There’s nothing quite like the high you get from a successful dinner party. The next day, I can talk of nothing else, and it only abates slightly the one after that. Getting the timing right is a huge component of an evening that “works,” and there are many meals that are brilliant in theory, but fail in practice in this regard.
My point in this post isn’t (primarily) to brag about a recent dinner party, rather to share a menu that is remarkably simple, but doesn’t look it. The whole thing only took about an hour: pork chops in a sauce of bacon, onion, garlic, bourbon, mustard, and creme fraiche, cous cous with apples, and roasted baby artichokes. There’s minimal chopping and each dish requires some quiet time alone.
On the morning on the dinner, I covered a half dozen pork chops with salt (from Salzburg!), pepper, dry thyme, and chopped fresh rosemary (from my neighbor’s yard!). I kept them wrapped in the fridge until I got home that night, at which point I took them out to let them sit while I prepped the other dishes.
I cleaned and halved a dozen baby artichokes and left them bobbing in lemon water while the oven got up to 400 degrees. I halved and sliced three medium onions (into strips), diced a couple of cloves of garlic, and cut two slices of thick cut bacon with scissors into my largest saute pan heated to medium high.
While the bacon browned, I chopped two apples and began sauteing them in butter in another pan over very low heat. Out came the bacon and in went the six pork chops for a nice brown, about 7 minutes on each side. Time to finish prepping the artichokes: lay them out on a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil and salt and pop them into the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.
Once the pork chops have browned, remove and set aside, and saute the onions for a bit, say 10 minutes, then add the garlic. Add some chicken stock and bourbon, bring it to a boil, and return the pork chops to the pan. Cook them for 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness (I opt for thin chops, under an inch thick).
At this point you can turn to those apples that have been cooking. If at any point the butter cooks off and you don’t want to add more, moisten it with whatever’s at hand. I threw in some vermouth, but the bourbon would also work. Pour in a couple of cups of chicken stock and when it’s boiling add some of the cous cous (the proportions are on the side of the box). Cover and set aside; this dish is essentially ready.
When the timer goes off, flip the artichokes and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Remove the pork chops from the pan and put them on your serving platter; cover with foil while you finish the sauce. When most of the liquid has cooked down (although this isn’t essential–the sauce is good in quantity!), stir in a couple of spoonfuls of mustard and of creme fraiche, according to your personal taste. Then pour the onions and sauce over the pork chops and move to the table. Put the cous cous in a serving dish and throw the piping hot, just out of the oven artichokes on top. Serve.
Drink what you’d like if you can keep going. This meal has such a nice rhythm that you can drink heavily while in the kitchen, and none of the dishes will suffer from a little overcooking. I’d recommend champagne, of course.