I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Marinara and Steaks

Over the weekend we rented the first few episodes of the 5th season of Sopranos and I got all hungry for Italian food. When I was at Northwestern I had this old Italian lady as a patient and she gave me this great recipe for marinara sauce. It has a secret ingredient! Besides using San Marzano tomatoes, she told me about cooking the sauce with a pork chop in it. It adds a rich flavor to the sauce that you can't get any other way. I've tried it with different kinds of meats but no other combination works as well as a pork chop.

Marinara Sauce with a Chop

Olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 32 oz cans of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes or some other kind of canned plumb tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pork chop
fresh ground black pepper
ground red pepper
fresh basil leaves or some dried Italian herbs.

Heat the olive oil until it is nice and hot in a sauce pan. Don't get it too hot or it will smoke. Drop in the pork chop and brown it nicely on each side. Remove the pork chop and saute the onions for a little bit. After they start to turn translucent, add in the garlic and saute for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes and either crush them up with your hand or mash them up in the pot with a potato masher. Add the pork chop back in. Add a few dashes of red pepper flakes but not too many, just enough to give it a tiny hint of bite. Grind in a fair amount of black pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Simmer covered, stirring occasionally for an hour. Add the spices. Taste the sauce and add salt to make it taste right. Cook it for another few minutes, stirring to mix the spices in real well. Remove the pork chops and serve.

You should remove the pork chops when no one is looking. You don't want anyone to figure out what the secret ingredient is. If you find a good recipe you should hog it and hold it over everyone's head. Hehehe. If you want to be really safe you should get rid of the pork chop right way. Give it to a nice dog, but only if she has been very good lately.

With my linguine with marinara I served pan seared steaks. I was also very lucky to find one of my favorite sides in the store - ACORN SQUASH!!

Pan Seared Steaks

2 steaks, your choice
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
olive oil

Preheat your broiler for like a half hour or however long it takes for it to get as hot as it can possibly get. Heat an empty cast iron skillet on the stove to ridiculously hot. It takes about 5 minutes to get mine hot enough on a gas stove. Meanwhile brush your steaks down with a little olive oil. Grind some fresh ground black pepper onto a plate. Add a little sea salt to the fresh ground black pepper. Press each side of the steak down into the pepper on the plate to coat each side. When this is done and your cast iron skillet is obscenely hot, drop the steaks in and sear them on one side, without flipping or messing with them in any way for exactly 5 minutes by the clock. When the time is up flip the steaks and put them under the broiler for 9 minutes by the clock. That amount of time in my oven will make the steaks medium. Put the steaks on the plates and let them rest under aluminum foil for 5 minutes while you prepare the rest of your food to add to the plates.

How I make Acorn Squash

Well here is my method for making acorn squash. My recipe is for 1 squash, which should serve 2 people. I split the squash down the middle and scoop out the seeds. Then I put both halves face down in a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Then I poke a few holes in the plastic wrap and put it in the microwave for 15 minutes. Your microwave may cook faster or it may cook slower depending on how strong it is. A good guide is 10 to 20 minutes. You'll know that it is done when it is soft enough to eat. I know some people might consider microwaving food to be a travesty, but it is tough to beat the microwave for cooking acorn squash. It literally steams in its own juices.

Next I preheat the broiler in the oven. While the oven is heating I take 3 tablespoons of butter and put it in a bowl. Add to the bowl 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. Then microwave the bowl until the butter is melted. Take that mixture and put some of it into each squash. Then put the squashes face up (you need them to hold the goodies) and put it under the broiler. It will only take a few minutes and you will know it is done when the edges of the squash start to brown a little bit and the brown sugar/butter that has splashed up on top of the squash lip starts to carmelize. Take it out of the oven and serve, but warn people that it will be piping hot. Nothing sucks more than burning the taste off of your tongue.