Post #538 A 30 Minute Meal

July 14, 2017 at 3:05 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Not sure if I’ve ever shared this story before so if you remember it, just chalk it up to old age.  Mine, not yours.  When my nephew was about five or six, his mom had a job where she worked varying shifts.  At times, when she worked nights, I’d watch the kids when they got home from school, until their dad got home.  He’d come by and collect them, spend some time with our parents, and eventually go home.  One time, I was in the kitchen making something for dinner, and I think it was spaghetti and salad.  My nephew was watching me, then asked,” Uncle Joe, can we have dinner with you guys?”

I was surprised, but said, “Sure, it doesn’t matter to me.  But I think you dad has something for you over at your house.”

He looked disgusted and said with that amount of derision that only a small child can manage, “Probably just cereal.”

“What?” I said, my voice ratcheting up a few notches.  “Go get your dad.”

We had a short but heated discussion wherein I told him how to make good, solid, nutritious dinners in 30-45 minutes so the kids didn’t have to eat cereal for dinner anymore.

So a few nights ago, it was getting to be dinner time around our place.  We usually eat fairly late, anywhere from 6:30pm to 8pm.  Both of us had been under the weather for several days, so our energy levels were pretty low.  I had taken out a couple of pork chops from the freezer so protein was set.  We still tend to organize our meals around the protein choice as much as I’d like to get away from that.  Neither of us was up to fiddling with complicated recipes or loads of veggies.

Finally at 6pm I said, “How does grilled chops and mashed potatoes sound?”

“Perfect.” was the reply and I moved to get up.

First, I had to heat the grill pan for the chops.

For any who don’t remember, we have a cast iron grill pan shallow sloping sides.

We love this thing and use it  probably three to four times a week.  It’s made by Lodge, and we found it at an Ace Hardware in Tucson.  It cost about $20 and we’re going to have it until we die.  Then we’ll bequeath it to someone.  It’s a great pan.

But since it’s cast iron, it takes forever to heat up.  So I set it on the stove, turned the burner on high, and turned to the pork chops.  They were blade chops.  They were huge, but the amount of edible meat on them was deceptive.  I used one of our newly sharpened filet knives (we have two) and hacked off as much fat and gristle as I could.  Then I sprinkled salt on them and set them aside.

Now for the potatoes.  I like potatoes now.  I didn’t when I was a kid.  I was known far and wide for not liking potatoes.  I’d eat french fries and potato chips, but that was all.  As I got older, my tastes changed, and I learned about different kinds of potatoes, and different ways to cook them.  Now I like potatoes, even my one-time nemesis, mash potatoes.

  • SIDE NOTE:  My mom used to make a casserole out of boxed Au Gratin potatoes, corn, and spam.  Not a pretty site, and guaranteed to make sure I went to bed hungry.

However, most ways to cook potatoes take a significant amount of time.  The already prepared box mixes and instant mash potatoes, in the old days, tasted terrible.  Then something happened.  One company heard my unspoken yearning and came up with an instant mashed potato mix that was phenomenal.

They are absolutely the best.  They aren’t expensive in any sense of the word, but when we see them go on sale, we stock up.  We usually have 7-10 packages on hand all the time.  They come in a variety of flavors, and we have found a few that should have been left in the idea bin, but for the most part, they’re all good.  Our favorites include the one above, plus the loaded baked potato, the four cheese, garlic and herb, lumpy redskin potato, and homestyle butter flavored.  I’m not kidding, when you get the flavored packages, you don’t need anything on top of them.

So the process is boil water.  Pour two cups of boiling water into a bowl.  Use a whisk to stir the contents of the package slowly into the water, making certain to mix completely.  Let it set for two minutes, whisk it again to fluff it a little, and serve it.  It will stand for several minutes in its hot state so you can make it a few minutes ahead.  There’s just enough in the package for two adults and two small dogs.  Potatoes are great for dogs, and ours are addicted to them.  Their tales start wagging as soon as they see one of the packages come out of the pantry.

So, I put water on to boil when I started heating the grill pan.  By the time the water was boiling, the grill pan was nearly ready.  By the time the potatoes were whisked and set aside, the grill pan was ready.

Pork should be thoroughly cooked but juicy.  Salting it ahead of time helps maintain the juiciness.  With the grill pan screaming hot, I set the chops on and waited until the searing process released the meat, about 4-5 minutes.  The marbled fat within and around the chops helped season the pan, so when I turned them over, I cooked them for only four minutes more.  I moved them to a plate and covered them with foil.

Now it was time to set the table.  Two plates, two napkins, two forks, two knives, some cut artisan bread, a bowl of potatoes with a serving spoon, and two different kinds of butter because we’re two different kinds of people.  Partner/Spouse already had his drink ready and waiting at the table.  I uncovered the chops and drained the juices into one of the dog bowls cuz I don’t waste a thing, and set them on the table.  I got my drink ready and we sat down.

I glanced at the time.  It was 6:34.  A thirty minute meal.  Adding a salad or other veggies would have added about two minutes to the process.  Voila!  I nearly wrote to my brother to tell him about it.

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