My teddy bear. He’s slightly older than I am, and recently celebrated his 40th birthday. Yes, those are bald spots on his head, forehead, and belly, where I loved his fur off straight through to the burlap fabric of his body. He also had a squeaky in his left paw, but the rubber bellows that made it squeak have long since rotted away. Poor ol’ much-loved bear.
My frosted glass salad set reflected in the polished surface of the hutch I inherited from my grandmother. Salad set: Hazel Atlas “Gay Fad - Ivy”, ca. 1947. Hutch: Ethan Allen, ca. 1965.
Pumpjack and pipeline, Kern County, California — 31 August, 2011.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, o’er the shopping carts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.
This image aggravates me more than having the bloats and bad hair on date night. And I took the picture! Masochist! Also? I’m pretty sure you go directly to hell on a slow bus with a seat next to psycho babbling, off-his-meds Charlie Manson for dumping stolen shopping baskets at the base of our nation’s flag. In my perfect pink princess world, you do, anyway.
Pork Chops with Marsala Pan Gravy
If your household is anything like mine, you can probably relate to doing that endless dinner cycle of “chicken, chicken, beef, pasta, leftovers, chicken, chicken, oops we should eat some fish once in a while, chicken, beef, pasta, chicken.” If and when I make pork, it’s a fabulous (read: kitchen destructorama) affair of medallions and smoky whiskey sauce, or a loin roast, or BBQ pulled-pork. I don’t make a lot of pork chops because they always seem to sit limp and sad on the plate. Just pork chops. Ho-hum.
Hubs wanted pork chops, though. He must have been craving them, since he zombie-walked right to the pork counter in the grocery store when I’d sent him out for coffee fixins. When he returned, he laid down the flat of meat with a shy smile, and said, “These followed me home. Can you do something with them? Not fancy! Just a good ol’ pork-n-taters dinner.”
How can I say no to that?
So, don’t let the title fool you. Or the ingredients, for that matter. This is a not-fancy, rut defying, good old fashioned pork-n-taters dinner with just a hint of snazzed up to keep the ho-hum beastie at bay. The “recipe” came together straight out of my head (I only wrote it down here, after the fact — seat of my pants, I tell ya!), and was based entirely on things I already had in the pantry and fridge… Er, plus the pork chops that had magically leapt into Hubs’ shopping basket, of course.
- 4 Pork Chops
- 1 medium Shallot, finely diced (or half of a very mild onion; Texas Sweet Yellow, Vidalia, or a plain white onion all work well, too)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Dash or two of Poultry Seasoning
- 1/4t dried Thyme leaves (1/2t or so if you use fresh Thyme, chopped)
- 2T Unsalted Butter (you can use sweet cream/salted butter if that’s what’s in your fridge; just watch the salt you add later)
- 2T Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus a bit for cooking
- 4T AP Flour
- 1/3C Marsala Wine (cooking sherry or a drinkable, off-the-shelf white wine would also do, but will change the flavor profile a bit)
- 2 14.5oz. cans Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth (less if you don’t like as much smothery gravy goodness as we do; see note at end)
- Lemon Juice (for drizzling)
- Option: 3lbs. Russet Potatoes, peeled, cubed, boiled, and mashed to your taste
- Option: Mixed Green Side Salad (veggies good, blah blah blah)
- Rinse and pat dry your pork chops. Sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Yep. Poultry seasoning. In cooking, pork truly is “the other white meat”, and you treat it similarly to the way you treat chicken and turkey.
- In a high-sided frying pan large enough to hold all 4 chops without crowding (I used my 13” fryer), dribble just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Set it over Med-High heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, carefully lay the chops in. You should be rewarded with a distinct “sizzle hiss” as each piece goes in; just watch for oil spitting. Reduce heat to Medium and leave the meat alone. Don’t fuss at it and don’t smoosh at it with your spatula. Just let it do its thing.
