"Meat" and Potatoes

Bacon gets me excited, but after my last post, I think everybody knows that.

In honor of International Bacon Day coming up next weekend, I thought it best to give some of my favorite recipes including my favorite part of the pig, and then some others.

Bacon bits have always been a favorite topping for me, especially on baked potatoes. I remember some of my first dinners where my parents allowed me to order steak when we went out to eat, and for some reason I remember there always being the option of having a baked potato on the side. When asked what toppings I would like, first out of my mouth was "bacon!" and then the announcement that butter, sour cream, and chives would be acceptable as well. Even with the creaminess of the sour cream, added lusciousness of the butter, and slight onion flavor of the chives, the meaty, salty, smoky goodness of the bacon just seemed to round out the whole side dish.

My mom used to make us baked potatoes throughout my "youth", but she didn't make bacon bits from scratch - instead we were left with the lovely invention of BacOs. And, BacOs just doesn't cut it compared to the real thing.

Then, my Mom started making twice baked potatoes. I remember helping her once, her slicing the potatoes in half horizontally, me scooping out the fluffy center into a bowl making sure to leave a little bit inside next to the walls of the skin to create a "vessel" for our stuffing. Into the bowl would be an "eyeball measure" of sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, Lawry's Garlic Salt, and Lawry's Seasoning Salt (Mom's two staples). She then would mix it all together to a smooth mixture and stuff the potato skin-vessels with the mixture. She then would wrap them in foil or pack them into a casserole dish to be baked immediately or at a later date. When we did get the chance to eat this so-simple-yet-delicious concoction, on the BacOs would go again!

I recently was inspired to make my version of twice-baked potatoes for an outdoor 4th of July barbecue, but this time, the BacOs wouldn't even make it to my dish, let alone shopping bag, or shopping list, for that matter. And, in the matter of how my Mom cooks, I decided to "eyeball measure" my ingredients as well.

First, I took 9 Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean, and placed them directly on the rack in a preheated 375F oven, and baked for about 1 1/2 hours (until slightly soft to the touch).

Meanwhile, I slice up my bacon. I don't think I have ever had nitrate-free bacon (nitrate, though a preservative, has been linked to bad health issues), but bought it anyways. Once sliced, add to a cool pan, THEN turn on the heat to medium and continue to cook and stir until all cooked through. Allow to cool and drain on a paper towel (and save the bacon fat for later cooking!).

Once the potatoes are done, I remove them and allow them to cool slightly (about 20 minutes) so that they don't burn my hands!

Once they cool down, slice the potatoes horizontally, but I like to not cut them completely in half. Rather, I slice off about the top 1/4th of the potato, scrape the potato "meat" out of the top and the soon to be "vessel".

Then, you are left with these beautiful potato "boats".

Then, I chop my bunch of chives and add them to my bowl of potatoes:

Along with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper, and BACON.

Once again, I have "eyeballed" my measurements, so I can't really provide a real recipe. All I can say is it should look like had have the texture of mashed potatoes. And, the best part, is you get a little bit of every morsel (including bacon) in every bite.

Picture is slightly blurry, but fill the potatoes with the mixture and make sure to fill them well. You will have a little left over to snack on!

I like to make my twice baked potatoes a day ahead to allow all of the flavors merry together, but you can definitely make these potatoes and go to bake them right after you fill them. Total work time? Probably 2 hours, but you can get the bacon cooked, chives cut, and cheese shredded all while the potatoes cook. When ready to bake, reheat at 350F for 30 minutes or until hot. Sometimes I like to put them under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes to brown the top of the potatoes.

These twice baked potatoes are fantastic. As I mentioned, you get a bit of everything in every bite. Just make sure you add enough of every ingredient, especially the bacon. Especially the bacon.

The Ultimate Bacon Experience

A friend and old co worker recently reminded me that International Bacon Day is coming up (this year it is Sept. 5th - it's always the Saturday before Labor Day), and we have been discussing at length a bacon-filled extravaganza of a day eating our way around San Francisco. I was prompted to write this entry based on my Ultimate Bacon Experience only few were priveleged to.

If I could have a penny, dime, dollar...hell--winning lottery ticket, for how many times over the years I have been asked, "what is your favorite thing to drink/eat", my two answers would be this:

1. Wine (...shocker)

2. Bacon

...and I pondered many others, but nothing out ranked #1 or #2 (or really shall I say they are tied).

