Swiss Chard Gratin, Dry Rub Pork

Anyone who reads this blog has already noticed that sometimes I get in the mood to do a recipe and heat of the oven be damned! Tonight was one of those cases after I saw an Alice Waters recipe for Swiss Chard posted by The Wednesday Chef. It had to be eaten.

But before I talk about the recipe, I had a question for you foodies out there — I know that Alice Waters inspired, well, everybody, but who do you consider was particularly influenced by her within the following generations of leading chefs ?

Swiss Chard Gratin


Adapted from The Wednesday Chef who adapted from Alice Waters. This amount serves about 4 as a side dish. The use of a cast iron pan in making this dish reduces washing up!

1 bunch of swiss chard (8-10 large leaves)
1 cup breadcrumbs
unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp flour
1/2 to 1 cup milk
pinch of ground nutmeg

Tear up some bread and make pea-sized breadcrumbs in a food processor. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large cast iron pan and lightly brown the breadcrumbs over medium heat. Remove and set aside in a small bowl.

Preheat oven at 350F.

Get some lightly salted water boiling in a large pot. Wash the chard and cut away the stems. Thinly chop the stems (just like chopping celery). Place the chopped stems in the boiling water and cook for two minutes, then add the green leaves of chard, and cook for another three minutes, then drain in a collander and press some of the excess moisture out of the leaves.

Add 2 tsbp of butter to your cast iron pan and saute the diced onion over medium-low heat until it turns translucent. Remove the chard from the collander, loosely chop, and add to the cast iron pan. Add some salt and continue sauteing for several minutes.

chard gratin cooking

Add the flour and stir in well. Then add 1/2 cup of milk, the pinch of nutmeg, and stir and cook for another 5 minutes. You want the mixture to be moist but not soupy, so continue to add small increments of milk as you go to keep the proper level of moisture.

Remove from heat, and taste for salt. You can optionally add a little more butter here (say 1/4 tbsp cut into small pieces and sprinkled around). Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top evenly and place in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

Let’s just say that I did not leave leftovers.

Dry Rub Pork

Pork Dry Rub

I continue to experiment with dry rub combinations. Tonight I removed sugar all together and combined roughly equal portions of mustard seed, coriander seed, cumin seed, black peppercorns, and salt in a mortar for grinding. I rubbed the spice mix on the pork and let the chops sit for about 40 minutes before grilling — searing on high heat for 2 to 3 minutes a side and then moving to indirect heat on the grill for a few minutes more (these were big chops). The result was very good.

Dinner all combined was the grilled pork chop, side of chard gratin, and a side of some roma beans boiled for 2 minutes on the side and a touch of salt — all paired with a nice Malbec.

Weekend in the Caskills (Caprese, Grilled Pork, Produce)

The local produce has emerged in New York’s Catskills mountains. This weekend we hit our favorite farm stand and popped up to Kingston to visit the farmers’ market and a favorite butcher. For any New Yorkers reading, I should note that Kingston’s market is useful for a few interesting items like zucchini blossoms, gooseberries, and fresh mozzarella, but for your typical farm produce, it is expensive and sadly of mixed quality (that’s not to say there isn’t good stuff to be found, just be choosy). For wonderfully fresh produce, we go to a farm stand located at the back of Gill’s Farm in Hurley NY, right off their fields.
Gills Farm Stand
We walked away with a ton of veggies and an enormous armful of fresh basil for making pesto, some of which Lisl used Saturday night to make her fried zucchini blossoms (the subject of another blog post).
Summer Veggies
Summer Fruit

Hot, humid weather inspires a simple, cool lunch — in this case, a Caprese salad, with slices of tomato, fresh basil, mozzarella, and drizzlings of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper.
Caprese Salad

While we were in Kingston, we stopped by our favorite butcher shop, Fleishers, which not only has the most amazing grass-fed and organic meats, it is also run by the nicest couple (and I just learned they hit the Saveur “Top 100” list for 2008). I purchased two porterhouse pork chops and let them spend the day marinating in the fridge covered in olive oil, white wine vinegar, white wine, grain mustard, and a scattering of fresh oregano, salt and pepper.

