Blake Makers, I need your help. I braised some pork chops this weekend, and made some amazing gravy to go with it. Although the flavor was right on, how do I make this gravy thicker and creamier?

Here’s how I made it:

I seared 3 pork chops in a hot, heavy-bottom pot with a little oil. I got a good crust on the chops and then removed them from the pan.

I added a little oil and a little butter to the pan, followed by a chopped onion.

I cooked the onion over medium heat for a few minutes until it started going translucent (and a little brown). I added a couple of cloves of minced garlic and cooked for about a minute longer.

Next, I added 1 cup of chicken stock, and then returned the chops – after which, I covered and cooked on low for about an hour (or longer).

Just before we were ready to eat, I added a few tsp. of minced Rosemary, some chopped Parsley and a splash of Dry Sherry (next time I’ll add Cognac).

The flavor was amazing, but the consistency wasn’t there. To thicken the sauce, I added a little flour-in-butter mixture (see left).

It thickened it a little, but not enough. Should I add more? How can I make it creamier? Add cream?

I’d love any help you guys could give.

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I’ve always loved flavor combinations. As a child, I didn’t think they got much better than mint and chocolate.

Admittedly, this notion of mint/chocolate being the be-all, end-all followed me to adulthood – to the moment I discovered Nutella.

For all you Blake Makers that have never heard of it, much less tasted it, it’s a luscious, creamy chocolate-hazelnut spread. They eat it a lot in Europe. I compare it to peanut butter. It’s got the same consistency, but much more rich.

One of the best meals I ever had was sharing a Nutella crepe with Beez in Paris. It was our last day there, and it was freezing. We bought the crepe on the street, walked to the Louvre, and ate it in the park. It was warm, decadent and the perfect way to end our trip.

Last weekend, I smeared a ton of the stuff on some big, fluffy pancakes. I bought the jar on Friday. It was gone by the following Wednesday. I usually pour myself a glass of milk and eat it right out of the jar.

For those times when I feel too guilty to do that, I’ll slice an apple and eat it that way.

Just to be clear, I LOVE NUTELLA!

Miss Eaves’ Grilled Cheese

September 27, 2007

Miss Eaves was my third grade teacher. She gets the honor of having this sandwich named after her, because it reminds me of my childhood (and because “Eaves” sort of rhymes with “cheese”).

This post is nothing special or life-changing. It’s just a nice photo of something we all need from time to time.

Like a hug.

To Make:

Make plain cheese sandwiches using regular sliced bread and Kraft singles (we call it slicker cheese in our house because of its resemblance to a yellow rain pancho).

Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and melt some butter in the pan.

Gently cook the sandwich until golden on both sides.

I smash the sandwich down right at the end (that’s the way my mom did it).

Cut diagonally into two pieces.

We ate these sandwiches with beef and barley soup for lunch. Good day.

Creamy, Earthy Mushroom Soup

September 18, 2007

Hello Blake Makers! Before I talk about these amazing looking mushrooms, I wanted to let you know that there are some changes a-comin’. New design, new features, and maybe a few surprises.

Separate the stems and caps from 2 large portobellos, 1 package of creminis and 1 package of shitakes. Set the caps aside.

Let’s make a mushroom stock.

Chop the stems. Chop 1 yellow onion. Chop 1 carrot.

Add 1 tblsp. butter and 1 tblsp. olive oil and saute’ the veggies with 1 whole sprig (stem) of thyme until everything starts to get soft.

Add 6 cups of hot water after that and bubble high, then bubble low for about 30 minutes.

In a separate pot, saute’ 2 chopped leeks in 1/4 lb. of butter. When they soften, and maybe brown a little, add in all the mushroom caps (chopped).

Cook them until they’re all cooked down and maybe a little brown.

Add 1/4 cup of flour and cook for about 1 minute.

De-glaze the pan with 1 cup of white wine, and then add the mushroom stock (strained).

Let this all bubble away for about 30 minutes.

At the end (about 10 minutes before serving), add 1 cup heavy cream, 1 cup half and half, and 1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley.

S&P to taste.

I need to work on this recipe. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tasty, but it’s missing something. I’m thinking hot sauce, creamy goat cheese or sour cream. Maybe a protein. I’m sure round 2 will be even better. I’m also sure Day 2 soup will be even better, too.

Ina‘s done it again. Is there nothing she can’t cook? Is there no recipe she can’t make absolutely delicious?

These spaghetti and meatballs will make you weep.

The meat mixture is superb, but the sauce is what makes it. It’s deep. Taste it and you’ll swear you’re in the Godfather movie.

Fry the meat balls in 1/4 inch of an olive and vegetable oil mixture over medium high meat. You don’t want to cook them through, just get some color on them (on all sides).

Chill them to help them keep their shape.

After you’ve cooked all the meatballs, drain the oil from the pan, but keep all the brown meat bits.

Cook the onions and garlic until tender, then splash in the wine. When almost all the wetness has gone, add the rest of the ingredients.

We ate this in front of the T.V., which I had to pause so I could savor every bite.

I really can’t say enough.

For the meatballs:
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

I love my bamboo steamer.

September 6, 2007

I love my bamboo steamer. Some of you may remember Chinese Week where we made a lot of Chinese food. I bought this steamer then.

Tonight I made broccoli in it, but I usually steam potatoes for mashed potatoes in it.

It’s so easy. It’s so primitive. Boil some water in a wok. Place the bamboo steamer on top. That’s it.

I swear sometimes bamboo cooks faster than the microwave.

See the previous post for recipe.