A post-holiday meal needs to be simple

Entertaining

Entertaining: Pork chops with cabbage, potatoes and carrots fulfills the mid-January need for plainer fare.

Sunday Gourmet

January 16, 2000|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Last month my husband and I were invited to a number of large holiday events. Parties at the college where my spouse is a professor seemed to have a cast of hundreds. We went to huge open houses where it was hard to move an inch and attended buffets where navigating the crowds to get to the food table was a challenge.

Although I love the festiveness of these grand celebrations, once the season is over, I welcome small, quiet gatherings. So this week, I have invited just one couple to come to our house for a simple supper to precede going to the movies.

I want the menu to be uncomplicated yet satisfying and have decided to serve braised pork chops with sauteed cabbage, potatoes and carrots. I rub a seasoning mixture of ground cumin, salt and pepper over boneless pork chops before dredging them in flour and quickly browning them. Then the pork is simmered in chicken stock until the meat becomes fork-tender. The braising liquid, when reduced, is transformed into a rich, dark sauce.

While the pork is cooking, I saute sliced potatoes and onions several minutes, then add julienne strips of cabbage and some ribbon-like carrot strips. The vegetables, also seasoned with cumin, are simmered in more stock. To add color and a big burst of flavor, I garnish both the vegetables and the pork with fresh chopped dill.

I love the taste of this all-in-one winter dish and would have never thought of using cumin and dill together. A friend, however, told me that he had prepared cabbage and potatoes with these seasonings and had been surprised at the successful results, so I tried it myself. The cumin is not easily detectable and makes a subtle contribution, while the dill provides an assertive note.

A basket of warm, crusty French bread to accompany the entree and a bowl of pears and fresh dates will complete this meal. I'm looking forward to a relaxed, quiet evening with only four people instead of 400.

Winter Pork Chops with Sauteed Cabbage, Potatoes and Carrots

Serves 4

1/2 cup flour

4 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

salt, freshly ground black pepper

6 (3/4-inch-thick) boneless, center-cut pork chops (6 to 7 ounces each)

5 tablespoons oil, plus more if needed

4 cups chicken stock

2 medium red skin potatoes (about 1 pound)

2 medium onions (about 3/4 pound)

1 small head cabbage, preferably with attractive outer leaves

3 medium carrots

5 tablespoons fresh chopped dill

Spread flour on dinner plate. Combine 2 1/2 teaspoons cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in small bowl and mix well. Season pork chops on both sides with mixture. Dredge chops in flour and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in medium, heavy skillet with lid (cast iron works well) over medium heat. When hot, add chops and brown well, about 4 minutes per side. Pour off and discard any fat in pan. Add 3 cups stock and bring to simmer. Lower heat, cover and cook, turning once or twice, until chops are tender when pierced with knife, 40 to 45 minutes. Cook 5 minutes more, uncovered, until sauce in pan thickens slightly.

While chops are simmering, prepare vegetables. Peel and halve potatoes lengthwise; slice thinly crosswise. Peel and halve onions lengthwise; slice thinly crosswise. Remove attractive outer leaves from cabbage for garnish, if desired, and set aside.

Halve cabbage and cut 1/2-inch-wide strips to make 5 cups. (Save extra cabbage for another use.) Peel carrots with vegetable peeler. Then, using vegetable peeler, shave thin, wide, ribbon-like strips from carrots. Discard carrot stumps.

Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in large, heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add potatoes and onions and salt generously. Cook, stirring constantly, to soften vegetables, 5 to 6 minutes. If necessary, add more oil. Add cabbage, remaining 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds black pepper. Stir and cook until cabbage has wilted, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add carrots and remaining 1 cup stock. Cover, lower heat and cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes more. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Potatoes will need a lot of salt. Stir 3 tablespoons dill into vegetables. (If vegetables are done before chops, remove from heat and leave at cool room temperature. Reheat, stirring, over low heat before serving.)

Arrange pork chops on warm serving platter. Coat food with sauce in pan and surround with vegetables, mounded on reserved cabbage leaves. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons dill over meat and vegetables.

Note: I've suggested 6 chops to serve 4 in this recipe, but if you prefer to offer 2 per person, add 2 more chops and increase cumin, salt and pepper in seasoning rub by 1/4 teaspoon each. You may need to use slightly larger skillet so that all chops will fit into single layer, and you will probably need to increase stock so that it covers meat. Everything else can remain the same.

Both pork chops and vegetables can be prepared 2 to 3 hours ahead. Refrigerate, covered, and reheat each over medium heat. Stir vegetables while reheating. Cabbage will lose some of its bright green color when made ahead, but dish will not suffer in taste.

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