Occasionally, when I arrive home from work and need to get dinner on the table, I feel like I'm trying to defuse a bomb—if I don't work fast enough and carefully enough, someone is going to get burned.
The other night, I cruised into the apartment just in time to kick off my boots, hang up my coat, and chill with Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria for a few minutes before starting the teeth-brushing, face-washing, book-reading bedtime routine.
We had the girls in bed by 8:10, which meant I was free to head to the kitchen and cook. Santa Maria was hungry and tired, and she wasn't quite finished with the sandman dance. As the girls took a second curtain call, each asking for a glass of water, I could see that she was reaching the end of her fuse.
I was ready, though. I had black beans and rice to heat up, spinach to quickly steam, and an avocado to slice. I wanted to serve it all with a nice little pork chop, because no matter how hard I might try, I can't make it through the day without eating some meat.
Pork chops may be one of the oldest things in the book, but they have always vexed me. I would often burn the outside and dry out the interior. This time, I took it slow, and I covered them as I cooked them gently in a cast-iron pan. Once I had one side browned, I flipped them and turned the heat down low. The second side didn't brown right away, but I figured that was okay. As soon as the interior was up to about 140 degress (an instant-read meat thermometer is an inexperienced chef's best friend), I turned up the heat and made sure both sides were brown.
They were delicious, and dinner was on the table in twenty-minutes. No one got burned.
Before I give the recipe, I want to mention the Cowboy Junkies because they are masters of doing old things new ways. Perhaps best known for their irresistible, down-tempo cover of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane," from the late eighties, the Toronto-based group is back with a new album, "Demons," a tribute to the late Georgia singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt. It's not due out for another two weeks, but here's a chance to listen in advance. Enjoy.
Simple Weeknight Pork Chops
- Ground cornmeal
- Salt and pepper
- 1-3 boneless pork chops, depending on their size (to serve two)