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Blue Cheese–Stuffed Pork Chops

I’ve been told more than once that moving is among one of the most stressful events of your lifetime, right up there with death, disease and divorce. And after having moved five times in as many years, I can tell you with confidence this is true.

Aside from all of the technical stresses – as if stuffing all your belongings in boxes isn’t enough – you’ve still got to come to terms with the fact that you are uprooting. It doesn’t matter if you’re only moving from one apartment to another in the same city. You’re still going against instinct, taking yourself from the place you can trust to a new place, a place where you don’t know how many steps it takes to reach the bathroom or exactly where the light switch is on the wall.

It was amongst this chaos not long ago that I realized I was beginning to crack. My belongings, all of the physical stuff I associate with who I am, were out of sight, rendered insignificant under layers of cardboard and bubble wrap. I hadn’t really slept in weeks, and my pots and pans had been packed up long ago, making it impossible to sauté my troubles away.

The move happened, and here I am, settled into my nice new apartment. But I still feel off-kilter, out of sorts, and a little bit depressed.

Because I think it’s during these periods in life, when everything you thought was stable is shaking, that you start to feel disembodied from yourself.

The simplest things, like bending to tie your shoes or making a pot of coffee, seem foreign and complicated. You look at yourself in the mirror and see someone you only sort of recognize. You’ve been stirred out of your comfort zone, and once that happens, it takes a long, long time to find it again. And even then, it can’t be the same as it was.

But sometimes, even with all of this madness swirling around you, beautiful things happen. You start to learn a little more about yourself. You learn to gauge your strengths and weaknesses. You figure out who you can really trust. Things that seemed significant in your life are no longer so. Your priorities change, and so do you.

And sometimes, you learn to take the old and turn it into something new. You learn that, say, if you happen to have an inexplicable surplus of both pork chops and blue cheese in your fridge just three days before you move, all you have to do is put them together, and a powerful union is formed.

Blue Cheese–Stuffed Pork Chops
Serves 4.

The rich, elegant taste of salty blue cheese champions anything you put on the table, so try and pair your pork chops with simple, mild sides, such as boiled new potatoes and fresh green beans.

Tools

Small bowl
Wooden spoon
Sharp paring knife
Large oven-proof skillet
Metal tongs

Ingredients

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, plus additional for garnish
4 thick boneless pork chops
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, as desired
1 tbsp canola oil

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a small bowl, combine butter and blue cheese.

3. With a sharp knife, carefully cut a lengthwise incision in each pork chop to form a deep pocket.

4. Spoon blue cheese mixture into each pocket, dividing evenly. Gently press pocket together to seal. Season both sides of pork with salt and pepper.

5. Heat a large oven-proof skillet on medium-high. Add oil, swirling to coat. Add pork chops and cook, turning once, until golden brown and a nice crust forms, 6 to 8 minutes.

6. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until pork is cooked through and juices run clear, 15 to 20 minutes. If desired, garnish with additional blue cheese and drizzle with any pan juices.

Enjoy!

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Pork Chops with Caramelized Onion Gravy and Mashed Potatoes

I have avoided onions for as long as I can remember. My dad likes to remind me that when I was in diapers, I commonly confused onions with apples, and would help myself to the bag of onions under the sink anytime I was looking for a snack. Perhaps that’s what fueled my adversity, but I certainly haven’t gone anywhere near them since.

As a kid, I thoroughly examined every dish my Mom and Dad ever made, shuffling any dubious white chunks to the side of my plate. I tried to be a little more subtle as a teenager, but my parents would still get the occasional grumble when I smelled the notoriously pungent onion smell wafting from the kitchen up to my room.

But after two decades of studiously avoiding them, I decided that if I’m going to get serious about cooking, my fears are going to have to be faced.

I bought my very first bag of onions last week. I walked cautiously to the vegetable aisle, where they sit nestled in between rows of potatoes and carrots. I didn’t really know how to shop for onions; I couldn’t decide whether I was supposed to squeeze them for firmness or tap them for texture. I watched carefully as a man reached around me, lifted a bag in the air and circled it around, inspecting the outer onions for an visible bruises or discolourations before setting them in his cart. His method seemed thorough enough, so I did the same.

I wasn’t wearing waterproof mascara that day. Neither was I prepared for what happened when my knife made that first slice. I was blinded. Teaspoons of water started gushing from my eyes and nose, making it impossible to continue chopping. I stumbled blindly to the washroom to wipe my eyes. I should have thought to wash my hands first, because the contact between my eyes and oniony fingers was unbearable. I composed myself, put on my glasses for protection, and forged on, chopping madly just to get the job done.

The next time I cut an onion, I wore a pair of those huge sunglasses, the kind Jackie Kennedy used to wear. I looked bizarre, but it made the task slightly less painful.

When I was getting ready to make this dish, I remembered hearing that water prevents the onion particles from dispersing into your eyes. Rather than cut the onion under water as is recommended, I rinsed my knife under the tap before cutting. While it didn’t stop me from crying, it did make cutting onions much more enjoyable.

Tools

cutting board
large knife
frying pan
measuring cups
measuring spoons
peeler
wooden spoon
medium saucepan
tongs
potato masher

Ingredients

1 onion
2 tablespoons cooking oil (I prefer olive oil)
1 teaspoon salt
6-10 potatoes, depending on the need
2-6 pork chops, depending on the need
dash of salt and pepper
2 packets beef stock
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon margarine
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons margarine

Instructions

Peel and chop onions finely. Add one tablespoon of oil to frying pan and cook over medium heat. Add onions. Fry for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Fill medium saucepan half way and bring to boil with teaspoon of salt. Peel potatoes and add to water, simmering over medium heat until tender (about 30 minutes).

Remove onions from frying pan and set aside in a separate bowl. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to frying pan and add chops. Season each side with salt and pepper. Cook each side for 3-4 minutes, until browned.

In a small bowl, combine beef stock and flour. Slowly add water, mixing thoroughly with a fork until mixture forms a paste. Add mixture to frying pan with chops and stir well. Add half of the previously cooked onions to the pan and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat.

Drain potatoes. Mash until smooth, stirring in 1/3 cup of milk and tablespoon of margarine (add more milk and margarine if desired). Set aside.

Add 1/2 cup milk and 2 tablespoons of margarine to frying pan and stir. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until mixture starts to boil. Stir in remaining cooked onions.

To serve, place a pork chop and scoop of mashed potatoes on a plate and drizzle with the gravy.

Enjoy!