Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Roasted golden beets and carrots with pastured pork chops

There is no way back now. Winter is here to stay and so are root vegetables. This recipe comes from Jamie Oliver's new book Jamie at home. He was not a chef I particularly admired when he first started, but with the years, he has taken a direction which, I have to confess, adheres very much to my own principles of cooking and eating. Eat locally, organically, sustainably, responsibly.

I spotted some beautifully fresh organic golden beets the other day at my local Whole Foods and the first thing that came to my mind was "roasted beets". I'm happy Jamie and I now think along the same lines, as I was able to find his version of roasted golden beets. I had never had golden beets before....but their cousins the red beet. Oddly enough, I found their taste to be absolutely identical so I guess the interesting part lies in their playful vibrant colors and different nutritional contents (golden orange and deep purple couldn't possibly be made of the same phytonutrients).

They are very sweet and do have a sourness to them which vinegar usually enhances in a subtle way. But in that instance, the use of balsamic vinegar seemed to be an adequate choice for the beets, bringing out both their sweetness and sourness.

Both carrots and beets are first boiled to absorb enough water to cook properly and avoid the ''shriveling in the oven''. Anyone who has tried to roast vegetables in the oven before will know what I'm talking about*. They are then seasoned each in a different way : the juice of an orange, the leaves of a few thyme sprigs, smashed garlic cloves and olive oil for the carrots, balsamic vinegar along with a few unpeeled whole cloves of garlic for the beets, last but not least, fine gray sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper for everyone. Last step is roasting them in the oven**.

Moving on to the pork chops, I have to tell you that this pork is the best tasting pork I have ever had, and I'm not even kidding! I get it from a farm nearby, where I also get my eggs, chicken and beef. It's a small farm operated by a couple who uses the rotational grazing method. The animals spend their lives out in nature doing what they were meant to do and they are treated humanely. No pesticides, antibiotics, vaccines or growth hormones there, only the most respectful ways of treating living beings and the environment we all share. In return, the meat is spectacular.

For this recipe, the pork chops are seasoned scored and sage leaves are inserted in the slits. They are then seared, and cooked. Finally, the pan juices are deglazed with fresh lemon juice and poured over the chops.

I'd say not too bad for a weeknight's meal.

*Cook's illustrated this month features an article about roasting green beans and the shrivel action. It says : ''Wrinkles aren't always a sign of overzealous cooking. For roasted green beans, shriveled exteriors indicate a successful transformation from bland and stringy to tender and flavorful''.

**In Jamie's original recipe the vegetables are roasted in a 425 degree oven for 30mn. I would recommend bringing the temperature down to 375 (especially in a convection oven ) for about 20mn.

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