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Bobbie’s Smothered Pork Chops

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I’ve talked a lot about my grandmother, Barbara, on this site.  She, along with my mother, taught me a lot of what I know about cooking, and she taught me most of what I know about southern cooking.  After my parents divorced and we moved closer to her, I spent a lot of time with her as my parents were trying to get back on their feet.  I was fascinated with her stories, I loved eating her food, and she was an amazing stabilizer for me in a time when my world was going crazy.

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I asked my father to tell me what he thought his mother’s “favorite recipe” was.  I was thinking of doing mountain pie for her recipe, because that is my favorite thing that she cooked.  But, I decided to ask my father because well, he had 26 more years of experience with her than I did.  I guess, however, that the tendency to impose our own favorites on people who can no longer speak for themselves is human nature.  I have no idea what my grandmother would have said, but my father suggested that I make his favorite recipe of her’s, her smothered pork chops.  If you remember, I made my own version of this recipe a few months ago.  I loved it when my grandmother made it, and I love it when my father makes it, so I consider it to be a good choice.

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I didn’t read through the recipe again before I went grocery shopping, so I came home with green onions and a shallot where my father had said green pepper and onion.  The grocery store also only had boneless pork chops, so I had to make due with that.  Traditionally my grandmother served this with a side of white rice and spinach soaked in vinegar.  In my years away from home I have become much more partial to spinach tossed in olive oil and garlic, so I made that instead.  I made jasmine rice, and stirred in butter, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.  And boy was the whole thing delicious.

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Bobbie’s Smothered Pork Chops
Source: Ken Rosemond

2 pork chops

1 green onion

1 shallot

1 can diced tomatoes

2 garlic cloves

Salt & pepper

4 tbsp olive oil

4 cups fresh spinach

For this recipe, my father and grandmother always used a cast iron skillet, because it gives the pork a nice crispy skin.  And even though you end up simmering it all together, the starter skin is still important in the overall texture.

Begin by rubbing each side of your chop with garlic (1 clove, chopped) salt and pepper, and one tbsp olive oil.  Heat up your cast iron pan with another tbsp, and get them going.  You want to cook the chops for 5-7 minutes on each side, so while it’s cooking you can dice the shallots and green onion.

When the pork is done, add the onion, shallot, and tomato to the pan.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

About five minutes before you’re ready to eat, heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in a separate pan.  Chop the other clove of garlic and begin to sauté it.  A handful at a time, add your fresh spinach.  Use a pair of tongs to turn the spinach until it has all wilted.  Let it simmer in its juices for no more than a minute, and serve.

Serve with saffron or white rice.

Serves 2.

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Stuffed Red Peppers

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One of my favorite meals during the summer months are stuffed vegetables.  I love the flavors of the roasted vegetables, and it makes for a healthy, filling, whole meal.  A few of our favorite things to stuff are peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes.  We’ve even stuffed the occasional jalapeño.

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There are certain flavors I like to include in my stuffed vegetables.  For one, I think that parsley always adds a nice freshness.  One thing I like about putting parsley in a stuffed vegetable is that it doesn’t really wilt as much as other herbs would.  For instance, if you put basil in a 400 degree oven, it’s brown within seconds.  Parsley holds its own in high temperatures, which means that the whole dish maintains a level of freshness, even after being roasted.

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I also really love using parmesan.  By nature, parmesan is a lot lower in fat and calories than other cheeses, and it’s not as heavy.  It adds a level of creaminess to the dish, but it doesn’t weigh it down.  For this particular recipe I used ground turkey, but I also like to stuff with sausage, particularly chicken sausage.  I really prefer to stuff with poultry, as red meat seems to be too much.  All in all, this is a delicious recipe, and I think you’ll find it a sweet warm weather dinner.

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Stuffed Red Peppers

1 cup ground turkey

1/2 cup parsley

1/4 cup grated parmesan plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling

1/2 onion

4 tbsp olive oil

2 bell peppers

2 garlic cloves

1 tbsp fresh rosemary

1/2 tbsp fresh oregano

1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp butter

1 cup cooked jasmine rice

Heat half of your oil in a saute pan.  Begin to cook the turkey.  While the turkey is cooking, chop your onions, oregano, and rosemary.  When the turkey is mostly cooked, add in onions and herbs.  Continue to saute until the onions are tender.

