Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer Squash Gratin, Grilled Pork Chops

I love Susanne Goin. I mean, not really, because I don't actually know her, but I love her cookbook. I most especially love the way she can take a dish that you've made before, like chicken piccata or a summer squash gratin, and approach it from a way that a humble home cook like me may not have considered.

For example, I've made summer squash gratins before, and even have a recipe for a yummy one on this site. The one that I feature here is delicious, and I've made similar ones, as well. But that means that my little brain has come to think of this type of gratin in a certain way.

And then along comes Susanne, and she tells me to put brown butter instead of olive oil in the gratin. And she tells me to mix the breadcrumbs in with the squash, as opposed to using them as a topping. And the shallots! We love shallots.

The only thing I didn't like about this recipe was the salsa verde. I'm sure that some people may consider this blasphemous, but neither of us are fans. I don't like the raw mintiness, and Nick doesn't like the anchovy-ness. We did make it, though, and we did give it a chance. We were just thankful, in the end, that we hadn't mixed the salsa verde in with all of our individual gratins.

If you're in the pro-salsa verde camp, though, feel free to mix in a half cup of the stuff when you mix in the cheese. We ate this with grilled, brined, thick-cut bone-in pork chops, and it was a delicious summer dinner.

As for the brining pork chop thing--if you've never tried it, you really really should. Mixing up a brine takes almost no time at all, and you can throw your brining meat into the fridge while you prep the rest of your dinner. Brining pork chops (or chicken) for even 45 minutes results in super-flavorful, super-moist meat. You'll never go back.

 Summer Squash Gratin

  • 2 pounds summer squash
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the squash into 1/8 inch-thick slices. Toss the slices in a large bowl with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and let sit 10 minutes.

Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl.
Heat a small saute pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the butter and cook for a few minutes, until it browns and smells nutty. Pour the brown butter over the breadcrumbs (being sure to scrape all the brown bits into a bowl with a rubber spatula). Wait a minute or two for the butter to cool, and toss well.

Drain the squash and transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Add the shallots, minced garlic, thyme, and some pepper. Toss to combine, and add the cheese (and salsa verde if you're using it) and half of the breadcrumbs. Toss again, and taste for seasoning. (The raw garlic will taste strong at this point, but it will mellow as it cooks.)

Place the squash in an attractive 9-by-9 inch gratin dish, or divide it amongst some individual gratin dishes. Scatter the remaining breadcrumbs over the top, and bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the squash is tender and the top is crisp.


Grilled Pork Chops

  • 3/4 to 1 inch thick bone-in pork chops, one per person
  • Kosher salt
  • Canola oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Cook's Illustrated has a more sophisticated brining formula, which you can check out here. I however, find that it is sufficient to use 1/4 cup Kosher salt per quart of water. Mix the salt with cold water until it is mostly dissolved. Make enough to cover whatever your brining. Place the meat into the brine, and put the whole thing into the fridge for at least 45 minutes and up to 3 hours for chicken and 5 hours for pork. (I don't really recommend brining pork tenderloin, but some people like to.)

When you're 15 minutes away from being ready to cook the meat, preheat your grill. Clean off the grate after about 7 minutes. (This is for a gas grill. Sorry charcoal peeps.)

Thoroughly dry the chops and brush them with canola oil. Season with freshly ground pepper--we like a pretty heavy covering. 

Over medium-high to high heat, cook the pork chops for about 4 minutes per side. This will result in pork chops that are medium to medium-well, so adjust the cooking times according to your taste.

No comments: