Improvisation and Getting Comfortable in the Kitchen

I have today off of work, so instead of staring at the TV all day I'm making an attempt to be productive.  By that I mean I am spending all day in the kitchen. I'm currently reading Cooked the new book by Michael Pollan and finding it very interesting.  I finished the section on whole hog barbecue last night which fueled a craving for barbecue.  Of course I don't exactly have the setup, funds, or people to feed for a whole hog to be a viable option so that one is a no go.  And I'm not exactly comfortable on the grill even to do something smaller.

Where I am comfortable is the kitchen (and if just about any of my friends are reading this, this is where the sexist jokes come in-- yes I am barefoot).  Well the kitchen happens to be the setting for the next section of the book and a new inspiration for me.  Although it gives a pretty general description of roasting just about kind of meat, there is a small place where it talks about making maiale al latte which is pork braised in milk.  Pollan gave a really simple run down of how to cook it and a detailed and delicious description of the flavor.  Reading it made me hungry, so I decided to give it a try.

Since we are in the age of the internet, I consulted Google for a more specific recipe. There were quite a few, and each one called for a pork tenderloin or something along those lines. This is where I ran into the first problem-- I only have pork chops.  The second problem is that each recipe calls for different cooking times and temps, some in the oven and some on stovetop.  How do I know which one to choose that will give me the results I'm looking for?

The way I made that decision was pretty simple-- Screw it, I'm going to improvise.  Pollan describes cooking this dish as

Brown chunks of pork in butter; add some milk, a few cloves of garlic, a handful of sage leaves, and the juice (and peel) of a lemon; simmer for several hours.

So that's exactly what I did.


I threw some pork chops in my trusty cast iron dutch oven along with herbs, spices, and milk and, well, we will see what happens.

In the spirit of improvisation I did some other cooking today too.  I pulled out the food processor and made red-pepper and jalapeño hummus (the ingredients fully determined by what looked good in the grocery store) and some salsa (which didn't turn out quite like I planned).

What I'm realizing is that the only way to get good at this whole cooking thing is to say screw the recipe and give it a try sometimes.  At the worst I'll have to throw out some pork chops, but then again, I could end up with something amazing.