Lesson #2: The Other Meat - Pork (Chops)

One of my former students is a newly minted 2nd LT from West Point and will be on his own shortly and needs some pointers on cooking.

Since eating steak every night will eventually get old, you'll want to rotate in pork chops. Cooking pork chops is like cooking steaks, but you have to put in just a little more time.

You'll need the same flat pan as steaks: broiler pan, cookie sheet (with rim), cheap aluminum foil pan, or emergency aluminum foil boat (make sure your sides are secure to hold juices). You may also want to use a frying pan slightly larger than your chop.

Chops: at most grocery store you will see chops packaged at least four ways: center loin chops normal cut, center loin chops thick cut, quarter loin chops (which will have several different cuts), and a range of boneless "chops". I'd suggest starting with center loin chops of normal thickness, they will all be done at the same time, and will not have require as much patience as thick chops (which can lead to undercooked pork - not desirable).

This time you'll want to set your oven rack at the lowest or next to lowest position - about 8 inches from the top broiler element. A traditional pack of four chops will fit nicely on a cookie sheet or broiler pan. Or cook two and save two. Get that element hot, put a little olive oil or melted butter on the chops and salt & pepper. Try a little paprika or cayenne when you decide to get fancy.

(There are very few cases of anyone getting sick from handling raw pork, nonetheless, wash up and hand sanitize after you put it in the pan, it will keep your momma happy).

Put the pan on the low hanging rack. Set a timer for 8 minutes. When it goes off, flip them to the other side for 8 more. You might want to pick up a couple of those cheap aluminum "salad/clamshell" tongs - they are invaluable for meat flipping - no punctures, cheap, and easy to clean.

Once the timer goes off you want to pull the pan out for a sec. Set it on a hot pad or trivet - a couple of those silicone pot holders would be a good move to use as trivets - to set hot stuff on.

Move a rack to the top or next to top spot - steak position. Put the pan on there for 45 seconds to a minute - watch closely for spatter/flare. I usually leave my door cracked open to the first position, it keeps the element hot and you can see, and pull out the pan if necessary.

If you will watch and listen to the chop under the element you can actually hear the ribbons of fat along the edge of the chop sizzle or hiss as they are browning. Flip it to the other side for about 45 seconds and remove.

That should do it. You don't want it under done, though. If you stick a fork in it and the juices run clear (not bloody), it is done. (Hence, "stick a fork in me..."). If it does not run clear, move the rack to the low position and give it another 2 minutes each side. Check again. When it's done, let the meat rest at least three minutes before cutting.

Alternate method #1: Pan fry the chop in your frying pan in butter, coconut oil, or olive oil (I'm constitutionally opposed to seed oils, but I think you know that by now). Start at medium heat, and lower it a notch or two when you flip the meat. About 8-10 minutes per side should do it, put you will get spatter and a bit of smoke, so make sure you have a functioning exhaust hood if you go this way. I lay a paper plate or my fancy spatter screen on top of the chop to contain the popping oil. This plate is non-standard and ill-advised. And it works. Check the meat the same way.

Mixed (preferred): Similar to the steak method, you can sear the chop for that final minute each side in a hot buttered pan instead of on the top rack. More mess, but a little better taste.

Side dish #1: Buy applesauce, preferably unsweetened, and serve a little on the side. It's traditional. (It even comes in cups like pudding).

Side dish #2: Steamed veggies. If you'll eat carrots, try them first. It's easiest to buy "baby carrots" (it's a lie) at first, because you want them to be uniform size - so they'll cook at the same pace. (later you can learn to peel and cut them into even-sized pieces, but prepared is easier starting out). Use a regular saucepan. Put in about a 1/2-3/4 inch of water. Put in a couple/three of handfuls of carrots, so that some are sticking out of the water. Put the eye on high until the water boils, about five minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure none are sticking to the bottom. Once you are getting bubbles, lower the eye it to medium.

