July 2, 2010

ATK BBQ Chops and Mac Salad

Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen appeal to a certain kind of cook. My friend A. subscribes to their website (yes, it's a subscription website) and really enjoys perusing their recipes, gathering specific ingredients, and following the instructions to a T.

She is very detail-oriented and great at things like writing grants, planning weddings/big events, making spreadsheets, and folding cloth napkins. OK, I was reaching on that last one, but you get my point. She likes the more meticulous side of a Cook's Illustrated recipe.

Some of you already may be thinking, 'this is not for me,' and I tend to agree with you. In general, I like recipes- they offer ideas you wouldn't have thought of on your own and are a good guide for things like cooking times and methods, things that have some science behind them and can't be meddled with.

That said, I often deviate from a recipe and substitute in what I have, skip what I don't, and generally fail to read the recipe completely and thoroughly through to the end. So while I like watching America's Test Kitchen and reading Cook's Illustrated, when I go to follow their recipes, I usually fall short of the Platonic ideal they promise will result. After all, I didn't follow the instructions.

When I came home the other night to find the ATK DVD paused and Michael gone, I figured we were in for some fun with meticulous recipes. Sure enough, he returned with bags of groceries for making BBQ Skillet Pork Chops and Cool and Creamy Macaroni Salad. And because he was leading the charge, we ended up with great results.

But unfortunately, because we were watching an old season of the DVD (the current season's recipes are available for free on their website), we just had to watch the DVD as we cooked, pausing it when our steps took longer than their edited ones. Kind of like painting along with Bob Ross (did people actually do that??). So I can't give you a recipe, but rather an approximation of what we did, which turned out pretty darn tasty.

Macaroni Salad

1 pound Pipette pasta (macaroni with ridges)
3 celery ribs, diced
1 red onion, diced
1/2 bunch of parsley, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup mayonaise
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Bring a saucepot full of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and boil until al dente. Drain pasta.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together celery, onion, parsley, lemon juice, and mustard. Toss pasta in and add mayonnaise, stirring to combine. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Before serving, add some warm water to loosen and moisten the pasta.

BBQ Skillet Pork Chops

4 medium rib or loin chops
1/2 cup salt
8 cups of water

For the spice rub:
a pinch of ground coriander seed, cayenne, cumin, ground black pepper, brown sugar, and paprika.

For the sauce:
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup molasses, light or mild
2 tablespoons grated onion
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Dissolve salt in water in a large bowl to create a brine. Place chops in the brine and refrigerate for half an hour. Mix together sauce and spice rub while chops are brining.

Pat chops dry and rub both sides with spice rub. In a large skillet over low heat, cook chops until they register 130 degrees F internally (about 5 minutes on one side and 3 on the other). Remove chops from pan and wipe pan clean. Return pan to heat.

Baste chops with barbecue sauce and return to pan. Cook until internal temperature reads 140 degrees F. Let chops rest while you cook the remaining barbecue sauce to thicken. Serve remaining sauce over chops.