Saint Patty's Day with Bay Leaves
My little bay tree. It is small but growing!
Saint Patrick's Day is over and what did you eat?
We kept with the green theme and had braised pork chops with leeks along with shamrock pasta with broccolini, garlic, red pepper flakes, a touch of stock and finished off with the undisputed king of cheese, parmesan reggiano. We were going to add a salad to that but decided it was green enough.
It was good with a touch of wine.
Our herb for this Weekend Herb Blogging is Bay Leaves, also known as laurel and is native to the Mediterranean. Technically, it is not an herb at all, but an evergreen perennial from the tree Laurus nobilis, its leaves are used dried or fresh. Bay leaf crowns were used for centuries to honor scholars, victors and heroes and as part of weddings and funerals. Baccalaureate = bacca + laureus = berry from laurel; one "earns her laurels" means honor and praise and "winning you laurels" is a symbol of triumph. Greeks dedicated the bay tree to Apollo as an emblem of the Sun God's power; believed to protect man from evil and his social well being. Delphic priestesses held bay leaves between lips when making prophesies.
* Sources: The Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and The Pleasure of Herbs by Phyllis Shaudys
There are two main varieties: one, Turkish with 1-2" oval leaves and the other, Californian with narrow 2-3" long leaves. The Turkish variety is more subtle than the Californian. Frequently used to flavor soups, stews, vegetables and meats, they are generally removed before serving.
My absolutely favorite dish to serve them with is Braised Pork in Balsamic Vinegar and Bay Leaves. The recipe is on the website. However, this weekend we used them in Braised Pork Chops with Leeks which was pretty darn good.
Braised Pork Chops with Leek
2 T extra virgin olive oil
4 3/4" thick pork chops
salt and pepper, to taste
2 large leeks, cleaned and chopped
one small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
Preheat oven to 325. Heat olive oil in a pan that can hold all of the meat. Salt and pepper pork chops and brown on both sides, about 10 minutes, total. Remove from pan, reserve and add leeks and onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic. Stir one minute. Add wine and stir one minute. Return pork chops to pan, making sure the leeks and over the pork chops. Add bay leaves and chicken stock. Cover and put into preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve over something to sop up all those yummy juices.
Make sure you head up to Boston to check out this weekend's herb blogging by Becky at Key Lime and Coconut!