (a week or so), I wanted to cheat on pie with fritters.  I’ve calmed down a bit, and now I just want to be polygamous.  Also, ALSO, I fried these on the grill.  Partially because I’m obsessed with my grill and partially because frying things on the grill is THE BEST THING EVER.  Because here’s the deal, internet.  Since I turned 18 and left the comfort of my parent’s house, where there was always pickled okra and tomatoes,  I’ve lived in apartments.  And you know what is NOT fun to do in apartments?  Fry things.  But, as a southerner who requires a quotient of fried food in her diet, I fried in my apartments.  And it was smoky and hot and messy.  But not any more.  Now I will fry ON MY GRILL.

Apple Sage Fritters

2 granny smith apples

1 cup fresh sage leaves

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups flour

2 cups cake flour

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 tsp cinnamon

Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Oil for frying

In a medium mixing bowl, combine milk, eggs, and vanilla.  In another mixing bowl combine flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and sugar.  Mince sage and add that.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Peel and dice your apples.  Fold them into the batter.

Place a large cast iron skillet directly on the grill and heat your oil to 350 degrees.  With a spoon (for a more freely shaped fritter) or an ice cream scoop (for a rounder fritter), drop your fritter into the oil.  The batter should sink and then float to the top.  Fry for 2-4 minutes and then, using a slotted spoon, turn them over.  Fry an additional 2-4 minutes or until both sides are golden brown.

Remove from oil and set on a paper towel.  Douse with powdered sugar.  Let cool, and devour.

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