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A No-Recipe Recipe Manifesto – The New York Times

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Here’s a jumping-off point, a no-recipe recipe that takes less than an hour: meltingly tender pork chops in an onion gravy, with lemon-bright mashed potatoes and sautéed greens. It’s a bulwark against cold weather, one of the great winter feasts.

Cooking without recipes is a kitchen skill, no different from dicing vegetables or flipping an omelet.

Start with the pork chops, as many as you need, on the bone if possible. Dredge them in flour that you’ve mixed with chili powder, salt, black pepper, smoked paprika and red-pepper flakes, or with Lawry’s seasoned salt or Old Bay seasoning or any spice you like, really. (Save what’s left of the flour; you’ll use it later.) Then sear the chops, in batches if you have to, in an oil-slicked Dutch oven or heavy cast-iron pan, over fairly high heat. (I’m sorry, but if you don’t have a Dutch oven, one of those big, heavy numbers in which you can burble beans, bake bread and make gumbo and stew, I really think you ought to try to get one. This recipe will reward the effort amply. And you’ll have that Dutch oven for the rest of your life.) Attend to the browning carefully. You want a big, flavorful crust on the meat before you braise it with the onions, to enhance the taste of the sauce and provide a little texture at the end as well.

Set the seared chops on a platter. Throw away what oil is left in the pot, and wipe it out. Return the pot to the stove, and set over medium heat. Add some butter, and when it melts and foams, use it to sauté an enormous number of sliced onions, allowing them to wilt and soften and almost (but not quite) start to go brown. Sprinkle a scant handful of the leftover dredging flour over the onions, and stir it around, then keep cooking and stirring for a few minutes to dampen the rawness of the flour. Add about half an inch of chicken stock to the pot, if you have any, or water if you don’t, along with a bay leaf, perhaps, then stir to thicken and combine. If the sauce is too thick for your liking, add a little more liquid. Nestle the pork chops into the sauce, remove from heat, cover the pot and put it into a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour.

While the pork cooks, make the mashed potatoes. I like to peel and quarter them in this situation, but you may feel differently. Either way, boil them in salted water until they’re soft and cooked through. (Stab one with a fork to check.) Then crush them with a masher or whip them in a stand mixer if you have one of those — or use a sturdy fork if you don’t. Add hot milk and melted butter and plenty of salt. How much butter and milk? In some French restaurants, the ratio would almost be equal parts with the potatoes. You needn’t go that far. Then, to finish everything off, whisk enough lemon zest into the potatoes to give their taste a real brightness. Start with a teaspoon and work your way up, sampling as you go.

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