- Note that cooking time will vary greatly depending on the thickness of your chops and whether or not they have the bone! Mine were no-frills, neither thick-cut nor thin, and were bone-in. The cheap stuff, yes! Exactly! So, if you’re using a couponer’s special pack of meat like mine, you’ll cook the chops on the first side for about 8 minutes, or until the meat has that perfect swirling pattern of deep golden brown. Flip and cook on the second side about 4 minutes (the pass on the first side actually cooked the meat 2/3 of the way through, so stay on your toes now). Remove cooked chops to a plate.
Boneless loin chops will take less time, as will any thin-cut. Thick-cut bone-ins will take longer, and probably require backing off to a Medium-Low heat.
- If you’re going to make mashed potatoes (that’s what the fluffy white deliciousness is in my picture), somewhere in here is the time to peel them, cube them (don’t stress out; I’m not going to sic Anne Burrell on you! Just a rough 3/4”-1” whack jobby with the knife is fine), and get them in the water and onto the stove. They’ll need to come up to a rolling boil and then stay boiling for a good 14-15 minutes. Time it out however it works best for you, or bribe a teenager to help while you move on to the gravy steps.
- In the same pan you cooked the meat in, drizzle a little more oil (if needed), and drop your finely diced shallot. Sprinkle with just the tiniest bit of salt (it’s about layers of flavor, y’all. trust me on this one). Sweat out over a Medium/Medium-Low heat until the shallot goes translucent.
- Push shallot bits to one side of the pan, and add the 2T butter and 2T olive oil. When the butter begins to froth, add the flour and mix into a paste. Allow paste to cook out for about 1 minute. Add Marsala, and stir furiously to combine with the paste. When smooth, add both cans of broth, again stirring/whisking to break any lumps that might try to form, and be sure to pick up all the nice fond that formed on the bottom of the pan when you fried off the meat.
- Reduce heat to a low, slow simmer. Salt and pepper to taste. Add your thyme. Return pork to pan.
- Go make your salad and/or mash your taters. Go on, now. You can’t just sit down to a pile of meat like a bunch of cavemen, you goofball! You need something to go with it, and a salad will make your mom proud of you. I’ll wait.
- In about 10 minutes, the gravy should have reduced a bit (not a ton), and thickened and tightened. Allowing the chops to come back to temp and then sit in the simmering gravy should have helped infuse the meat with flavor and tenderize it somewhat (particularly helpful trick if you are, indeed, using the cheap meat like I am). Give the gravy a taste, and adjust salt and pepper accordingly.
- Turn off heat under your meat-gravy pan. Drizzle with lemon juice (I use a squeezy bottle rather than fresh, but it’s probably a little less than the equivalent of half a small lemon’s worth of juice). Don’t add lemon with the heat going! It can easily and very quickly turn the juice bitter.
Yield: 4 portions of meat and lots of gravy (we like a lot of gravy here). If you made a 3# or, heck, a 5# sack of Russets, though, you should have plenty of potatoes and gravy for a “leftover surprise” or even a meatloaf dinner tomorrow. If you don’t like a lot of gravy, no probs! Just cut the broth, wine, butter, oil, and flour all in half.
This Week’s Questions
1. Will you run to the store or to pick up a kid looking a mess?
Before I had my daughter, I would never leave the house looking a mess. You’d have had better odds asking me to microwave small animals than getting me out of the house without my duds, ‘do, and face on. Whether it was a trip to the supermarket or a date night out, didn’t matter. I could be heading off to meet-and-greet the queen or to an underground party with a bunch of guys who lived in a van down by the river. It was all the same to me, and it all began with a couple hours of torture and self-loathing. I had to have a faboo outfit which, of course, I carefully selected from several dozen that I’d tried on, found lacking (“can you look any fatter?!” or “yeah, that’s too stupid for words, next.”), and discarded. I had to deal with whatever all of this bullcrap was that was happening with my hair, and that involved so much hot-ironing and shellac-hold level hairspray, I sometimes actually had to rewash and start over if I messed it up. And then came the makeup. Oh, the makeup. I had roughly the inventory of a MAC counter tucked away to busting in a four-tiered traincase, and I used it all, man.
