Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday Supper Series #9: Gnocchi and pork chops

This weekend was a stay home, do nothing kind of weekend and so I decided to compensate by choosing to make something for dinner that was a little more time consuming.

Menu: Homemade gnocchi with oven cooked pork chops and pan gravy, salad, bread.

I have made gnocchi twice before. The first time was when I lived in Beijing. It was an absolute disaster. I made a pot of off-white paste. It was like cement in my hands and only with difficulty was I able to scrape it into the waste bin. With wisdom and hindsight, I believe that I used the wrong kind of potato. Or maybe it was the right kind of potato, but grown under different conditions or something that made the consistency all wrong.

The second time was a few years ago. I made wonderfully tender yet substantial ricotta and spinach gnocchi from the Il Fornaio Pasta Book. If you like restaurant pasta sauces and can never get it just right at home, this is the book for you. The recipes are dead on. Based on this track record, I used their recipe for the gnocchi. It didn't fail me. What did fail me was my ability to rationalize portion size for the two of us.

A quick Google search told me that it was possible to freeze unboiled gnocchi, so one entire tray went into the freezer for another time. For this week's meal I made them with a very simple browned butter, garlic, parsley and thyme sauce.

 And with it I made baked pork chops. First I brined and browned the pork chops.

Then I piled them into a baking dish and covered them with fresh thyme and put them into the oven.

Here is where I made a mistake. I went on a late day run with MP and left them in the oven. T was told to make sure he didn't smell anything burning. Well they didn't burn, but they did cook a bit too long and subsequently fell apart. In the end it was more like pork chop bits. It took a while to coax the browned bits up off the bottom of the dish for gravy, but coax I did and ultimately I came up with a lovely, rich pan gravy in an amount large enough that T can have rice and gravy, one of his favorites, all week if he wishes.

We had it with salad and fresh bread and it was very simple and comforting.

I wanted simple because there was dessert. I used my "new" pie dish and made an apple pie. As usual, my crust was not flaky perfection personified, but it was a good pie and I will say that I have never had crust separate from the pie dish with such ease and minimal effort. This old pie plate is definitely a winner. Interestingly enough, as I was pulling it out of its original box, I found a note written on the inside stating that it had been a wedding gift, given in 1948. It looked like it had maybe been used once or twice, suggesting that either the bride was a meticulous cook and cleaner, or that she and her groom didn't much like pie.

Who doesn't love pie???

Expect more pies in the weeks to come. I've decided that my latest cooking challenge is to perfect my pie crust technique.


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