There are many conversations I have had with my Mom regarding her possible cravings of bacon during her pregnancy with me to explain my "addiction". I just asked her recently about the pork-fat fetish she indulged in, and she exclaimed, "Oh my gosh, Lesley, I would crave pancakes and bacon all of the time. There was a time I ate 14 pieces of bacon (or so) while I was pregnant with you".

Then, she moved on to Honey Baked Ham.

Enough said.

I have a true love of pork as you can see from some of the recipes I have cooked on my blog (Pork chops, pan sauce with applewood smoked bacon, crispy prosciutto), but, most importantly, I have fallen head over heels the amazing creation called bacon. I want to personally thank the person in history (whatever time period or culture) who came up with the idea of curing and smoking what I think is the most amazing part of the pig.

I can imagine my sister, Meag, reading this right now and immediately thinking, "Lesley, do you remember how many times you tried to steal my bacon off my plate growing up?" Oh yes, Meag, I do. The only pieces that I wouldn't eat are the ones she would douse in maple syrup. I still can't get behind that act as I would rather enjoy a beautifully cooked slice all on its own. Hey, at least she learned her own way of defensively protecting her breakfast side dish.

Most individuals, I feel, only really think of bacon as a breakfast item. I, on the other hand, try to incorporate it into as many dishes as I can. Salads, sandwiches, dips, sauces, haven't tried the ice cream route yet - agreeing with Emeril, "pork fat rules", and in my words, bacon is the King.

I am always (ALWAYS) this person: when I am cooking up bacon for family or guests, I ALWAYS make an extra slice for myself. I desperately try to hide from eating in front of guests because, secretly, I am thrilled no one saw me indulging in that extra slice. When I render off cubes of bacon for a sauce or for baked potatoes or a salad topping, it is like a personal test of my will NOT to eat every small morsel before I finish the rest of the dish.

I grew up with Oscar Mayer - Center Cut bacon, but over the years I have definitely "experimented" with other brands; smoked, unsmoked, uncured, thick cut, slab, etc. I try to keep my intake of bacon to a minimum (like my wine intake...), but sometimes, we all just have that craving.

And then, about a year ago, I (and a few other co workers) "worked on" what I feel is the Ultimate Bacon Experience. And we were really working.

I used to work for a company that tests food products for, what they say, "is the independent judging organization dedicated to recognizing and honoring America’s best food and food-related products." That is all I will say on that subject. But, my job was running the test kitchen for all of the products we were testing. And then, word came down that we would be testing....BACON.

And this wasn't just testing one brand. This was about 6-7 brands AND THEN broken down into other categories, like thin cut, thick cut, etc. It was a fantasy for a bacon fanatic come true.

So, I will try to explain this the best before you see the pictures. The testing of these products was done by a panel of 10 chef judges that do not know anything more than they are testing a specific category of a product found in the supermarket. In this category, there may be two products to test (i.e. powdered mac and cheese) or more (think all of the jarred pasta sauces, and then break it down by flavors...). The judges' samples of the products are not named but coded so they have no idea what brands are being tested. They get one sample of each of the products, discuss, and then get a second sample to score the products. That's all you really need to know about the testing process, because this is about bacon, not my old workplace.

So, 10 chefs - each need two slices for their first sample and two slices for their second sample. That's four slices per chef per testing period. Times four by 10 and, yep, that 40 slices of bacon per each brand. Now times that by six brands? Yes, that is 240 slices...of bacon. But wait! We need to make "extra" for the fact that some might get burned (each had to be cooked as similar as possible), and we need to make "extra" for me and my co workers to sample (just for fun). So roughly, that was about 260-270 slices PER TESTING PERIOD.

The above photo was like bacon heaven. Each sheet pan was covered with about 24 slices of bacon, to which I baked at 375F (convection oven) for about the perfect 15-20 minutes. And this represents just one round of judging. This didn't just happen ONE day, but over many days in a course of three weeks.

Had to include a photo of my co worker, Tiffany, helping me out.

It was very interesting to taste different brands against each other and compare. It was fascinating to me as a bacon aficionado to sense different flavors, textures, meat to fat ratio, in each brand, something you really don't think about when you are ordering a side of bacon for breakfast or just shopping for bacon in your local supermarket. The chef judges never really decided on a true winner amongst the brands, but we all had a fantastic time sampling along with them.

