Tim Foolery

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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Rosemary Grilled Pork Chops

The main course in our Rendezvous Under the Stars was a Rosemary Grilled Pork Chop.  You know me, I love me some pig: bacon, chops, tenderloin.

The pork chops themselves were very simple – not too fancy at all. I really hate when recipes get too elaborate. I say buy good quality ingredients and dress them minimally just to draw the true flavors out. This recipe does just that with a total of three ingredients: pork, salt and rosemary (plus olive oil).  Simple, minimalist ingredients that make this dish perfect.

The detailed ingredients are:

Four Bone-in Pork Chops
2 Sprigs rosemary, stemmed and roughed chopped
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Here is how you make these great chops (again, these recipes are created by the fine folks at the Chopping Block – I made no substitutions or alterations).

  1. Heat the grill to medium heat
  2. Place the chopped rosemary and salt in a mortar and pestle (I didn’t use the M&P, I just used a knife to chop the salt and rosemary into a fine powder
  3. Brush the chops with oil and sprinkle with the salt/rosemary powder
  4. Grill the chops on the first side until you have well-distinguished grill marks, 2-3 minutes then rotate the chops 90 degrees turn to achieve a diamond grill pattern and continue to grill until well marked.
  5. Flip the pork and repeat. Continue to cook until an instant read thermometer reads 135-140 degrees.  
  6. Allow the pork to rest before serving
This recipe pares with a Roasted Peppers, Capers and Pine Nuts (which will be reviewed later on).

How do you cook your pork chops? Grilled? Baked? How do you prepare them? Marinade? Rub? Plain with salt and pepper?  If you’ve got a favorite pork chop recipe please share it and I’ll review it in a future post.

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Grilled Fennel and Radicchio Salad

The first thing we made in our Rendezvous Under the Stars cooking class was a Grilled Fennel and Radicchio Salad.  I’ve grilled Radicchio before and really loathed it. It was just too bitter for me, but I did like the way it looks when grilled.  I wasn’t too excited about this salad, when I saw it on the class handout. I’m not a big fan of the anise flavor of Fennel either — if I was just leafing through a recipe book I would just skipped this recipe.  I’m quite happy this was part of class – it was so tasty and refreshing on a hot summer day.

The recipe is from the Chopping Block – I have made no alterations to this recipe.

Serves 4-6 people as an appetizer salad

2 fennel bulbs, cut into 1/2″ slices (we just quartered ours in class)
1 head radicchio, quartered
2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, roughly chopped
2 oranges, cut into segments
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

  1. Heat the grill to medium
  2. Brush the cut sides of the fennel and radicchio with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste
  3. Grill the fennel on the first side until nicely caramelized (2-3 minutes), flip and repeat. Continue to grill until tender. Set aside to cool
  4. Grill the cut sides of the radicchio until slightly charred (1-2 minutes)
  5. Cut the grilled fennel into slices and place in a bowl. Cut the radicchio into rough medium dice and mix with the fennel
  6. Dress the fennel and radicchio with lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil to taste. Toss in the parsley leaves. tarragon, oranges, almonds and cannellini beans
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve at room temperature
The sweetness of the oranges and the citrus from the lemon really cut the bitterness of the radicchio and the anise of the fennel.  I had a very low expectation of this recipe but it really shocked me, it will definitely make it into my recipe box.
Grilling the fennel
Chef-instructor Michelle showing
us how segment an orange
Michelle offering guidance on the radicchio chopping
Jamie segmenting an orange 
Mixing the herbs with the orange segments.
Completed salad – it is much tastier
than this picture leads one to believe.

Have you made a recipe full of ingredients that you don’t really like on their own, but when put together you really dig it? How do you cut the bitterness of vegetables like radicchio? Do you have a great summer grilled salad recipe – if so, post it in the comments and we can all enjoy it!

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Hotel Cancellation Run Around

I had a business trip scheduled this week, but things came up at work and I had to cancel. Easy enough, right?  I called the travel agent and managed to get my United airfare back sans issue.  Next up, the hotel.

I log into the Hilton website and find that my reservation cannot be cancelled online because I am within a  2 day cancellation window — that’s fine, I knew I had to cancel at least two days before arrival.  I pull out my HHonors Gold Card and call customer service.  While waiting between 5-7 minutes on hold I get a woman who says I can’t cancel because I’m within the 2 hour window and that I could reschedule for a later date. Why would I want to do that? The oh-so-unhelpful woman on the phone implied that I could reschedule then cancel that reservation later.  First off that seems like a lot of work to “work” the system.  She then tells me I have to call the reservation line because she cannot change my reservation.

