The plan, or lack thereof
Sometimes I have a plan in my mind about what I am going to do; often this plan is devised many days ahead when I want something particular but later decide against. This week was one of those weeks. As I cycled home from work thinking about what I was going to cook for dinner I was in a quandary. One aspect of the meal was set and that was pork chops (or cutlets according to the packaging) would be involved. I also had some baby Portobello mushrooms that I wanted to use as well. Beyond this I was undecided in where to take it. When I purchased these initial items my plan was to make a creamy mushroom and mustard sauce to add to pasta to serve with the pork. This sounded very nice, but I had eaten pasta for a few nights the previous week so it seemed a bit samey. I knew I had a bottle of cider at home which could get involved somewhere so as I rode I pondered this. Cycling is a good activity to do whilst thinking things over provided you can think and pay attention at the same time; if you can’t then I would not advise doing so during rush hour.
Upon arriving home and enjoying my obligatory hug with the cat before feeding her I started to peruse my cupboards. It turned out that I had some pretty good options and it made me realise that I really should eat the food we have before buying more. I know this will not happen. So my options for the main accompaniment were this: Pasta, puy lentils, risotto rice and pearl barley. After much deliberation I decided I did want to use the cider in there somewhere and much to my own surprise the puy lentils won out. I say that this was a surprise as I am still not totally sure of how much I like lentils (excluding in curries as I do like that) but I do often cook with them. I felt that the pork with lentils cooked in cider would give me quite a traditional French feeling sort of meal. I had some of the thinnest asparagus I had seen to go with this and also some left over carrots, sage and parsley. So with my plans decided on I made a start, a little later than normal.
To start I diced an onion and sweated down with some garlic and butter before adding the mushrooms. I continued to cook on a medium high heat before adding the carrots and then the lentils. I stirred the lentils around for a small amount of time to coat them in the oil and butter before pouring in the cider reserving enough for me to have a glass with my dinner (this the most important part of the meal. If you only remember one thing make it this). I added a little water to top it up and could have used stock if I wanted to. I then brought to the boil before turning down to a simmer adding some bay leaves and salt and pepper. I placed the lid on the pan and left on a low simmer for about 40 minutes checking fairly regularly and skimming off any scummy looking foam from the surface. Before serving I stirred in some chopped parsley and checked the seasoning. For the pork there was very little work required, things like chops do not need over complicating. I simply heated some oil in a pan and sprinkled some sea salt over the meat. Once the oil was hot I add the chops and during the cooking added in some butter and then some chopped sage. I always find it hard to tell how long to cook chops and worry about over cooking them as that is a crime. I would say that you need to be cooking them for no longer than 10-15 minutes depending on thickness. I also use tongs to hold the fatty edge of the chops onto the pan before removing so that the fat has a chance to crisp up a bit more than it would otherwise. I cooked them in a frying pan but a griddle would also work or you could even cook under a grill if you wanted. Once I removed the chops I added the asparagus to the same pan with a little more oil and salt and gave it a quick fry for a couple of minutes whilst plating up.
I served it simply as it came with some mustard, some crusty bread would have been great. This was a good honest and hearty meal that just worked even if it did not challenge the taste buds. The pork was lovely and succulent and not too dry with some fairly decent bits of fat. The lentils were the slightly unknown quantity having not cooked them in cider before and they went well with the meat. You could taste a hint of the cider and the sweetness of the carrots went well. I would probably leave out the mushrooms in future as they are much better suited to short hot cooking rather than a long soak. The asparagus added some much needed colour to the plate and a nice crunch. Overall this was the sort of meal that you probably will not rave about but it was simple and homely. I am still not totally convinced about lentils but will keep on cooking them as they certainly have a role to play in many dishes and provide something to a meal that not many other ingredients can. This is the sort of cooking that I do enjoy as there is nothing pretentious or unnecessary about it. It feels like a dish you could imagine people eating a hundred years or more ago and hopefully people will still be eating in another hundred years.
So there you have it. I think that I need to mix things up a little bit as there has been a lot of food on the site recently and not many reviews or booze posts. I also need to make some more sweet things although do have to add a post about some awesome chocolate chip pancakes I made. If you want to keep up to date with what I am doing I have an Instagram account that I update daily and you can get a sneak peak on upcoming posts by following that. I think that I need to go out and eat somewhere again soon as a review is much needed.