Literally, we ate "like pigs". I swore not to count the amount of slices I ingested during these judging sessions. I still get slightly ill thinking about just how much bacon I consumed in a short period of time, and it was for work nonetheless! In one moment, I had never been so sick of bacon in my life, and in the next I was literally smiling from ear to ear. So, in honor of International Bacon Day around the corner, I thought it most appropriate to share some of the most indulgent moments as a bacon lover. Take that, creators of Bacon Explosion.

Fridge "Mystery Box" #1

I dare anyone reading this blog NOT to raise their hand (or a glass...I'm just sayin') in agreement to any of the following statements:
  • I am a culprit of buying a whole bunch of produce and it is now a week old in my fridge and I still haven't used it, and it has gone bad.
  • I bought too much chicken, pork, meat, fish - and I was going to use it "yesterday" but now it's gone bad.
  • I really was going to eat those leftovers, but ordered take out instead.
  • I was at the market today, bought, let's say, a huge bag of "potatoes" (because they were on sale), and now they are sitting on my counter, sprouting, because I just didn't get around to using them.
  • I have a whole bunch of random crap in my fridge, but I just don't know what to do with it.
  • I want to cook at home more, but I just don't know how to make it come all together.
You get where I am going. Well, at least I hope so. And if you didn't raise your hand (or a glass...) then I am speechless.

I feel that we all, at some point, have the same reaction in a supermarket, farmers market, specialty store, where we are like, "Ooh! Look at that! I can cook that tonight/tomorrow/Wednesday/for this weekend's dinner guests...", but sometimes our shelf-life-challenged produce and proteins and other ingredients go to waste. Even the ones we keep on hand as our staples (I always have a lemon and heavy cream in my fridge). It doesn't have to be some exotic ingredient, I mean, for me, it can be as simple as a chicken breast or some asparagus.

Hey, it happens. I am surprised living by myself that it doesn't happen more often. Only because I am such a foodie and a wino. But, NO wine goes spoiled in my apartment.

But I cook a lot at home, more so than the average single-living girl. So the other night, I tentatively opened my fridge, knowing that I was at the brink of needing to get rid of a few items, and here is what I pulled from my fridge:

Brown Mushrooms, Baby Spinach, Parmesan Cheese, Lemon, 1/2 a Shallot, Prosciutto, and Roasted Garlic.

Yes. I DO keep most of these things around as staples.

I decided in that moment to treat all of these ingredients like "Mystery Box" ingredients and see what I cold come up with.

I needed a protein, so I went to the supermarket and bought some chicken breasts. Looking at my Mystery Box ingredients, I decided on this menu:

Panko-Parmesan Crusted Chicken Paillard/White Wine, Lemon, Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce/Sauteed Baby Spinach with Mushrooms and Crispy Prosciutto.

(Remember, I still think like a chef, making menu items, when I cook). (Oh, and "Paillard" means "
a slice of veal, chicken, or beef that is pounded until very thin and cooked quickly" for those who were wondering why I was using fancy "French". Ha ha).

And, this dish only took me 30 minutes (take that, Rachel Ray). And, really, it is NOT difficult.

I usually eyeball all of my measurements, but here is as accurate I can get if you wanted to try this at home:

1 chicken breast, sliced evenly horizontally
1 egg, whisked
3 tbsb panko bread crumbs
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
3 brown muchrooms, sliced
3 oz baby spinach (large handful)
2 slices prosciutto
1/2 challot, choppped
1/2 C white wine
2 cl roasted garlic
1/4 C heavy cream
1 small wedge of lemon

So, I set out to slice my chicken breast in half, in order to pound it out.

Yes, one is bigger than the other, but I used the smaller for my lunch the next day:

Put a piece of chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap:

Took this b/c soooo many people think they have to use the spiked end of a mallet. No, folks, use the FLAT end to pound your chicken:

It might not look that big, but this chicken breast went from 1/2" thick to 1/4" thick:

So then I cooked the prosciutto, now that my oven was set at 375F:

Cover a cookie sheet with parchment or foil and place two slices (one to snack on) of prosciutto on the parchment:

Bake at 375F for 5-10 minutes, until the prosciutto is crisp:

Meanwhile, slice the mushrooms (I did only three) and saute in some melted olive oil or butter:

About 7 minutes later:

Then, I dredge my chicken breast through a whisked egg (I was randomly out of flour), and then pat it in my mixture of panko bread crumbs and parmesan:

Panko and parmesan cheese - 3 tbsp panko to 1 tbsp grated parmesan per piece:

Heat some olive oil over Med High (yes, I use lots to create a really nice crust, but then discard of most of it later to make the sauce) and when the oil is really hot, add the chicken:

5 minutes til brown. Flip!

