Dukkah-Crusted Pork Chops with Roasted Cardamom Carrots

When we took a pizza and focaccia class last year, the instructor (the most awesome Chris French) introduced us to dukkah. In case you don't know, dukkah is an Egyptian nut-and-spice blend of almonds (or some other type of nut), sesame seeds, fennel seeds, coriander, anise seeds and kosher salt, and it is delicious. It imparts an exotically tasty flavor and crunchy coating to anything you put it in, and last week we put it on some pork chops. Holy Isis, were they good!

We dredged the chops first in flour, the in a beaten egg, then in the dukkah to make it stick better and pan-fried the chops in a skillet with a little oil and butter. We think cardamom proffers a mysterious flavor to dishes as well, so we roasted our side dish, carrots, in cardamom-infused butter. Sure, we haven't been A Couple in the Kitchen much lately (more like, a couple in the take-out lane), but this was a fabulous dinner that we've raved about, and craved, ever since.

Make the carrots first and put them in the oven. Wait about 15 minutes, then start the chops and both should come out around the same time.

Dukkah-Crusted Pork Chops 
serves two

2 center-cut boneless pork chops
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup dukkah 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
pomegranate molasses (optional)

Coat pork chops (on both sides) first in flour, then in the beaten egg, then in the dukkah blend. Put aside in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet and pan-fry the pork chops until they are browned on both sides. Place the chops in a 350-degree oven and cook to desired temperature, about 10 minutes. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses if desired.

Roasted Cardamom Carrots
serves two

4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 whole cardamom pods

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cardamom pods and butter in a small saucepan and melt butter over low heat. Pour butter with cardamom pods over sliced carrots in a small baking dish. Place in oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, until tender.


Orange Chicken with Walnuts for Secret Recipe Club

Secret Recipe Club

This past week we were on Spring Vacation and it was glorious. The weather was a little cool for our taste - in fact, it snowed one night. But it sure seemed like the perfect time to break out the slow cooker for our Secret Recipe Club pick, Orange Chicken with Walnuts by Jamie of Our Eating Habits

Secret Recipe Club is a club of food bloggers who make each other's recipes (in secret) and then publish posts about them on the same day, known as Reveal Day (that's today!). When we got Our Eating Habits this month, we were excited because we remember Jamie making our Paprika Chicken and Potatoes back in February and she did such a lovely job.

This chicken recipe has everything you'd want in an "anytime" meal - it's made in a slow cooker so the prep is minimal and there's no standing over the stove, therefore it's super easy, but also it's so very tasty that you'll likely never order Chinese orange chicken for take-out ever again. The walnuts were a great touch, too - adding a nice crunch to the dish. Note: since there's only two of us, we only made four pieces of chicken but kept the remaining ingredients the same so we could have plenty of sauce to drizzle over our rice.

Orange Chicken with Walnuts
recipe from Our Eating Habits


2 tablespoons corn starch
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup orange marmalade
4 chicken drums and/or thighs
4-6 spring chives, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts
orange segments (optional) 

In a slow cooker, stir together the corn starch, chicken stock, teriyaki sauce, garlic and marmalade. Add the chicken and half of the chives. Cook on high for 4-5 hours. Serve over hot cooked rice and top with the remaining chives, the walnuts, and some orange segments if desired.

Check out other SRC reveal posts below, including this one from Veronica's Cornucopia, who made Amy's mom's flour frosting in some gorgeous spring-y whoopie pies!


Spiked! Recipe Challenge: Limoncello Shrimp

When we learned about the Spiked! Recipe Challenge, we were intrigued for sure. But then we learned that this time the challenge was to make something with limoncello, and we had to join. We've made our own limoncello before (you can see the recipe here), and we've cooked with it as well. Our favorite dish we make with limoncello is Limoncello Shrimp. They make an interesting appetizer, or can be turned into a meal by serving over pasta or shrimp. Just have plenty of bread on hand to soak up that delicious, slightly boozy sauce. 

To see the other entries into this month's Spiked! Recipe Challenge, go here.

Limoncello Shrimp

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup Limoncello
2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream

In a saute pan, mix the oil, garlic, zest and herbs. Then heat the pan to medium-high. Cook, stirring, until the mixture becomes aromatic (less than a minute). Then add the shrimp. Toss the shrimp and the herb mixture well, and cook until the shrimp become pink, 3-4 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside. Carefully wipe out the pan with a paper towel and then return it to the stovetop. Add Limoncello to the pan and cook over medium-high heat until it is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and cream. Pour this over the shrimp. 


