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Darina Allen’s Pork Chops with Sage, Ina Garten’s Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan and my own Smashed Potatoes

Darina Allen’s Pork Chops with Sage, Ina Garten’s Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan and my own Smashed Potatoes
          I am amazed at how many people ask me for menus with a maximum of five ingredients.  I do understand:  You look at a long recipe and think that’s too much work, or I’m missing one of the spices or who has time for this?  So I was amazed when I put together an entire entrée course with just six ingredients!  The center of the plate pork chop requires olive oil and fresh sage.  The Roasted Asparagus requires a bit more olive oil and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese bringing us up to four ingredients. Finally, I served these with smashed potatoes topped with a little unsalted butter.  That’s numbers five and six.  Well, I did use a little salt and pepper but wow!  And the dinner was delicious.  The pork was juicy and tender. The asparagus flavor is transformed when they’re roasted and enhanced with the cheese.  And the buttery smashed potatoes are the perfect complement to everything on the plate.   And the whole thing is on the table in no time.  With so little labor involved, you almost feel like you’ve cheated.


          The recipes came from two very different sources.  My friend Jill lived in Dublin for several years.  That’s how I acquired Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook.  This is a huge doorstopper of a book, hundreds of recipes and within them, variations on recipes.  The Pork Chop recipe was also a recipe for Lamb Chops when you switched out the sage for marjoram.
Sage outside our Breakfast Room in Bridgehampton
We have the most beautiful Sage growing right outside our breakfast room window.  It’s currently in full flower as you can see.  Once the flowers are over, we’ll cut it back severely and it will come back like crazy.   It was a no-brainer to use it.  And what a simple technique!  You put a little olive oil in the bottom of a pan, cover it will chopped sage then the pork chops themselves, then more olive oil and more sage.  It sits for about an hour before cooking.Now you can do this entirely on the stovetop or on the grill.  But our chops were particularly thick – almost two inches – and since the oven was in service to make the roasted asparagus, finishing them in it made sense. Once the chops had achieved a perfect brown, you just put them in the oven for about 10 minutes and voila—that’s it! 
          I am almost afraid to do a tally of how much asparagus we’ve eaten this season.   Here’s yet another way to prepare it.  It’s from Ina Garten, The  Barefoot Contessa, who knows a lot about recipes with few ingredients. In this case, the spears are rubbed with olive oil, heavily salted and peppered and then thrust into a hot oven.  At the last minute, the cheese is sprinkled over the asparagus and they emerge from the oven smelling gloriously and tasting even better. 
          Now not to alarm you, but the recent earthquake in Italy occurred in Emilia Romagna, the heart of Reggiano Parmigiano cheese making. Reports say the thousands and thousands of pounds of the stuff were damaged or destroyed.  There’s no question this will affect the price. You might want to stock up now.  Properly sealed, the cheese will keep for a very long time in the refrigerator. 
          As to the final item on the plate, the smashed potatoes, they’re ridiculous easy to make.  Choose small red or yellow potatoes, boil them for about 20 minutes or until a knife slides easily into them. Drain them and then take a fork and press down on them.  A little salt and pepper and some butter if you like, will give you a meltingly soft potato with all the nutrition of the skin still intact.  There you have it: 6 ingredients, 3 dishes and dinner in no time.  Here are the recipes: 

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