I create meals that I would want to eat.
All too often I will be discussing a recipe with a friend when she stops and says, “But I don’t like that.”
“Well," I respond, "Let’s find a suitable substitute.”
For this recipe, instead of running to the store to pick up all the necessary ingredients, experiment with a few substitutes. Since I cook the pork chop at a higher temperature for an extended period of time, I want a fat that will not break down. Coconut oil is the my first choice, but it can be substituted with olive oil or canola oil. Unless you lower the temperature, which you can do, avoid using butter. It will break down and burn. If you do not have pomegranate juice, you can substitute it for another tart acidic fruit such as cherry or cranberry, just make sure you use pure fruit juice without any added sugar.
Experimenting with recipes that have opposing yet complementary tastes and textures is a lot of fun. I've found that many of these recipes are flexible and forgiving - I can always adapt them to my friends' preferences and allergies.
Texture evokes nostalgia in a way that taste cannot. When I close my eyes and sip a creamy soup or dig into the crunchy breadcrumb layer on a homemade macaroni and cheese I am always transcended back into childhood.
The more depth and opposing dynamics you build into a recipe the more interesting it becomes: balance a rich element, such as cream, with an acid like lemon juice. Round out a spicy dish with a pinch of brown sugar.
Playing with complementary flavors is my artistic outlet and extends beyond the main recipe and into other components of the meal such as which wine to serve.
Tonight I am serving the 2013 Amwell Ridge Vineyard Counoise.
Counoise is a red variety traditionally grown in the Rhone region of France and often blended with other red varieties. Unionville Vineyards is one of only a handful of wineries worldwide bottling this flavorful, fruit-forward wine as a single varietal. I am in love.
The bright acidity of Counoise complements the richness of the pork loin and the pomegranate reduction. The broccoli pesto and wild rice bring out a more earthy side to the pork, balancing the white pepper notes in the Counoise. The pomegranate reduction rounds out the the fruit notes in this rare wine.
There is nothing a cook enjoys more than new and interesting ingredients, especially ones you can enjoy in a glass with friends. What are some of the new ingredients you are experimenting with in the kitchen?
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What a difference a year can make. August 2018 through July 2019 was the second rainiest 12 month stretch in the recorded history of New Jersey weather. These records stretch back into the late 19th century, which gives context just to how wet that is. It's not easy growing wine grapes when it rains every other day from August through the end of harvest. As we slogged through a wet May and June, we were making preparations to endure another difficult season. A torrential thunderstorm on July 11th dropped over three inches of rain on most of our vineyards. Todd Wuerker, winemaker at Hawk Haven Vineyard said to me on the phone "it has to stop, it always evens out" and I scoffed at that idea. The weather today doesn't know what happened the day, week, or month before.
Todd was right! An atmospheric switch flipped in mid-July, and high pressure dominated the mid-Atlantic for the rest of the season. There were isolated thunderstorms to dodge through the rest of summer, and Unionville fared particularly well in this stretch. Over the 10 weeks of harvest, less than three inches of rain fell across our vineyards. We went from a historically wet stretch to historically dry, and it came just in the nick of time.
Today, we are picking the first grapes for what is Unionville's 27th harvest. Two years after the first grapes were picked and fermented, they were sold in the newly-opened tasting room- 25 years ago. Although I've been thinking about this moment for about a year, we've started our anniversary celebration and I'm still struggling to put it all in context.
In the past few years I've learned so much that could be shared with you now. I've spent hours at the township building, reading through letters written back and forth between parties involved in the winery's founding in the early 1990's. I've walked the vineyards, pausing with each "King of the Vineyard" as Conor calls them- the craggy, gnarly vines nearly as old as me. I've stared at the black and white photos in the hallway of the 1858 Farmhouse of the family and workers who tended to this property many decades ago.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I know that is cliché to say, but it truly is a great time at Unionville. We’ve got all of our reds pressed and in barrel. Cooler, stainless-steel fermentations are finishing up in tank, I’m finally able to breathe a little easier, and wake up a little later. With the holidays upon us, the wine making team has a lot on the mind, but one thing standing out is the blending, bottling, and release of Vat #23 – the latest rendition of our opulent Port wine.
Port has a storied history at Unionville – the fortified delight has been made at the winery since its first vintage in 1993, Before we delve into that, we have to talk a little about how Port is made and the different styles in which it can be presented. Port, named for its origin country, Portugal, is typically a sweet or medium-dry red wine, fortified with distilled grape spirit, then cellared and bottled at different times and in different ways to present specific stylizations. The two most recognizable presentations of Port wine are Ruby and Tawny Ports. Ruby styles are young wines usually aged for only a couple of years (or less). They’re released early to showcase juicy acidity and fruity characteristics of young wine with fuller mouthfeel and complexity
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