The heartiest fall dinners are budget-friendly yet company-worthy.
I come from a large family, my hard working parents and six children. My dad always worked late and all the overtime he could get.
Our mother kept our house, our garden and us children in order. Money was always tight, so the cuts of meat were on the small side, but my mom always found delicious ways to stretch out the flavors for a company-worthy dinner.
I’ll take you back in time to my mother’s kitchen. Grab a cool apron and call the neighbors, it’s going to be delicious.
Braised pork chops in a mushroom sauce
4 pork chops (with or without bone)
10-15 medium sized fresh cremini mushrooms (any type will do)
½ teaspoon of thyme
1 teaspoon of oregano
Salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
¼ cup sherry or brandy, or dry white wine (optional)
3 cups of chicken broth
2 minced garlic cloves
1 handful of fresh parsley or 2 tablespoons of dried parsley
1 medium onion, chopped
½ cup sour cream
I’m going to use my large cast iron skillet, but if you want you can use your electric skillet. I like the idea of the electric skillet but mine doesn’t seem to want to hold the temperature for more than a minute or two.
Start by seasoning the pork chops with salt, pepper, thyme and oregano. Season on both sides, let stand briefly.
Use a spoonful of melted bacon fat, duck fat or vegetable oil (choose your favorite frying fat/oil), drop it into the pan and turn the heat to high when the oil reaches the right temperature for a jet of water to sizzle and spit.
We don’t want to clutter up the frying pan, so make sure each chop has enough room so it doesn’t touch the other chops; we want to sear them, we don’t cook them completely yet, that comes later.
High heat, only two minutes on each side. Remove from the frying pan to a plate alongside. While your skillet is still on high heat, add your sliced cremini mushrooms and chopped onions. Sauté until they become fragrant and soft.
When we’re about to scorch the mushrooms, add the sherry/brandy/white wine, a cup of chicken broth, and turn the heat down.
My stove top elements are electric and they don’t turn off quickly so I just remove the fry pan from the element. This is the best time to add the garlic followed by the rest of the chicken broth. Return your frying pan to low heat.
Using a large spoon or ladle, pour some of this broth into a glass or metal bowl, we will temper the sour cream into our mushroom sauce. Add a tablespoon of sour cream mixture until combined, continue until you have used the full cup of sour cream, now temper the mixture in the pan of mushroom sauce.
Once mixed, place the pork chops back into the mushroom sauce and put them in an oven over low heat (250 Fahrenheit for two hours).
A potato side dish can be prepared in many ways. Sometimes I make mashed potatoes, other times I add potatoes with the pork chops to the pan. I’ve also served it alongside wide egg noodles and steamed green beans, or steamed carrots will do just fine. It’s delicious and rich, so one serving will go a long way.
Bake this cute little carrot cake for two to complete your hearty meal.
Carrot cake for two
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon chilli
¼ tsp salt
½ cup white sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large egg
2/3 cup lightly packed grated carrots
Preheat your oven to 350.
Choose your baking dish, 7 x 5. I sometimes reuse these foil containers that I get from my local Chinese restaurant. Give a good spray of vegetable oil.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and olive oil with the sugar until nice and fluffy. I use my blender, but doing it by hand works just as well.
In a small bowl, combine all the remaining dry ingredients.
Incorporate the dry ingredients into the egg, sugar, oil mixture and incorporate the grated carrots. Pour the batter into a well-oiled pan.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.
Let cool 25 to 45 minutes before covering with icing. It works best if you can refrigerate the cake for at least an hour before serving.
¼ cup softened cream cheese
¼ cup softened butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup icing sugar (more or less)
Blend on high speed for eight minutes.
Add a handful of chopped toasted pecans (optional) for garnish.
Mary Mullaney is a resident of the qathet regional district and the creator/owner of Aprons for Divas.