These days, I’m one part lazier and one part kinder to myself. I like to think the latter part is larger half, but it’s probably evensies (plus, it’s kinda like saying, “Oh, I’ll have the bigger half of the cookie we’re sharing!” Yeah, yeah). Now, I carefully weigh the amount of give-a-crap I have for whatever the outing is. Date night? Fine, I’ll do a complete resto-mod on the ol’ bod. Pick the kid up from school or a friend’s house? No bigs if I can just find my keys. Bonus points if I happen to be wearing anything that will turn her face a brilliant purple and make her shrilly and stompily hate me for 2.7 hours! Grocery shopping? Meh, as long as my pits aren’t stank, let’s go.
2. Do you finish a book if it’s boring or you don’t like it?
I do. Sometimes, I can’t flippin’ believe I survived to the end, and am awash with the compulsion to plant wet, grateful smoochies on the tarmac of reality. The more time-invested I am with a book, the more mulelike (or is that actually jackass-like? Oh, shush) I become, stubbornly planted with feet apart, determined to see it through to the end. I finish what I start because I like that brief rush of accomplishment. Aaaand, ok… I finish bad books for that reason as well as some small measure of satisfaction in being able later to say “That book? That book?! I read that whole, entire, brokedown, can’t believe it got published, are you kidding me with this, where’s a spork to gouge out my eyes book. Yeah. It was bad.”
3. Beach or mountain vacations?
If these are my only choices, I’m going to play the “false dichotomy” card! “Beach” implies sand, surf, and sun. The thought of any/all of those gives me the wet heaves. Although, there could be poolside margaritas served up by a handsome cabana boy… No! You will not lure me with toned abs and booze! “Mountains” implies camping. With dirt. And bugs. And the getting of the outdoors on me.
Y’all go ahead. I’ll hop me a cheapseat flight to some uncluttered provincial town in Italy, France, or Spain, and work on my broken Spangtalfrank peppered with a little English and a little German and a lot of grunty miming. We’ll meet back here in… What? A month? Five? Sounds good!
4. What thing/event says “winter will end and spring is right around the corner” to you?
We don’t really have seasons in Arizona. Not proper seasons, anyway. For me, the death knoll of our winter-spring is turning on the cash-gobbling pig. Er… the air-conditioner. The annual gripe-and-moan festival which accompanies the event should be kick off in about a month.
5. Would you prefer couples or family vacation?
The folks in my family have no patience. None. Zero. On roadtrips, they drive straight through, scheduled break stops only, must not deviate. On vacays to historic sites, they march along, often outright skipping good stuff. They run across airports. They race to the next thing, and the next after that. They roll their eyes and grumble loudly at anything (me) slowing them down.
My darling, my joy, my hubs… He is the worst of them! He is a wonderful human being, loving husband, and caring father. But, oh! Like. Oh. My. God. He is an obnoxious traveler.
Can’t we bend the rules here just a little, and let ol’ Slowpoke Sadie have a solo holiday? I won’t tell if you won’t!
Diamond quilt patterned antique glass pitcher with silver-plated lids and handle, plus its matching, complete ice sleeve insert.
This is an oddity in my collection. I found it about 15 years ago. The poor lovely was thick with dust and heavily patinated with tarnish, tucked away on a low shelf in a quiet section of an antiques co-op. Something about the graceful curve of the handle and the sharp studs of the diamond quilting drew me right to it. Which was odd for me, yes.
Because I collect Depression Glass…
Green Depression Glass!
And this nice, old pitcher is neither green nor from the Depression. I’m not an expert with this type of glass, but I believe it’s from the late 1940’s to the 1950’s. It’s got a makers mark I don’t recognize, and… That’s all I know about it.
Sure, it’s the oddball in among my painstakingly-matched pieces of green DG. But it’s the perfect oddball for setting out when all that green clashes.
Which it does.
Green can be so temperamental. Sheesh.
I guess an object just sings out when the right person for it comes along. That’s the only explanation I have for the dreamy “Oh, there’s my pitcher! I’ve been looking for you, you naughty thing!” feeling that came over me when I saw it.