Monday, June 09, 2008
I didn't know how good I had it before kids came along; I would prepare a nice meal, set the table, sit down with my husband or a friend and eat, simple as that. I would be able to use two utensils at the same time for such mundane tasks as cutting my steak or twirling my pasta on a spoon. I would get up from the table when I was finished and for no other reason.
No, I had no idea what a luxury those casual meals were.
Life is different now.
For starters, we eat every dinner as a family. Our children are young and need that time with Daddy in the evening, plus it's a family time that we cherish and structure that is healthy for a family.
So we eat together--even if it kills us.
Unfortunately, these days moments of domestic bliss around the table are very seldom. In fact, those of you future parents may not want to read on, as the picture I am about to paint is not a pretty one!
There are many things that drive me batty, but I'll just list a few, so not to bore you too much!
I always have to eat with one hand, and usually my left (that's right, I am not a lefty). This makes eating rice is a losing battle, cutting food impossible, and just forget about soups or cereal with milk.
I am generally always bouncing baby Mateo or nursing him, and although he's sat contentedly while I prepared supper, he is now ready for some serious attention. Oh, and there is generally one diaper change per meal. If you are a parent, you will understand when I say that it can NOT wait until after the meal; we eat first with our nose, right? Or is it the eyes...
If Danny has the baby instead of me, then I am dealing with Noah, who, on average, has one "time out" per meal for a repeat offense I needn't mention, but only a 2 1/2 year old can come up with.
It feels like I am up from the table about twenty times: getting a cloth for a spill, rinsing a fork that has been flung on the floor, fixing a sandwich because Noah hates what I've cooked, and microwaving my dinner, which has grown stone cold because I haven't had a chance to touch it. Of course, that means it usually end up overcooked, dry or rubbery.
But all that isn't even the hardest part.
I put love into my meals, you know I do, and it shows. Yet I find myself wondering "why bother?" when I can only consume a fleeting bite here and there (perhaps even while standing to bounce the baby) and my efforts are so seldom appreciated by Noah.
I can't look at this pork chop dish without remembering that particular meal. As Noah repeatedly spat out chewed pieces of pork from his mouth -after all the maple had been sucked off, of course- onto his tray, I muttered to Danny:
"I may as well just be feeding him poo."
I don't mean real poo, of course, but the food equivalent like Hamburger Helper or Kraft Diner.
So to those of you without small children yet, take time to enjoy your meal and maybe even make a toast to me. Savor the luxury of holding a fork and a knife; I'll be here, wearing out the side of my fork.
In re-reading this, I think I sound a little bitter. I'm not. My kids are good kids, and what three-month-old sits though a meal anyway? This is just me accepting the good with the bad in life. I can't complain, we are all healthy, have a fine roof over our heads, clean water to drink and good food to eat. Don't worry, I'll get over it. Then my kids will grow up and I'll wish they were home for dinner more often.
Still, I wonder, does this only happen around my dinner table? Am I alone in all of this?? Hmm.
Moving on to the pork chop!
It's not even a recipe per se, just a regular grilled chop that I've glazed with a reduction of maple syrup and a generous amount of fresh pepper; BUT, what makes it so juicy and succulent is the brine it soaked in for a few hours prior to grilling.
I am a fan of brining, which basically means soaking meat in a very salty-sweet water mixture to improve flavor and moisture content. I play around a lot with spices and sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, brown sugar) depending on what I am brining, but my brines always have garlic, black peppercorn and bay leaves.
Maple-Pepper Glazed Grilled Pork Chop
For the Brine:
1 litre cold water
1/2 cup coarse salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 garlic cloves, peeled,
5 whole pepper corns
2 bay leaves
1 whole star anise
5 whole cloves
Combine ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Remove from heat and cool completely.
For the Pork Chops:
4 pork chops
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
brine (recipe above)
Place the pork chops in cold brine and refrigerate for 4 hours and up to 8. Remove from brine, rinse under cold water and pat dry. They are now ready for grilling.
Combine the remaining ingredients (syrup, pepper and vinegar) in a small, heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and let the mixture cook slowly until it is reduced by half. Cool the syrup; it should be thick, but runny enough to drizzle.
Grill chops, basting once with maple glaze toward the end of the cooking. Let rest a few minutes. Place on serving platter and drizzle with maple pepper glaze. Serve.
This recipe also works well with a pork roast. I like to wrap mine in bacon. Yum!