Almost right after she graduated from Indiana University, Allison took off for Spain to teach English and explore the world. She got a week off at Easter time, and we joined her in Madrid. We rented a car and drove into Portugal. Back in the 1400s, it was a world power and its only rival was Spain. In fact, the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas divided the world in half between the two countries. Nothing last forever - right? However, while Ronald Reagan was president, Argentina claimed that the treaty gave them the right to the British owned Falkland/Malvinas Islands. Of course England didn't agree and forcefully let it be known the treaty was obsolete!
We stayed in the city of beautiful Porto for a couple days and were charmed by the tiles, the architecture, all the colors but especially by the food. On Easter Sunday we ate at a fabulous restaurant right on the water where Roy ordered a Francesinha, a sort of sandwich made of several pork meats which were swimming in the most delicious sauce any of us had ever tasted. It was definitely something cooked low and slow and had a dash of what Porto is famous for - port wine.
When we got home, I was dreaming of those flavors but didn't have the time or patience to watch over something for hours. I don't drink alcohol, but I like to cook with it for the complexity it gives to a dish and I figured a bit of port might give me the essence of what I was looking for in a hurry. The inspiration for this dish posted here came from a recipe in the 2009 cookbook, The Family Chef by Jewels and Jill Elmore. I tweaked it a bit and the result turned out to be a favorite of Roy's. Of course, it is still totally delicious without the port and over the years I have often left it out.
4 pork chops, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick
2 medium sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, put through a press
2 teaspoons dried sage
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup tawny port (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peel each sweet potato and pierce with a fork. Microwave on high for six minutes. When cool enough, cut into cubes. Set aside.
Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, sage, thyme, salt, lemon juice and pepper to make a paste. Reserve 1 teaspoon of mixture. Rub the rest into both sides on each pork chop. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a oven proof pan such as an iron skillet or Dutch oven and place over medium high heat until very hot. Brown each pork chop about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add the sweet potato cubes, diced red onion, 1/4 cup parsley and the reserved 1 teaspoon of spice mixture to the same hot skillet that the pork chops were browned in. Gently stir to combine and loosen the crispy bits. Sear the sweet potatoes, turning over once after 2 minutes. Continue to cook for 2 additional minutes.
Return the pork chops to the pan, nestling them among the sweet potato cubes. Pour the port over the pork chops and sweet potatoes and cook for 2 minutes.
Place skillet into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped parsley.