I often cook thick bone-in pork chops for guests. In cold weather, they’re served with a creamy and decadent mushroom sauce on a bed of softly mashed root vegetables with a green vegetable or two on the side. Longtime blog readers and friends who’ve eaten at my table will easily recognize the dish that often looks something like this:
If it’s summer time, I’ll switch it up by asking Dave, my husband and best sous chef, to grill the chops. I then offer a choice of quick toppings like chimichurri, Vietnamese dipping sauce, or even my homemade barbecue sauce. Instead of a root vegetable, I’ll throw together an orzo pasta salad full of grilled fresh vegetables and graced with feta or goat’s cheese.
Simpler than steak (no wondering about varied cooking temperatures) and often found at a bargain, my bone-in pork chop dinners allow me to concentrate on friends rather than food or budget. (Don’t be tempted to use boneless chops; a bone-in anything is truly tastier!) They take so little time I’m usually even able to come up with homemade dessert, which makes everyone happy.
Last Saturday, for Date Night, I had no time to make a long involved meal, but needed something luscious and filling done in a half hour or so. Dave had just traveled back from a week’s work in Montreal that morning and I was spending the day baking pie. Me oh my.
Pies were served after church on Sunday at an info table for Family Promise/Inter-Faith Hospitality Network to drum up new volunteers to cook or help set up for families experiencing homelessness in Colorado Springs. It worked; we got a bunch of new volunteers! Thanks, pie. (Check out Family Promise near you if you’re looking for a fine volunteer opportunity.)
Recipes for both pies are on the blog:
A faster, lower-calorie version of the fall company meal was on the table–which I had set the day before– in less than 45 minutes, including resting time. My 5-year old pot of fresh sage, saved from last week’s freeze, provided an autumn note for sautéed mushrooms. Dried sage can be substituted in a real pinch or fresh marjoram is always lovely with mushrooms. Fed-Ex asparagus and a few slices of the last of a sweet and generous friend’s summer tomatoes, picked right before the first snow, went along side without complaint.
Cooking Notes: We had a warm early evening, so grilled our chops on the gas grill. (See grill marks in photo.) I give directions for a stovetop/oven version in the recipe as weather is cooling off most places now. If you want to grill your meat, check below under “MORE” for those instructions. Make sure and brine your chops, if only for 15 minutes, whichever method you choose. (Brine instructions included.)
A couple of pumpkin tarts, made from pie leftovers, were happy, small, and sweet desserts for us. I guess it’s really fall if there’s pumpkin pie, folks.
Cooking for one? Go ahead and make the whole meal. It reheats wonderfully, particularly if you undercook one chop a little so there’s a bit of wiggle room for cooking another night without over-cooking the meat. If you have 4 coming for dinner, the meal expands easily by doubling the ingredients and stretching the cooking times a bit. Try this:
date night chop on butternut squash with sage mushrooms
- 1 pound peeled and diced butternut squash
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon salted butter + 1 teaspoon, divided
- 1 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano, grated (1/4 cup)
- 2 bone-in 1 to 1 ½ inches-thick pork chops, approximately 8 ounces each, brined*
- Canola or peanut oil
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 large cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried
- ½ pound cooked and seasoned fresh asparagus or green beans. Can also add a few fresh sliced tomatoes for serving- if desired
- COOK BUTTERNUT SQUASH: Place squash in a 6-quart soup pot and add water, covering by a couple of inches. Stir in a teaspoon and a half each of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until squash is very tender—about 15 minutes. Drain, return to pan and add the tablespoon of salted butter along with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Mash to desired consistency, adding a drizzle or two of milk for a thinner mash. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
- COOK THE PORK CHOPS: Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees and place rack at center. To a heavy (cast iron is good) skillet, add 1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil. Heat over medium-high flame. Meanwhile, pat chops dry with paper towels, 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. Turn and brown the other side. Place skillet in oven and roast until chops are at 145 degrees F on an instant read thermometer or just barely done, still juicy, and somewhat rosy. Begin testing after 5 minutes. Remove, cover loosely with foil, and let rest in pan to keep hot.
- SAUTE THE MUSHROOMS AND SHALLOTS: In a 9-inch skillet, heat the reserved teaspoon of butter along with one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms, shallots, and minced sage. Season with a generous pinch of pepper, but no salt. Let sit a minute before stirring, then cook until the shallots are tender and the mushrooms are browned, perhaps 5 minutes or so. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt once the mushrooms are done. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cover to keep warm if necessary.
- PLATE AND SERVE: Spoon about a cup of the mashed butternut squash into each of 2 shallow bowls, add chops at the center, and top with a couple of tablespoons of the mushroom mixture. Place green vegetables or tomatoes to the side of the mashed squash, if using. Serve hot.
*TO BRINE PORK CHOPS
- Place a sealable gallon plastic bag open inside a medium bowl and add a cup of warm water. Whisk in 2 tablespoons each kosher salt and granulated sugar until dissolved. Add two cups cold water and whisk again. Add a sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary–optional. Gently ease the chops into the water, adding more water to cover if needed. Seal the bag well and let rest for 15-30 minutes at room temperature.
TIPS: If you’re shopping at Costco, they often sell a 2-pound bag of peeled, diced butternut squash and also sell it frozen, though not always. Cut fresh winter squash becomes slimy fairly quickly, so use or cook and use soon, or cook/freeze within a couple of days despite date on package. In a pinch, you can freeze it raw despite what still tasty.com says, though it definitely freezes better if already cooked. Frozen butternut squash keeps well for 10 months in a 0 degree F freezer. Get a freezer thermometer and make sure your freezer is that cold. Many older models are not. If you have a newer fridge, its freezer may be the one at 0 degrees F in your house.
Mashed butternut, sometimes combined with other winter squash, is also available in cans at some markets and in small frozen boxes in others. Fresh is infinitely better, though the canned or frozen varieties make lovely fast soups and are happy pantry guests.
WINE: Oregon Pinot Noir or French Burgundy.
How to Grill Pork Chops (Williams-Sonoma Taste)
Try this chili for Halloween:
Ready-to-eat meat products sold under Walmart’s Great Value brand are being recalled.
My “A Twist on Holiday Vegetables” class is this Friday in the kitchen of First Congregational Church in downtown Colorado Springs. If you’re in the area and would like to come, let me know in the comments, by email or text, and I’ll make sure you’re signed up as space is limited. This HEALTHY LIVING Class is free, though there’s a hat passed for tips, and includes a taste of the dishes at the end. The group is lively, fun, and loves cooking just about anything; I always adore my time with them and look forward to teaching.
Thanks for reading and cook up a great fall,