5 more minutes and remove from pan to rest:

Add the white wine to deglaze the pan; reduce by half; add the smashed roasted garlic, lemon juice, and heavy cream, and reduce til sauce coats back of a spoon:

While the sauce reduces, finish the spinach; return the heat of the pan of mushrooms to High and add the baby spinach:

Continue to saute on High heat using tongs, constantly turning the spinach to wilt it. Once wilted, remove and plate and crumble crispy prosciutto on top:

Once the sauce has reduced, remove from heat and plate:

And that, my friends, is cleaning out my refrigerator with leftover things. It's a fun challenge, and it's not that hard to do. And, damn, it was tasty. The tartness of the lemon in the sauce balanced well with the parmesan and panko crust on the chicken, and the saltiness of the prosciutto went very well with the subtle earthiness of the spinach and mushrooms.

After taking pictures of my cookings, I thought that I would make this a weekly entry of cleaning out the fridge. I hope that there is more inspiration to come from any and all ingredients.

Margarita, por favor. But hold THAT mix.

My family has had a long running love affair/history with the classic margarita, starting with what I remember of my grandfather, Dickie, and his version of a margarita called Dr. Demento's. I have asked my parents over the years exactly where the name comes from, and really haven't gotten the straightest answer except that they are so strong that they make you feel a bit "demented" in the head. Growing up, I remember weekends in Catalina or in Palm Desert where the first thing Dickie would offer to any adult coming through the door was an ice-cold glass of his potent concoction. As my sister and I grew up, we started to inquire what EXACTLY was a Dr. Demento. Dickie would tell us it was his secret mixture of tequila, fresh lemon juice, and fresh lime juice. He even let us watch him make them once, which, truly, was kind of a rite of passage since no one really ever knew how much of what was put into his "margaritas" (and, without giving away his recipe, I can say there is PLENTY of tequila).

My sister loves to tell the story about a weekend she spent with my Dad in Catalina, where upon arriving in the cove he was handed a fresh Dr. Demento and proceded to have a few more to the point that he needed to take a nap. Being so young at the time, my sister and I didn't really understand the effects of alcohol, but when she told the story to my Mom and I later that weekend, my Mom about fell over laughing: my Dad was so "conked" out by the potency of the "Demento's" he had had that my sister could only wake him up by putting ice cubes on the bottom of his feet. And, I can safely say from LATER personal experience, that yes, Dickie's Dr. Demento's are that strong, but also utterly delicious. Why? because of the fresh juice.

I still remember the tartness from the juice and the slight burn from the tequila as the first, cold sip passed your lips. My Dad would ALWAYS let out a loud, "Ahhhh...", showing his affirmation that this batch was a good batch. Dickie always smiled knowing his "from-scratch" margaritas had pleased the crowd of guests once again. Over the last few years, Dickie's health started to fade, as did the frequency of when he made the Dr. Demento's. When he passed recently, I remember being so sad that we as a family and our friends would never get to have a proper Dr. Demento margarita ever again. I think my Dad even mentioned something about this now-famous, fresh margarita in his Eulogy.

Speaking of my Dad, he is a huge margarita fan. I cannot think of any alcoholic beverage (other than wine, but in my family, wine is literally like water...) that he orders when we are out. I can hear him now, on a recent Sunday lunch: "What tequilas do you have? Do you have Casadores? I'll have a Casadores Margarita, on the rocks, with salt." It's like clockwork. Sitting in the jacuzzi after a Saturday of golf, a lazy Sunday afternoon at home playing cards, if it's not wine, it is always a margarita. Over the last few years I have seen him go though different types of pre-made mixes for his "margs", yet all of them impart this artificial, syrupy-sugary, fake citrus flavor, one that I personally can't stand. He also mentioned that he really didn't care for the mixes either, but it was just "easier" than taking the time to make one from scratch.

