When a local supermarket chain in our town recently ran a “buy one, get one free” special on pork chops, I couldn’t resist the bargain, tucking two packages into my cart. I knew immediately that the thick, boneless chops could be used to make a double recipe of pan-braised pork and butternut squash, a delicious all-in-one fall dish. One batch would be for our family, and the other a gift to a dear friend who was having out-patient cataract surgery the next day. Since this main course could be cooked ahead and was easy to transport, it was perfect to take across town.
The chops are seasoned with a mix of crushed fennel seeds, rosemary, coarse salt, black pepper, and chili flakes, then browned and combined with cubed butternut squash. Both are simmered in stock and wine until tender for about an hour, and then during the last few minutes of cooking, baby spinach or sliced chard is stirred into the skillet.
The pork and vegetables are delicious served over a pasta such as farfalle, then garnished with a dusting of Parmesan.
To make things easy for our friend and his wife, I arranged a layer of pasta in a baking dish, topped that with the meat, squash, and greens, then spooned pan juices over all and finished with a sprinkling of cheese. All that was needed was a quick heating in the oven.
Pan-Braised Pork Chops, Butternut Squash, and Greens
4 boneless pork chops about 3/4 in thick and 6 to 7 ounces each
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed (see note)
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more if needed
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper, plus more if needed
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
3 tbsp olive oil plus more if needed
3 cups diced (1-inch cubes) butternut squash (see note)
1 1/2 cups reduced sodium beef or chicken stock, plus more if needed
2/3 cup dry white wine plus more if needed
8 oz farfalle, penne, or similar tube-shaped pasta
4 oz baby spinach or 8 oz Swiss chard, stemmed and cut into 1/2 inch wide strips
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
1. Pat the pork chops dry. Combine the fennel seeds, rosemary, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl and season chops on both sides with this mixture.
2. In a large, heavy skillet (with a lid) set over medium high, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until hot. Add the chops and brown well, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate.
3. In the same skillet, add more oil if needed and heat until hot. Add the squash and sauté, stirring, for just 2 minutes. Add the stock and wine and bring the mixture to a simmer. Return the pork and any juices to the pan, nestling the chops into the squash. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook at a simmer, turning the meat occasionally, until it is tender when pierced with a sharp knife and squash is fork tender, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours (The pork and squash can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat, covered, over medium heat.)
4. While the pork is simmering, cook the pasta according to package directions in a large saucepan and drain. Return to the pan and toss with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Cover and keep warm.
5. Remove the lid from he skillet, and stir in half of the spinach or chard. Stir until it wilts and add the rest. Cover and cook until all has wilted, about 3 minutes. If most of the liquid in the pan has evaporated, stir in an additional 1/2 cup broth and 3 tbsp wine into the skillet. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Divide the pasta evenly among four shallow bowls and top each with a pork chop and some vegetables. Spoon pan juices over, and sprinkle each serving with some Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.
To crush fennel seeds, place them in a self-sealing bag and pound with a meat pounder or rolling pin. You can also crush them using a mortar and pestle or grind them in a small spice grinder.
Some supermarkets sell peeled butternut squash in the produce section, a great time saver. About 1 pound peeled squash will yield 3 cups.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2013
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