Mother’s Best

Growing up my mom worked really hard to get a home cooked meal on the dinner table for my family at the end of each day.  I didn’t appreciate it then, but I really appreciate those homemade meals now.  It’s not necessarily that the meals themselves  stand out in my memory but more the fact that the whole family sat together and enjoyed each others company in the event of having a homemade meal together that stands out.  The meal I prepared the other night is a substantial homemade meal, something similar to maybe what I would have eaten when I was 12: pork chop medallions with caramelized onions and potatoes au gratin.  Okay, maybe my mother’s dinners weren’t always as indulgent as this one, especially not for a pair of picky, pre-teen girls, but she is a very talented cook.

The recipe I used came from a cookbook that I got over Christmas, Mother’s Best; A cookbook written by Lisa Schroeder the chef of Mother’s Bistro and Bar in Portland, Oregon.  I love what’s written in the front flap of the cookbook: “Compelled to preserve the home cooking of mothers from around the world…Mother’s Best will allow you to enjoy the pleasures and comforts of home cooking even when mom isn’t around.”  Her recipes do bring me back to my family’s kitchen table.  So let’s get cooking! Oh and p.s. it was super simple.

First, Potatoes au Gratin. The ingredients are simple, basically just cream, potatoes and cheese.  Okay so we cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch thick slices.

Then after cutting up all the potatoes add them to a large saucepan with cream/half-and-half, salt and pepper until boiling then let simmer for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.  Once the liquid has thickened take it off the heat.

Meanwhile, take out a baking dish, I used a 13x9x2.  Now the recipe calls for taking a minced garlic clove and smearing it on the inside of the pan.  I ended up doing something a little different.  I cut a garlic clove in half and rubbed it around the inside of the pan to get the essence on the pan then added the clove halves to the cooking cream and potatoes to add some flavor and depth.  Once the Garlic “juice” in the pan has dried, coat with butter or cooking spray. Pour the potatoes and cream mixture into the baking sheet and top with grated cheese.

I love sharp cheddar but I think that there are other cheeses that would also work well for this dish.  Next time I might use some soft goat cheese to get that super creamy consistency.  Oh, I love cheese (sigh).  Okay so you’ve put the potatoes, cream and grated cheese layered in a baking sheet.  Pop the yummy concoction into the oven for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees and this is what you’ll get when you’re done.

Gosh that makes my mouth water, it looks so beautiful.  Now don’t forget about the pork medallions.  These babies are just as gorgeous as the potatoes. First, coat all the medallions with flour on both sides and heat a skillet to medium high heat.  Put equal parts butter and olive oil in a pan until it just coats the bottom and brown the medallions.  Don’t worry about cooking the medallions all the way through at this point because later these babies are going to be simmering in a caramelized onion sauce, which will cook them thoroughly.  Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures for these two steps because I am a space-case.  Don’t be nervous about completing these two steps, they are pretty much fool-proof.  Once you’ve browned the medallions, set them aside and get ready to caramelize the onions.

Slice up the onions super thin.  You’ll be cutting completely across the width of the onion so you get a bunch of thin rings.  After slicing the onions you’ll want to grab a large skillet that is fairly deep.  You’ll want to use a deep skillet because you’ll be adding the medallions and several cups of liquid to the pan when you’re done caramelizing the onions.  When the skillet gets hot add about 1 tablespoon butter and a dash of olive oil.  Add the onions and mix to coat with butter/olive oil mixture.  Then, let them sit.  Fight the urge to play with the onions in the skillet, at least at first.  Let the onions sit for a few minutes.  Turn down the heat to medium.  After the onions have been cooking for a few minutes, give them a stir, let them sit and cook again for a few minutes then stir.  Keep doing this and if the heat is too high just turn it down a little and keep cooking.  You’ll repeat this process stirring more frequently as the onions gain more color.  You’ll cook the onions until they are a rich brown color and reduce in size by about half.  Here’s a video tutorial of how to perfectly cook  caramelized onions.

Now that the onions are caramelized, add a cup of beer and veal stock each.  I didn’t have any veal stock, so I used beef broth and think it worked just fine.  Bring liquid to a boil, add the pork medallions to the pan, and reduce heat to a simmer.

Oh yeah, these pork medallions are having a spa day in this caramelized onion bath.  They are just getting the full treatment.  Cook until the sauce has thickened.  I added a little butter, which you can see in the middle of the skillet picture above, to add a little more richness.

Oh yeah, these medallions are living the life, look how happy they are. Now grab a plate and get ready to feast. Take a healthy scoop of potatoes..

Then plate a pork medallion and don’t forget to top with plenty of onions.  Serve this plate of pure love to some very deserving, and hopefully very hungry friends.

And here’s another beautiful angle. I mean really, is there an ugly angle.

The recipe is below.  Thank you Lisa Schroeder,  You’re food is so rich and delicious!

Potatoes au Gratin

INGREDIENTS:

3 lbs russet potatoes (about 4)

1 1/2 tsp minced garlic (about 2)

1 Tbsp unsalted butter softened or nonstick cooking spray

2 tsp kosher salt

3/4 tsp ground pepper

3 cups half-and-half or heavy cream

3 cups packed grated sharp Cheddar cheese

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  2. smear garlic on inside of baking dish (you could use a 13x9x2 or individual ramekins). Allow garlic juices to dry, then coat the dish with the softened butter or nonstick cooking spray
  3. put potatoes, salt, pepper, and half-and-half or cream into a 6- to 8- quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally Lower to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid thickens slightly, about 5 minutes
  4. pour potatoes and cream into the prepared baking dish.  Press down on the top layer with a rubber spatula to submerge the potatoes.  Sprinkle cheese evenly over the top and press down again
  5. Bake until the top is golden and the potatoes are tender, 45-60 minutes (less time for smaller dishes).  Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Pan-Seared Pork Medallions

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 lbs boneless pork loin, trimmed and cut into about 10 medallions (I used boneless pork chops)

2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground pepper

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

4 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 1 cup caramelized onions)

1 cup pilsner beer

1 cup brown veal stock (I used beef broth)

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. sprinkle pork medallions with salt and pepper.  Place flour in a shallow dish then dip the medallions in the flour, coating completely on both sides.  Shake off excess.
  2. place a large saute pan over high heat for several minutes. When hot, add the oil and heat until shimmering.  Add the floured pork medallions in a single layer (do not crowd the pan) and saute until golden on the first side (you may have to brown them in batches), 1-2 minutes.  Use tongs or a fork to turn the medallions over and brown the other side until golden, 1-2 minutes more.  Take off the heat when finished browning, set aside.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the onions to the pan.  Saute until they start to color around the edges, about 5 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium, stir onions and let cook for several more minutes.  Repeat this process until they are very soft, caramelized and brown, about 15-30 minutes.  If using already Caramelized Onions, add them instead and proceed with step 4.
  4. Increase the heat to high and add the beer and veal stock to deglaze the pan.  Bring to a boil, add the medallions to liquid, reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook until the liquid is thickened and the pork is cooked through.  Add a tablespoon of butter to the liquid if you need a little more richness.  Take off heat and let cool for a few minutes before serving.
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