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If you haven’t made a restaurant reservation yet for Valentine’s Day, you’re probably too late except for the 3:30 or 10:30 pm slots.   

What you’re definitely in time for is a trip to the grocery store, a little cooking action, an attractively-set table, and a relaxed dinner with no one asking

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Is everything all right here?

just as you take your first bite. You’ll most likely save a bunch of bucks and can trip happily to your own bed when all is said and done. Dishes–they’ll keep until morning. Rinse, stack, forget.

My simple and not-too-time-consuming Valentine’s Dinner is one I often make for company, but also make for just Dave and me. I’ve blogged it in another guise with garlicky spinach, I think  ….

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but still can’t think of anything that fits the romantic bill like this meal.  Deeply-browned, rosemary-scented THICK bone-in pork chops nestle into a buttery mash of butternut squash, potato, and sweet potato. Along each side of the chops and mash is a little stack of lemon asparagus spears and over the meat drizzles a silky mustardy-mushroom sauce you’ll want to lick off your fingers if it ever gets that far.

While this looks a bit complicated, it isn’t difficult and just needs a little time; the whole shebang is imminently forgivable (stop for a while, pick up later, make a few parts a day ahead, and so on).  It’s also truly flexible.  Rather have salad? Skip the asparagus.  Dislike anything but potatoes? Make mashed potatoes then. No sauce for you? Garnish with minced parsley and finely chopped fresh tomatoes.  The chops, too, are grillable if that makes more sense for you.  Whatever route you choose, you’ll come up with a whole meal in a gorgeous big shallow bowl that only needs a glass or two of red to complete it.  Don’t forget to chew the bone where the meat is often sweetest.

 WINE AND MUSIC: Perhaps a little Pinor Noir. Not a fan? Syrah, then, or Côtes du Rhône. If you have Pandora, tune into a Traditional French station as we did. Or click on an hour of French music via youtube.

DESSERT:  Chocolate Bark with Almonds and Dried Cherries or Cranberries! (Make Your Own Chocolate for Valentine’s Day)

Try this:

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PORK CHOPS ON MASHED ROOT VEGETABLES WITH MUSTARD-MUSHROOM SAUCE  with lemon asparagus

serves 2

Relax! Read through the recipe before beginning. 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.  What more could you want?

Note: Easily expandable for four/six/eight if you just add more chops and vegetables… More than that, it’ll work fine, but you might want to grill the chops for more than eight.  I did have some warm bread as well; we never touched it.  Do make some bacon ahead of time if you want that salty fatty garnish.

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 IN A SKILLET AFTER THEY’VE BROWNED STOVE TOP.  

1. MAKE THE ROOT VEGETABLE MASH and set aside to warm later.

  • Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper
  • 1 peeled and diced Idaho potato
  • 1 peeled and diced sweet potato
  • 2 cups peeled and diced Butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons butter or 1/4 – 1/2 cup warmed milk

* Fill a 3-quart pot half-full of cold water; add all the vegetables. 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 or warm milk; mash well.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Cover and set aside. Warm later, if necessary, for serving while chops rest.

2. ROAST (or grill, if you like) THE ASPARAGUS and set aside, covered. (Re-warm later if you wish; I think it’s great at room temperature.

  • 1/2 pound asparagus, well-trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

On a rimmed sheet pan, toss the asparagus with a tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Roast in oven until nearly tender — about 15 minutes. (Begin checking at 12 minutes).  Remove from oven and toss with grated lemon. Set aside until needed.

3. MAKE THE MUSTARD-MUSHROOM SAUCE and set aside briefly.

  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Fresh ground white or black pepper
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream–can sub no or low-fat evaporated milk
  • 1 generous tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • Kosher salt
  • Hot sauce such as Tabasco–just a drop or two, optional

*Heat butter and oil in a 12-inch deep skillet; sauté mushrooms seasoned with a 1/4 teaspoon pepper until softened. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute.  When mushrooms are nearly tender, pour in wine and 1/2 cup of the broth; simmer a few minutes–watching carefully- until liquid is reduced by half. 

Pour in cream and whisk in mustard until smooth; taste and season season with a 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and more pepper, if desired. A drop or two of hot sauce is also a possibility here–not for heat, but for flavor. Simmer a few minutes more to reduce. Too thick? Add the other 1/4 cup broth and stir. Cover to keep warm.

If needed, warm up over medium-low flame, stirring regularly, while chops rest.

4. 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 re-warm the vegetables and the sauce.

5.  WARM THE Roasted Vegetable Mash and Mustard-Mushroom Sauce over medium heat if needed, stirring. Reheat asparagus, if desired, in the microwave 1 minute at full power or until very hot and stir. Taste and adjust seasonings.

6. PLATE AND SERVE HOT:

Spoon and smoosh the roasted vegetable mash into an about 6-inch x 4-inch x 1/2-inch bed for the meat and sauce. Add a chop to each and a few stalks of asparagus to each side. Spoon or drizzle  mustard-mushroom sauce over each chop and sprinkle the asparagus with the grated lemon.  Garnish with bacon if desired.

If there’s more in the pan, pour remaining sauce into a small bowl or sauce boat and place on table.  

{printable recipe}

Enjoy your day as we’ll enjoy ours at home with the pups. Tucker is much improved, though it was a little nip and tuck for a while, as the saying goes…. Thanks for thinking about him.

Tucker and Rosie in family room

Tucker and Rosie in family room sometime not too long ago. Lazy, lazy.