Though I hesitate to call it a resolution, we are trying to eat a bit healthier now that the holidays are over. I’m not going to extremes, of course, but I am trying to incorporate more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables into my cooking, so our crisper drawer is full and I’m working my way through it faithfully.
But getting back into the old routine takes time, so I started the weekend completely unprepared for our dining needs. Flipping through the pages of Cooking Light for inspiration, I ran across a wild rice salad that looked completely scrumptious and sounded like it’d be perfect with a little pork. As luck would have it, our freezer is stocked with obscene amounts of pork (and beef. and chicken) thanks to Gil’s company’s annual holiday gift of Omaha Steaks. There was also a jar of peach sauce from our last Trader Joe’s run, so all I needed was a recipe to tie things together. Inspiration for the pork came from the Epicurious website, where I found a recipe for pork with brandied peaches that called to me. I did change the recipe a smidge — I used peach sauce instead of frozen peaches and preserves, cooked the butter in the recipe a little longer than suggested for that rich, delicious, brown butter note under the fruit and brandy, and added cumin … because I’m incapable of not adding cumin.
The salad satisfied my non-resolution requirement for healthy dining, while the pork chops were just rich enough to keep us from feeling deprived. But the sauce was the real highlight of the meal.
It was all I could do not to lick the plate.
recipes after the jump
Wild Rice and Barley Salad adapted from Cooking Light
I changed this recipe around a bit to adjust for the contents of our pantry. I used odds & ends of rice we had leftover — a little mahogany and wild rice as well as brown rice in place of the barley. Instead of chicken broth, I used water plus veal demi-glace, and instead of basil, cilantro. It was delicious with the substitutions, but I’d like to try it as written next time (when I’m not too lazy to make a grocery store run). I’m giving you the original recipe here, without my substitutions so you can make it as you see fit.
Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Spoon rice mixture into a medium bowl. Add chickpeas, raisins, and green onions.
Combine vinegar and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Pour over barley mixture; toss well. Cover; chill 2 hours. Stir in basil and almonds.
Brandied-Peach Pork Chops adapted from Epicurious
It’s important not to use a nonstick pan for this recipe; you want the meat to stick to the pan a little bit so your sauce is flavored by the resulting fond. I used pork here, but I think chicken would be an excellent substitute.
4 (1-inch-thick) loin pork chops
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon brandy, divided
1 (10-ounce) bag frozen peaches, thawed
1/3 cup peach preserves
Pat pork chops dry, then sprinkle on both sides with cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (total).
Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook pork chops, turning once, until browned and just cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes total. Transfer to a platter and keep warm, loosely covered with foil. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet.
Heat butter in skillet over medium heat until foam subsides and solids begin to brown, then cook shallots with thyme, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden-brown, about 5 minutes.
Add 1/4 cup brandy to skillet and carefully ignite with a kitchen match (use caution; flames will shoot up), then cook over medium heat, scraping bottom of skillet to loosen brown bits. When flames subside, add peaches, preserves, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and cook, covered, until peaches are tender and juicy, about 3 minutes. Stir in remaining tablespoon brandy, any meat juices from platter, and salt and pepper to taste, then spoon sauce over chops.