Grilling Pork
I grilled them that evening to excellent effect, and while I’d like to give my marinade and grilling skills much of the credit, I think it really belongs to the Berkshire (aka Kurobuta) pork that Fleishers carries.

Wax Beans

The full dinner menu ended up being fried zucchini blossoms to start, then a main course of grilled pork, corn on the cobb (nothing like freshly picked corn), and wax beans (boiled for three minutes then tossed with some butter, fresh oregano, and salt/pepper). We served it with a chilled Malbec Rose from Crios, which I highly recommend.

Dry Rub Pork Loin (boneless “ribs”)

Dry Rub Pork, Post Grill

1 tsp smoked paprika
1/3 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground black and red pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp brown sugar

Flat pork loin, cut into 6 boneless “ribs” about 4.5″ long, 1″ thick, 2″ high
1/2 cup beer
Soy Sauce, approx 3/4 tsp

I’ve long wanted to try a dry rub barbecue and tonight I decided to take the plunge.

First, the meat: Adams Fairacre Farms is probably my favorite NY market outside of Manhattan (in particular I like the Kingston market and found the produce and butcher to be a bit better than the Newburgh store). They cut their pork loin into flat boneless “ribs” which they call “family style”, and this is what I used tonight.

Next the dry rub: The spice measurements above are rough since I eyeballed proportions using a smallish kitchen spoon. I mixed the spices all together: paprika, pepper, cayenne, salt, brown sugar, cumin, ground coriander. If I had been less pressed for time (and trying to minimize cleanup), I probably would have blended it all together with a bay leaf as well. The measurements above were enough for the 6 smallish pieces of pork I was working with. I placed the rub in a baking dish and rubbed the pork pieces around until covered by the mix. I covered with plastic wrap and let marinate for about an hour on the counter (if longer, I would have placed back in fridge).

Dry Rub Pork Setup

I then mixed about half a cup of beer (I was drinking an excellent summery brew from the Ommegang brewery in Cooperstown, NY – their Witte Ale) with about half or a full teaspoon of soy sauce and brought out to the grill in a small bowl with a teaspoon.

On the hot portion of the grill, I seared one side of the pork then quickly moved to a more moderate heat. When I flipped to a new side, I repeated this process of searing briefly then returning to moderate heat. I took my beer/soy liquid and, using the spoon, gently poured some liquid over the pork periodically as it grilled. I probably grilled the pork for about 15 to 20 minutes, removing from heat when firm.

It came out absolutely delicious, with the cayenne providing a little kick but not excessively so. We rounded out the meal with some corn, grilled mushrooms, and Lisl whipped up a wonderful arugula, basil, tomato and red onion salad, dressed with olive oil, white wine vinegar and grey poupon mustard. Our teenage niece is visiting from Sydney, Australia (Lisl is an ozzie ozzie ozzie) and the meal was a hit. Score one! The whole thing was pretty efficient to execute and clean up after, and given that both of us had to go back to work, score two!

Dry Rub Pork, Full Plate

Grilling Mushrooms

Grilled Mushrooms
I love to grill mushrooms, especially big white cup mushrooms. I’ll put them top-side down in a baking dish and drizzle them with olive oil, then balsamic vinegar. I will also pour into each cap a touch of worcestershire sauce, and a touch of soy sauce. If you have a basting brush, it makes it really easy to ensure that the tops (face down in the dish) and sides also get a coating. Let the mushrooms marinate for a good 30 minutes before you grill, and then grill on medium heat, flipping once or twice.

Try not to cook these on a really hot part of your grill, because you want them to cook for about 20 to 25 minutes, and you don’t want them to burn. Your mushrooms will come out with a wonderful texture and rich flavor.