Last night I was feeling much better and had a hankering for some food from my childhood. This probably happened because I couldn’t sleep the night before and rather than tossing and turning I got up for a couple of hours. I pottered in the kitchen, emptying the dishwasher and getting things ready for breakfast. I wrote my blog and finally spent the rest of the time curled up with the cat reading Irish Cookbooks!
The food in Ireland has changed a bit since I was a girl. It has gotten more “modern” (for want of a better word?). Years ago it was all stick-to-the-ribs sort of food, like, stews and plenty of potatoes with absolutely every single dinner served. Now potatoes are just an option, not a staple. Lots of dishes involved butter, cream and cheese. Butter would be mashed into everything from potatoes to turnips. A splash of cream topped most desserts, like sweet rice pudding, trifle, queen cakes, sponge cakes, bread pudding – it was the glue to almost every pastry. I love cream – but only freshly whipped. I’m not a snob, it’s just that anything else posing as cream (in tubs, in cans??) tastes so inferior by comparison. You can whip a little cream in a bowl with a manual whisk in a couple of minutes – not that impressive however, people are always amazed when I occasionally pull out a bowl to do this for dessert?
But I digress…..hankering for childhood food? All I really wanted was some mashed carrots and parsnips, held together with a little black pepper, butter and a smidge of cream. What could I make to accompany that? My mother would serve this with fish and white parsley sauce or it would be part of a much grander feast of potatoes, possibly two kinds (mashed and roasted), boiled cabbage and sliced ham or a chop….I really, really miss her dinners. She had a way of making everything taste luxurious. The plate would be piled high with a taste of everything.
Last night I wanted that feeling, the feeling of having too many things to choose from, all topped off with a dollop of parsnip and carrot mash (whether it went with the dish or not!). I decided on pork chops and lots of roasted vegetables. It was all I wanted it to be, too many things on my plate but loving every mouthful.
You will need: 6 bone-in pork chops (medium thickness), 1 sprig of fresh rosemary leaves, very finely chopped, 1 lb asparagus spears, ends cut off, 1 dry pint cherry tomatoes, 10 or so cipollini onions, slice the bottom end (where the root was – also don’t remove the skin – it pops off when cooked) so they sit flat, 2 lbs baby white and/or red potatoes, halved, 4 oz shiitake mushrooms, cut in half or quartered if caps are large, 4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced, 3 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced, 1 tbs unsalted butter, 1 tbs heavy cream, 4 tbs olive oil, course sea salt (I use Maldon salt flakes) and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning.
Preheat oven 425*
1 – Prep vegetables as described above. Take the chops and using your hands rub them all over with some olive oil and place in a tray or a shallow dish large enough to lay them singly. Sprinkle the chopped rosemary all over them along with a little salt and pepper. Set aside.
2 – In large bowl toss the potatoes and onions together with some olive oil. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Set a very large shallow baking tray in the oven sprinkled with about a tbs of olive oil. Leave in the oven for a few minutes so it gets nice and hot. Take out and add the potatoes and onions in a single layer (there should be plenty of room for the rest of the vegetables). Time for 15 minutes.
3 – Put the asparagus, shiitake and tomatoes in a bowl or on a tray and add some olive oil and salt and pepper and mix it all together with your hands. Set aside.
4 – Put carrots and parsnips into pot and cover with water. When it comes to a boil, cover and let it simmer for 15 minutes (or until the vegetables are soft). When cooked, drain and mash everything with a potato masher (if you want it to be very fine use a potato ricer). Add the butter, cream, some pepper and salt and mash it all together. Place a tea cloth over it and leave on stove-top until ready to serve.
5 – When potatoes and onions have been in the oven for 15 minutes, take out tray and add the asparagus mixture. Toss altogether and put back into oven for 10 minutes.
6 – Put a big pan on high heat and fry chop in a single layer (my big pan held all of them in one fell swoop!) for 4 minutes per side.
7 – When the vegetables have cooked for another 10 minutes take out tray and lay the pork chops on top. Place back into the oven for about 5 or 6 minutes.
Serve together on a plate with a dollop of the parsnip carrot mash. The mash complimented the pork perfectly. It gave it a creaminess that a sauce might lend.