Second try (maybe third try, if you count my attempt to cancel online). I get another woman, who loads my reservation and reads all my reservation info back to me. Helpful. She then tells me that my only options are to stay at the hotel or lose the cost of the room for the entire reservation (3 days, not just a single night charge that the reservation indicated). That’s not right.  She has the same issue and says she can’t make any changes to the reservation.  The only way to make any changes are to call the Hotel directly. If this is the case, then why make me go through all this mess? Shouldn’t they know pretty quickly if they can’t help and only the hotel can?

Third (or Fourth) try. I call the hotel directly.  After two transfers, I was connected to a woman who confirmed my reservation, reiterated the 2 day cancellation requirement, but immediately said that she would cancel my reservation without a penalty because of my HHonors Gold Status.  That is a lovely amenity that I was not aware even existed. Is this hotel specific?

The end result was better than I expected. I just wanted to cancel my reservation, pay my one night cancellation fee and be done.  The frustrating part is spending the better part of 40 minutes calling three different people who all give me a different response.

The best part? The first woman told me I was selected to get $200 off my next Hilton stay if I listen to their timeshare sales pitch. Really? You can’t cancel a reservation, but you expect me to buy a timeshare?  Not bloody likely.

I must admit my Hilton experiences have been pretty good since I made the switch to using them a bit more frequently for my visits to certain markets (LA, Toronto and third tier cities).

Have you had any hotel cancellation issues recently? How many phone calls does it take you to cancel with Hilton? Starwood? Marriott? Hyatt?

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Rendezvous Under the Star: Overview

I knew we had to take a cooking class, as soon as I heard JDE would be visiting Chicago. There weren’t many options since the Merchandise Mart location was closed for a private event. How frustrating.  We opted to take the class at the Lincoln Square location called Rendezvous Under the Stars – mostly because the times fit with our other scheduled events that day.

The class itself was outside under a tent with three gas grills and three Big Green Eggs (charcoal grills). It was very hot that day and the grills fired up and a tent trapping the heat made it a bit sweaty.  We made the following items, pretty much in this order, working nearly the entire recipe from start to finish before moving on to the next item.

The new skills we were learning in this class are: How to Set up Your Grill, Grilling Vegetables, Roasting Peppers, Determining Meat Doneness, Roasting Garlic, Grilling Fruit and Balancing Flavors. 

We actually didn’t make the dessert – Chef-instructor Michelle took care of that for us.  Over the next several days I’ll provide a write up on each item we made and notes on the skills we picked up in the class.

John and Ryan enjoying truffle salted popcorn.
I found my camera has a scratch on the lens,
hence the ghost in front of John.
Mike grilling fennel
John grilling peppers
Ryan steaming the skins off of grilled peppers
Chef-instructor Michelle segmenting an orange
Michelle chopping radicchio
Jamie segmenting our oranges – Great job!
Michelle showing John and Ryan how to chop parsley 
Parsley and orange segments for the grilled veg salad
Ryan working hard…to finish his wine
Ryan showing off his meat
The peppers are ready…where’s the pork?
The salad is done…where’s the pork?
Simple garlic bread preparation
Mike has his priorities right – equal parts cheese and bread
Finishing up the pork chops. The Big Green Egg is pretty cool
Our group just waiting on the pork…
John, Ryan, me and Mike just waiting for the pork to finish
Me and Jamie (yes, that is my cripple arm),
but it worked pretty well here.
No, Jamie is not drinking wine this class (she is 5 months preggo)
Surprise Mike – I’m taking your pic!
Michelle demonstrating the dessert prep, while we all eat
Final dessert – grilled pineapple with sorbet, balsamic vinegar and pistachios

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Hot Hotel Deals…?

I often write about travel, but I never write about travel specials or deals — that’s not really what I want to write about. That being said I am passing on information on this pretty great sale because I managed to snag some rooms for our upcoming European trip for an outrageously low price.

Accor Hotels (Sofitel in the US and Novatel, Mercure, Ibis and others throughout the world) are offering a 50% discount (for le Club members and 40% off for non-members) on rooms this summer.  Since we’ll be in Europe anyway, I decided to book a couple hotels and this discount worked.

I love the Sofitel Chicago — such
a beautiful building

I managed to book the number one hotel on TripAdvisor in one of the Cities we are visiting for a total of 80 Euros per night.  Pretty amazing deal if you ask me.  This sale continues for 7 more days. If you are traveling anywhere this summer check out this sale!

Where are you going this summer? Does this sale work for you?

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