Good and hearty dish

that's entertaining

November 05, 2008|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Tribune Media Services

In the fall, when the magical landscapes of New England prove irresistible, our house turns into a bed and breakfast. A friend and her teenage grandson are traveling through our area to look at colleges, so we asked them to come for appetizers.

The next day, a couple who live in Paris will stop by as they make their way through the Northeast on a leaf-peeping tour. Oh, and just to keep the phrase "the more the merrier" relative for us, our 6-year-old granddaughter and 3-year-old grandson will be coming out from Boston for an overnight stay while their parents attend a wedding close by. You get the idea!

Needless to say, simple entertaining is the answer for me if I want to keep my sanity. I look for uncomplicated dishes, especially ones that can be prepared in advance.

I'll offer a plate of cheeses along with crusty bread (from a nearby bakery) and warm cider for the appetizer gathering. For our French friends, I've already cooked and frozen Braised Pork Chops With Fennel and White Beans, and for the little ones, there will be pizza (from a good pizzeria) and homemade soup.

The braised pork is a delicious entree and ideal for my frenzied weekend. I browned boneless chops seasoned with rosemary, and combined them with sauteed fennel slices. The pork and fennel were then covered with chicken stock and white wine and put in the oven for an hour. As a final addition, I stirred in some cannellini beans.

I'll be serving this main course with mashed potatoes and a salad. Nothing fancy, just good, hearty fare that's easy on the cook and will welcome all our guests!

braised pork chops with fennel and white beans

(serves 6)

6 boneless pork chops, about 6 ounces each and 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick

1 tablespoon crushed, dried rosemary (see note)

kosher salt

coarsely ground black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil (divided use), plus more if needed

2 large fennel bulbs (about 2 pounds), quartered lengthwise, bases cut off, tough cores removed and halves cut into 1/2 -inch-thick julienne strips

3 tablespoons flour

4 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

3 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

two 14-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed well and drained

2 to 3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary plus 6 rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pat pork chops dry with paper towels. Mix together dried rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl, then spread this mixture on both sides of each pork chop.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, heavy ovenproof skillet (with a lid) over medium-high heat until hot. Add chops and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from the pan to a dinner plate. Add 2 additional tablespoons of oil to the skillet and fennel strips. Saute, stirring, until lightly browned around the edges, 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle fennel with flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, adding more oil if needed. Return chops and any accumulated juices to skillet along with stock, wine and garlic.

Bring mixture to a simmer, lower heat, then cover. Place skillet in the oven and cook until meat is fork tender, 1 hour or longer. Stir in beans and cook, uncovered, 15 minutes more.

Return skillet to the stove top and remove chops, placing one each in individual shallow bowls. With a slotted spoon, divide fennel and beans evenly and add to each bowl. Return skillet to medium-high heat and cook until liquid is reduced by a third, about 15 minutes. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed. Ladle some sauce over each serving. Garnish each serving with chopped rosemary and a rosemary sprig.

Note: To save time, try to use crushed, dried rosemary (found in the spice section of many groceries) rather than whole rosemary leaves that you crush yourself.

Per serving: : 497 calories, 36 grams protein, 25 grams fat, 7 grams saturated fat, 31 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams fiber, 90 milligrams cholesterol, 948 milligrams sodium

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