Date-Worthy Chops

Elevate your pork chops to a whole new level with a Ricotta stuffing and impress your significant other. The filling is mixed with garlic and roasted red pepper and flavors these Ricotta-Stuffed Pork Chops from the inside out. When some oozes into the pan and mixes with the juices, it becomes even tastier. Make sure you choose thick, bone-in chops. Ours were gigundo at about 2” thick and therefore took longer to cook, about 20 minutes in the oven after searing for a medium doneness.

IMG_1011We had already heated the oil in the cast iron skillet when we realized all four chops would not fit at once. Therefore we seared two at a time, then transferred all four to a larger pan that had been heating in the oven. Russ drained and strained the juices from the cast iron skillet and made the pan sauce in the larger pan while the meat rested. Moral of this caption? Just use a very large skillet to begin with!

If you’ve never had it, Ricotta is a creamy white, mild, fresh cheese with a soft texture and a slightly sweet flavor. Traditional Italian cheese-makers originally produced Ricotta from whey left behind in the making of Mozzarella and Provolone (Ricotta translates to “re-cooked”). The good stuff is firm but not solid, and consists of a mass of fine, moist, delicate granules. Ounce for ounce, Ricotta has five times more calcium than the cottage cheese it closely resembles.

As a dessert cheese, Ricotta works well with honey, flavoring, fruit, or chocolate as in Cannoli, and makes an excellent low-fat addition to cheesecake recipes. But we’re sticking with dinner in this case. Excellent accompaniments for Ricotta include berries, tangerines, melon, bagels, sweet rolls, and crusty Italian bread.

This type of cheese is a mixed bag as far as its healthfulness goes. It is quite fattening and high in calories; however, it has much nutritional value from the vitamins and minerals it contains. In this recipe the amount used is minimal, about an 1/8 of a cup per chop.

Our two sides consisted of Brussels Sprouts with shallots and thyme and some luscious, creamy mashed potatoes (recipe follows.) Potatoes and leeks are a classic flavor pairing and one of our faves. This recipe doubles or triples easily, but add the milk in increments, as you may not need it all, and we certainly didn’t. In fact, we doubled the amount of potatoes (to make sure we had lots of leftovers), added 50% more sour cream and butter, but used less than half the milk. Not a dieters dream, but you don’t need to slap a huge mound of them on your plate, as a small amount more than satisfies.

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While the chops rested under foil, Russ made a pan sauce from the browned bits in the skillet. First he deglazed the pan with a half cup of white wine, then added 1 1/4 cup meat stock, two tablespoons of corn starch mixed into cold water, salt and pepper to taste, and a couple pats of butter swirled in at the end. Not super thick, it was delicious over all three items on our plate. As good as my chop was, I surrendered after eating less than half of it because I was too full. No problem there, for it would be my dinner the following night when Russ was going to be away.

So go ahead and make a date to get these puppies on your menu plan…

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion (from 1/2 small)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped roasted red pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup good quality purchased ricotta
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 1-1/2-inch-thick bone-in pork loin chops

Directions

  1. Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the roasted pepper, rosemary, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the garlic begins to brown slightly, about 2 minutes.
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  2. Transfer to a medium bowl and cool. Add the ricotta, mix well, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
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  3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.
  4. Cut a 2-inch opening in the middle of each pork chop, to make a pocket. Season the chops inside and out with salt and pepper. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the pockets, press the openings closed, and use toothpicks to hold them together, preferably 3 to 4 each.
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  5. Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the pork chops on both sides until well browned, about 3 minutes per side.
  6. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted near but not touching the bone registers 135°F, about 12 minutes. Remove and discard the toothpicks. Let rest for at least 5 minutes, and serve.
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By Cathy Whims from Fine Cooking

Sour Cream and Leek Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 medium leeks (white and light-green parts only), quartered lengthwise, washed, and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide pieces or smaller (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, heated; more as needed
  • Freshly ground white or black pepper

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We learned this clever stepped way to cut the dark greens off of the leek preserving more of the light green.

IMG_1012Sauté the cut leeks over medium heat being careful not to brown.

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Directions

  1. Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, add a generous 1/2 tsp. salt, and lower the heat to a steady simmer. Cover the pot partially and cook until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a fork, 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté, stirring often, until tender but not browned, about 6 minutes.
  3. Drain the potatoes and return to the pan. Steam-dry over low heat, shaking the pan until the potatoes leave a light film on the bottom, about 3 minutes.
  4. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher. Stir in the leeks, sour cream, and milk, adding more milk as needed to reach your desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.
Variations

Steam-drying the potatoes after they’re cooked allows excess moisture to evaporate, so they’re more intensely flavored and have a denser, more luxurious texture.

By Laraine Perri from Fine Cooking

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