Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cajun Braised Skillet Chops

The posts have been a little few and far between here lately, but last night I was inspired to blog again when Jason and I made this recipe for dinner. It was a hit with both of us. Jason usually doesn't help me in the kitchen. He often offers, but usually I've got things under control. And since he doesn't cook it's sometimes hard to figure out what to have him do. But last night he just jumped in and did about half the work on this dish. I think he felt a little sorry for me after the craziness of the past few days...

It started on Saturday, when I decided to do some yardwork. We have a very overgrown forsythia bush in our backyard that had a lot of dead branches, and I decided to thin them out. At times I was kind of crawling underneath and inside the bush, and I got scratched by branches a few times. Very early Sunday morning, I woke up because I was itching uncontrollably and was scratching myself in my sleep. My first thought was that we had bed bugs! I took some Benadryl and went back to sleep. When I woke up later I was still pretty itchy but also felt really sick to my stomach, possibly from taking the Benadryl on an empty stomach. Unfortunately it was the day of Jason's graduation from law school, and I was almost in tears because I couldn't believe I was feeling sick on such an important day. I was mostly itchy on my scalp and neck, and Jason could see that I had a little bit of a rash on my hairline. We deduced that it must be a poison ivy rash from the yardwork I had been doing the day before. I took some more Benadryl and some Pepto-Bismol and hoped I would make it through the graduation and dinner afterwards.

Everything went great with the festivities, although I eventually decided that the itchiness was the lesser of two evils, so I stopped taking Benadryl and my stomach started feeling better. But my scalp was itching like crazy. By Sunday evening, the rash was starting to appear on my neck and I was getting a few blotches on my face. Jason and I decided that if things were worse the next day I should try to see the doctor. Well on Monday morning when I woke up, things were MUCH worse. My face was completely swollen. My eyelids were puffy and my lips looked like I had gotten some really bad collagen injections. I had splotches of rash on my chest, arms, and back. I couldn't get in to see my primary care doctor, so I went to the urgent care. The doctor there told me it wasn't poison ivy but hives (and that perhaps it was still from the yardwork if I had gotten exposed to something I was allergic to). He sent me home with a prescription for Prednisone, and said that it should help clear things up pretty quickly.

As Monday went on, my hives continued to get much worse. They continued to spread, and my trunk was almost completely covered. New spots appeared every few minutes and they were bright red and swollen. Jason said, "your skin looks really angry." And the itching was out of control. I felt like my skin was burning. At the rate things were going, I was afraid to see how bad it could get. At 1:00 am I asked Jason if he could take me to the emergency room.

The ER experience was okay, except that it was a little scary (and annoying) that the doctor obviously hadn't looked at my chart before she came in to see me. Despite the fact that I had given all the details about my situation to both the triage nurse and the ER nurse, the doctor came into the room, barely looked at me, and said, "Okay, what we're doing to do is give you a prescription for Prednisone. That's a steroid and it should help clear up your hives." I said, "I started taking Prednisone earlier today after I went to the urgent care, and things have gotten MUCH WORSE since then." Her reply was something like, "Oh, I didn't know that. Hmm...."

What she ended up doing was giving me some more steroids and antihistamines through an IV. After probably 45 minutes or so the itching had stopped and some of the swelling had gone down. I laid there for a few hours while all the fluids went though. I slept for awhile but poor Jason stayed awake the whole night sitting in a chair beside me. At around 6 am on Tuesday I left with orders to continue to take the Prednisone as well as Benadryl and Pepcid (apparently to prevent stomach irritation caused by the other two drugs?). I still had the hives but things looked much better and I felt much better. We went home and slept until early afternoon, and by late Tuesday afternoon my hives had completely disappeared. It was pretty amazing to see how quickly my skin could transform. The exciting conclusion of the story is that probably nobody at work believes I had hives (I really wish I had taken a picture before I went to the hospital... not that anybody would want to see it but just because it was so wild), and I'm being referred to an allergist to try to determine what caused the hives.

Okay so hopefully that little story didn't completely turn everyone off from thinking about food, because this recipe is fantastic! :-) It's from a cookbook called Fix, Freeze, Feast by Kati Neville and Lindsay Tkacsik. The idea behind the book is to make multiple batches of a recipe at once and freeze them in portions. I love this method of cooking, but I'm always hesitant to make multiple entrees of something we haven't tried yet, in case we don't like it. This was was difficult to halve because it required opening cans of vegetables, so what we ended up doing was making all of the veggies/sauce and freezing half, but only using half of the meat. So keep in mind that the recipe is written for 2 entrees, and the directions are for freezing it rather than cooking it right away, and adapt as necessary.

1 tray (6-8 pounds, or 12 chops) boneless pork loin chops
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can sweet corn, drained
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can petite-cut tomatoes
2/3 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 one-gallon freezer bags, labeled
2 one-quart freezer bags

on hand for cooking each entree: 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. Rinse and trim chops as desired.

2. Lay out two shallow dishes. Put the egg whites in one dish. Mix the Parmesan, pepper, and Cajun seasoning in the other. Dip the chops into the egg, then dredge in Parmesan coating.

3. Place each chop onto a rimmed baking sheet. When all chops are coated, place in the freezer for 1 hour. Discard remaining egg and Parmesan mixture.

4. Into each 1-quart freezer bag measure 2/3 cup chicken broth, 2/3 cup corn, 2/3 cup tomatoes, 1/3 cup onion, and 1 tablespoon garlic. Seal.

5. Divide frozen chops evenly among the 1-gallon freezer bags. Place one bag tomato mixture into each bag of chops.

6. Seal and freeze.

To cook one entree:
1. Completely thaw one entree in the refrigerator.

2. Heat oil in a deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Fry chops 3 minutes on each side; remove from the pan.

3. Pour broth and vegetables into pan. Gently scrape browned bits from the bottom; reduce heat to medium-low. Return chops to pan. Simmer, covered, 15 to 20 minutes, turning chops occasionally, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a chop reads 160 F.