“Something for Dinner”

I know when I’m over a cold when I start thinking about food again.    

I have been working overtime at work, which means waking up at 4:00 am and getting home around 5:00 pm.  That doesn’t leave much time for dinner preparation and relaxing before going to bed. 

I was on my way home, enjoying the rush hour traffic, when it dawned on me that I had not gone to the grocery store recently and I didn’t know what I would make for dinner.  So, I stopped off at the grocery store and started thinking about what was in my refrigerator and what I might buy for dinner.  I knew I had some cooked white rice at home.  White rice is like a blank canvas.  Anything is possible when you have rice.

Since I didn’t have a clue about what I was going to buy at the store I decided to look for good deals on vegetables and meat and let that be my guide.   The first low-priced vegetable I found were Brussel sprouts.  I’m not a huge fan of Brussel sprouts but I stuck with my plan and picked them up.  I found some whole button mushrooms at a really good price and I grabbed those.  I still had fresh tomatoes from the garden and I had onions and garlic at home.  So, the vegetables were a done deal. 

I went to the meat case and found a good deal on center cut pork chops.  They looked good and the price was very good.  I spent less than $8.00 for everything and it was enough food to make a meal for 4 to 6 people. 

For the rest of my trip home I thought about what I would do with all of this stuff.  I started thinking about pork schnitzel, which got me thinking about paprika.  I love a good schnitzel but just thinking about the work that goes into making schnitzel made me tired.   I wanted the paprika, without the fuss.

I thought about stewing the Brussel sprouts with tomatoes and onion and mushroom and serving with the rice and I quickly kicked that idea out of my head.  Yuck!  Brussel sprouts!  What was I thinking?

And then, as I pulled into the driveway, it all came together.  Sauté the Brussel sprouts and put a char on them to get a nutty flavor.  Add that to cooked pork chops, tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms and rice and cook it all in one pan.  Coming home after working overtime means that I have about one hour to make dinner, one hour to eat it, and one hour to relax and digest the food before heading off to bed.  Making dinner in one pan means quick prep and quick clean up.  I knew I was over my cold now.  I can’t make those sort of mental leaps when I am sick. 

I dumped all of the groceries on the counter and pulled the rice out of the refrigerator.  I put the cast iron skillet on the stove and started warming it.  My daughter came into the kitchen to welcome me home and we had a wonderful time sharing stories about our day as I began prepping the food.  She asked me what I was making and, as I often do when I’m not sure, I said, “I’m making something for dinner.”  My daughter has watched me work in the kitchen long enough to know when I am winging it. 

Skillet Pork Chops with Vegetable and Rice

Ingredients:

4 center cut pork chops

1 quart cooked white rice

2 cups Brussel sprouts, sliced in half

16 oz white button mushrooms

2 medium sized tomatoes

½ yellow onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, smashed

2 Tbs butter

2 Tbs flour

2 cups chicken stock

½ cup tomato sauce

Directions:

Heat an oven to 325°.

Tenderize the pork chops by piercing both sides with a fork.  Flatten the pork chops with the broad side of a meat cleaver or mallet. 

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat.  Add about 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan.  Lay the pork chops in the pan and dust liberally with paprika.  Allow the chops to sear for about one or two minutes and then turn.  Dust the other side of the chops with paprika.  Turn once more after a minute and remove after another 30 seconds.  Set the chops aside. 

De-glaze the skillet with a half cup of chicken stock.  Add the whole mushrooms, onion and garlic to the skillet and stir.  Allow the mushrooms to absorb the flavor from the pork and stock.  Remove the mushrooms to a large mixing bowl.

Add the Brussels sprouts to the hot skillet, placing them cut side down.  Don’t mess with them.  Let them char for about two minutes.  Turn them with a spatula and brown the other side for a little while.  Remove the Brussel sprouts to the large mixing bowl.

Add the tomatoes and cooked rice to the large mixing bowl.

Turn the heat down to low.  Wipe the skillet with a paper towel to remove any charred bits.  Melt the butter in the skillet and add the flour and whisk to make a roux.  Once the flour has incorporated, add the chicken stock and tomato sauce.  Stir to thicken into a sauce. 

Mix the items in mixing bowl with a spatula.  Add the prepared sauce and mix. 

Arrange the seared pork chops on the bottom of skillet.  Cover with rice, vegetable and sauce mixture.  Cover the skillet and cook in a 325° oven for 25 to 30 minutes. 

How do you like my “redneck” lid for the skillet? Hey, it works and it’s one less thing to clean!

To serve, pull a pork chop from the bottom of the skillet and lay on a serving dish.  Ladle the rice mixture next to the chop. 

London Broil

If hearing someone say “London broil” conjures up mental images of a rustic steak house in merry old England I have some disappointing news for you.  London broil is an American concoction, used to describe a method of preparing lean and tough cuts of beef.  Specifically, flank steak or top round.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with lean or tough cuts of meat and one of the best methods to overcome the challenges that lean meat presents is to cook it at a very high temperature and for a very short period of time, hence, the appeal of broiling.  If broiling is not an option, a smoking hot cast iron skillet will work just as well.  In fact, one of the advantages to using a hot skillet rather than a broiler is that you can see and test the meat for doneness while it cooks.  If you prefer your steak cooked well done, don’t bother cooking a London broil.  You’ll wind up with something akin to leather.

So, I wanted steak tonight but I didn’t want to pay top dollar for a steak dinner.  Enter the London broil.  This recipe will feed up to 4 people, but I’m making it for 3.

Ingredients:

2 lbs London broil (top round steak)

1 Tbs coarse salt

1 Tsp finely ground salt

A pinch of cayenne powder

1 Tbs coarse black pepper

5 russet potatoes – wedge cut

2 cups cooking oil (I use canola oil)

1 lb fresh green beans

1/2 sweet onion – julienne cut

steak sauce (about 1/4 cup) – see recipe below

Directions:

Fill a skillet with oil, nearly half way and turn on the heat to low/medium.

Wash the potatoes and cut into long wedges.  Add potatoes to the skillet and cook for about 1/2 hour, turning the potatoes occasionally, to avoid burning.  When the fries are golden brown, strain the oil, sprinkle with salt and a pinch of cayenne, and arrange them on a large oven-proof serving platter.  Keep warm in a 225° oven.

While the fries are cooking, let’s prepare the steak sauce and green beans.

For the steak sauce:

Mix the following items together:

2 Tbs ketchup

1 Tbs softened butter

1 Tbs Dijon mustard

1 tsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp hot sauce

a pinch of brown sugar

For the green beans:

Steam green beans for about 15 minutes, or until they begin to soften.  Stage in a warm place.

On a clean cutting board, cut the raw steak into serving sized portions and remove any large, white portions of fat.  Sprinkle coarse salt and black pepper on each side of the pieces.

Heat a cast iron skillet on the stove to medium/high.  Add 1 Tbs oil.  When the skillet begins to smoke, it’s ready for the steaks.  Carefully add the steaks to the hot skillet.  Turn steaks over after 2 or 2 ½ minutes.  Cook for another 2 minutes, or until meat tests medium rare.  Turn the heat off and leave the residual steak juices in the skillet.

Pull the fries out of the oven and arrange the steaks on the platter, along with the fries.  Baste the steaks with the steak sauce.  Don’t worry about getting some of the sauce on the fries…your family and friends will thank you.

Turn the heat back on to low and add 1 Tbs of butter and the onions to the skillet and stir until the onions are softened.  Add the green beans and stir.  Once they are done, transfer to a serving dish.

For those of you still clinging to the mental picture of a merry old England, you might consider calling this dish London Broil and Chips.

Cheers, mate!