Sunday, April 09, 2006

Tales of a Misspent Youth

There are a few ingestibles in this world that I can't live without: coffee, raisins, red vines, and balsamic vinegar. Come to think of it, the only way I could live without them, is if they were combined in one meal.
Which brings me to an interesting subject: my youth (enter: strumming harp strings).
When stupidity was at its peak, our restaurant meals were designed for sport, rather than nutrition. We would often combine the uneaten items from our plates, our friends' plates, and maybe even the plates of dismissed patrons from other tables, to create a regurgitative concoction of utter grossness. An art that only youth are capable of conjuring up with such mastery. On a good night, we might have the occasional ketchup, mustard and full condiment inclusion - to really express ourselves.
Why would we do such things? To be quite honest, I have no answer to that question. We were bizarre kids with way too much time on our hands. Who knows, we might have sparked a turning point for any one of our waitresses to finally say "good-bye" to being in the food service, and instead pursue a law degree from Stanford University. Sure, I'd like to think my stupidity ended as a catalyst for positive change. Yeah, probably not.
(re-enter: strumming harp strings)
Talk about a tangent. As I was saying, things I could not live without. The last on my list, if you have by now forgotten, was balsamic. Oh, darling balsamic.
I feel obliged to let you in on a little secret I came across when cooking with this stuff. After reducing balsamic to less than half of its volume, the potency and acidity mellow out and it becomes sweet and aromatic. Unbelievably yummy. So enough with the story telling and on with the recipe.



Pork Chops with Onions, Garlic and Balsamic Glaze
Asparagus Chops
Balsamic Glaze
3/4 c balsamic vinegar
2 pork chops, thick
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium sweet white onion (I used Maui)
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 tsp dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced.
6 asparagus spears (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
1.Bring balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan. Reduce heat to medium; cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat

2. In a medium bowl, combine 1 Tbs. olive oil, sliced onion, garlic, (asparagus spears if included), 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and mix until veggies are well coated. Set aside.

3. Sprinkle remaining salt and pepper, and all of the thyme on the chops. Place 1 Tbs of oil in skillet and turn to high heat. Sear one side of the chops. Remove from heat.

4. Place half of the onion mix on the bottom of a pan, chops and the remainder of the onion mix on top. Bake for 30 minutes. (If you'd like, broil for about 3 minutes to get a nice brown caramelization on the top.)

5. Drizzle with balsamic glaze.

Monkey Notes: There are conventional methods for disposing of uneaten food, like garbage disposals and trash cans. Don't go getting any crazy ideas from me, if you catch my drift.

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