My brother’s favorite meal – when he had a choice – was pork chops. He especially liked the Shake’N Bake barbecue kind. In the decades since then, he’s become a much more masterful chef. One of his specialties these days is a leg of lamb.
A leg of lamb, of course, takes a fair amount of time to prepare. It is best for a Sunday dinner with company, not a weeknight with your spouse and/or children.
Ah, but pork chops are perfect for a winter night’s dinner in a hurry.
Because I love food, and would travel to many parts of the world to taste it, some people think dinner is something easy for me. I wish I had a magic wand to wave and there would be an inspired dinner before me. In my life before parenthood, I would spend evenings and weekends gleaning magazines and cookbooks for menu ideas. I’d put together a menu for a week. I’d shop the menu. Cook the menu. And praise be the menu.
But then I had a baby. That was more than 14 years ago. I’ve had the occasional menu since then. Usually when traveling with family, friends, or at the beginning of the year as a New Year promise.
Post-parenthood, knowing what I will do tomorrow night is a challenge. Indeed, knowing about tonight is a challenge. Tonight I need to pick the dog up from the vet at 6:30 p.m. He’s had surgery and the animal hospital is on the other side of the county – so the drive, pickup (with care directions), and return home will be 90 minutes. My daughter came home from school and wants to go to a basketball game at 7 p.m. – smack dab in the middle of dog duty. Because the dog was having a tumor removed, I couldn’t plan. Or wouldn’t plan. It was a paralysis. If I focused all my energy on wishing Bobo to successfully come through surgery, then I didn’t have any brain power left for dinner.
And so it goes.
So tonight, like many nights, comes from the cupboard. I do keep pork chops and chicken breasts in the freezer. You can defrost them under cold running water relatively quickly (pork chop more easily than chicken breasts because they often are thinner).
I don’t care for processed foods, like Shake’N Bake. But I do get the convenience and some of the taste qualities – in this case a sort of sweet and sour in the barbecue flavoring. Saute some onions and add some mustard, vinegar, honey, and dried fruit (or a jam such as apricot or plum and skip the honey). Top the pork chops with this and suddenly your ordinary becomes extraordinary in less than half an hour.
I will explore other options for easy weeknight dinners in columns ahead. In the meantime …