Easy-on-the-host pork chops get a tangy twist
People often tell me that when they invite friends over for a dinner party, they realize too late that they've been overly ambitious, planning elaborate menus with too many ingredients and too much preparation. Even if the food turns out great, as it usually does, the hosts find themselves exhausted the next morning and swear that they'll wait a long time before entertaining again -- and maybe plan something easier next time.
My best advice when entertaining at home is to keep it simple, both in the shopping list and in the cooking. Your guests won't care about how complicated the food you serve may be. It's deliciousness that counts most. And everyone will enjoy the evening more if you, the host or hostess, are relaxed enough to be able to have fun yourself and put all who have gathered around your table at ease.
How do you do this? One good trick I've learned is to start with a relatively easy recipe or two that are so familiar that guests relax the moment they see the food, and that then have just a slightly different twist, something that perks up your guests' interest the moment they smell and then taste the food.
For a perfect example, look no further than the pair of recipes -- one main dish, one side -- I share here from Aram Mardigian, a longtime member of my culinary team who serves as executive chef of the Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata Hotel, Casino, and Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey: Pomegranate-Glazed Pork Chops with Cauliflower au Gratin.
To me, pork chops are a perfect main dish meat for autumn entertaining. Robust and juicy, they have the ability to make every meal feel like a feast. The twist Aram adds to this recipe can be found in the marinade, in which the chops sit overnight: a mixture of tangy-sweet pomegranate juice and pomegranate molasses, now widely available in well-stocked supermarkets or online; and a selection of seasonings that perfectly complement the meat's savory-sweet flavor.
The cauliflower makes an ideal companion to the chops. That vegetable has been enjoying a jump in popularity lately, as a lighter alternative to potatoes. But you can still make it lavish, as this recipe does with its combination of cream, cheeses, and a topping of coarse breadcrumbs that form a golden-brown crust -- gratin, in French -- that forms while it bakes in the oven.
Cooking the two dishes is simple and easy to coordinate, so they'll be done and ready to serve at the same time. The result will be a beautiful plateful of food that will delight both you and your guests, while leaving you relaxed enough to enjoy your own dinner party.
POMEGRANATE-GLAZED PORK CHOPS WITH CAULIFLOWER AU GRATIN
PORK CHOPS: 6 bone-in pork chops, each 1 to 1½ inches (2.5 to 3.75 cm) thick