Monday, September 28, 2009

Pork, Potatoes, and Pears

On Saturday, Ian and I decided to purchase some locally-grown, organic fruits and veggies. We headed toward the edge of town to the WSU fruit sale, where we were greeted by at least a dozen varieties of apples, three or four types of pears, and several breeds of potatoes. We bought four Bartlett pears, two golden-something-or-other apples (for Ian) and three large (gee, I wish my memory was better) potatoes. So this week, a themed Sunday-night dinner: locally grown.

The potatoes went into a lovely au gratin with Monterey Jack and Mozzarella cheese. It was delicious and so easy to make--butter, onion, flour, milk, cheese; layer potatoes; pour on cheese; bake; done. The pears were meant for lovely individual pear tarts with a butter crust and artfully laid-out pears. I've made these before and they're delicious, but such a pain in the butt to make. So I took the lazy way out. I made a crust (a slightly mushy one--never get so proud that you don't consult your cookbook in baking matters) and tossed the pear slices with brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and a teensy bit of salt. Let them macerate for a while, baked off the crust, threw the pears in, baked some more. The pear filling was delicious. The crust...well, I'll do better next time.

Of course, we couldn't just have potatoes and pears for dinner. Where's the protein (besides in the ample amounts of cheese in the au gratin...)? So Ian suggested pork chops. Here we deviated from our locally-grown theme. We didn't go to Vandal Meats. We just went to WinCo. Cheap but lovely pork, two servings for just over three dollars.

Right now, if my mom is reading this, she's probably wondering, when did she start liking pork chops? Because let's face it, my family never heard more whining from me than they did on pork chop nights. (Here, Mom, forgive any commentary on your cooking). Pork chops, to me, were always dry and horrible, they tasted like wet cardboard and salt, and they were accompanied by the most horrible of all side dishes, applesauce. It took me a long time to come back around to pork chops--strangely enough (here's where I vindicate you, Mom) it was my mother who showed me a better recipe. Instead of thin, bone-in chops, these were pork loin chops, very thick, cooked with a mushroom and wine reduction she had learned from the chef at the restaurant where she worked on the business end. There was no suggestion of applesauce, and the chops were more likely to be undercooked than dry. It was yummy stuff, though I often worried about under-cooking the meat. So later, I saw Nigella Lawson cook some nice thin chops on her show Nigella Feasts and I was intrigued. Would they be like rubber? Some people liked that sort of thing. My brother and father would go nuts over Mom's pork chops, the very same ones that I dreaded. Either way, I trusted Nigella's judgment and I tried it. And you know what? Pan-seared, oven-finished pork chops are one of my new favorite things. Here's how I cooked them last night:

Marinate pork chops (2 medium, approx 1 lb) in a few tbsp olive oil, white wine vinegar, one crushed garlic clove, 1 tsp sage, 1 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp thyme, 1/4 tsp parsley, salt and pepper for two to four hours. Sear on an oiled grill pan, about 5 min each side, then place in 35o oven for about three to five minutes more. If you don't want to use the oven, pound your chops thinner before marinading.

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