The Art of Cooking & How It Taught Me About Success

We learn success from continually changing sources. We have mentors, teachers, books, websites, and family and friends. Recently, I found a hidden lesson about success from a pork-chop. Here is my story.

When I left Active Duty Air Force, I changed jobs to become a cook. I attended their school and branched out and go to separate culinary academies and courses to learn how to run a kitchen. I don’t have the desire to draw, paint, or sculpt, and while I consider myself a writer, I hesitate to label myself as more than an amateur. My art takes place in the kitchen. Little did I know in years of cooking everything from boxed macaroni and cheese to my own inventive dishes such as honey bedded ahi-tuna steaks and my signature ginger and soy chicken fried rice, I was learning lessons in success.

Today I want to teach that lesson using my recipe for pan-seared sesame and thyme pork chops with spinach and greens. Along each step, a lesson is learned. At the end, I will include the full recipe with pictures.

The Art of Cooking & How It Taught Me About Success

Step 1: Brine pork chops

Preparation and understanding is the first step for any achievement. I could have made the pork chops without a brine and may have received confident oohs and ahhs but I wanted a standing ovation. I set my definition for success and learned that a brine of four hours can make a massive difference. Just like the brine, success starts with an understanding and clear set of goals. List your short, medium, and long-term goals and figure out what direct and concrete actions will set you up for success. Place them somewhere that you can see them each day. Each action will be a positive step towards success in that goal.

Step 2: Coat all edges of the pork chops with sesame seeds and gather ingredients

Once you define your goals understand the course of action, gather your ingredients. Find out who and what you need to assist you in your goals. Think about your concrete actions and determine which outside sources will help you achieve the first step. I knew that I wanted to make this batch of pork chops the best they could be. My goal was to add the complexity of flavor and consistency. I gathered sesame seeds and coated the edges to add a different touch profile and bought fresh thyme to increase the complexity of flavor. Delish!

Step 3: Preheat the oven and skillet at 450 Fahrenheit

Now that you’ve taken your first steps, check and recheck that you remain on course. Diabetics are told to check their blood sugar often to keep up with their levels. Clients are asked to make sure they stick to their medication regime. Consistency is vital for achievement. You cannot “one and done” your life goals. Check your progress throughout to ensure you stay on course. Ask yourself each morning if you progressed the day before. If you have not, see what can be done today. It helps to verbalize the words.

In this case, I had to make sure my preparation did not go to waste. I had to know that from start to finish I was being consistent with my actions. By pre-heating the skillet before placing it on the stove and adding oil, I let the pan come to the searing temperature of the oven for even heating.

Step 4: Add the pork chops and thyme to the hot pan and sear

Now it’s time to make the big moves. You read and set your course, did your prep work, and you are monitoring consistency. As you start to move with forwarding progression, you keep looking forward. If something catches your eye or shakes you, bring your attention back and return to focus. Utilize those written goals to see if your progress matches your intended target. If it does not, return to the track or determine if this new path is just as good or better. Don’t be afraid to try new actions so long as your overall goal is met.

I placed the pork chops and thyme stems in the pan on the opposite site in a small pool of oil to let the flavor of the herb draw into the meat. I watched the pork chops and figure out the right time to flip.

Step 5: Flip the pork chops, add butter, place thyme on top of the chops and place in oven. Check the temperature until the middle of the pork chop is 140 Fahrenheit, remove and rest.

As you approach the end of the main action, you are nearing a result. But you’re not done yet! Consistency still reigns until the final whistle is blown. Now is the time to check in with yourself and if needed, others. Activate your support network to help you stay on track. Read and listen, and when you have accomplished your goal, take pause to look around and realize how far you have come. In this meal I activated my support network which included a digital meat thermometer and a hungry wife who is a master at the incredibly accurate and detailed art of smelling the kitchen and saying “yum.”. She is the most important critic!

Step 6: Plate and enjoy

You’ve completed your goal. You’ve taken your steps. Now it’s time to sit back, enjoy the fruits (or pork chops) of your labor and recognize that you completed what you set out to achieve.

Time to eat! I plated my pork chops well in front of the spinach and green salad so that the salad would remain fresh.

Success is not a one-off. Success needs to be nurtured and maintained. Sometimes you will slip and other times you will reach higher than you thought possible. Never forget your community and support network. Prepare and understand your goals, act and maintain consistency, and pursue. This is a recipe anyone can follow.

Pan-seared sesame and thyme pork chops with spinach and green salad!

 

Ingredients List:

  • Brine
  • 5 cups water
  • ½ cup salt
  • ½ brown sugar
  • 5-7 thyme stems with leaves
  • 3 ice cubes

Mix salt and brown sugar into cool water in a deep bowl. Mix thoroughly. Place thyme leaves on the bottom as and place pork chops on top of thyme. Put ice cubes in bowl, cover, and place in refrigerator for 4-8 hours.

Main course:

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 6-8-ounce boneless pork chops
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 2 cups green salad mix (your choice)
  • 7-10 thyme stems with leaves
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3-4 pinches garlic salt
  • 3-4 pinches onion powder

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 with skillet inside. Remove pork chops and pat dry with paper towel.
  2. Pour sesame seeds on a flat plate and roll all edges of pork chop in sesame seeds to coat. Season pork chops with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.
  3. After skillet and oven are heated, place skillet on the stovetop over medium to medium-high heat and add oil. Oil should smoke lightly on the surface and move easily in the pan. Add pork chops and place thyme in the pan to heat and soak up oil. Rotate and move thyme often to avoid burning.
  4. Flip pork chops when cooked approximately 1/3 through.
  5. Add butter and place thyme stems on top of pork chops. Spoon melted butter over pork chops and place on middle rack of the oven. Cook for 7-10 minutes (will vary by the width of pork chops) until thickest part of the meat is 140 Fahrenheit. Remove and rest for 3-5 minutes for pork chops to rise to 145 Fahrenheit.
  6. Serve with spinach and green salad

Bon Appetit!

photo source

Daniel Giers
Daniel Giers is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Co-owner, and Clinical Director of Healthy Strides, LLC in Illinois, USA. Daniel is the founder of Informed Mind and writes on his experiences with Bipolar Disorder and COPD and is currently working on his first book about the healing power of communication with horses. Daniel works daily in speech and presentation to reduce stigma and allow his clients, and society to live free and healthy lives. Follow Daniel on Twitter and on Facebook. See more of Daniel's work at healthystrideseap.com
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