Altering Tradition

St. Patrick plucked a shamrock from Ireland’s sweet green sod and said, “Behold! A symbol of the Trinity of God!”

– Author Unknown

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all! Are you wearing your green today? I sure am! March 17th marks the passing of the original St. Patrick. The Encyclopedia Britannica records, “[b]orn in Roman Britain in the late 4th century, he was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped but returned about 432 to convert the Irish to Christianity. By the time of his death on March 17, 461, he had established monasteries, churches, and schools. Many legends grew up around him—for example, that he drove the snakes out of Ireland and used the shamrock to explain the Trinity. Ireland came to celebrate his day with religious services and feasts.”

Corned beef and cabbage is usually associated with St. Patrick’s Day, but I don’t typically buy it for a couple of reasons. Corned beef isn’t really one of our favorites. It’s ok for one meal, but doesn’t really ring our bell for leftovers. Also, since it’s just the two of us right now, buying large roasts requires forethought and preparation after purchase so it doesn’t go to waste. corned beef (aka salt-cured beef) is good for Corned Beef and Cabbage as well as for Brazilian Feijoada, but we’re not necessarily making these frequently enough to keep corned beef on hand.

I have a special place in my heart for the classics like Betty Crocker and Good Housekeeping, but I’m always looking to expand my palate and repertoire. I have a curiosity for authentic, global cuisine, too. Having some more authoritative recipes on hand stimulates this curiosity. Last year, I ordered a copy of Real Irish Food: 150 Classic Recipes from the Old Country by David Bowers from Amazon after much search for a good book of reliable Irish recipes. Not only are the pictures gorgeous, but the recipes so far have been tantalizing as well! Irish food can be more than just cheap, pub food.

This year, to mark St. Patty’s day, I delved into this text for something a little different. We eat our fair share of chicken and of course beef being from Texas, but pork chops aren’t my usual game. Pork in general isn’t my usual choice, unless we’re talking about the pork chorizo that I slip into my queso… So to truly branch out, I chose to make some delicious and seasonal Stuffed Pork Chops from the book. By stuffing them, the pork chops were transformed from hum-drum ordinary chops into something with a greater breadth and depth of flavor especially when paired with a more ordinary side of homemade buttermilk mashed potatoes. I’ve linked the recipe above, but my adaptation is below.

Ingredients:
2tbsp butter
1/4 yellow onion, diced small
1/2 celery stalk, sliced thin
1/2 tart apple (I recommend Pink Lady), peeled, cored, & diced small
2tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine
1tsp fresh sage leaves, chopped fine (or 1/2tsp dried)
1c breadcrumbs
S&P
4 double-cut boneless pork loin chops (I asked the butcher at the meat counter for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2in chops)
1tbsp veg oil

Instructions:
1) Preheat oven to 350° and spray a 9×15 covered casserole with cooking spray. Set aside.
2) Heat a large skillet (I used my Lodge cast iron) over medium and melt butter Add in onion and celery and cook for 5min until both are soft and translucent, but not brown. Stir in the apple and cook for another 3min. Sprinkle in the parsley and sage. Stir in breadcrumbs and toss to combine all ingredients. Season with salt & pepper and remove from heat.
3) Carefully wipe out skillet with a clean paper towel and add vegetable oil. With a sharp knife make a straight incision (about 2in wide total) in the side of each chop creating a pocket for the stuffing. Using clean hands, stuff each pocket as full as possible, packing the stuffing well.
4) Place skillet back on burner over medium-high. You can test when the oil is ready by dropping little bits of breadcrumbs from the stuffing into the skillet. The skillet is ready when the breadcrumbs sizzle. Cook the chops two at a time in the skillet for 4min on each side. Transfer the chops to your prepared casserole.
5) Once all the chops are seared, cover your casserole and place in the oven for 35min. (This is a good time to start your mashed potatoes.) Pull your chops after 35min and temp them in the center of the stuffing. If the stuffing temps at 145° they’re done (they’ll continue to cook up when they’re resting). If it doesn’t reach 145°, put them back in for 5min and temp again. After they’re done, allow them to rest for 5min.

One thing I found odd with the original recipe was that it called for 1tsp of fresh thyme in the list of ingredients, but never used it in the instructions. I assume it was intended to go in with the parsley and sage so you could absolutely do that or omit it entirely. Also, I felt the oven cooking time was too long and rendered my chops on the drier side. This is not a difficult thing to do with pork, so I recommend reducing the time by 10min. By doing this, you can temp your pork more accurately. You can always keep adding time, but you can’t add the moisture back into overcooked meat.

What is your favorite St. Patrick’s Day tradition?

Currently Reading: Good Housekeeping Magazine, May 2017 issue

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