Smackdown: My Own Personal Throwdown


Okay, not really.


I mean, I don’t even know where Bobby Flay lives, and even I will acknowledge that if I ever challenged him to a throwdown of any kind, he would probably kick my ass.* Besides, this isn’t even my recipe, it’s his. So really, a poorly chosen post title all around. Well played, me.

But not a poorly chosen meal: pan-seared pork chops with yellow pepper mole and sauteed spinach.

Look at that, a terrible post title AND a terrible segue! I’m on a roll!

*This does not change the fact that the ‘Throwdown’ show concept sticks right up in my craw.

fruit and veg

The Mesa Grill cookbook holds a special place in TNS lore, and not just because the recipes have been universally excellent. It also happens to be the book I used for the first-ever Thursday Night Smackdown those many moons ago. No one read this site at the time, so you probably missed it; if you want a good laugh, check it out.

Not that it’s the sidesplitting wit that will get you. Rather, it’s the godawful photography, groan-worthy plating and terrible writing. Good times. It’s a wonder anyone other than my mother-in-law started visiting, with shit like that thrown against the virtual wall.

Although frankly, other than a camera upgrade, has anything really changed? Look at how crappily this post began, and you’re still reading. Suckers!

sauce makings

Bad posts AND insulting your readers: it’s the TNS path to blogging success!

To return to the topic: yellow pepper mole. It’s a pretty straightforward sauce, once you read the instructions fully and realize you were supposed to have roasted, peeled and de-seeded the peppers.

The roasted peppers simmer in some stock along with red onion, garlic, tomatillo, mango and golden raisins. Eventually, the whole mess goes into the FoPro with some toasted pumpkin seeds and corn tortillas. Then, because you have vastly overfilled the FoPro, a goodly amount of boiling hot liquid will shoot through every seam and crack.

Some might see that as a terrible mess. I choose to look on the sunny side: I got to knock a few minutes off the sauce’s reduction time.

sauce numero two

While the pureed and strained mole simmered, I made the backup sauce. Backup sauces are endemic to the Mesa Grill cookbook, which is one of those books where recipes always include secondary recipes that you have to turn to another chapter to find. When I was a young grasshopper, things like that pissed me right off. Now I’m older, so I have less energy to care.

The backup sauce in this case is a simple roasted red pepper and chipotle puree. The star ingredients visit the blender, along with some red wine vinegar, honey and canola oil and emerge a vividly colored and flavored sauce.

There was supposed to be a backup backup sauce (cilantro oil) as well, but I’d already dirtied enough blending devices for one night’s cooking.


Meanwhile, the mole had thickened up nicely. I tossed in some cinnamon, ground clove and white chocolate, corrected the seasoning, and mole completion was achieved.

Then, it was time to move on to the butter.

vegging out

Did I say butter? I meant spinach, although I might as well have said butter. Mesa Grill’s spinach recipe is one of those recipes that make you realize you really do prefer not knowing how much butter goes into a restaurant dish.

Sadly, I now know what makes their spinach so fucking good: 12 tablespoons of butter to every two pounds of spinach. That serves four. Think about that for a minute.

I could easily have reduced the amount of butter and still had perfectly serviceable sauteed spinach, but that would be contrary to the stickler-for-instructions spirit of the Smackdown. And that’s what I’ll struggle to tell the EMTs as they press the defibrillator to my chest roughly 20 minutes from now.


At least the pork was fairly lean, thank the lord for small mercies. I seared it off in a cast iron pan and finished it in a 425 degree oven. It’s seasoned only with salt and pepper; the sauces do all the talking here.

pork chop

This would have been great, but the lack of cilantro oil really killed it.

Kidding! This was, like every other Mesa recipe I’ve tried, fantastic. The spinach, I don’t think I even have to tell you about. The yellow pepper mole paired with the pork was like a very grownup version of pork chops and applesauce: thick and sweet but complicated, with some tang from the tomatillos and bite from the garlic and onion. The red pepper puree lent a sweet and smoky undertone to the whole dish, and just a hint of spice.

