Discovering a New Way to Use Cookbooks and Recipes

Two years ago I delved into Tyler Florences’ Inside the Test Kitchen. In it, he had a recipe for Seared Pork Chops with Creamed Kale and Fennel Apricot Salad. This was a tasty dish but left me wanting. One of my issues with this dish was the creamed kale. There was nothing wrong with the recipe, it’s just as a personal thing I have issues with the texture. All in all though this dish was inspirational… and that’s when it hit me: Use recipes as flavor pairing inspirations. 

We all have preferences. Something sweeter, saltier, smoother, richer, whatever your preference is that’s all that matters. After all your’e cooking for yourself and maybe a few lucky family members or friends. What I am finding is if I apply all my cooking knowledge, to recipes that intrigue me, I can come up with something all together new or different that suits my preferences. What I love about this is that I don’t have to worry about the flavors, as I know the flavor combination of the original recipe is tried and tested.

A great example of this is the pork, kale, fennel dish I mentioned.


The idea for my approach to this recipe started with the fennel salad. Over the summer I had a roasted fennel salad at St. Paul Meat Shop. Roasted fennel was an eye opener. The flavor of fennel works really well with the caramelization of roasting. Knowing I wanted to try this, I then started thinking about the kale. I was drawing a blank. I then started to wonder if I could introduce the kale raw to the fennel salad. This got me googling kale salad recipes. The key tip form all the recipes was to finely chop the kale after removing the spine.

The final piece was the pork. For this I started the same, with brining the pork in the almond milk, but then I switched it up to sous vide rather than searing it right away. This allowed me to get amazingly moist pork but still get some nice color with a quick sear at the end. I then finished the entire dish with an apple-cider apricot vinaigrette and a grated goat cheese for some creaminess.

I came out with a dish that had all the flavors of the original but in a way that worked for me. Night after night the first week I made this, it only got better. My husband and I enjoyed it so much that I made it again a few weeks later. It may seem a bit complex but this recipe is actually quick and easy to do and has become one of my “got to” meals when I don’t know what to make. This was a life saver. Just recently as my parents came to visit and I ended up with needing an extra meal. This one came together quickly and showed my parents even more flavors, techniques, and ways in which I am really enjoying cooking!

Most of this can be done ahead of time:

  • Making the brine can be done a few days in advance.
  • Roasting the fennel can be done a few days in advance.
  • You can even chop and pre portion out the kale as it won’t break down and get mushy in the fridge.
  • You can also make the vinaigrette a few days in advance.

On the day you want to serve it, brine your pork in the morning, in the afternoon sous vide it, and finish with a quick sear. Assembling all the parts to the salad, grate a little cheese on it and enjoy!



  • 32 ounces Almond Milk
  • Dried Shiitakes
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 Sprigs Thyme
  • Salt
  • Light Brown Sugar

Put all of the ingredients into a sauce pan and warm just enough to dissolve the sugar. Let it fully cool.


  • 2 pounds Pork Lion, separated into four portions of 8 ounces each and placed into quart ziplock. (Each bag will serve 2)

In the morning, when you’re ready to cook place a quarter of the brine into each of the bags with the pork (if you’re doing it all in the same day). If you are only doing one portion per day only put brine in the bag of the pork you will be cooking.

Place the pork and brine back in the fridge and let sit until you’re ready to cook.

Start with Roasting the Fennel. Preheat the oven to 375ºf. While the oven is preheating mix the jam, oil, fennel seed and salt in a large bowl.

  • 3 ounces Apricot Jam
  • 2 ounces Olive Oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons Fennel Seed
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 ½ pounds (without stalks) Fennel, sliced and roasted

Prepare the fennel by chopping off the stalks and disgaurding them

Preheat the sous vide to 57ºc. Once the water has come to temperature, place the bags into the water and cook for 30 minutes. Once done, remove the bags, remove the pork from the brine and pat dry. Heat a pan with a little oil over medium-high heat. Sear the pork for 1-2 minutes per side just until you start to get some color. Remove from the heat and heat rest for a couple minutes. Slice into bite sized pieces and place on top of the salad.


  • 1 bunch (6 ounces) Kale, ribs removed and finely sliced (When I am doing this just for the two of us I chop all my kale at once. It’s hardy and won’t wilt. I put two portions in to the bowls I will be serving that night and then the rest get divided up amongst 6 storage containers to make the future servings quick and easy. I also add the fennel once it’s cooled so each night I am simply cooking the pork, dressing the salad and topping with freshly grated cheese.)
  • Grated Garrotxa (for topping)



  • 2 ounces Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 6 ounces Olive Oil
  • 3 ounces Apricot Jam
  • A Pinch of Salt
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Whisk together until emulsified.

  • Assemble the dish:
    1. Divide the kale on to the plates or bowls.
    2. Divide up the fennel on top of the kale.
    3. Dress the salads lightly with the vinaigrette.
    4. Place the pork on the bed of fennel and kale.
    5. Top with some grated Garrotxa (goat cheese)

Serve and enjoy!

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