In a medium size bowl, mix together the hot ingredients with the parsley, spices, cheese, butter, and rice.  The rice should be cooked prior to this step, and should be al dente, not mushy (so avoid a rice cooker).

Cut the tops off of your peppers and scoop out the seeds and the center pulp.  Stuff each pepper with the mixture, and place in a lightly greased baking pan.  If you want these to look a little fancy, you can place the top back on.  Sprinkle parmesan on top of the stuffing, and drizzle the remaining olive oil over both peppers.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.

Serves 2.

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Mama’s Cream Puffs (a la Aunt Jessie)

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There are two women that I credit for my love of cooking, my comfort in the kitchen, and most importantly, my love of food.  My mother is an amazing culinary presence, and I never cease to be impressed by her determination to make things from scratch and from whole, fresh ingredients.  She is a natural born cook, and she taught me both how to work in the kitchen and how to eat.  In fact her mantra “variety is the spice of life” is something I hated as a child (mainly when she was making me eat escarole) but now looking forward to saying to my own children.  I remember having friends that wouldn’t eat anything but peanut butter and jelly and chicken nuggets, and as an adult I really appreciate how rarely we ate fast food and the broad range of food she introduced us to.

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For Mother’s Day, which is coming up on May 10, I am going to share the favorite recipes of all the mothers and grandmothers in my life, beginning today with my mother, Cathy.  Although my mother was raised cooking primarily Italian, she now lives in North Carolina and cooks a broad range of foods, everything from bacon wraps to lemon pistachio cake.  She’s also recently started a small catering company on the side, Top Nosh Catering, which is slowly but surely building a reputation around the Triangle.

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These cream puffs, or as my mother calls them, “dream puffs” are her great Aunt Jessie’s recipe.  And they really are dreamy.   The first real memory I have of cream puffs are from a family reunion at my Aunt Paula’s house in Sea Girt, New Jersey.  I’m not sure who made them or brought them, I just remember eating them.  So many of them.  They are the perfect combination of flavors and textures.  They are crunchy and smooth and sweet and like little morsels of heaven in each bite.

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The recipe is adaptable so that you can make these chocolate or vanilla.  I like both, but I have to admit the appeal of chocolate is hard to resist.  Another variation option is to fill them with vanilla pudding and then drizzle melted chocolate on the top.  Whatever you do, serve these within a few hours of making them, as the pudding can make the rest of the cream puff soggy.  And that’s not the desired effect.  My mother also thinks it’s very important that I tell you that if you wanted to, you could use the puff with savory ingredients, like tuna salad.

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Dream Puffs
Source: Cathy Rosemond

For Pudding:

3 cups milk

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp butter

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Scald 2 1/2 cups of milk.  Mix cornstarch, sugar, and salt.  Add that to the scalded milk, as well as the remaining milk.  Over low heat, cook until thick.  If your pudding isn’t thickening, try adding more cornstarch, 1/2 tsp at a time.  Once thick, cook an additional five minutes.  Allow to cool slightly and stir in the vanilla extract and butter.  Pour into a medium size bowl, and place plastic wrap directly on the top of the pudding.  This will prevent it from getting that gross skin as it cools.  Allow to cool completely, which takes at least a few hours.  It may be easier to make the pudding the night before and make the puffs within a few hours of serving them.

Right before you’re ready to stuff the puffs, whip the cream until it can hold soft peaks.  Add in the sugar and vanilla and whip an extra two minutes.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the pudding to create an airy filling.

For Puffs:

1 cup water

1 stick butter

1 cup flour

4 eggs

1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate

Bring water to boil in a medium size pot.  Stir in butter, and allow it to melt and return to a boil.  Stir in flour and remove from heat.  Continue to mix until the flour has formed a nice ball, and is separated from the edges.  Allow to cool slightly.

Add in one egg at a time.  After each egg, stir until the egg is completely incorporated and no longer sticking to everything.

Use a spoon to drop onto a greased baking sheet.  Make sure that there is a peak on each one of your batter balls.

Bake for 10 minutes at 400, and an additional 20 at 350.

As they’re baking, melt chocolate in a double boiler.

Assembly:

Allow to cool for 20 minutes to an hour.  When they’ve cooled, use a serated knife to open them slightly, enough to spoon/pastry bag filling into them.  Fill each puff with 1-2 tbsp pudding/cream.  When they’re filled, drizzle melted chocolate on top, and allow the chocolate to harden.

Makes 12-14 cream puffs.

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