Not long after the election results were finally projected (go ahead and break that glass ceiling hunty!), we ordered take-out from Happy Panda and, subsequently, spent the next several days not cooking. I stretched my first order of Moo Shu Pork over a couple meals and slurped a spicy bowl of Mala Chicken the following rainy day and even utilized the last portion of rice for Dixon’s weekly meals. After the take-out was gone, we still indulged in several no cook nights. I dunno if the current political circus or the unyielding humidity had anything to do with our culinary apathy or if perhaps the gray, gloomy days were to blame but neither of us felt like cooking much of anything.
Then, the sun came back out, we hit the trails again, and made an impromptu shopping trip to Sprouts Farmers Market. If you’ve never had the pleasure of shopping at Sprouts, then I highly recommend you check them out! I picked up a couple packages of microgreens, pork chops, jalapeno bread, and maybe too much bulk chocolate malt balls. It’s difficult to not buy all the things whenever we go to Sprouts, as there are so many amazing options available from skin care products, pet food, vegan/gluten free items, organic and local options, as well as a deli and bulk section.
The Sprouts excursion motivated me to get back into the kitchen and this pork chop dinner enticed its way out of my imagination. It’s sweet and salty with just a hint of heat. The days are finally sunny again but the temps have dropped back down, and, after walking the chilly, waterlogged trails, a comforting evening meal is a must have for us. This dinner did not disappoint! There’s a bit of prep work required, but, after taking several days off from cooking, I definitely didn’t mind the effort.
2 thick cut bone-in pork chops
2 red pears
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup Kosher salt
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 cup Crown Salted Caramel Whiskey
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 /2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 sm honeynut squash
1/4 cup shredded Cabot Horseradish cheddar, optional
1/2 – 1 tsp prepared horseradish or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the brine: in a stock pot bring about 3 cups of water to a boil over high flame. Add to that the agave syrup and salt. Stir until both are dissolved. Turn off the heat and add the pears and rosemary. Transfer brine to a large bowl with a lid and allow it to completely cool. Once cool, add the pork chops. If the chops aren’t completely submerged, then add more cold water. Secure the lid then transfer the chops to the fridge and brine for no less than 1 hour and up to overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the honeynut squash in half, spoon out the seeds and membranes, then place skin side down on a baking or casserole dish. Drizzle olive oil over the squash and season with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Transfer to the oven and roast until the squash is very tender, about 30 minutes. Set aside and allow the squash to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the glaze. In a small stock pot over med high flame add the whiskey, stock, brown sugar, Worcestershire, and Dijon. Whisk until well incorporated. Reduce flame to low and simmer until it has reduce to a glaze, about 20 – 30 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Set aside.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high flame. Add about 1 tbsp of olive oil and heat until the oil is just shimmering. Meanwhile, remove the pork chops from the brine. Discard the brine. Lightly salt and pepper the chops on all sides. Sear in the hot oil about 3 minutes per side or until a nice golden brown color is reached. Transfer to the oven and roast the chops until an internal temperature of at least 150 degrees is reached at the thickest portion of the chop. Remove the pork chops, transfer to a clean surface, and rest no less than 10 minutes. Warm the glaze back up, if needed, and spoon a generous amount over the pork chops. Garnish with microgreens. Serve immediately with Honeynut Horseradish Polenta. Recipe follows.
To prepare the polenta: mash the roast honeynut squash with a fork or potato masher until very smooth. Set aside.
Cook polenta per package directions.
Once the polenta has thickened, turn off the flame, and stir in the shredded cheese, horseradish, and honeynut squash. Generously salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings, as needed. Serve immediately with extra black pepper, if desired.
Oh, we’re about to embark on a camping trip, as our nine year wedding anniversary is just around the corner and outdoor camping seems safer than hotels right now. So, several live fire recipes coming soon!