You want it to go another five minutes, at least. You want the water to boil away, but not completely - because the carrots will blacken/burn quickly - undesirable. So add a little water if it is about to disappear. Once you have reached 10 minutes total time, fork out a carrot and put it on a plate. Gently try to mash the carrot with the bottom of the fork. If it resists go another two minutes and try again. If it mashes easily, they are done. Once done, put them in a dish and put butter on while they are hot - it becomes a snazzy side dish. At the next level, you pour a little REAL maple syrup over the carrots with the butter and you are practically a professional.

You can steam just about any small vegetable this way. Tiny or cut up squash. Peas, brussels sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.

Side dish, options: You can go with the salad from the steak post, or similarly heat a can of corn or green beans in the microwave for two minutes - in a microwave safe bowl.

Now that you've got the main two bachelor real meats down, we'll start getting fancy.

Weekend 5k, Hills Version

1) Ran a mile (then walked a bit)
2) "Sprinted" up and walked down a 160-yard hill twelve times.
3) When I passed through the occasional shade, I wasn't sure if it was just a cool breeze or the Elysian Fields, but it does seem that I have survived.

First Things First: Steak

One of my former students is a newly minted 2nd LT from West Point and will be on his own shortly and needs some pointers on cooking.

Steak is the easiest and one of the best meals you can cook for yourself. There are a lot of different cuts so you will need to eat several different steaks to find out what you prefer and how much you want it cooked.

You'll need a flat pan, something simple and metal, but not teflon. A tin baking sheet is fine, as is a $1 flat aluminum foil pan. In a pinch I have made a pan by folding aluminum foil. For the alternate methods you'll want a non-teflon frying pan.

You'll need a steak: Ribeye, T-Bone/Porterhouse, NY Strip, Sirloin, Flat Iron, Chuck Eye, London Broil, Top Round, in general order of cost/quality. Anything below that you'll probably want to cook longer.

You can rub the steak with a little olive oil or melted butter and season it with a little salt & pepper. You'll need to experiment to see what you like.

Method 1: You'll need an oven with a broiler (top heating element). Put the oven rack in the 1st or second slot, so that it is near the broiler. Let the broiler element get hot. Put the steak on the pan and the pan on the rack under the hot element. With an average steak, leave it three minutes and flip it for 3 more minutes. That should give you a rare to medium rare steak. Cook it longer for more done, obviously.

Over time you'll need to figure out how much you want it done, how hot your element is, how far away your rack is, and judge how thick your steak is. Plenty of chances to experiment.

Method two: You'll need a metal, preferably stainless, frying pan, avoid teflon, slightly bigger than your steak. Heat a tablespoon (double thick slice) or more of butter in the frying pan. Slightly above medium. Once it starts to melt, swish it around to coat the pan. Once it starts to make noise, put in the steak. About the same amount of time, 3 min on each side, should get you a medium rare steak. Match time to thickness. There will be spatter and a little smoke. (Turn the eye down if it smokes, and be aware of smoke detectors).

Method Three (Preferred): Mixes both. Broil two minutes each side under the broiler and then give each side a minute in the buttered frying pan. See The Maillard Reaction.

It's really easy to do. Once cooked, let the meat rest at least 3 minutes before you start cutting your steak.

Side dish: get a potato or sweet potato, microwave it for 6 minutes and then squeeze (it will be hot). If it gives a little it's close to done. If it is stiff, cook it another minute, check and repeat til it gives a bit. More done is better. Slice it down the middle, but not completely in half, widen the hole, break the potato up with a fork inside the skin, and add butter and sour cream.

Another side dish: can of green beans, microwavable (not plastic or metal) bowl. 2 minutes. When done, drain of water, add butter, salt & pepper.

Another side dish option: some mixed spring greens (or any lettuce you prefer) put on some cut up tomato or onion or any veg you like. Bottled dressing is easy. A Viniagrette made by mixing 2 parts olive oil and one part vinegar (balsamic, red wine, or apple cider) together in a cup is cool. Try two tablespoons of oil and one tablespoon of vinegar at first. It will separate quickly, just restir it.

Plate it up, with the salad in a seprate bowl. It looks professional as hell, and took no time at all. Get good at this for dates & company. Much cheaper than buying steaks out.