A Tuscan-style pork recipe developed by chef Rhys Lewis of the American Club, Kohler, Wis., may ease your way to a special dinner for a few guests.
This herb-seasoned combination of chops, vegetables and polenta calls for minimal shopping ahead of time, and only about 45 minutes in the kitchen. The pork is prepared in the same pan as the vegetables; it goes from stove to oven and back, so there's not much to clean up after the meal.
Lewis says he chose the ingredients for the recipe because they're readily available in almost any market or grocery store. But see what is good and fresh in your market, he urges, and don't be afraid of making substitutions.
For example, the Roma tomatoes or pearl onions can be replaced with other tomato or onion varieties, he says, depending on availability or individual preferences.
The rub can be applied well in advance or at the last minute the flavor won't be affected. The flavor of this country-style dish, Lewis says, emerges as the pork cooks and its juices combine with the other ingredients.
Tuscan Style Pork Loin Chop
(Total preparation and cooking time about 45 minutes)
For the pork:
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Four 6- to 8-ounce bone-in pork loin chops
For the vegetable saut and pork browning:
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 small pearl onions, whole, or peeled cipollini onions, whole
12 whole garlic cloves, peeled
8 crimini mushrooms (about 4 ounces), cut into sixths
1/2 cup Marsala wine (see note)
1/2 cup chicken broth
6 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1/4 pound fresh baby spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)
For the polenta:
3 cups 2 percent milk
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup corn meal
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Stir together the rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Rub this spice mixture onto the chops. (The chops can be rubbed with the spice up to a day in advance and refrigerated until ready to cook.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large ovenproof saut pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Saut the onions, garlic and mushrooms for 4 to 5 minutes. Push the vegetable mixture to the edges of the pan and add the chops to the center. Brown the chops for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Place the pan in the oven; roast for about 15 minutes or until pork reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
While the pork is roasting, prepare the polenta by heating the milk in a heavy sauce pot until boiling; season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the corn meal into the milk in a steady stream, while whisking continuously. Reduce heat to low and cook polenta for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese; cover and keep warm.
When the pork is done, remove the chops and vegetables from the pan; keep warm. Place the pan over medium heat and add the wine; simmer until wine is reduced by half. Add the chicken broth and return to simmer; stir in the tomatoes and the spinach. Cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes; season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, spoon some polenta into the center of each plate. Top with pork chops and vegetables, and the wine sauce from the pan.
Makes 4 servings.
Note: Sweet port, Madeira wine or apple juice may be substituted for the Marsala wine.