Taste of Manchester: Rocco's

As part of the Taste of Manchester 2014 Marketing Committee, Amy has volunteered to write short features on the participating restaurants and share them via our blog here.This year's Taste of Manchester will be held on Tuesday, May 13th from 5:30 to 9 p.m. See the TOM webpageFacebook page, or Twitter @TastyTownCT (#TOMCT2014) for more information.

“Eat At Rocco’s.” That’s not just the website address; it’s our advice to you, as Rocco’s is the place to be most nights, including the night of the Taste of Manchester. In fact, Rocco’s has been a part of the TOM since the very beginning, and is one of the four Golden Ticket locations in this year’s event. Always showing great support of community events, the staff at Rocco’s is committed to giving back whenever, and however, they can, having donated thousands of dollars to local non-profit organizations.

Boneless Wings

We visited Rocco’s last Monday for their weekly “Half Price Wings and Cheap Beer” night, and as we feasted on delightfully crispy and flavorful boneless wings (half Cajun dry rub, half mild Buffalo sauce), we spoke to Chef “G” about his plans for the Taste of Manchester. Not only will they be serving up those famous wings (which come in a dozen different flavors), but also some Italian favorites from the Rocco’s menu including Sausage with House-Roasted Peppers, Chicken Francaise, Penne  with House Vodka Sauce,  and Eggplant Rollatini. It’s the ultimate Italian tasting menu!

Crab Cakes (photo by Holly)

French Onion Soup (photo by Holly)

Rocco’s is a Manchester mainstay not only because they serve great food at great prices, but also because they strive for excellence in pleasing each and every guest. There are weekly specials posted online and on their Facebook page. They are known for their delicious pizzas, which come in red or white or a variety of specialty styles, with over three dozen toppings available, as well as stromboli and calzones. 

Chicken Francaise (photo by Holly)

Fish and Chips (photo by Holly)

Shrimp Scampi (photo by Holly)

In addition to pizza and wings, the menu is vast and able to be personalized in many ways. There are appetizers, salads, Italian classics, fish entrees, BBQ ribs, chops, steaks, sandwiches and a kids’ menu. From make-your-own pasta-bowls, to choosing from a dozen burger toppings, to customizing your entrée with a choice of add-ins and/or proteins, Rocco’s aims to please.

Chicken Marsala (Photo by Holly)

Ravioli (Photo by Holly)

Baked Haddock (Photo by Holly)

The atmosphere is casual, comfortable and welcoming, with friendly service and plenty of regular customers. While we were there, regulars lined the entire bar, and we overheard one say to another that the Rocco’s Reuben was “out of this world” and so big she had to save half for lunch the next day. The neighborhood clientele and the friendly bartenders and servers make it a great place to hang out. One can choose to sit in the bar area (where you can snack on free peanuts), the pub-style seating area with high-top tables, or the dining room which consists of a mix of both booths and tables.

Rocco’s is open Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is closed on Sundays. There is a parking lot out back and small counter for take-out orders located in back as well. Their menu, including weekly specials, is available on their website, and they can be reached at 860.645.7777. They also do party portions for large events. Eat at Rocco's! We'll see you there!

Special thanks to server Holly for taking photos for us!



Taste of Manchester: Center Perk

As part of the Taste of Manchester 2014 Marketing Committee, Amy has volunteered to write short features on the participating restaurants and share them via our blog here.This year's Taste of Manchester will be held on Tuesday, May 13th from 5:30 to 9 p.m. See the TOM webpageFacebook page, or Twitter @TastyTownCT (#TOMCT2014) for more information.

When we heard last June that another breakfast and lunch place was opening on Main Street in Manchester, we wondered how it would survive. You see, there are quite a few breakfast and lunch places on Main Street. But the food being served up by sister-owners Kim Barnett and Chrissy Bedrossian, who were raised in town, is not your standard greasy spoon fare, but creative comfort food with a local flair, making Center Perk an exciting and welcome addition to Main Street’s recent revival, and to the Taste of Manchester.

At Center Perk, meats and vegetables are purchased from local vendors and farmers whenever possible, and any baked goods not made in-house are also purchased locally, including breads from Strano Bakery. What are made in-house are gorgeously giant muffins in a wide variety of flavors, like “triple berry” and “banana walnut.” We hear they will be sampling those muffins during the Taste of Manchester, too!

But there's more to breakfast than baked goods. Rather than plain French toast, Center Perk has the “Overnight” version – Texas-toast-sized slices topped with apples, brown sugar and pure maple syrup. Then there are pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, and specialties like “Eggs Benedict Florentine,” made with spinach and served with perfectly cooked homefries (or substitute sweet potato homefries!). And that’s just the breakfast menu. 

