Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bulgarian Style Pork Chop en Vine Leaves

     A Classic Balkan Region Entrée!
     Roasting meat wrapped with plant leaves is an ancient cooking technique.  Banana leaves are the most common leaf used for this purpose.  The leaf wrapped meat can be tossed into the embers of a fire and the meat will not burn when this technique is used.
     A classic method for reheating prime rib also requires using leaves.  A slice of prime rib is place on a broiler pan with a tiny splash of au jus.  Large romaine leaves are placed over the meat to protect the prime rib slice from direct contact with heat.  This keeps the meat from drying out and the red color is retained.

    Grape Leaves are often used to wrap meat or a rice filling in Eastern European and Mediterranean cuisine.  Bulgaria is famous for great pork and many chefs in this wrap pork chops with grape leaves before roasting them.  The grape leaves not only add flavor while protecting the meat from excess browning, the leaves seal in the flavor of the pork chop itself.  The pork chop turns out tender and juicy every time!
     Pickled Grape Leaves are used more often than fresh grape leaves to wrap meat.  Pickled Grape Leaves have a very long shelf life.  Pickling mellows the grape leaf flavor, which can be bitter when it is fresh.  I bought a big jar of Persian Pickled Grape Leaves at a Mediterranean food market to make this recipe with.  Iran is famous for very high quality pickle products and the price is good.

     There is no standard Bulgarian recipe for the seasoning or the aromatic ingredients that are wrapped in the grape leaves with the pork chop.  The flavorings are the choice of the cook.  Mushrooms, garlic, shallot, onions, herbs or dried fruits are good Bulgarian style items for flavoring a grape leaf wrapped pork chop.  Garlic and herbs flavored the pork in today's recipe.
     Selecting a big fresh leek is necessary for today's recipe.  Blanched leek ribbons are used to tie the grape leaf package.  The longer the leek ribbons are, the easier this task will be.

     Bulgarian Style Pork Chop in Vine Leaves:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat.
     Add a few cups of water.  (The water should be about 1" deep.)
     Bring the water to a gentle boil.
     Separate the 1 or 2 outer layers of a leek.
     Cut the outside leek leaves into 3 or 4 long ribbons that are about 3/8" wide and about 12" to 14" in length.
     Blanch the long leek ribbons in the boiling water.
     Remove the leek ribbons after they start to wilt and become tender.  (This only takes a few seconds.)
     Cool the leek ribbons under cold running water and set them aside.
     Step 2:  Select a thick pork chop that weighs 10 to 12 ounces.
     Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Pan sear the pork chop, till it is lightly browned and so it is still uncooked in the middle.
     Season the pork chop with sea salt and black pepper.
     Set the pork chop aside.
     Step 3:  Leave the pan on the heat.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add a little bit of oil if necessary.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sliced shallot.
     Add 1 sliced garlic clove.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a light golden color.
     Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
     Step 4:  Rinse a few pickled grape leaves with cold running water.  (About 5 to 8 leaves, depending on the size.)
     Trim the thick stem off of the leaves.
     Step 5:  Place 2 of the leek ribbons on a cutting board so they criss-cross.
     Place a bed of grape leaves on the center of the criss-crossed leek ribbons.  The bed of grape leaves should cover an area on the cutting board that is about 1.5 times the size of the area that the pork chop covers.
     Step 6:  Place the pork chop on the bed of grape leaves.
     Place the sautéed garlic and shallot on the pork chop.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of marjoram on the pork chop.
     Sprinkle 1 small pinch of oregano on the pork chop.
     Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil on the pork chop.
     Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice on the pork chop.
     Step 7:  Place 1 or 2 grape leaves over the flavorings on the pork chop.
     Tuck the excess grape leaf edges around the sides and under the pork chop, so it is completely sealed by the leaves.
     Step 8:  Pull the criss-crossed leek ribbons over the top of the grape leaves and tie them with a simple knot to keep the grape leaves in place.
     If the pork chop has a long bone, then the extra leek ribbon can be used to tie the grape leaves snug around the bone.
     Step 9:  Brush a roasting pan with olive oil.
     Place the sealed pork chop grape leaf package on the pan.
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the grape leaf package.
     Cover the baking pan with a loose fitting lid or aluminum foil that has a small hole poked in it.
     Bake the pork chop in a 325ºF oven, till the pork is fully cooked.  (A probe thermometer should read 145ºF in the center as a minimum, but 160ºF is best for this recipe so the flavors develop.)
     Serving the pork chop while it is piping hot will result in more aroma when the grape leaves are cut open at the table.   
     As soon as the grape leaf wrapped pork chop is fully cooked, remove it from the oven and place it directly on a serving plate.
     Serve with a vegetables of your choice.
     Garnish the plate with a parsley sprig and petite lemon wedges.
     Tender and delicious!  When the grape leaf package is cut open, the aroma is captivating!

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