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On a night when the world reeled from the Paris attacks — and from the unending hate and carnage we seem to constantly face (Do we humans desire to end our world?) — I had planned some sort of a pork chop dinner.  That said, you’ll imagine I had a couple of great big, thick babies unthawed (1 1/2 -2-inches thick) and a few vegetables basking on the counter waiting to see what I’d do with them. I kept one eye on the tv and another on the sauté pans. I began without a perfectly clear idea, but it quickly came into focus:  tender, rosemary for remembrance-scented pork snuggled up to garlicky spinach and cozy mashed sweet potatoes, to which I added a regular Idaho potato.  A lusty French-style white wine-mushroom sauce tied the whole thing together. Why not? Love was the key, the answer here.  Wasn’t it?

Quote of the Day: Love

THE LOVE FOR equals is a human thing—of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing—the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.


The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing—to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.


And then there is the love for the enemy—love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.

-Originally published in The Magnificent Defeat by Frederick Buechner

And I can’t help but think of the hundred of thousands of Syrians already killed in this horrific time.  No one has changed their Facebook page to mourn them.  Last count was 250,000, I thought–but as I researched it that number might be just a little too high.  Here’s what I found.

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ROSEMARY PORK CHOPS WITH SWEET POTATO MASH, GARLIC SPINACH, AND MUSHROOM SAUCE

serves 2

While this meal might appear daunting, it’s just a pot, two skillets or sauté pans, a hot oven, and a good bottle of Rhone or Malbec. Done in an hour, it tastes like you spent five. Read through the recipe and make the components in the order that makes the most sense to you. Take your time. Nothing is critical here except getting the chops out of the oven before they’re too done. You cook two vegetables and a sauce first, setting them aside to warm up after you’ve browned then roasted very thick pork chops. To serve, scootch them all together in a warm, shallow bowl garnished with parsley, fresh tomato, and bacon. What more could you want? Just French wine, my friend. Just French wine. And someone to share it all with.  (Do get them seated –yes, Dave got out of the way–and give yourself the last few minutes of cooking all on your own just for sanity’s sake.) If you have Pandora, tune into a Traditional French station as we did. Or click on an hour of French music via youtube.

Note: There were vegetables left over. I think there’s enough for four if you just add 2 more chops.  I did have some warm bread as well; we never touched it.

Here’s how:

PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 375 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. PLACE A RACK IN THE CENTER OF THE OVEN ON WHICH YOU’LL ROAST THE BROWNED CHOPS.  

1. MAKE THE SWEET POTATO MASH and set aside.

  • 1/4 cup hot milk–more or less as needed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper
  • 1 peeled and diced Idaho potato
  • 2 peeled and diced sweet potatoes

* Fill a 3-quart pot half-full of cold water; add all potatoes. Season with half teaspoon each salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a healthy simmer; cook until tender–12 minutes or so.

* Drain; add butter and 1/4 cup hot milk; mash or whip with electric mixer.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Cover and set aside. Warm later for serving while chops rest, beating in a little more milk if the potatoes are too thick.

2. COOK THE BACON and set aside for garnish. I did use the bacon, but somehow took the photos before I added it.)

  • 4 slices thick bacon
  • olive oil
  • black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

In a large, deep skillet, cook the bacon until crispy in a tablespoon of olive oil; season with 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Remove bacon to a paper toweled-lined plate.  Pour fat into a small bowl; leave a tablespoon in the pan.  Chop bacon and reserve for garnish, if desired.

3. COOK THE SPINACH and set aside.

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound fresh spinach
  • 1 cup fresh, shredded kale
  • 3 cloves sliced garlic
  • kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, crushed red pepper, freshly ground nutmeg

In the same skillet you cooked the bacon, add olive oil to the bacon fat.  Heat and add the spinach and the kale; cook until beginning to wilt.  Add garlic, 1/4 teaspoon each salt, pepper,and a pinch of crushed red pepper. If too dry or spinach is burning, lower heat and add a little bacon fat.  Sauté until tender, stirring. Season with a few grates of fresh nutmeg.  Remove to a bowl. Set aside. Warm in microwave while chops rest.

4. MAKE THE MUSHROOM SAUCE and set aside briefly.

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 12 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth, divided
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose, unbleached flour; use if needed to thicken sauce

*Heat butter in the same skillet;  sauté mushrooms and shallots with thyme.  When mushrooms are nearly tender, pour in wine and 1/2 cup of the broth; simmer until liquid is reduced by half.

* Stir in half and half; season with a 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Simmer a         few minutes more to reduce.

If the sauce has not thickened enough: In a small bowl, whisk the flour into the remaining broth and stir the flour mixture into mushroom mixture.  Stirring, let cook a few minutes or until barely thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn off heat. Stir occasionally. Warm up over medium-low flame, stirring regularly, while chops rest.

5. BROWN, THEN ROAST THE PORK CHOPS.  Let rest while you warm up the vegetables and the sauce.  

  • Canola or peanut oil
  • 2  thick bone-in loin pork chops (1 1/2 inches or more)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary

FIRST, PLACE DINNER PLATES OR SHALLOW BOWLS IN OVEN TO WARM.

  • To a heavy (cast iron is good) skillet, add 1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil.  Heat over medium-high flame.  Meanwhile, brush both sides of chops with canola or peanut oil and season very well with salt and pepper.  Add chops to hot skillet and cook until quite brown on one side–3 or 4 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile, chop 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary very finely and set aside. Turn chops and top each with half of the rosemary. 
  • Place skillet in oven and roast until chops are at 145 degrees F or just barely done and still juicy.  Begin testing after 5 minutes.  Remove, cover loosely with foil, and let rest in pan to keep hot while you warm the vegetables and the sauce.

6. WARM THE SWEET POTATO MASH AND SAUCE ON THE STOVE  over medium heat, stirring. Reheat spinach in the microwave 2 minutes at full power or until very hot and stir. Taste and adjust seasonings.

7. PLATE AND SERVE HOT:

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 small tomato, minced

Divide the sweet potato mash and the spinach between the warmed plates or bowls, add a chop to each, and spoon 1/4 cup sauce over each. Garnish with parsley, minced tomato, and reserved bacon, if desired.

Pour remaining sauce into a small bowl or sauce boat and place on table.  

WINE:  French, of course.  Vive le France!  I chose a Malbec  (Cahors), as it was on the wine rack. While the Cahors was lovely, it was a might big for this meal. I think a Rhone might have been a better choice. Curses, I hadn’t any. (How could that be??)

Map courtesy: http://www.wine-pages.com/features/wine-cahors-malbec.htm

map

DESSERT:  The French would have a bite of cheese. I had a tiny dose of slowly sipped Armagnac–a favorite digestif closely related to cognac. Warming and charming, it’s perhaps all you’ll need.  No Armagnac? Any cognac or brandy will do after this filling meal.

map for Armagnac region courtesy of http://charlesnealselections.com/armagnac/armagnac-soils.html

Map highlighting the Armagnac region of France.

Sing a song of peace, friends,

Alyce