Random Bag Night – Veggie Side Dish

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Do you ever find yourself with a little bit of this, and a little bit of that leftover in a quantity which might be ok for 1/2 a serving but not enough for a full dish? And you’re kind of tired and feeling lazy and not like you want to make 10 things for dinner (hollah!)?? Well, tonight on my way home I stopped by our local butcher/grocer, an excellent local joint called McKinnons (http://www.mckinnonsmeatmarket.com/) here in Somerville, and picked up some pork chops for dinner. Since you really can’t just have pork for dinner and nothing else, I was thinking about what I would make with it. I knew I had 1/2 a package of white mushrooms in the fridge, some pea shoots (from the thai salad recipe) and some fresh spinach that probably had a few days left before being tossed. I grabbed some asparagus in the store too, since they looked nice and I haven’t had them in a while (yes, I am an impulse shopper). 

For the pork chops, I bought bone-in chops since I think they are easier to cook without drying out, especially if you are cooking on the stovetop. The following recipe works great for chicken breasts or any other kind of cutlet you may have.

5 pork chops, bone in

Flour for dredging 

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

garlic salt, cumin, paprika and dill

Rinse the pork chops and pat them dry before dredging them in the flour. Once covered in flour, shake off the excess and place chop on a piece of wax paper. Once all the chops are floured, sprinkle with garlic salt, cumin, paprika and dill. I usually only season one side, though you could do both. I am relatively liberal with the garlic salt and dill, but less so with the cumin and paprika. There are many ways to spice your chops with herbs – some dried mushrooms finely chopped with sage is really nice, you could use onion powder instead of the garlic salt, or curry powder instead of the cumin.

Anyhow, ones your pork is floured and spiced, heat the oil and butter in a large non-stick pan on the stove until the butter is melted and bubbly, but not brown.  Once hot, add the chops – you’ll probably need to do this in 2 batches. I had medium-thick chops so it took about 10 minutes to cook (5 mins on each side) on med-high heat. You might have to add a little extra olive oil for the 2nd batch, sometimes the pan gets dried out.  The chops got good and brown but not dried out. I set the chops aside on a plate to rest when they were all cooked.

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Here comes the random-bag-in-one-pot part of this post. Here is everything that went into the pan:

3 cloves of garlic

6 or so mushrooms

4 asparagus

1 big handful pea shoots

2 big handfuls of spinach

1/2 cup of wine

zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon

salt

I sliced 3 cloves of garlic and the mushrooms, and cut the asparagus into small pieces (pictured at the top). Once the chops were done, I lowered the heat a little and threw in the garlic. I stirred it immediately, and it browned quickly. I then added the mushrooms and asparagus with a sprinkle of salt. I let those items saute for a few minutes and then I added the wine and the zest of half a lemon, plus the juice. I turned the heat up and let the veggies cook for a bit, then threw in the pea shoots and 2 handfuls of spinach. I hit it with one more sprinkle of salt and then let the whole thing cook down for a few more minutes.  The result, while not terrible, also wasn’t the spectacular combination I had hoped for. Everything kind of melted together in terms of flavor and was missing a kicky element.

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Such is the way it goes with random bag nights. You don’t ace them all, but usually come out learning something new or just learning what doesn’t work.  It is a way to exercise creativity in the kitchen and you get to use up the odds and ends in the fridge as an added bonus.

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