Eggs Benedict Florentine

Overnight French Toast

For lunch, Center Perk features salads, soups, burgers, dogs and specialty sandwiches. Another patron seated nearby told us that Center Perk generously donated several gallons of “Kimmy’s Chicken Noodle Soup” to a recent fundraiser she attended, and that “everyone was raving about it.” Participants at the Taste of Manchester will have the opportunity to rave about it as well, as this is another of Center Perk's tasting items for that evening.

Daily specials round out the usual menu, with fish offerings on Fridays, special omelet fillings (the “Bacon Lover’s Omelet” looked amazing), or, as we enjoyed on one Sunday visit, berry-filled crepes. The regular coffee is perfect, but cappuccinos and lattes are available, as are a variety of teas, juices and flavors of local Hosmer soda. There is a children’s menu, and of course, great homemade dessert choices. 

Berry-Filled Crepes

Bacon-Lover's Omelet

As far as décor goes, the walls are decorated with historical memorabilia featuring Manchester and Connecticut. Mismatched mugs and china plates, mason jar juice glasses, and dozens of different sets of salt-and-pepper shakers add to the café’s Victorian-sitting-room feel. Seating includes booths, tables and a small counter which looks into the kitchen. 

Center Perk is located at 639 Main Street and is closed on Tuesdays, open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on other weekdays, and open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Weekends are busy, so be prepared to enjoy your meal at a more leisurely pace. Their phone number is 860.474.5543. At the time this article was published, their website (www.centerperkct.com) was down, but menus can be found at the links below:


Taste of Manchester: The Hungry Tiger

As part of the Taste of Manchester 2014 Marketing Committee, Amy has volunteered to write short features on the participating restaurants and share them via our blog here.This year's Taste of Manchester will be held on Tuesday, May 13th from 5:30 to 9 p.m. See the TOM webpageFacebook page, or Twitter @TastyTownCT (#TOMCT2014) for more information.

Everyone knows that The Hungry Tiger, which features live music every night of the week, is the best live music venue in the area. But not everyone knows that the food at The Hungry Tiger is as great as it is, and that’s a shame. The fact is that the father of Don (the current chef/owner) was a local chef who ran restaurants in Manchester from the 1950’s until he retired in 1999. It was in 1982 that he opened The Hungry Tiger and brought Don in to work with him. Don took over upon his father’s retirement, and this month the place celebrates its 32nd anniversary.  And in the restaurant world, that’s quite a feat.

So, let’s talk about the food. Long before there were gourmet burger bars with their ginormous burgers and gazillions of toppings, The Hungry Tiger was serving the 8-ounce “Tiger Burger,” a burger that received an honorable mention in the 2012 Hartford Magazine’s Best Burgers of Hartford County. And here, the meat is fresh (never frozen!) hand-formed Black Angus, and the fries are hand-cut. Need further examples of the quality of food at this place? They roast the turkey breast and brisket for their sandwiches, and cut their own “Cowboy” steaks, all in what may be the smallest kitchen in town.

The menu includes appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, those amazing burgers, comfort-food-style dinner entrees and even Sunday breakfast. Tuesdays feature a Burger & Brew special for $10, served from noon to 10. There’s also Wing Night on Thursday, Happy Hour Friday, and half-price apps on Saturday afternoons.

We loved the steak fajitas we had on a recent visit. The steak was tender and had a sweet-spicy flavor that balanced nicely with the grilled peppers and onions it was mixed with. They were served with fresh soft tortillas, shredded lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, salsa and sour cream. We’re excited to say that The Hungry Tiger will be sharing samples of these, as well as their signature “Mac-Ham ‘n Cheese,” during the Taste of Manchester event. Speaking of fajitas, when it's Monday night at The Hungry Tiger, that means it's Fajita Night, when all fajita platters ordered between 5 and 10 p.m. are only $9.95.

So while The Hungry Tiger is certainly the Manchester mainstay for live music, there’s no reason why it should only be for music. They are open for lunch and dinner daily and are located at 120 Charter Oak Street. There's a small deck in front with tables, and a large patio and bar in back which is awesome for the block parties they throw in the summer and early fall. The phone number is 860.649.1195 and information about the menu, specials, and of course, the live music schedule, can be found on their website.

Oh, and don't forget - The Hungry Tiger is one of this year’s four Golden Ticket locations – restaurants that have participated in each of the five Taste of Manchester annual events. Visit all five “Anniversary” restaurants during this year's TOM and receive a special Golden Ticket raffle entry!