It’s hard to believe that my college roommate Mike is going to be a dad soon. Seems like just yesterday that all we had to worry about was making it to class on time, buying enough supplies for our infamous parties, and the resulting Sunday cleanup (note : a Hoe Down Party, while at first a brilliant thought means lots of hay in odd places of your house for months ahead).
Nowadays there are more grownup problems to deal with like mortgages, bills, and come July there will be an extra mouth for Mike and his very-pregnant wife Kelly to feed! Seriously, where does the time go? I invited Mike and Kelly for dinner this week to catch up on life and hear about the new one soon to come.
On the menu for the evening – boneless pork tenderloin seasoned with fresh thyme and wrapped in prosciutto, orecchiette pasta with pesto, and mixed greens lightly dressed in balsamic vinegar and olive oil with crumbled goat cheese.
I figured when you have a pregnant woman coming to your house for dinner, you cannot go wrong with a comforting pasta dish. Orecchiette gets its name from its shape, which looks similar to an ear (orecchio means ear in Italian). Its shape makes it a perfect pasta to use with sauces, such as pesto, though I love its unusual texture so much that I use it in many dishes (quick dish of peas, pancetta and Romano cheese).
The boneless pork tenderloins were a bit thick when I first looked at them in the meat case, so I asked the butcher if he could cut them in half, lengthwise. I highly recommend doing this, as it makes the cooking process move even quicker and the thinner tenderloins enable the prosciutto wrapped around them to get a nice even crispness.
For weekday entertaining – and having walked in the door 30 minutes before dinner was set to be served- the menu proved to be a well timed decision. It was not overly complicated to prepare, yet still provided enough of a wow-factor to impress the guests and leave everyone with satisfied appetites.
(Even for those of us not yet sitting at the table)
Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Chops with Red Wine Shallot Sauce
4 boneless pork loin chops (5 to 6 ounces each), cut in half lengthwise
Salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
4 – 5 slices prosciutto (I cut them in half and used a half slice per pork chop)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
½ cup dry red wine
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons butter
Season both sides of the pork with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the thyme on both sides of the pork, pressing, to help it stick to the meat.
Wrap a half slice of prosciutto around the middle of each chop and press ends to seal. (This may become less artistic looking than you imagined, but just make sure to press the prosciutto pieces together as best you can so it forms a belt around the meat).
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the pork chops until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side. I cooked in batches to not overcrowd the pan, 3 chops at a time. Having a serving plate or some large dish to the right to place the pork chops on once they are finished.
Keep the pan on the stove and the heat turned on. Add in the shallots and sauté for 2 minutes, using a silicone spatula or utensil to mix around the pan (silicone will not take the non stick seal off your pan).
Add in the red wine, scraping the pan to get up the brown bits from cooking the pork. Cook for another 2 minutes, then stir in the lemon juice. Cook another minute and then add in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, stirring until it melts into the sauce. Let the sauce cook for another minute and then pour either over your pork, or (as I did) serve on the side for guests to put on themselves.
Mixed Greens and Orecchiette with Pesto
For the mixed greens I purchased a spring mix salad and tossed about 2 teaspoons olive oil, a heavy tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of goat cheese.
As for the orecchiette pasta with pesto, my father every summer makes his own pesto and I’ve started to do the same. But, given that it is still slightly wintry outside and no basil yet, I bought a store-made pesto at whole foods that served as a great substitute.
Boil your orecchiette til al dente and then add in as much pesto as you see fit (I went for nearly the container because I love it, but do as you please). Serve with grated cheese.