Monday, March 12, 2007

Easy Weeknight Meal

I've stumbled upon a fast & delicious weeknight meal--and oh, so versatile!

Pork Chops with Apple-Mustard Sauce

4 (1" thick) boneless pork chops
salt & pepper
canola oil spray
1/4 c finely chopped sweet onion
2 tbsp butter
1/2 c apple cider
1 tbsp mustard
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 c half-n-half

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 350*F.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Pat pork chops dry and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spray skillet with canola oil (you could also use regular cooking oil or olive here) then brown chops on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side. Hint: turn only once for a tender chop!

Transfer browned chops to a shallow baking pan, reserving skillet, and bake, uncovered, until cooked through--about 20-30 minutes. Let stand, tented with foil, until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, add butter to skillet over low and cook onion until very soft, stirring occasionally. Add apple cider, mustard, lemon juice and thyme and stir well to combine as it heats through. (At this point you could let the sauce thicken if desired consistency is more gravy-ish.) Finish with half-n-half and heat for just another minute or two, then remove from heat. Don't let the sauce boil once you've added the half-n-half.

Serve chops with sauce, alongside sides of your choice. I made stuffing-from-a-box (with a handful of dried cranberries added for good measure) and 1/2 bag frozen broccoli and cauliflower. Yum!

And I want to share my secrets for making quick stuffing-from-a-box. People don't usually know its not homemade. First, I never buy the famous name-brand. I always go for the generic--the taste is less identifiable. Second, I always throw in some kind of dried fruit--cranberries, raisins, chopped dried apple... whatever is on hand. And last, I usually use half water half low-salt chicken (or veg) broth when preparing the stuffing according to package directions. It really makes a nice flavor combination, and again, people can't tell it's not from scratch.

Now I mentioned at the beginning that this is a versatile recipe--you can make this sauce to go with chicken breasts, steak or even fish. Instead of thyme you could use tarragon for delicious results. I used regular mustard because that's what I had in the fridge--but dijon or coarse country-style mustard would be a great choice. Apple cider could be replaced with any kind of broth or even some white wine--yum! Finally, I was able to make the chops, sauce and stuffing ahead of time; it reheated very well.

So if you have the chance to try it, this is a great one for regular weeknight rotations.


Mrs. W

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