Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tangy pork chops (and a squash confession)

The finished product: Pork Chops with Tangy Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce and butternut squash puree with peas.

I had picked up some pork chops at the supermarket. They were a nice size but it was windy and I didn't feel like BBQing. So I dug around my cook books for a real recipe I could try. I often don't cook a recipe word for word but I don't cook chops that often either so I needed inspiration. I found a recipe for which I had the ingredients on hand: Pork Chops with Tangy Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce from Rachel Ray's Big Orange Book.

So here it is (note I only had two chops so I used less of every ingredient and only one can of tomatoes):

2 tb extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO to Rachel fans)
4 1 inch boneless pork loin chops

2 cloves garlic -- minced
4 scallions (white & green parts) -- in 1" pieces
(I used 1/2 regular onion, minced)
2 tbs light brown sugar

2 14 oz cns fire-roasted tomatoes
3 stips of smokey bacon (I didn't use bacon for the chops...see side dish note below)

Place a large skillet over medium high heat with 1 tbsp EVOO. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and sear them in the hot pan until they're golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Once they are golden, remove the chops to a plate and cover with foil. To the same pan, add the garlic and scallions. Cook until the scallions begin to tenderize, about 4 minutes.

Add the vinegar, brown sugar and tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a bubble and return pork chops to pan. Finish cooking the chops in the sauce, this should take 3-4 minutes.

As a side dish, the Big Orange Book recommends polenta which I have found difficult to get, and to cook. I happened to have a butternut squash so I decided to make the same polenta recipe only with squash instead. And here's my confession: I have never cooked squash before. I've eaten it, seen it cooked on TV, but never attempted it myself. Before now.

I looked at the thing and figured (and remembered from cooking shows) the best approach was to cut it in half, season with salt, pepper and oil and roast in the oven until it was tender. Basically my technique was to cook it until it was done. Which didn't take as long as I thought it would: about 30 minutes. Then I scrapped out the flesh of the squash and put it in a pot with the crisped bacon (I used it here instead of in the pork chops), a couple tbs of milk, stock, about two handfuls of frozen peas and a bit of Parmesan cheese grated down into the whole mixture. As a side dish it was good but it would have been terribly bland if not for the bacon and cheese. Don't those two always lift a dish?!

Anyway, the pork chop recipe worked out well and the smooth squash was a nice balance to the tangy chops. The tomatoes kept the meat from drying out and becoming chewy (always a bonus) and I will be making this one again!

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