I’m starting up a new series of blog entries here, to document my culinary experiments with Alice Waters’ cookbook, The Art of Simple Food. I have a few goals for this project. First, I’m hoping to learn some new recipes this summer for cooking, and I have some particular objectives: I want to learn to make some foods that are seasonally appropriate, that I like eating, and that can be grown in a New England garden. I also have it in mind to develop some recipes specifically for festivals and work connected with my ritual practices.
Monday night’s meal was a pork chop cooked the Alice Waters Way, liberally coated in salsa verde — surprisingly spicy after 24 hours in the fridge — and a salad of arugula lettuce and tomatoes decently dressed in a new vinaigrette. Delicious. Everything was delicious. The pork chop was done all the way through without a sign of pink in it, while remaining moist and tender to the knife and fork. I didn’t cook the salsa verde with the pork. I didn’t cook it at all, merely spread it on top of the pork chop as if it was herbed butter, which is what I’ve usually done.
Three things went into this meal. Pork chops, which I’ve cooked before, although long ago (Art of Simple Food, p. 122, — “Pan-fried pork chops.”) The Salsa Verde (p. 45) was not a recommended choice with this dish, but a parsley garnish was — so, in one sense, I simply overdid the amount of parsley involved, and added some olive oil and salt and pepper. All in all, an excellent combination. Finally, I made a white vinegar vinaigrette with a bit of mustard and some heavy cream (p. 44), which you can see in the glass jar on the right in the photograph.
So… three things from Alice Waters’ cookbook, The Art of Simple Food, all produced more or less at the same time. Total preparation time — maybe 18 minutes from decision to cook to food on the table. I got the pork chops seasoned while the butter melted in the pan; I put the pork chops in and turned my attention to the vinaigrette. I paused the viniagrette-making to turn the pork chops. While the vinaigrette finished mixing and settling on its flavors, I sliced the tomato and composed the salad, then turned off the stove and removed the pork chops to settle a bit after being cooked. Then, I sliced the bread while the pork chops settled down a bit. Everything was delicious.
The whole meal kind of reminded me, though, that a great meal is largely a matter of having the right ingredients in the right places at the right time. I didn’t have red vinegar, so my ivniagrette turned out to be more pale than vinaigrette usually is. Mise en place winds up being pretty important to this work.