Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Quick Pork Chop dinner

We were on our way out the door for dinner when the weather alert popped up on the cell phone warning of freezing rain that evening.  Thinking twice about it, we decided to stay in.  I thought a bit about what I had in the freezer and remembered seeing a few pork chops.  I put a bit of oil in a pan and got it heating while I rifled through the freezer looking for them.  Once I had them, I made a quick stop by my Aerogrow to pluck some fresh herbs.  Just a small handful of rosemary, thyme, dill and basil.  They're in the very early stages of growth so I didn't want to cut off too much.  Just a tiny bit of each - similar to about two baby leaves each.  I stuck the pork chops in the microwave for one minute.  That's not something I normally do but knowing that they wouldn't cook evenly if completely frozen, I kept a close eye on them.  They were still frozen solid so I flipped 'em and nuked them for another minute.  I still had them wrapped in plastic and in baggies.  The total two minutes was perfect.  They were still slightly frozen but they had a bit of play in them so I grabbed the searing flour (which I found at Wegman's and LOVE.  It's very fine flour - fine like baby powder - that has a bit of salt and pepper already incorporated.  Perfect for cooking meets.), chopped the herbs and mixed it all up.  I patted the flour on both sides of the pork chops and easily laid them into the pan that was now nice and hot.  I covered them which is usually a no-no when searing but I wanted the additional heat to make sure it cooked that pork since they were still a bit frozen.  In the meantime, I started some water boiling and grabbed my canister of mini-shell pasta.  I grabbed the cheese from the fridge while the water was boiling and chopped up about 2 inches of sharp cheddar.  I didn't even bother grating it, just a course chop.  I grabbed some butter and the milk and lined them up next to the boiling water.  Dumped in a few handfuls of pasta and looked for something green in the fridge.  I found a half of an apple, a few scant pieces of spinach and grabbed some peas.  The peas went in a pot, a quick chop on the apple and then I had an idea.  I grabbed the apricot jam I had in the fridge from making cookies over Christmas.  I checked the pork chops.  Nice and brown so I flipped them and put the lid back on.  I drained the pasta and put in some butter.  It should be enough butter to coat all of the pasta.  Make sure you're stiring good or the pasta will stick to the pan from the heat of the burner but you want it hot so that the butter melts, gets absorbed by the pasta and keeps the dish hot.  I remembered that I had some truffle butter so I grabbed that and put a few dabs in.  Truffle is so strong that it doesn't take much to give a nice earthy taste to a dish.  Once the butter had disappeared, I added in some milk; not much, just a splash and some salt and pepper.  I then gathered up my cheese and stirred it in.  Time to check the pork chops while the cheese melts.  The chops were nicely brown so I kept the lid off to make sure that nice searing flour got crisp and not soggy due to the steaming moisture trapped in by the lid.  I stirred the mac and cheese and it was coming together nicely.  A tad more milk made it nice and creamy now that the cheese was melting.  I took out the chops and set them on warmed (in the microwave) plates.  I put the chopped apple in the pan that the chops were in and about a tablespoon of bacon grease.  Every respectable southern gal has a jar of bacon grease reserve in the fridge.  If you don't have bacon grease, I suppose you could fry up a piece pretty quickly or just use regular oil.  Once the apple slices were getting nice and warmed up, I put in a tablespoon of the apricot jelly and a dash of salt and pepper.  It quickly started thickening the apples and oil.  Finally, I threw in the handful of spinach and as soon as it wilted, took it all out and placed it on the plates with the chops.  Setting one corner of the chop up on the apples makes for a nice display.  One final stir of the mac and cheese and I served that as well.  I like to top mine with just plain bread crumbs for a little crunch.  Not too much, just a sprinkle.  The peas were the last addition to the plate.  I'd put this fantastic meal together in about a half an hour.  I think it was a record for me.  It usually takes me that long to figure out what I even want to eat.

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