Recipe Project #7, 8: Garlicky Weeknight Dinners

While I enjoy cooking things that take a whole afternoon and require a list of carefully-chosen ingredients, the reality is that I only have time to do this kind of thing during holidays. Knowing how to make a boeuf bourguignon is of absolutely no help at 5pm on a Tuesday, and I’ve been in search of more quick recipes that one or the other of us can throw together pretty quickly. I made both of these dishes over the weekend, sure, but they’d also be great for weeknights. The first one may seem like too much trouble of you’re not the sort of person who finds this stuff to be meditation, but the second is simple enough for just about anyone, and highly adaptable.

Recipe Project #3:  smothered pork chops, roasted potatoes with Hungarian paprika, broccoli

Friday night, I riffed on this recipe for Smothered Pork Chops with Mushrooms. Here’s what I came up with:

2 boneless pork chops, cut between 1 and 1.5 inches thick
2-3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pat butter
1 smallish onion, halved and sliced
2 handfuls fresh white mushrooms, sliced. (I have small hands, so this was maybe 1/2 a blue styrofoam package.)
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1 glug wine
1/2 cup water

Pat chops dry and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, then dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet (preferably deep) over medium-high heat until almost smoking hot. (I sear meat with the hood fan running full blast.) Brown chops, turning once. Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining tablespoon of oil and the pat of butter to skillet and cook onion and mushrooms with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent. There’s no garlic in the original recipe, but garlic is my religion, so add the garlic and thyme and continue cooking a few minutes more, until things are mostly browned. Deglaze with whatever wine is handy. (I used the chianti that’s been sitting on the counter for 2 weeks since I made the bourguignon.) Return chops and any meat juices to skillet. Add water and simmer, covered, until chops are tender, about 30 minutes, maybe a little longer. Remove the chops to a warm plate in the oven. You could also strain out the onions and mushrooms at this point, but I left them in the pan because I didn’t want to serve them in quite such a liquidy state. Turn the pan heat to high and reduce liquid until it’s the consistency you want it to be. Arrange the chops on the plate and spoon the onion/mushroom sauce over it.

Serve with roasted red potatoes and something green. (I roasted my potatoes by cubing them, tossing with olive oil, salt, pepper, and Hungarian hot pepper, and then throwing them in a 400-degree oven. After 30 minutes, I stirred them and reduced the heat to 350.) I thought this was pretty awesome, but Mister Husband thought it was too oniony.


For Sunday lunch, I made a vaguely Roman pizza that I remembered from the December issue of Food & Wine. One awesome thing about Central New York is that it’s common to find raw pizza dough available for purchase in both grocery stores and restaurants. I grabbed a bagged lump of dough from the local Wegman’s, along with a container of Marinated Artichokes Royale from the olive bar and a wedge of fontina. The artichoke mix turned out to contain black olives and sundried tomatoes as well as the usual artichoke hearts. Here’s what I did with it all:

Pull the dough from the fridge about an hour ahead of time and let it come to room temp. Run 2-3 garlic cloves through a garlic press, put them in a mise en place bowl, and cover them with olive oil. Let them steep while you wander off and do other things. At some point, pre-heat the oven to 450.

When you return, pound down lump of dough, knead it 3-4 times on a floured counter, and stretch it into something pizza-shaped. (I got in a fight with my dough during the last stage, but eventually won.) Set it on a cookie sheet or peel and let it rest. Chop the artichoke mix to whatever consistency you’d like it to be — I quartered the artichoke hearts, halved the olives, and cut the tomatoes into strips. I also cut up a few thin slices of purple onion. When all that’s prepped, spread the olive oil/garlic mixture around on the dough, leaving a 1/2 strip around the edge that will become the crust. Scatter the rest of your ingredients around, being sure not to pile it on so thickly that the dough will end up soggy. Grate fontina on top and scatter some red pepper flakes about. Into the oven with it.

Ours was done in about 20 minutes, but that was with a gas oven with a huge baking stone in it. Your mileage may vary. You want things to be gently browned and bubbly on top, and you want the dough to be firm enough that it doesn’t sag when you pick the whole thing up by one edge. Rather or not you want to keep on baking it until it’s totally cracker-like is up to you, but we usually stop there. This would also have been good with goat cheese or feta.

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