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.