This dinner really had a great “wow” factor… the flavors were big, the presentation looked good, and the taste was amazing. I really thought it was stellar, especially since much of it was simple “Use The Force” type cooking…. my favorite kind, right?!
I had purchased two thick-cut pork chops when they were on sale at my local grocery store a few weeks ago and popped them in the freezer. Since tonight was supposed to be “just the two of us” dinner evening, I thought they’d be perfect. They didn’t take a tremendous amount of time to thaw (especially since I wasn’t planning on letting them thaw completely) and I was able to put things together fairly easily.
While the chops defrosted a bit in the microwave, I made a tiny batch of stuffing. For things like this, I really do like to use a packaged container of stuffing. I keep a container of dry stuffing mix in my pantry and can use as little or as much as needed… very convenient! I scooped out about half of what was left in the container (just under 1/3 cup) and added a little margarine (maybe a thumb’s worth?) and some wine (rocking the Gewurztraminer theme, this was my wine of choice for the night… James River Cellars Gewurztraminer… Mmmmm) and tossed it together in a measuring cup. I warmed up the mixture in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds (until the margarine was melted) and then stirred to get all the crusty bread into the liquid to soften and re-hydrate.
My biggest challenge with this meal was to stuff the pork chops. This (to me) seems much easier when the chops are still slightly frozen. I use a thin paring knife and make a small slit in one side, then wiggle the knife back and forth to make an open pocket in the chop, being careful not to make the original slit too big. I like to check the size of the pocket with my fingers before attempting to insert the stuffing. **Make sure not to cut the entire way through the chop but try and get the pocket as close to the edges as possible.
Once the pocket seems deep enough, divide the stuffing into both chops, doing your best to push it around to fill all the edges. I then let the chops rest until I was ready to start making dinner.
Using a medium saute’ pan, I added a small pat of butter, and a drizzle of olive oil, heating them in the pan until bubbling. I seasoned the chops on each side with salt, pepper, and a touch of cracker crumbs. Panko bread crumbs would work well here, but I used crushed saltines since that’s what I had in the cupboard. I let the chops cook on medium-high heat in the butter/oil mixture until all sides were slightly toasty.
At this point, I poured a generous amount of Gewurztraminer wine into the pan, sprinkled some Hungarian Paprika over the chops, and popped the entire pan into a pre-heated 375 degree oven while I finished mashing and seasoning some golden potatoes that had been simmering on the stove top. You can serve these chops with any sort of side dish you want (or none at all, if you prefer) but I love mashed potatoes and gravy, so this was “it” for me. Egg noodles, pasta, macaroni, or even rice would all be fine accompaniments with this dish… make what you and your family like.
I didn’t really time the chops while they were in the oven. You can see how much wine I poured into the pan before I put the pan in the oven and it had cooked into the chops by the time I pulled them out, so my best guess would be that they roasted for about 20 minutes or so. Seriously… I really make dinner this way… The Force is my friend… 🙂
Once the chops looked done, I removed them from the pan, put them on a pewter dish, and put them back in the oven for a few minutes while I made the gravy. Here’s my favorite way to make gravy… I put the saute’ pan on medium heat and added a pat of butter and use that to help lift off the “bits” from the bottom of the pan. Once melted, I added a spoonful of flour and let it bubble together and start to get toasty. Before it starts to burn, add your wine (ok…. you can use stock at this point if you’d prefer… I just prefer to use wine) and slowly whisk and add more wine until the mixture thickens and “looks” like gravy. I seasoned the mixture with a little salt and pepper, as well as a splash of cream. I had some leftover heavy cream, so I used that, but normally I would have just used the skim milk that is a staple in my fridge. Once everything is whisked together and the gravy tastes “just right”, I plated our dinner.
Mashed potatoes, a stuffed pork chop, and gravy drizzled around to look pretty… delicious, no? The chops hadn’t overcooked… the potatoes were fluffy and lightly seasoned… the gravy had enough texture and taste to hold everything together… it was a wonderful thing.
A homemade dinner to share with my husband is balm to my soul… and I am always glad that he enjoys eating the meals I make. Sometimes, it’s all about the simple pleasures in life.
May you find, and feed, the simple pleasures in your own life…