I was just at my parents house this past Monday, and offered to make dinner for the family. And, inspired by the beautiful Summer weather and the fact I was going to BBQ, I felt compelled to make "margs" from scratch. I remembered a few years back a friend of mine had a group of us over to her house and had made what was called "The Perfect Margarita" from scratch, and we all couldn't get enough of them. She had found the recipe in Cooks Illustrated magazine, and I had held onto a copy of the recipe over the years. I decided to resurrect the recipe because it reminded me nostalgically of Dickie's Dr. Demento's, except with the additional sugar and Triple Sec.

I have altered the recipe slightly from Cooks Illustrated as theirs says to add all the ingredients together, including the tequila, and then serve from a pitcher. I think mine is a little easier than having to measure EXACTLY 1/2 C of juice here and there. Plus, when I make a margarita, I prefer to add as much tequila as I want and then top it off with the mix.

My Margarita Mix

8 limes, juiced
8 lemons, juiced
1/2 C granulated sugar (or superfine if you can get it; just helps to dissolve better)
1 C Triple Sec
*1 C Tequila (optional)
First, start with the obvious: squeeze the lemons and limes. Trick of the trade: put your lemons and limes in the microwave before juicing; this loosens up the juice inside the skin. They should be warm to the touch. Second: roll them back and forth on your counter, applying some pressure, to help release the juice from the pulp.

I couldn't find my parent's juicer so I did my other fail-proof squeezing: slice each lemon and lime in half, and squeeze the juice over a strainer over a measuring glass using tongs as pressure rather than destroying your hands squeezing the juice yourself.

No one wants a margarita with seeds. Strain them. And, as you can kind of see from the pic, you are left with about 2 - 2 1/2 cups of juice.

Next, add the sugar to the strained juices; make sure to whisk very well as you don't want the sugar to puddle at the bottom; the point is to dissolve all of the sugar INTO the juice.

Next whisk in the Triple Sec and *tequila (optional). I felt adding this 1C of tequila helped to "wake up" the mix (and, I like booze).

If you add the tequila, you will have roughly 4 cups of my "Mix". If not, you will have roughly 3 cups. I then fill a glass with ice to the top; pour about a 3-count of tequila over the ice and then top with my "Mix".

Tart, appropriately sweet, slightly tangy, and all the while a citrus punch with the addition of tequila. My margarita was born.

While I was taking these photos, I thought it fitting to get a shot with Party Marty (aka MOM) and my grandmother, Bevey, in the background. Bevey was Dickie's husband and might be the only person who really knows the true measurements for the tried-and-true Dr. Demento's. She was pleased to see that I was making my margaritas from scratch as Dick had done for so many years. My Dad came home from the office and I immediately poured him my version of a "marg", just as Dickie had done for so many years for all of us. He took a sip, smiled at me, and said the familiar, "Ahhhhh....now that's some GFS!" My Dad said something to the point of never wanting to bother with the pre-made mixes again when I could make him something like this.

And, we both slept pretty hard that night, after a few of my new-and-improved Dr. Demento's. No ice to the feet, but I did wake up to my sister telling me it was time to go to bed. Yep. I took my own "nap" after a few of my margaritas. But, the effort, fresh juice, and knowing the EXACT ingredients that went into my drink (rather than corn syrup-processed, shelf stable mixes)helped to prevent a hangover the next day.

Dear Trader Joes: Thank You for Not Having Filet Mignon Yesterday....

What can be one of my favorite things and least favorite things at the same time is perusing my local Trader Joes meat section. Why? because most of the time I go there for one thing in particular and they are out of it. Even chicken breasts, skin on, on the bone. Really.

But then again Trader Joes isn't like most traditional supermarkets where there is ALWAYS something that you want available. So, after a deep breath, a shot of their coffee at the "free food" bar (insert image of me here taking a shot of tequila but it is actually coffee), a stroll down the cheese aisle (brie will always calm me down), I accept it (after a moment of, "Dammit, they are out of Top Sirloin? And that is what I wanted to do for dinner?") and begin to scour the shelves for what I am going to cook INSTEAD.

Well, this happened to me yesterday. Again. I went looking for their Filet Mignon this time and came up empty handed. There was stew meat, New York cut, Tri Tip cut, Blade steak, even marinated everything, but (*sigh) no effing Filet. It's like TJ's knows ahead of time what I want and then they hide it.

Instead of throwing the internal personal "fit" that I do have (see above), I instead took a look at some nice boneless pork chops. Wow, Niman Ranch is now supplying them with pork, I thought, looking at the label.

And for that price, for two pork chops, I thought, hell I will make a meal (for one) out of this!

