In December, I promised you I’d have a few more Quarter-Sheet Pan Dinners and, right on time a month later, here’s the next! If you’re like me, you’re ready to put the holidays in the rear view window and have something different to eat after those big meals and all of those leftovers. (Do you have cookies in the freezer?! I do. Ok; we’re good. And you’ll guess our tree is up until Epiphany.) This week’s quarter-sheet pan meal features a simply seasoned pair of thick, bone-in pork chops paired with some fresh beans, thyme, red onions and thinly sliced sweet potato. A fast searing of the chops on the stovetop and the whole shebang slides into the oven for all of 20 minutes while you pour the wine, chat with a friend, or watch a little bit of the new, fab PBS News Hour. (I’m going to miss Judy Woodruff so!) With hardly any work — isn’t that what the oven’s for?–you have a gorgeous, real-deal dinner quick like a bunny. And, wink-wink, this doesn’t feed 4, 6, or 8; it makes just a couple of servings. Exactly what you or someone you know needed.
If it’s high summer and there are tomatoes (and it wouldn’t be summer without tomatoes), I’m making caprese of some sort. Maybe every week. I don’t stir up chimichurri quite that often, but unlike caprese it shows up throughout the year mostly with pork (love it with ribs!), but sometimes on beef or shrimp or ________. A couple of weeks ago I made three of my Chimichurri Pork Chops only because the package had 3 in it–weird, I know. What to do the next day with the lonely fellow left on the platter? I had fresh mozzarella, zucchini to grill, plenty of tomatoes, and why not serve a hybrid of caprese and chimichurri pork layered with grilled zucchini? Since chimichurri is packed with other fresh herbs, the basil could be skipped. A big handful of fresh greens at the center would set the seal on this stunning deal. I’m wanting it again already.
There’s no reason bratwurst should only be consumed grilled and on a sturdy bun with sauerkraut, spicy mustard, and onions that have, of course, been cooked in beer. In Germany, you just get a tiny piece of rye bread with which to hold your wurst, none of this big old fat sandwich business…and I digress. But sure, there are tons of other ways to use bratwurst and other link sausages, too. If you’re camping, for instance, and happen to have cooked bratwurst, you think nothing of slicing it into a pan of creamy scrambled eggs because you’re not throwing that out, ok, and there’s not enough for lunch. At home, you might mix a few leftover bites into a kitchen sink pasta salad for a fast dinner or throw together a big slow cooker full of brats and sauerkraut when friends are coming to play cards or even make a sheet pan dinner with brats and veggies. I’m partial to cooked bratwurst cut into chunks, stuck with toothpicks, and served up with a couple of different sauces (including spicy mustard!) for a meaty app. If it’s soup night (usually Thursday at our house), I could (and did) sauté a bunch of sliced bratwurst coins, add veggies, broth and lentils, et voilà, time to get out the bowls, pour the wine, and enjoy Bratwurst-Lentil Soup!
If someone asked me, “What is a romantic meal?” I’m sure I would be expected to have an answer. After all, I’m a food blogger; I’m a cooking teacher. I’m married to the man of my dreams. I don’t think I do, though. (Today’s Pork Chop Parmesan with Lemon Mushroom Risotto might qualify!) Do I even know how to define “romantic”? To begin with, the word “romantic” is both an adjective and a noun. Leave it to the English major to think of that. If you just drop the word “romantic” into a conversation, I’m likely to think of Brahms, Chopin, Verdi, or Beethoven because I’m also a musician. While several definitions pop up when you search, here is one likely to make sense to most folks:
...conducive to or characterized by the expression of love.
"A romantic candlelit dinner."
Let’s talk carnitas for lunch. Frittatas for brunch. Pork Ragú on Pasta with Parmigiano Reggiano come Friday Date Night. BBQ Sandwiches to kick off Game Day. Pizza. Nachos. Pork Chopped Salad for the Carb-Watchers. Sweet Potatoes topped with Pulled Pork, Smoked Gouda, and Pickled Red Onions solves dinner for everyone. Pork Stew — just because no one makes it enough. Hot Pork Sandwiches (see below) or what about Cubanos? Yep, all that, and even more can be had from one oven-braised pork shoulder that requires little more effort than sniffing happily around the house all day long while it stays all cozy in the oven. I guess I don’t have to but still will say this stuff smells exactly like hog heaven.
And wouldn’t that be nice on Tuesday, November 3, 2020?
Some years we have no bunnies at all in our yard. Other times, such as now, we are overrun by the the dreaded chomper-hoppers. (Have you ever seen one hop straight up 4 feet or more? They can. ) I blame it on the lack of outdoor cats and our local bob cat family temporarily taking up residence in the next subdivision over. While cute, especially when oh so very small, they eat everything we don’t want them to eat but perversely leave the weeds for us to pull.
My post about the cookbook gifts for Mother’s and Father’s Days a couple of weeks ago resulted in a tasty stack of books hanging around my office and kitchen. While I cook off the top of my head for the most part, I also know the road toward growth and innovation is paved with reading, seeing, tasting, talking, cooking and testing new dishes. When I had a minute or two –and let’s face it, we’re pretty much still staying home, so I do have time — I kept flipping through those books, enjoying them more and more. Given ingredients are a bit scarce, even though I wanted to cook a whole bunch of different recipes, unless I wanted to wait a week for the next grocery run, I probably had to punt to put one on the dinner table.
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:
While friends and relatives in lower and warmer climes harvest strawberries, brag about their huge beds of towering annuals, and swill a cold one on the patio, I’m still making big vats of soup we’re snarfing down watching “Designated Survivor” episodes snuggled up under afghans.
When it comes to the second week of December, no matter how well prepared you are, the month begins to take over. It seems you’re not in charge of your own life. Instead of easy-going fall weekends culminating in Sunday games, there are work parties, family get togethers, school and church performances, and neighborhood potlucks. Somewhere down the road and fairly soon, that stack of bags in the corner of the spare bedroom must be gone through, sorted out, wrapped, and mailed or delivered, if need be. There are travel plans, weather delays or plain old bad weather, holiday attire to attend to, and the forever and constant barrage of holiday ads all with some version of “Sleigh Ride” for the soundtrack.