My #1 blog fan, Uncle Ken, drew my name for this year's stocking gift exchange, and I received the best gift, ever: a loaf of his to-die-for pecan bread. The bread was every bit as amazing as he said it was--chewy and nutty and sweet. Every bite was perfection. Unfortunately, he told me he can't share the recipe until he dies (for real). Secret family recipes are only fun when you're the one who has them. To make up for it, he also gave me a whole magazine filled with yummy recipes:
He said he knew I liked to try new recipes and write about them on the blog. He's definitely awesome like that. Of course, I got all excited and decided I needed to name a blog segment in honor of him, and the Uncle Ken Cooking Challenge 2015 was born! Originally I thought I'd stick to just creating all the recipes in that one magazine, but I've decided I am not going to limit myself that way. I'm just going to try and post a new recipe once a week, each week, on Tuesdays. Play along with me, and we will end up trying 52 new recipes in 2015. If we're lucky, maybe one of them will become our own secret family recipe. Of course, since I'm posting mine on the blog, they won't be a "secret", but I don't want to be as mean as Uncle Ken, so mine will all be shared (just kidding Uncle Ken!).
I wasted no time at all selecting my first recipe: White Balsamic Chops with Roasted Potatoes and Peas:
Oh, my! This meal was amazing! The kids and I loved it so much, we made it again just last night so that John could try it (he was in Israel when I made it the first time). He liked it, too! There are so many yummy flavors in this dish. It could definitely be a company meal! I did everything just as the recipe instructed, except add the cipolline onions. I went ahead and used the fresh rosemary and thyme--it is definitely worth it to use fresh herbs instead of dried when you can. Ready for the recipe? Here you go:
White Balsamic Chops with Roasted Potatoes and Peas
For the pork:
1/4 cup plus 1 TBL canola oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
3 medium cloves garlic, minced and mashed into a paste
1 1/2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 1/2-inch-thick boneless pork chops
3 TPB cold unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
For the Peas and Potatoes
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
1 lb. baby potatoes (any color; golf-ball size), quartered
6 medium thawed frozen pearl onions
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup thawed frozen peas
1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
Marinate the Pork
In a shallow glass or ceramic dish wide enough to fit the pork chops in one layer, whisk the 1/4 cup oil with the vinegar, garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Add the pork, turn to coat, and leave at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, for about 20 minutes, turning once.
Cook the Peas and Potatoes
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375. Put the bacon in a heavy-duty 10-to-12-inch ovenproof skillet with 1 Tbl water and set the skillet over medium-high heat. Once the water evaporated, stir constantly until the bacon is crisp, about 6-8 minutes, total. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain; reserve the fat in the skillet.
Heat the reserved bacon fat in the skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, for 1 minute. Stir the potatoes once, and then add the onions and bacon. Cook, undisturbed, for 1 minute. Stir to coat the onions with the fat, and then season with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Transfer the skilled to the oven and roast until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes. Stir in the peas and thyme to heat through, season to taste with salt and pepper, and keep warm.
Cook the Pork
Remove the pork chops from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Wipe the marinade off the chops and pat dry with paper towels. Lightly season the pork with salt and pepper on both sides.
Heat the remaining 1 Tbl of oil in a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot. Add the pork the chops in a single layer and cook, flipping once, until browned on both sides and slightly firm to the touch, about 6 minutes total. Transfer the pork to a platter, cover, and keep warm. Discard any oil remaining in the skillet.
Add the reserved marinade to the skillet and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; boil for 1 minute. Lower the heat to low and whisk in the butter. As soon as the butter is melted, remove the skillet from the heat, season to taste with salt and pepper, and pour the sauce over the pork. Serve with the potatoes and peas.
Enjoy! Please let me know if you end up trying this recipe!