Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sage Rubbed Pork Chops and Wild Mushroom Orzo: {Meet the K Family}

When I first moved away from home, and the Army let me have my husband back I think I could cook 5 meals.  We basically rotated those meals, and mixed up those meals in various combinations of things.  I couldn't even boil rice, and I think we ate chicken parmesan so many times I don't think I could ever eat that again in my lifetime!!  I was armed with one cookbook my Mom got me, and a handful of recipe cards that I had requested as gifts from my friends at my bridal shower.  Armed with a general knowledge of cooking, some really weak kitchen skills and some comfort food recipes I was thrust to Southeast Georgia; home of Paula Deen (ya'll), collard greens, fried chicken, pralines, fried catfish and grits!  This little old California girl was so out of her element.  But I made it through and my husband did not go hungry.  I now am armed with an arsenal of recipes and techniques I learned over time and with lots of practice and mistakes.  And let me tell you, this Cali girl can now throw down some collard greens thanks to watching Ms. Deen!!   

I say all of the above, as my next Deployment Dinner story takes me back to those memories so easily because I was in this Army wife's shoes once too.  Meet the K family.  John and Michelle.  John is a Medic, Michelle is a student and server at a really tasty burger restaurant "Red Robin" Yyyyuuummm!  It just so happens that Michelle is from Georgia!!  Here they are at the unit ball before the guys cute!  This is their first deployment, by far the most difficult one to conquer.    

Michelle is like that cool, younger sister, an "Aunt type" to my girls and the eight year age gap between us doesn't seem to matter much sense we seem to have been friends forever...those are really the nicest friends to meet because nothing is ever really forced or awkward.  Jessica (another friend from the first Deployment Dinner post) introduced us.  I have plans to take Michelle under my culinary wing and she is going to master some kitchen skills before John returns from deployment.  I wish someone would have done that for me all those years ago in Georgia.  It helps that my girls adore her, so we like having Michelle around.  

*Do you have a recipe that you have wanted to make but are too afraid to tackle on your own? 
M: "Girl, I have about a million recipes like this (lol) just flip open any cookbook!"

*Vegetable that frightens you?  Why? 
M:  "Are artichokes vegetables? Just don’t know how to cook them I guess
(Michelle, I think you are so cute!  I have an amazing artichoke recipe...I will show you one day.)

Michelle with my Cha Cha bug.

*Your proudest kitchen moment:
M:  "When I made the alfredo from scratch for the first time, I was like whoa! I can actually cook something!"
*Your worst kitchen moment:
M:  "Frying chicken… smoke detectors were going off, doors had to be open to ventilate.. it was bad."

(LOL!! I have been in your shoes, and I still burn stuff every once in awhile...although I hate to admit that.)

*What are your proudest Army moments?
M: "Him (John) graduating basic, then AIT, then going thru Airborne school. I’m so proud of everything he does!"
(Michelle you have the true makings of an Army wife;  strength, pride, and honor.)

Michelle is not a picky eater so I figured she wouldn't mind eating Sage Rubbed Pork Chops and my signature dish Wild Mushroom Orzo Pasta.  Makes my mouth water thinking about it.  The first time I made this Orzo my husband said, "Why have we waited so long to find Orzo?"  I totally agree, it beats being in the rice rut, or potato dilemma...mashed, fried, or baked?  The husband is very military in his meal requests; protein, starch, vegetable so Orzo makes for a nice "starch."

I ate at a restaurant called Rutherford Grill in the Napa Valley in California and I had the most amazing thick cut, sage rubbed pork chop so I was on a mission to find a recipe similar to duplicate it at home.  It didn't take me long to find one on one of my favorite recipe sites, All Recipes.  They also have a very cool smart phone app (check it out).

 At Rutherford Grill they serve them with purple red cabbage and blue cheese, and a side of homemade apple sauce.  I tell you it is the best combination of flavors.  I make these a lot so here are some pictures of the pork chops I made before my husband deployed.  Now, that is a man size chunk of meat. 


For the Orzo (which can be found on the shelf with the other pastas) you will need to find dried fancy mushrooms. I find these in our commissary in the produce section but have seen them in specialty food stores or "fancy food aisles".

This is the brand and type I use.  Melissa's Exotic Mushroom Medley

  Dried mushrooms do not look appetizing in their dried form (I will admit), but they are very rich, and add such a nice flavor dimension to this pasta. You will need to reconstitute them by putting some boiling water into a glass measuring cup or bowl and then steep the mushrooms in the hot water, and cover with a lid.  About 7-10 minutes or until they are soft.  Drain the mushrooms and then chop them and set them aside.
Chop one small onion (or half a large one) and saute with 1/4 cup of butter.
Add to the pan, one cup of uncooked Orzo pasta.
Add in your fancy mushrooms.  These are porcini, oyster chanterelle, shiitake and cremini.  Every fancy mushroom your heart could desire in one bag.
Saute that all up together, stirring often.  Give the Orzo a chance to heat up well so that it can better absorb all the liquid you will be adding next.
Add in a cup of chicken broth and 1/2 cup of white wine.  I like to use a Chardonnay.

Bring it up to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer with lid off.  Sprinkle some garlic powder and some salt and pepper over the top.  Allow to simmer (about 15-20 min.) until liquid has cooked down. 
Add a mountain 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese.
Stir the cheese in and add in 1/4 cup more butter and stir it all up until melted.  Taste your orzo and adjust your salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. 

This makes a great vegetarian dish, it is filling enough to be a meal on its very own but we love it as a side dish as well. 

{Wild Mushroom Orzo}
By: DK365

1/2 cup butter, divided
1 small onion, chopped
1 package (1/2 oz.) of dried wild mushroom medley, reconstituted and chopped
1 cup Orzo pasta
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Melt 1/4 cup of the butter in a large skillet.  Add the onion in and saute until soft.  Boil one cup of water and steep the mushrooms covered until softened, drain and chop.  Add the orzo pasta and mushrooms to the skillet.  Saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the chicken broth and wine to the skillet, sprinkle in salt, pepper and garlic powder, stir, and turn the heat up, bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer until liquid is gone and pasta is al dente.  Add grated parmesan and the remaining butter.  Adjust salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.

{Sage Rubbed Pork Chops}
Adapted from the original recipe found here at All Recipes

4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dried rubbed sage
2 tsp. ground black pepper
4 thick cut, bone in pork chops
4 Tbsp. butter
1 cup of water
2 cubes of beef bouillon

Combine the salt, pepper and sage in a bowl.  Rinse and pat dry your pork chops.  Rub the seasoning mixture on both sides of the chops.  Melt the butter on a medium-high heat in a large saute pan.  Sear the pork chops when the pan gets really hot, searing one side (a couple of minutes a side), flip and then sear in the other to lock in moisture.  Heat up the water and dissolve the bouillon. Pour the water/bouillon mixture into the pan and bring up to a boil.  Cover and turn to a simmer about 25-40 minutes depending on the thickness of your chops.  You can serve the "au jus" (fancy French word for the liquid it was cooked with) on the side and dip your bites of pork chop into it! That is my husband's favorite way to eat them.  

**Important notes: be cautious of the salt measurements, this recipe has potential to get highly salty. Do not add additional salt into the recipe.
Cook your pork to at least 145 degrees per new USDA standards.  I prefer mine slightly pink in the middle, about a temp of 160 degrees or so.  Cook to your liking. 


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