Grilled Pork Chops with Cane Vinegar Gastrique

My new recipe for Grilled Pork Chops with Cane Vinegar Gastrique includes the use of a Coffee Brine with Herb Salt. The brine makes the pork chops super-tender and super-juicy.

The Cane Vinegar Gastrique is an adaptation of a recipe Ample Bites saw in Lousiana Cookin’ magazine. The Cane Vinegar Gastrique adds a complex sweet, acidic note to the dish. When making the gastrique take care to do the reduction just prior to serving and be careful not to reduce the liquid to far or you will end up with a very tasty caramel.

Quarter the nectarines and soak them in the Pickled Red Onions for about 30 minutes before grilling them.


Grilled Pork Chops with Cane Vinegar Gastrique
(Mark Kelly, 2014)

4 cups black coffee
1/2 cup Herb Salt (see previous Ample Bites post)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 bone-in pork chops
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cane vinegar (such as Steen’s)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 grilled nectarines, coarsely chopped, for garnish
Pickled Red Onions, for garnish (see previous Ample Bites post)

24 hours before grilling prepare the brine by combining the coffee, Herb Salt and thyme in a gallon zip-top plastic bag. If the coffee is still hot add ice and allow the brine to return to room temperature. Add the pork chops to the brine and refrigerate. Remove the pork chops from the brine about 1 hour before grilling. Rinse the pork chops under cold water and pat dry. Just before grilling, brush the pork chops on both sides with olive oil and season one side with black pepper.

Heat grill to medium-high for direct cooking. Grill the nectarines, cut side down, until grill marks appear. Set aside and allow to cool before chopping.

In a sauce pan over medium heat combine the cane vinegar, honey, and agave. Reduce gastrique, stirring constantly until reduced by half. Let stand to cool.

Grill the pork chops, peppered side up, for 3 to 4 minutes per side.

To serve, plate one pork chop with a topping of grilled nectarines and Pickled Red Onions and drizzle with the Cane Vinegar Gastrique.

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Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Tomatillo Salsa Verde, like pickled red onions, is a great condiment for Mexican food. The slightly acidic tomatillos make a mild green sauce that is perfect with delicate fish tacos.

The tomatillos that Ample Bites used in the preparation of this salsa came from the Ample Bite Vegetable Farm. Tomatillos look like green tomatoes that are encased in a thin husk but they taste nothing like tomatoes.


Tomatillo Salsa Verde
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of, July 2014)

Makes about 2 cups

1 lb. tomatillos, husked, rinsed and quartered
1/2 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 1/2 Serrano pepper, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems
3 strong dashes of Garlic Hot Sauce
Kosher salt

Puree the tomatillos in a food processor or blender. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to puree, adding water as needed, until smooth. Season with salt. Refrigerate for an hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

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Sweet Potato Cakes

Sweet Potato Cakes are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside with just a little kick from the minced Serrano chile. To kick the spice up a bit more serve with a Sriracha mayonnaise or your favorite hot sauce.

Ample Bites likes to prepare these cakes a good hour ahead of frying and tuck them in the freezer. This technique allows the cakes to firm-up and be easier to handle when frying. Place them on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet before putting them in the freezer.


Sweet Potato Cakes
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of

Serves 4 to 6

2 lb. sweet potatoes, roasted, peeled and mashed
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
4 scallions, roughly chopped
1/2 Serrano pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 large egg
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil

Mix the mashed sweet potatoes, 1 cup Panko, flour, chopped cilantro, scallions, chiles, egg, salt and pepper in a large bowl until completely combined and smooth.

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Divide the potato mixture into eight patties, about 1/2-inch-thick; coat in remaining Panko. Working in batches, fry, flipping once, until golden and crisp about 2 minutes per side. Drain on a paper-towel lined baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and serve with cilantro garnish.

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Soy-Glazed Chicken with Asparagus and Scallions

Soy-Glazed Chicken with Asparagus and Scallions involves creating a simple soy-honey-based glaze and then patiently baking the chicken until the skin develops a salty-sweet and crispy texture. The dish is finished by serving the perfectly cooked chicken over a bed of quick-baked asparagus and scallions. Chicken thighs or breasts or some combination can be used but Ample Bites recommends using skin-on, bone-in fowl.


Soy-Glazed Chicken with Asparagus and Scallions
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of, May 2014)

Serves 4 – 6

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 large limes)
1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp honey
10 chicken thighs (about 5 lb.)
1 bunch asparagus (about 3/4 lb.) trimmed
2 bunches scallions, trimmed
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

Whisk garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, and honey in a medium bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Marinate for 30 minutes to overnight.

Preheat oven to 450F. Transfer chicken and marinade to a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet, placing skin side down. Bake until fat begins to render, 20 – 25 minutes. Turn the chicken skin side up and continue to bake, basting occasionally with pan drippings, until chicken is cooked through and deeply browned, another 20 – 30 minutes.

After turning the chicken, toss the asparagus and scallions, on another foil-lined baking sheet, with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake, shaking the pan halfway through, until tender, 8 – 12 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus.

To plate, serve a bunch of the asparagus and scallion with a chicken breast or two over top and drizzle with pan juices. Garnish with cilantro.

