Sometimes my mother-in-law gets the urge to cook special dinners for the family, and those are happy times for me. Although she is a great cook, she doesn’t cook for the four of us very often and so when the urge strikes her it is a wonderful occasion. Apparently, she was talking with a friend of hers recently who was raving over the stuffed pork chops from Joes Butcher Shop on Landis Avenue, so Jill, grandmom and I were invited over to dinner last Tuesday night.
Naturally we were running a few minutes late but the three of us arrived at my mother-in-laws house just as dinner was being finished. The house smelled wonderful, full of competing, delicious aromas. The roasting pork chops hit my nose first, then the subtle smell of browning potatoes. The grassy scent of fresh asparagus followed immediately afterwards, while the sweet smell of cooked apples wafted through the air on the coattails of the savory aromas.
Grandmom slowly settled into her seat at the four-person dinner table set just off of the kitchen in a little nook with windows surrounding it, while my mother-in-law scurried around the kitchen, pulling pans from the oven, peeking under lids, and putting the finishing touches on her mini-masterpiece. I asked what I could do to help, and it was decided that I would open the wine.
From the fridge, I pulled a bottle of Terra Fossil Pinot Grigio that had been placed in there earlier to chill a bit. I pulled the cork and brought the cool bottle over to the fridge. With a few glugs wine was soon in each glass (although just a splash for grandmom). The food then started to come over to the table from the kitchen; first a bowl of little red skin potatoes, flecked with black peppercorns, shiny salt crystals and fresh rosemary from the garden. When no one was looking, I grabbed a potato and popped it into my mouth. It was perfectly cooked, crispy and flavorful on the outside, creamy and buttery on the inside. The rosemary added a lovely quality to the potato, while the caramelized edges provided a nice rich background. Turns outgrandmom saw me, but she didn’t tell anyone!
The pork chops found their way onto the table and they looked ridiculously good. There were two on the plate, plenty for the four of us, because not only were they huge, they were stuffed to the max. The chops were a golden brown color and glistened in the light of the kitchen.
Asparagus spears appeared on a plate, skinny and a beautiful shade of green, topped with super-fine shavings of Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Next to the asparagus was a bowl of stewed golden apples, not quite applesauce because chunks of fruit were still clearly visible, but cooked enough to make them soft and luscious.
We all sat down at the table, including my mother-in-law who was finally finished with her preparations. The glasses were raised and a toast was called, a toast to family and the sharing of meals, and of time spent together in the kitchen and the table. Crystal was clinked and wine was sipped.
Of course, the pork chops were torn into first. I tackled the two Flintstonian sized pieces of meat with a sharp knife and large silver spoon to steady them with. I cut along the bone to get as much of the meat off that I could, and the knife cut cleanly through the flesh. After de-boning, each chop was cut into half (although as per grandmoms instructions, I cut her half a little smaller and mine a little larger!). Inside each chop was a delicious looking stuffing that tasted even better than it looked! The meat was tender and perfectly cooked (good job mom!), and the stuffing was soft and flavorful. I’m not sure exactly what it consisted of, but it was bread based and it totally knocked my socks off.
The asparagus, freshly picked from Walker’s farm, was cooked al dente and had an explosively fresh flavor. This is one of the first vegetables of spring, and it always tastes wonderfully of sunshine and chlorophyll to me. Of course, the potatoes were awesome, and the apples provided a nice foil to the salty taste sensations present at the rest of the meal and added a different texture to the meal as a whole.
The pinot grigio, a white wine also called pinot gris, ended up being a perfect wine for this dinner. The tart, crisp wine cut through the richness of the stuffed pork, and mellowed the buttery potatoes somewhat. It proved to be perfectly drinkable with the meal, and drink it we did.
After the plates were cleared and the wine was drunk, we relaxed for a few minutes and talked a bit. Coffee was offered, but not taken, and Jill brought out dessert. It was a simple selection of sweest brought from the bakery, four cupcakes, one of each that we offer at the moment, each cut into quarters and laid out on a plate. Each of us got one quarter of each cupcake, and it was debated as to which was the best. My wife and mother-in-law loved the carrot with cream cheese icing, while I enjoyed the red velvet with the same icing. Grandmom seemed partial to the devils food cake with chocolate ganache icing, but the vanilla with buttercream was enjoyed as well.
It as a lovely evening spent with my closest family; a meal and drink shared along with conversation and the comfort of being together. Cheers.