It was Friday night and I was so happy for the weekend. I had a craving for onions. My friend popped in my back door recently wooed by the scent of something that made her salivate; I was just cooking some onions as a base for a dish? What is it about the smell of cooking onions that makes everyone mad to eat something immediately? She went on to tell me that she read in an old “How to be a good housewife” type book from the 1940’s or 50’s that one of the ways to make your man happy upon entered his castle after a long day at work was to have onions frying. Of course, a nice frilly apron and high heels didn’t hurt either!
To date, I haven’t met an onion I didn’t like. There are probably more ways to cook an onion than any other food in the world. I could happily explore that theory for the rest of my life. It is a very difficult decision for me to not put onions in one form or another into a dish. Why should I deprive myself of that pleasure? They can be anything from tangy, hot, sweet, sour, syrupy, crunchy, stingy, spicy, liquoricey, smokey… a never-ending list of mouth-watering tastes.
Last night I wanted the syrupy sweet kind. My recipe for the pork chop was completely inspired by a recipe from Ada Boni’s cookbook, Italian Regional Cooking in which she topped a grilled pork chop with a stewed 1/2 onion. I cooked the onion more like I would when starting a French onion soup, in half rings and cooked until caramelized, but other than that I used her method of finishing it off in a hot oven for 5 minutes. It was amazing.
I cooked the last of my potatoes and added some snipped fresh parsley from my garden. My oregano is growing like a weed and so I opted for simply cooked peas and spinach, but made it special with chopped fresh oregano. The whole dinner felt like we were dining is some fancy restaurant, yet it was quick and ridiculously economical.
This sort of dish gives you a good lesson in timing everything to be ready at the same time. Grab some onions and invite 6 people to your table some time this week. They will thank you forever after.
You will need: 3 big sweet onions, cut in half & sliced into 1/2 rings, 6 pork chops, bone-in, 5 tbs olive oil, 12 medium potatoes (2 per person), 2 tbs unsalted butter, 2 tbs freshly chopped parsley, 1 tsp coarse sea-salt, 1/2 cup whole milk or light cream, 1 1/2 cups baby peas, 6 cups fresh spinach leaves, 3/4 cup chicken broth, 1 tbs freshly chopped oregano leaves, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper.
1 – Put saute pan on low/medium heat and add 4 tbs olive oil . Add onions with a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cover and cook for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off and set aside.
2 – While onions are cooking, peel and rinse potatoes. Quarter them and put in saucepan and cover with cold water. Cover and cook on medium/high heat until nice and soft (test by sticking with sharp knife – should go through flesh very easily). Drain, and add 2 tbs butter and mash until very smooth. Add 1 tsp coarse salt, milk, freshly ground pepper and chopped parsley. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover with tea towel and set back on stove top to keep warm.
3 – Prep chops for grilling; Rub each chop with a little olive oil and lay on baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.
4 – About 15 minutes before serving dinner put oven rack very close to the broiler/grill and slide in sheet of pork chops. Grill on each side, checking after 4 or so minutes. Flip and season with salt and pepper and continue to grill until throughly cooked (my chops were on the thin side and took about 8 minutes total).
5 – Turn off grill/broiler and turn oven to 375*. About 5 minutes before serving lay chops into casserole in a single lay. Spoon a big mound of onions on top of each one and pour any juice for cooking the onions and from the baking sheet used to grill the chops over everything. Cook for 5 minutes and serve with rest of accompaniments.
6 – Cook spinach & peas while chops are in oven: Add the 3/4 cup chicken broth to pan and let it come to a simmer on the stove top. Add peas, oregano leaves, pepper flakes, and a sprinkle of coarse salt and some grinds of pepper. Simmer for 3 minutes before adding the spinach. Cook for a further 2 or so minutes until the spinach has wilted.
Put a pork chop on each warmed plate, a dollop of mash and a serving of vegetables. Spoon juices from casserole and pea dish over everything and serve.