"It's not a recipe blog. I'm interested in what doesn't change, what can't change, what is permanent, what is fundamental to the act of cooking. I am interested in not needing recipes." ~ Chef Michael Ruhlman, on the subject of the blog he created to go with his book The Elements of Cooking
My sister is the one who sent me the recipe for yesterday's tomato tart. It spurred the following e-mail conversation:
HCH - Synchronicity! I just had a tart like that at Linda Allen's, and was wishing I had a recipe for something similar.
Sis - I figured you were making things like this up by now.
HCH - Funny you should say that. I've found a great blog called My French Corner, that is really inspiring me more and more to try to cook without recipes, or at least, to take a basic one, then adapt it to my needs or to whatever ingredients I have on hand. I've got to get those basics down first though! In one of her really old posts MFC talked about making a "gastrique", or basic reduction sauce, and I suddenly realized that many of my favorite recipes (Barefoot Contessa's steak au poivre, my pork chops with blackberry sauce or mustard-wine sauce, my holiday pork tenderloins with cranberry sauce, etc.) are actually all the same recipe!
A gastrique is where you brown your meat in a little oil or butter, take it out of the pan and add some wine or vinegar to "deglaze" the pan while you stir up all the good browned bits and drippings from the meat, which add all the flavor. You let the liquid reduce a bit to concentrate the flavor, then you just add your fruit or cream or mustard and seasonings or whatever. Magnifique! All this time, I've just been cooking a hundred variations on one basic recipe! Now that I know that, maybe I'll have the confidence to make up some of my own combinations.
And so, since it is still prime berry season in much of the country, I thought I would share one of my very favorite "gastrique" recipes with you. Maybe then you can come up with a few variations of your own -- or perhaps you already have a favorite gastrique preparation? If so, I do hope you will share it with the rest of us, in the comments below!
Pork Chops with Blackberry-Zinfandel Sauce, from Cuisine At Home
(makes 4 chops, 2 cups sauce)
2 T. chili powder
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
4 bone-in pork chops, 3/4-1" thick (6-8oz.each), trimmed of excess fat
2 T. vegetable oil
2 T. shallots, minced
1/2 cup zinfandel
4 cups fresh blackberries, divided
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 T. sugar, or to taste
2 T. unsalted butter
- Combine spices and rub into chops.
- Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high. Add chops and saute 4 minutes on each side. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 5-7 minutes. Remove chops to platter, cover and keep warm.
- Saute shallots in same pan over medium-high heat about 2 minutes.
- Deglaze pan with wine, scraping up any browned bits; add 3 cups berries, broth, and sugar. Bring to a boil, simmer 3 minutes, then coarsely mash. Simmer sauce until slightly thick, add remaining berries, and cook until heated through.
- Off heat, swirl in butter; season with salt and pepper.
- Serve chops with sauce.