Sunday, November 12, 2006

A pork chop, a play, a hot spot

So I have a sort of a weekly dinner club with my friend Ted, and this week we met on Thursday and made what turned out to be a really great meal of:

Salad Greens with Blue Cheese Crumble, Pine Nuts, Capers, and Garlic-Infused Balsamic Vinegarette Dressing
Potato Pancakes with Applesauce
Pork Chops (in a white wine reduction)
and Chinese Broccoli

We enjoyed the meal with a tasty Sauvignon Blanc... I don't remember the vinter... but it wasn't too heavy and it complemented the flavors of the pork nicely. Ted did the Potato Pancakes, and I forgot to snag the recipe from him, but from what I remember he used shredded (not mashed) potatoes, minced onion, and chives in his "batter". Shredding the potatoes, rather than using mashed ones, makes a more textured and better-tasting potato pancake in my opinion. The sweetness of the applesausce was also a great complement to the savory pancakes.

As I've been wanting to try cooking pork chops for a while, that was my choice this week. Mom used to make them all the time when I was younger, but I hoped to update my version for my now more "grown up" palate. Because pork chops are so lean, they are really easy to overcook, so I knew it would be a challenge. To help, I primarily used Mark Bittman's basic pork chops recipe (can be found in his book "How to Cook Everything" -- a WONDERFUL cookbook, especially for the beginning chef). I started by seasoning the chops with salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder, then quickly browning them in olive oil over high heat. I then reduced the heat a bit and added some minced garlic and about a half cup of the Sav Blanc. After about half the wine had bubbled away, I added a half cup of beef stock, covered the skillet, and let it all simmer for about 15 minutes, turning the chops twice. Bittman says that this is the best way to it -- by letting the chops cook through slowly, while soaking in the flavors of the sauce. Luckily, I did everything right and the chops came out very nicely!

Ted and I were satisfied with our meal... but the evening was far from over. After dinner we headed over to the Lookingglass Theatre (located interestingly enough in the Chicago Water Works building, right in the heart of the Magnificent Mile) to see the play CLAY, a one man hip-hop musical. The show stars Matt Sax, a Northwestern Alum and an amazing beat boxer, incredible stage presence, and generally awesome performer. The show was truly phenomenal-- catch it if you can before it ends its run this week!

After the play, Ted and I set out to find some liquid dessert in downtown Chicago. Our quest led us to Rockit Bar & Grill, one of Chicago's trendiest eateries & night spots. We totally didn't think we'd get in (Ted in his sneakers and track jacket, and me in my flip flops), but we figured it was worth a shot... and lo and behold, we were granted sacred entry!! The place is definiely hip, but without being over-the-top-decadent... a combination of warm dark wood and ambient lighting give the place a homey but sophistocated feel. At 11pm, the upstairs lounge was filled with suited young professionals (likely JUST getting off work... from that I Banking job) and women dressed in their designer best, looking ready for a night at the club. Needless to say, we didn't reeeeeeally fit in, but we didn't care. Finding a little spot by the bar, I ordered a Chocolate Martini (complete with a cherry) and Ted ordered a Mojito (complete with oodles of crushed mint leaves). I've got to say, after getting through college on Skol and other bottom-shelf varieties, it is VERY nice to enjoy good liquor every now and then. Even if it does cost $10 for a Martini.

Needless to say, it was a pleasant end to a delectable evening of food and culture. Yum.

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