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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Crushing On Watercress

Lately, I've become completely infatuated with watercress.  Unreasonalby and ridiculously so.  I adore the spicy bitter wet crunch it provides when added to other foods.  Watercress is totally new to me.  I always associated it with dainty tea sandwiches and healthy salads.  Not any more. I ran across a tiny bunch the other day at the market and plopped it into my cart thinking I'd use it for something.  The first night, I tucked it under buttered rice as a garnish.  It literally exploded in my mouth in a way I hadn't expected.  Sold.

Last night, as I planned dinner, I knew I had fresh linguini from a work purveyor with a short shelf life that needed to be cooked. Thin pork cutlets were overcrowding our meat drawer and also needed to be used. Pasta and Pork. While pulling the cutlets from the refirgerator, I noticed  fragile watercress leaves peeking out from underneath a gorgeous bunch of fresh italian flat leaf parsley.  Those tiny leaves inspired  Pork Milanese. Go figure.
I got started by prepping the pasta side dish. I roasted a half red bell pepper and green pepper over a gas flame until blistered and charred before dropping them in a sealed plastic bag to steam, soften, and cool.  I made a simple basic alfredo sauce by reducing 1 cup of heavy cream, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1/2 cup of parmigiano-reggiano.  As the alfredo simmered,  I dropped the fresh linguini into heavily salted water to cook.  While the pasta boiled, I peeled and sliced the peppers into strips before adding them to the thickened gooey alfredo sauce.
When the linguini was perfectly cooked to al dente, I strained it into a glass bowl, doused it with the roasted pepper alfredo sauce, and slid the bowl over the simmering pasta water to keep warm.

Because the pork cutlets were really thin, they didn't need pounding.  I simply dredged them in flour, egg wash, and parmigiano-reggiano panko breadcrumbs before carefully sliding them into hot sizzling butter.  I let them brown on both sides for 3 to 4 minutes per side before tenting them to rest. 
I deglazed the pan with 1/2 white wine and 1/2 chicken stock, allowing the sauce to reduce by half. When it was the perfect consistency, I tossed snipped chives into the reduction, removed the pan from the heat, swirled 2 butter pats into the sauce to melt, and gently incorporated the butter to create a glossy sheen. 

Just before plating, I tossed watercress, baby beet greens, and  parsley leaves in a lightly seasoned fresh lemon vinaigrette.

I twirled the roasted pepper linguini alfredo onto our plates and nestled the butter-fried pork cutlets next the linguini, drizzling the pan sauce over the top. With glorious homage to my newfound watercress crush, I topped the crisp buttery-sauced cutlets with the light lemon-dressed watercress, parlsey, and baby beet green salad.

It was outrageously good. Although draped in a succulent rich sauce, the cutlets crackled when sliced, revealing most juicy white meat.  The glossy buttery pan sauce dripped and oozed around the meat with bits of chive releasing mild onion flavor while the bright bitter baby beet greens, grassy parsley, and crunchy spiced watercress quelled the butter assault with light lemony freshness. Crazy. When pulled through the creamy alfredo sauce, the linguini was soothing and familiar, providing a welcomed textural contrast.  Salty. Nutty. Soft.

We devoured it. 

It was gone before I remembered we had toasted ciabatta from Sunshine Bakery warming in the oven as a sopper. We didn't need it.  Our plates were as clean as a whistle without it.

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