Monday, June 15, 2009

Family Feast In Connecticut

I spent this past weekend in Connecticut visiting with my older siblings and the individuals that make up my close posse of extended family. Connecticut has long been a home away from home of sorts coming third after Los Angeles and Paris where I spent the majority of my childhood. Roxbury and its neighboring towns and counties are brimming with early American architecture and lush natural landscape. My brother and sister remain tapped into the local community so it is always a privilege to come to town with them and enjoy the company of their old friends. It was a busy weekend indeed rife with tasty food and lots of drink as we dashed around meeting up with their amazing friends. Saturday night I was in charge of dinner and I welcomed the opportunity to show off my talents in the kitchen. The meal was mainly prepared on the grill as we sat enjoying cold beer and wine in the back garden of the gorgeous property. The first course was a continued experiment in bruschetta, which I have been toying with a lot recently with the abundance of spring and summer produce. This particular incarnation was composed of olive bread, herbed goat cheese, and a blend of caramelized leeks and asparagus. The dish was both inventive and delicious, setting the bar high for the rest of the meal.

The main course was grilled double cut pork chops cooked over an open flame on the charcoal grill which is an indicator of summer fun if there ever was one. I rarely get the chance to grill outside because I live in Manhattan and I really enjoy it when I do. I marinated the chops in a mixture of orange juice, Dijon, olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and black pepper for about three hours in the fridge, turning once to give the flavorful marinade a chance to permeate the meat. My brother and I grilled them after the coals had settled for about 4 minutes a side which ended up being a hair too long as the meat charred up heavily and turned rather dry. After they settled for a few minutes I glazed the chops with a vinaigrette of orange juice, Dijon, and olive oil to carry the flavors of the marinade through.

I served two side dishes along with the grilled pork chops; grilled vegetables and Asian coleslaw. Virtually every time I grill or attend a barbecue function I bring a platter of seasonal vegetables sliced thinly. Grilled vegetables are a usual suspect of Italian antipasti platters accompanied with olive oil and fresh herbs which is exactly how I prepared mine. Long strips of zucchini and yellow squash were tossed in olive oil and sea salt before being grilled for less than a minute per side, just enough time to soften the vegetables and leave grill marks. I covered the finished plate with sea salt and chopped mint to bring a level of freshness to the dish. The second side dish was a variation on coleslaw which is mayonnaise free and packed with flavor. I got the recipe from Alice Waters at Chez Panisse and it is a staple in my barbecue arsenal. Everyone enjoyed the meal tremendously, complimenting the chef repeatedly and gobbling up whatever lay before them with a joyful smile on their faces which was both lovely and endearing. I look forward to many more meals with the super cool people that make up my family network and group of close friends in Connecticut and hope to cook for them again soon. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

Asian Slaw
Serves 6

2 C. Savoy Cabbage
2 C. Purple Cabbage
1 C. Carrots, grated
1 Jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 C. Cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 Lime
1/4 C. Sesame Oil
3 Tbs. Soy Sauce
Black/Sichuan Pepper

1. Chop the cabbages into long thin strips with a sharp knife or mandolin and toss them in a large bowl. Add the grated carrots, minced jalapeno, and mix well until all the ingredients are combined.
2. Whisk together the lime juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, and pepper in a small bowl until emulsified. Taste for seasoning and make sure none of the ingredients are overpowering. Add sesame oil above all if the soy sauce is overbearing.
3. Pour the sauce over the slaw and toss well. Allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 25-30 minutes, tossing occasionally, until it has wilted slightly and released some liquid. Serve and enjoy.

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