I haven’t visited this space for awhile now and although I’ve had a lot to say, now is not the time to to say it all; I will however, say just enough.
I (we, actually) lost our father recently. I have two brothers and a step-brother, so I really can’t say it was just I who lost my father. My step-mother also lost her husband, of 34 years. Our extended family and many friends, lost a generous man, mentor, confidant, and dear friend.
I don’t feel the need to elaborate anymore on the specifics; they are private, and hard to relive. Certainly, at least hard to speak about here, a space where the focus is (primarily) food, but as it always takes a personal slant, as good a place to continue this journey as anywhere.
My father loved food. As do I (so the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree). Eating is a big part of (all of) our lives. Eating involves many things, such as sustenance, satisfaction, necessity, conversation, controversy, love, happinesses, losses, and so much more…
My dad loved eating. One of his favorite foods was pork. And banana cream pie, and chicken fried steak (I’m still not sure which he liked more), but that is another discussion.
Linda, his dear wife, my step-mother and friend, will eat pork, but, she prefers so many other things more; such as, any kind of vegetable, muesli, crab cakes, basted eggs, duck à l’orange, leg of lamb, and..yes, polenta. The first time I ate polenta was with her, during one of our first outings, just us two gals! We ate at a (then) new place in Pioneer Square called Carmine’s, owned by the late Carmine of Il Terrazzo Carmine’s, which was(and still resides) just across the street from the new place and a block east of my, at the time, loft.
I met Linda at the entrance after work, while Dad was in attendance of a ballgame at the old Kingdom (long before it was imploded). The brick arches, low light and casual air about Carmine’s was in stark contrast to the formality of it’s mothership across the street; a place known by those with old money and (some of) Italian decent. It is still favored by those in-the-know who have been in residence here for awhile. Even us without said old money or Italian heritage.
Linda and I were seated at a booth, down the narrow hallway toward the back, but still central to the fantastic chaos of casual kitchens. We both ordered wine, white wine is all I remember of that. Then the waiter, with dark hair and a thick mustache rambled out the specials of the evening. I had barely heard a thing when Linda said we would take the bruschetta. And so it was then, that I was first introduced to polenta. The special appetizer du jour: polenta bruschetta, which consisted of grilled bread, topped with grilled polenta and a smattering of cheese, surely a heavy dose of garlic, and perhaps herbs? To me at the time, it was a revelation. I wanted to know what this marvelous food was and how I could make it for myself. I have never replicated that bruschetta, but polenta has been in my repertoire ever since I was able to figure out the best way to make it (hint: proportions are critical, as are consistency and seasoning).
Had Dad been dining with us, he would have asked that the bread be burnt. Dad liked his toast burnt, and the more burnt the better. I share this trait with him, but I am more of a timid toast burner, with tendencies toward the slightly-charred side of the spectrum, rather than the actual blackened end. Actually, had Dad been dining with us, he would have ordered the mussels to start and proceeded to eat each and every one, sopping up the sauce with (burnt) toast. He would have done this, all the while looking across the table at us as he made a crack or two about our plain, uncolored plate of polenta. He would have spoken in his light-hearted, sarcastic voice, right eye lit with a slight sparkle under his enormous eye brow, squinting disapprovingly, with just enough of a snicker at the end that let us know he was having a wonderful time. The waiter would arrive back and Dad would ask him to leave the pitcher of ice tea right before ordering a pork chop, double-cut and sauced in whatever it was sauced in, or served with at the time. To finish would be a monstrous dessert, especially if there was one on the menu with bananas, and especially if it was also accompanied by creme.
The coffee must be hot, the milk in it warmed, and if he were drinking that night, a long pour of whiskey, two pieces of ice and water, just so.
I raise my glass to Dad, and finish with a meal that he would have surely and thoroughly enjoyed, polenta and all.
In fond remembrance of G. Kent Edwards (aka: Dad, Father, Kent, Grandpa Kent, Friend), 1939 -2021 – Salute!Print
Sous Vide Pork Chop over Creamy Polenta, Puddletown Apple Chutney & a garnish of fresh herb salad
French for “under vacuum”, sous vide is a remarkable way to cook and an ironic way to describe my emotions at this moment. I know my father would have loved this pork; so tender, simple and delicious. A large, gregarious man with a huge appetite but simple tastes, this dinner would have made him rave (although, he might have preferred tater tots to polenta…talking to you brother Mark).
(2) 1 inch thick boneless pork rib chops
1 tsp “Stacey’s Magic Mix” (aka: 1 part each Maldon’s sea salt, black pepper corn, coriander seed, cooked in a low oven temp until fragrant, grind fine)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TB butter and 1 TB olive oil
Herbs (whatever you have fresh or none at all), chopped
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup corn meal (preferably…)
1 TB butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, slightly crushed
1/4 cup grated mozzarella (optional)
Chopped fresh herbs and greens such as:
Tarragon (but Dad was not a fan of this herb)
Bring the water, salt, butter & garlic to a simmer.
In a slow stream, whisk in the cornmeal.
Turn the heat to low, continuously stirring until it thickens. Stir in the grated cheese and keep warm until serving.
Clean and chop enough for each plate to have just enough (this is a personal decision as to how much is needed).
Dry each chop with paper towel and sprinkle with the magic mix. It should evenly coat each chop but not saturate. Rub this in and let sit until you are ready to cook. As everyone who knows me knows, I am not one to hurry. Dad often ate well past his mealtime.
Heat a pan on high and add oil to just coat the bottom of the pan. Add the pork, turn the heat to medium and scatter the garlic over to sear (a minute or two).
Turn and turn off the heat. You might choose to lift the chops so as to sear the edges as well.
Meanwhile, fill a stockpot with water, insert your Joule or other sous vide device and set heat to 144 degrees F.
Add the meat and juices to a sous vide bag, add a smidge of maple syrup and seal the bag, sealing out the air.
Put the bag in the water and turn in the timer.
When done, remove from bag and pat meat dry. Sear in butter, slice and serve over polenta, alongside a nice apple chutney topped with the herb salad.
At a time like this, shortcuts are necessary and in this case, very welcome. Puddletown Pub Chutney is a chutney of apples, onions, coffee and beer (seriously). A perfect combination for many occasions, I think. It is delicious alongside this pork and polenta as well as many other things. Check it out, I don’t get paid for promoting anything here.