How many ways can I say it? Buy this book.

15 thoughts on “Smackdown: My Own Personal Throwdown

  1. Fat is not the enemy and greens need a fat if your body is going to utilize their nutrients; it’s why we add bacon or ham to collards and mustard. Mmm…buttery spinach. For some reason that looks even better than the chops and I have little self control around pork-anything.

  2. Those back up sauces are a killer. It’s always a good idea to read ALL the instructions first then you’ll realize there’s no way to produce a dish of this sort in under an hour.
    Nice job on it! Even without the cilantro oil.

  3. If I had a dollar for every post that went someplace totally different from the place it started, I could pay a web designer to create a blog for me that people would actually read.

    I admit to never having tried a Bobby Flay recipe. I tend to just say, “I can’t grill” and ignore him. I never know if his food is worthwhile or not. I am now more interested since you say this cookbook is good and so was this recipe (it certinaly looked that way). Since you are teh last person I would expect to compliment Bobby Flay, I think this must be quite extraordinary.

  4. mary, right? when it comes to throwing peppers in a blender, the man knows what is what.

    cynic, i know, i know. but the mesa recipes are awesome. no two ways about it.

    lari, i don’t think fat is the enemy, but i’m also pretty sure a stick and a half is a little overboard. just a tad. (not that thinking that stopped me from sucking that spinach down, though.)

    karen, thanks! slowly but surely, i’m learning to read directions.

    really slowly.

    rachel, the mesa cookbook doesn’t include much grilling at all. the recipes, so far, are all winners, and the sauces/vinaigrettes/relishes kick ass. highly recommended.

  5. I’ve eaten at Mesa Grill 3 or 4 times, and every time I’ve hosed that damned spinach. Then, he made the spinach on “Hot Off the Grill,” and prefaced it with, “Everyone always asks for my spinach recipe, and I am always afraid to reveal it. Not because it’s secret, but because it’s horrifying.” Well, okay, this is memorial reconstruction, and probably sounds more like me than Bobby Flay, but you get the idea. After watching the butter get added to the butter and get topped with butter…I just wanted to eat the spinach MORE. Is that wrong?

  6. the finished dish looks delicious (can you imagine what a little drizzle of cilantro oil might have done to finish it off . . .) I’ve tried making moles in the past with the various dried red or brown peppers, but no matter which recipe I tried they never came out as good as what you get in real Mexican restaurants. i’ll have to try this yellow pepper variety: I might actually be able to pull it off.

  7. sounds absolutely freaking amazing. however, the thought of making a bobby flay dinner, no matter how utterly meat-tacular it may be, will undoubtedly prevent me from buying his cookbook. cilantro oil, though…i like the thought of that.

  8. Poor Bobby Flay! The whole celebrity-chef thing has really bitten him in the ass. He is a complete tool, agreed, but so are MANY professional chefs. It’s unfortunate that his tool-ness so often prevents people from appreciating (and making) his truly delicious food.

  9. lizz, no, there’s nothing wrong with that. i think it’s a perfectly reasonable reaction.

    robert, i’ve never had the guts to try a real red/brown mole. this is like ‘mole light’ and is infinitely more doable.

    meg, it really shouldn’t stop you, and i say that believing fully that bobby flay is a dickweed.

  10. Bobby Flay does come off as an asshat, but I’ll always kinda love him for his early days Grillin’ and Chillin’ on the food network back when it was still about cooking, and also for his Law and Order SVU cameo where he was drugged and *ahem* harvested by a crazy lady working for a sperm bank.

    Came here via tastespotting btw, and promptly added to my reader. Delicious food + foul mouthed snarking is right up my alley. Well done.

  11. Pingback: thursday night smackdown » If All My Friends Jumped Off a Bridge, I Would Too

  12. Loved it! You are so funny. I am attempting to make every Bobby recipe in three of his cookbooks. I’m trying this one today. They always come out AWESOME. I sometimes wonder if the amount of time involved in making some of these recipes is appreciated by my family and guests though! :)

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