Cookbook Find - Fire in My Belly

Fire in My Belly by Chef Kevin Gillespie was an accidental find last fall.  Here’s the


I was with SS at the Alabama Booksmith (my favorite independent book store)when I spotted a promo for the following week, Chef Kevin Gillespie was going to be at Alabama Booksmith signing and cooking from his new book.  I was a week too early but asked Jake the owner about the event anyway.  SS asked who this guy was and I told her he was on Top Chef a few seasons back.


What I remembered specifically about Chef Gillespie (as I watched a day’s worth of Top Chef leading up to that season’s finale one Saturday afternoon a few years ago) was that he did a lot of cooking with bacon, that he was from the South and that everything he prepared seemed very approachable.  He cooked real food that real home cooks could cook, and that families would eat – not frooffy stuff like some of the other contestants cooked.  Chef Gillespie was a finalist that year, and although he didn’t win he certainly made a big impression on me.


I worked it out, and as a birthday present last year I arranged for a signed copy of Fire in My Belly to be sent to me, very exciting!


I started perusing the cookbook, reading it cover to cover, enjoying the stories and marking the recipes that sounded good.  What I found that this is mostly a book about cooking meat, chunks of meat, which is not something I do really well.  But I had high hopes that I would be successful under this Chef’s direction.  And success was what I found!


I successfully and deliciously prepared:




Flank Steak




Coca Cola Pot Roast

Pan Roasted Pork Chops (HH’s new favorite), recipe below.




Cincinnati Chili (although I had been using another recipe and enjoying this for a bit)




Sunday Chicken Sandwich (a take on the South’s favorite Chick-fil-a’s chicken sandwich not available on Sunday’s, this one is my favorite)

And I’m about to try to homegrown tomato roasting recipe for flavorful tomato sauce to use in the fall.

If you are looking for a new cookbook that it down-to-earth, easy-to-use, fun to read with stories of family and the South, I recommend Fire in My Belly.  It sits on the counter at the Diner right next to Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.


Here’s the recipe for the Pan Roasted Pork Chops to give you a “taste” of what it’s like.



Pan-Roasted Pork Chops with Apples and Redeye Gravy

From Fire in My Belly by Kevin Gillespie

DIFFICULTY: 3 of 5 (5 being hardest)

Pork chops are not easy to cook. The loin, where the pork chop comes from, is the single most difficult part of the animal to cook properly. It has the least flavor and the least fat and is the most likely to dry out.

To get something delicious, your seasoning has to be aggressive and your technique flawless. I built the flavors here from two iconic foods that work consistently well with pork—apples and redeye gravy. The apples play up the sweetness of the pork and the gravy emphasizes the earthy diet of pigs, which root around eating nuts and seeds. If you’re not familiar with redeye gravy, it’s a thin sauce made in the South by cooks who used what they had available to them. After cooking ham, they would deglaze the pan with brewed coffee. When you put the gravy in a white bowl, the coffee sinks to the bottom and the pork drippings rest on top. Viewed from above, it resembles the iris and pupil of a human eye.

Redeye gravy doesn’t have much fat, so it’s important that the pork chops stay nice and juicy. You want the heat high enough to brown the meat but not so blazingly hot that the chops dry out. Medium-high heat is about right.

It’s also important to let the pork rest after cooking so the juices can redistribute throughout the meat. That way, every bite tastes juicier.

Feeds 4 hungry folks

Fuji apples – 3 crisp
Apple cider vinegar – 1 tablespoon
Honey – 1/4 cup
Turnips – 4 golf ball–size baby purple-top turnips or 1 baseball-size
Grapeseed oil – 2 teaspoons
Butter – 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon
Country ham, preferably Benton’s
about 1/3 cup cut into ¼ inch dice, 2 ounces
Pork loin chops – 4 thick chops, each about 8 ounces and 1 inches thick
Ground black pepper
Strong brewed coffee – 1 1/2 cups
Chicken stock – 1 ½ cups
Lemon juice – ½ teaspoon

1. Peel and core the apples. Using a mandolin, slice one of the apples into very thin rounds and put the rounds in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and seal with plastic wrap, then microwave on 100 percent power until the apple is very soft and the kitchen smells of pure apple, about 5 minutes. Carefully remove the bowl from the microwave and let the plastic wrap shrink around the dish, creating a vacuum. Just let it sit there as the juices soak back into the apple. Cut the other 2 apples into ½-inch wedges and, in a small bowl, toss with the vinegar.

2. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat, parchment paper, or nonstick aluminum foil and set aside.

3. Add the honey to a 10-inch ovenproof sauté pan and cook over high  heat, shaking and agitating the pan nonstop. When the honey starts to boil, the bubbles will be very large, and as it continues to caramelize, the bubbles will get smaller and smaller. It will only take about 2 minutes for the honey to caramelize. When the bubbles are small and the honey is caramelized, pour in the apple wedges and vinegar. Toss in a pinch of salt and return to a boil. Cook just until the edges of the apples start to soften, another 3 minutes. The apples will continue to cook and soften during the cooling process, so don’t worry if the centers are still pretty firm. Using a heatproof silicone spatula, scrape the apples and honey into a small mound at one end of the lined baking sheet. The apples will release a little liquid and form a small puddle of juice as they cool. The juice will be added to the sauce later.

4. Preheat the oven to 475°F.

5. Peel and quarter the turnips if they’re small. If you’re using one large turnip, peel it, cut it in half across the equator, and then cut each half into 8 wedges. This way, the pieces will be the right size and the cooking time will be perfect

6. Add the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter to the sauté pan and, over medium heat, swirl the pan until the foam subsides, about 30 seconds. Add the ham and sauté until it’s golden brown, about 2 minutes, shaking the pan so the butter doesn’t burn. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the ham to a small mound on the other end of the baking sheet from the caramelized apple wedges. Reserve the ham drippings in the sauté pan.

7. Pat the pork chops dry and season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Heat the saute pan with the ham drippings over high heat and add the pork. Cook for 30 seconds. Spread the turnips in a single layer over and around the pork and transfer the pan to the oven. Cook for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the pan from the oven. Flip the chops over and redistribute the turnips in a single layer over and around the pork. Return the pan to the oven and cook until the pork chops reach an internal temperature of 140°F, another 5 to 6 minutes. The turnips should be fork-tender. Transfer the chops and turnips from the pan to a plate and tent with foil to keep them warm. Remember that the pan handle is still hot, so use a towel or potholder to pick up the pan and pour out the fat. Return the pan to high heat, add the coffee and chicken stock, and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping all the browned bits into the sauce.

8. Carefully pour the sauce into a blender and set the pan aside. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the microwaved apples into the blender, reserving the juice. Add the cooked diced ham to the blender and blend until smooth, stopping and scraping the sides of the pitcher to incorporate everything into the sauce. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids. Return the sauce to the saute pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cut down the heat so the sauce is at an aggressive simmer and cook, stirring now and then, until the sauce is thick and reduced to about 2/3 cup, 15 minutes or so. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice and the reserved juice from the apple wedges. Swirl in the remaining 1 teaspoon of butter.

9. Pop the apple wedges into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave just to re-warm them, about 30 seconds.

10. Slice each pork chop in half on the diagonal, lay one piece flat in the center of each plate, and prop the other piece cut side up along the cut side of the flat piece. Spoon the turnips over the pork and drizzle about 2 tablespoons of the sauce on and around the pork. Garnish with the apple wedges.

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