I have always felt that weekends should include one special dinner: a dish that requires a fair amount of kitchen time and a lovely dessert, or a restaurant with friends. This past Saturday Brad was working on music, so I decided to linger in the kitchen. I had a recipe for Almond Olive Oil Cake from seriouseats and some pork chops. I have a bad habit of starting a recipe and then changing things that "sound wrong.” Then, when my cake falls or rice burns or it just turns out bad, I don't know if it was the recipe or me. I'm trying to break myself of this, so I followed the cake recipe to the letter... ok, except for the 1/2 cup orange juice. I didn't have any, so I used lemon juice and honey... but that hardly counts. Now, I had no recipe for the pork chops, just potatoes and turnips that needed eating and an apple in the fruit bowl. The main dish turned out perfect--molasses brined pork chops with thyme, sautéed apple, mashed potatoes and turnips, and arugala fresh from the farmers’ market. Dessert was another matter. The almond cake looked and smelled lovely, and I managed to make the brown butter icing without scorching anything. Everything seemed perfect, but the bottom of the cake was salty, way, way too salty.... I have no idea what I did. I'll try the cake again, reduce the salt, taste the batter as I go, but it reminded me that some times things work out best if you just make it up as you go along.
No Recipe Pork Chop Dinner
Brine chops (I used 2 cups water, 1/4 cup salt, 1/4 cup molasses)
Peel turnips and potatoes and cut into chunks (pick the potato to turnip ratio that you prefer). Put in a pan with tight fitting lid and add water until chunks are half covered. Bring to a boil, throw in a chunk of butter, cover and lower to a simmer. Cook until potatoes and turnips are soft and mashable, this should take about 15-20 minutes. Mash--if things seem watery, cook with the lid off to thicken. Taste, add salt, pepper, butter as you see fit. Keep warm while you make the pork chops.
Heat a frying pan on medium high and brown chops on all side. Place them on an oven-safe dish and put them in a 350° oven to finish cooking. Add peeled and sliced apple to pan, sprinkle with thyme and sauté until they begin to color. Deglaze pan with vermouth and simmer until apples are tender but still hold their shape. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Pick a pretty plate, lean the pork chop against the mashed potatoes and turnips, spoon the apples over the pork, green salad on the side. Perfect.