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Acquacotta (Tomato and Bread Soup)

Acquacotta is an Italian tomato soup that is thickened using an individual piece of toasted bread in each serving bowl and accented with an egg that is poached in the soup before serving. Other than mastering the art of poaching the eggs in the soup this is a very simple dish to prepare.

If you are uncomfortable with poaching the egg in the soup, either poach the eggs separately in water or use an over-easy fried egg.

This soup is one of many great ways to use the abundance of those summer tomatoes in your garden.



Serves 4

1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. ripe plum tomatoes, pulp and stem end removed then chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
Herb Salt (see 8.20.14 Ample Bites post)
Freshly ground black pepper
4 large fresh eggs
4 slices firm bread, toasted
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

In a large pot or Dutch oven, saute the onion and celery in the oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Season with a couple pinches of Herb Salt and black pepper. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, with any accumulated juice, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 more minutes.

Add the broth and re-season with Herb Salt and black pepper. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes more.

Break one of the eggs into a ladle, warm the egg in the ladle for a few seconds before gently slipping it into the simmering soup. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Cover and cook over low heat until the eggs are just set, about 3 minutes.

Place a slice of the toasted bread in each serving bowl. Sprinkle the bread with cheese. Spoon a poached egg onto each bread slice. Add more cheese and the basil to each bowl. Ladle the soup into each bowl around the bread slice and serve immediately.

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Herb Salt

Ample Bites found this formula for Herb Salt in a foodie mag in a recipe for seasoning a leg of lamb, which I may try once we get into the Fall 2014/Winter 2015 comfort food season. I recently used the Herb Salt to season some lamb chops for the grill and they were delicious. Since then, I have used the Herb Salt to season other proteins as well as soups, fresh sliced tomatoes, and salad dressings.


Herb Salt

Makes 1 cup

8 fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 cup Kosher salt
1 Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Add all the herbs to a food processor and pulse until they are coarsely chopped. Add the salt, red pepper flakes, fennel seed, black pepper and pulse to blend. Store in an airtight container until ready to use and for up to 2 months.

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Roasted Asparagus with Panko

Roasted Asparagus with Panko is a variation of an Ample Bites favorite preparation. This version introduces an anchovy-infused panko mixture to lend the dish a salty, crunchy finish. The recipe calls for pencil-thin asparagus. If using larger diameter spears, increase baking time, or split or quarter the spears and us the cooking time in the recipe.


Roasted Asparagus with Panko
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of, April 2013)

Serves 4 to 6

2 lbs. pencil-thin asparagus, trimmed
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp anchovy paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a medium skillet over medium heat bring 1/3 cup of oil to a shimmer. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add anchovy paste and saute, stirring constantly, cooking for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add panko and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Remove from heat.

Spread asparagus on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and black pepper. Bake for 5 minutes. Spread the panko mixture over the asparagus and grate Parmesan over top. Serve immediately.

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Dipping Sauce for Corn Fritters

This Dipping Sauce is sweet, vinegary and a little spicy. It is perfect for the Okra and Corn Fritters Ample Bites posted a few days ago. If you cannot find a cane vinegar like Steen’s, use cider vinegar or sherry vinegar.

Dipping Sauce
(Mark Kelly, 2014)

Makes 1/2 cup

1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup Steen’s cane vinegar
2 Tbsp minced shallot
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp Kosher salt

Mix all ingredients together and serve at room temperature.

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Homemade Potato Chips

Homemade Potato Chips are really easy to make if you have a deep-fryer and a mandolin food slicer. The deep-fryer will allow you to maintain a hot oil temperature at 375F. This is a bit trickier but can also be done with a large Dutch oven and a candy thermometer. The mandolin slicer will help you make very thin slices of potato for your chips … just take care to protect your fingers when using this kitchen tool.

For different flavor profiles, try sweet potatoes or turnips or try seasoning with some cayenne pepper or Cajun seasoning.


Homemade Potato Chips
(Mark Kelly, 2014)

Makes 6 to 8 servings

4 large baking potatoes
Kosher salt
Canola oil

Bring the oil to a constant temperature of 375F.

Using a mandolin, slice the potatoes crosswise to create thin oval-shaped pieces.

Cooking in batches, fry the potato slices for about 2 minutes per side. Drain on a paper-towel or newspaper-lined baking sheet. Season with salt immediately after the chips are removed from the oil.

Serve while warm, if at all possible.

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Okra and Corn Fritters

Okra and Corn Fritters are sweet, doughy, savory balls that are part doughnut hole and part biscuit. The fritter’s crispy outer shell conceals the warm, flaky goodness inside. This recipe includes okra and some fresh sweetcorn. The fritters can be made without and vegetables or, to really make them decadent, try adding crabmeat, lobster or finely chopped shrimp.


Okra and Corn Fritters
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of, July/August 2014)

Makes about 3 dozen

Canola oil
5 cups self-rising buttermilk cornmeal mix
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 lb. fresh okra, finely chopped
3 ears fresh corn, kernels removed from cob
3 cups whole milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Heat the oil in a fryer to a constant temperature of 350F.

In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal mix, garlic powder, salt, pepper, okra and corn kernels, stirring to combine. In a small bowl whisk together the milk and eggs. Combine milk mixture with cornmeal mixture.

Drop batter, in batches, by rounded tablespoons into the oil. Cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes, flipping them over halfway through the frying process. Drain on paper towels, season with salt, and serve warm with your favorite sauce.

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