Monday, March 23, 2009

The Inaugural Dinner

The first night in our new home, we ate some very delicious eggplant parmigiana my mom had made. But what to make the second night? I knew I'd also want to get some unpacking done, so I couldn't throw myself into a three-hour dinner making extravaganza. But I didn't want some chintzy, hastily assembled dish like salade nicoise or sauteed shrimp, which I'd been considering, and I'm sure would be fine, but not momentous enough for the first home-cooked meal. I could've tried a new recipe from any one of my many cookbooks, but what if it was a dud? That wouldn't be a good omen for the first real meal in a new home. I was pretty much stressed out over dinner, and it wasn't good.

And then, the epiphany: a family recipe. Something I knew how to make by heart; that I'd never screwed up; that was hearty, homey and good; and that we didn't eat all the time but that we always enjoyed. It was Pork Chops and Vinegar Peppers, and it was just the thing.

I grew up loving this dish, with its acidic peppers smoothed out just a bit by chicken stock and pork, with spaghetti on the side. I loved it so much that in third grade, when we were going around the classroom naming our favorite dinners, I proudly said, "Pork chops and vinegar peppers" when everybody else was saying meatloaf and pizza, and got a chorus of ewwws. But I didn't care.

This is a quick meal to put together; the hardest thing might be finding the vinegar peppers, depending on where you live. B&G Foods makes them; the company started in Manhattan in 1889 and apparently has not achieved world domination yet. I guess other peppers would work, but the dish won't really be the same. The peppers in vinegar are tangy and add such a nice punch to the pork. Other than that, things are straightforward: brown chops, saute peppers, add juices, cook until pork is done, serve over spaghetti mixed in with all the juices and lots of parsley.

Hoping this is the beginning of many more delicious, happy meals.--S

Pork Chops and Vinegar Peppers over Spaghetti

Serves 4

4 center-cut pork chops on the bone
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large jar red bell peppers in vinegar
2-4 T fresh parsley, minced plus more for garnish
1/2 c chicken stock
1/2 lb spaghetti

1. Warm 2-3 t olive oil in a large nonstick fry pan. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Brown chops in pan 1-2 minutes per side on medium high heat. Remove chops from pan.
2. Slice peppers and reserve the vinegar from the jar. Add 2-3 t olive oil to the pan and saute peppers for 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook 1 minute. Add stock and 1/4 c reserved vinegar.
3. Return the chops to the pan along with parsley. Cover and simmer on low flame 5-7 minutes, until pork registers 155 degrees or is slightly pink inside. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente.
4. Place chops and pepper son a serving platter. Toss pasta with liquid from pork chop pan. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

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