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For the first mystery box challenge of the season, contestants were given 45 minutes to prepare a dish using any or all of the following ingredients: a double-cut pork chop, a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, tomatoes, a granny smith apple, a head of cabbage, ciabatta bread, lemons, cinnamon sticks, cognac, chocolate, butter, eggs, flour and milk.
Most of the contestants stuck with a pretty straightforward pork chop dish with only a few venturing out into dessert territory. The top three for this challenge were Sheena with a chocolate mousse, Jake with a country-style pork chop and Whitney (the challenge winner) with a southern-fried pork chop.
I decided to go the traditional route and stick to doing a great pork chop. In addition to the pork, I chose to use the cognac, parsley, lemon, apple, cinnamon, tomatoes, flour, butter, egg, and milk out of the mystery box (excluding only the cabbage, ciabatta, and chocolate). The only other ingredients I used aside from these were salt, pepper and olive oil.
The first thing I did was make a marinade for the pork using the following ingredients (measurements are approximations because I was just winging it):
- 1/4 Cup of Olive Oil
- 1/4 Cup of Cognac
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- 1/2 of a Granny Smith Apple, Skinned and Finely Minced
- 20 Parsley Leaves, Coarsely Chopped
- 1 Tablespoon each of Salt and Pepper
I covered the pork chop in this marinade, set the oven to 400 degrees, and then left it to marinate as I set to work on my next component. (See the marinating pork chop below).
To accompany the pork, I thought spaetzle would work perfectly. I’ve never made it before so I used this recipe as a guide: German Spaetzle Dumplings. Because of the limited ingredients I had at my disposal and my self-imposed guidelines, I had to adjust this recipe significantly. The ingredients I used instead were:
- 1/2 Cup Flour
- 2 Tablespoons of Milk
- 1 Egg
- 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
- Pinch each of Cinnamon and Black Pepper
- 4 Parsley Leaves, Minced
I just mixed the ingredients together to create the spaetzle dough, and brought a pot of water to simmer. It should have been as simple as pressing the dough through a spaetzle maker (see below) and into the water. I used the spaetzle maker on the left, and I wasted a lot of time (and dough) trying to figure out how to put it together and use it the right way. But once I figured it out, the process was really easy. I left the spaetzle in the simmering water for just 5 minutes before taking it out.
While the spaetzle was in the simmering water, I seared the pork chop on both sides (just a few minutes on each) and put it into the preheated oven. I also melted a tablespoon of butter in a skillet. When the spaetzle was done boiling, I transferred it into the skillet and sauteed it until the dumplings were crispy and golden.
After 10 minutes in the oven, I placed 4 thin slices of tomato on top of the pork chop, sprinkled them with salt and parsley, and put the entire pan back into the oven for couple more minutes. When done, I plated the pork chop and tomatoes on top of the spaetzle (as seen below).
This dish was delicious. All of the components were great on their own and they worked even better together. The best thing was getting a little bit of everything in one bite. The only thing that I would say is that the pork chop was slightly overcooked. That was mostly due to the fact my meat thermometer wasn’t working and I’m definitely part of the “better safe than sorry” school of cooking. To get a perfect pork chop though, this is a wonderful resource: Tender & Juicy Pork Chops in the Oven.
This whole meal took me a little over an hour to complete. But without the spaetzle maker malfunction, I’m confident I could have completed everything in the challenge’s 45 minute time limit. And I definitely think this dish would have earned me some top three recognition.
That’s it for tonight but be sure to come back tomorrow for my next MasterChef challenge.