I started looking around and bought some white wine (of course), prosciutto, fontina cheese, and some spinach, having a stuffed "Saltimbocca" inspired dish in mind (look it up). But, as a chef or a flexible cook, you really have to adapt to what you have on hand to make your meal fantastic. I started off my dinner with the intention of this, and yes, when I cook for myself and others, I do think of how the dish on the menu would read:

"Stuffed Pan Seared Pork Chop - Prosciutto di Parma, Fontina, Sage - Garlicky Sauteed Spinach"

Instead, I got home, looked at my week-old sage and decided, nope.

I quickly changed direction and, looking at what I had on hand, I decided:

"Pan Seared Pork Chop - Roasted Garlic Pan Sauce w/ Applewood Smoked Bacon, Thyme, Chardonnay, Dijon Mustard, Cream - Garlicky Sauteed Spinach"

**(Yes, to answer the burning question, I DO keep most of these ingredients in my fridge...)

And, I thought, in a moment of brilliance, to bring the entire procedure and technique of my cooking this dinner to my blog. Commence the slide show with descriptions of such procedures and techniques (remember, I am French-taught, just like Julia):

Ok so, here is my "mini" cooking class. All of my ideas reflect the best way to extract the flavors and nuances of the dish, assuming you have the time. First, bring the pork out of the fridge 30 minutes before you are going to cook it. This allows the meat to come slightly to room temperature (rather than cold meat straight to the pan) and I think it cooks better. Season generously with sea salt and cracked black pepper (yes, 30 minutes before!).

Ok, the second pork chop I didn't cook, but that is for another blog entry (more exciting testing to come...)

Next, I chop up my nitrate-free applewood-smoked bacon to a cold pan to begin rendering the fat. Why cold? So that you can slowly start extracting the fat rather than adding the bacon to a hot pan which begins to cook the bacon immediately - you want to use the fat for the searing of the pork later. Keep the heat on Med Low so you get the most fat extracted and a nice, crisp, evenly cooked nib of bacon.

Slowly rendering the fat (I am doing this during the 30 minutes that the pork is out on the counter by the way...)

Draining the cooked bacon and saving the fat. Why? Because Pork Fat Rules. And, it adds a subtle flavor to the searing of the pork. PLUS, remember I am French-trained, and we French-trained people like to build flavors. Like building blocks. Following me?

Ok, so the next step is to turn the pan up to Med High to sear off the pork.

To get the nice crust you want, you have to keep the heat high and let it cook for a few minutes a side. If it is a cold pan or the oil isn't hot enough, you will not get that crust and, quite frankly, your pork may stick to your pan (if you are using stainless steel).

So, on top of that, I like to really cook out the "collar" of fat that lines the side of the pork chop. Why? Um, why SHOULDN'T it be enjoyed? Remember, Pork Fat Rules (calling all bacon lovers...)

To some, "no thank you". To me, Y.U.M. (Say it with me....Pork Fat...)

Ok, so the next trick up my sleeve (well, not a trick, but something I like to do with all seared meats) is adding butter to the pan and constantly "butter basting" the meat to give it flavor. Using a spoon, I tilt the pan and constantly baste the pork with the bacon and butter drippings.

I then take the pork out of the pan to rest (its about medium rare, but it will carry over to medium with a 10 minute sit while I finish the sauce). I then drain the "fat" out of the pan and deglaze the pan with Chardonnay, scraping up all of the lovely bits to help enhance the sauce:

I let the wine reduce to half (it was about a cup - remember "building flavors") and then add my thyme, roasted garlic (which, if you smash, helps to thicken the sauce), Dijon mustard, and a touch of heavy cream.

Oh, and can't forget the bacon nibs...(I had much restraint from eating them all):

And, in the last 5 minutes, I was able to saute up some spinach with garlic slivers (multitasking...) to create this lovely dish.

I devoured every, single bite. The pork was so moist and perfectly crusted, and the sauce, though slightly rich, balanced the leanness of the pork. The spinach was just a lovely side that lightened the entire plate.

So, I started with wanting Filet Mignon, settled (quietly) for the pork, and ended up with a meal better than I could have expected. If Filet is the prized piece of beef that everyone goes after, then let me from now on look at the boneless pork chop in the same way, because I was just as satisfied. The building of flavors is what really enhances this dish. At least it does for me, oh, and a glass of wine. Or two. Gulp. Cheers and enjoy!