Friday, May 4, 2012

slow baked mustard pork chops with sauteed leek and mint pasta

It all started here.

I, like I can imagine you to be right now, was initially wary.

Mint? In pasta? With onion? Weird.

I have this ramp mustard in the fridge that I bought on a whim from the local farmers market, and we were already thinking pork chops for dinner (I like cooking pork chops with mustard on top). I figured now was as good a time as any to experiment with the interesting mint pasta, since the ramp in the mustard and in the pasta would tie nicely together.

Until I got to the store and realized they didn't have ramps. Drat.

From what I had read in the above post, it sounded like leeks would make a fair substitution. Mildly oniony, kind of like a massive spring onion, I went with it. I reconsidered the mint a few times as I prepared the leek, but in the end I trusted TheKitchn blogger's instincts (as I usually do), threw caution to the wind and mint in the pan.

This was a really good idea on my part.

The mint added a subtle fresh (and minty, duh) flavor, which brightened up the dish. It wasn't overpowering in the slightest, which I was concerned about, and actually paired nicely with the sautéed leek. The cooking method for the pork chop was another Kitchn (can you tell what's in my Reader?) experiment we've been loving, where you sear the frozen chops to get a good crust, and then bake at a super low temperature for a longer time. This has been such a godsend for those of us who frequently forget to take food out of the freezer and subsequently end up with few dinner options involving protein. Seriously, a godsend.

Also, if you're wondering, this pasta is pretty tasty cold for lunch the next day. I know because I'm too lazy to walk to the microwave awesome like that.

Slow Baked Mustard Pork Chops w/ Sautéed Leek and Mint Pasta (serves 2 with leftovers, or up to 4)

For the Pork Chops, from frozen

2 bone-in pork chops
3-4 tablespoons mustard of your choice - I like dijon and spicy grainy varieties

Preheat oven to 200*, and heat a cast iron for 5-10 minutes to get it searing hot. Place pork chops in the pan and leave alone for about five minutes, or at least until you can pick them up without them sticking to the pan. Flip them over when they have a nice sear, and spread mustard on top of each. Transfer pan to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the porkchop. Ours were a little under an inch thick (quick-fry), and they cooked for 25 minutes.

For the Pasta

1/2 box spaghetti
3-4 tablespoons fresh mint, sliced
1 leek, cleaned (they can catch a lot of dirt!) and sliced into rounds (whites and greens)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

After playing pick-up sticks trying to get spaghetti into the pot (because some of us are talented) cook pasta to barely al dente, about 6 minutes for regular spaghetti or a few more for whole wheat. While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large pan over medium heat and sautée leeks until they cook down. I had them on medium for about five minutes, then lowered the heat to about medium-low. When the pasta is done, strain and pour into the pan with the leeks. Add most of the cheese (reserving some for serving) and most of the mint (reserving a bit for garnish), toss everything around a bit, and let the flavors come together for another five minutes or so (this is why you don't fully cook the pasta). Try not to eat the pasta out of the pan with the tongs. You may or may not burn your tongue (and I may or may not know from experience).

Serve alongside pork chops.

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