I have to tell you, I was not, not, not looking forward to another dinner of plain old pork chops this week. Between the world events and the weather, I'm feeling pissy and those pork chops, although nicely thick with gratifyingly robust tenderloins, just didn't do it for me. I've had enough pork-and-fruit this winter to last me a while.
I imagined them on a platter instead of a plate. I have no idea why that made things better, but it did. Maybe it was the sharing aspect, or just the slightly more formal-than-normal way of serving? Perhaps it was the play of colors with the platter that made it seem new. Whatever - it was better. It just was.
So, I got to work slicing a smallish kabocha squash in half and setting it, seeds and all, onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Into the oven at 350 for half an hour.
(Worked on the diabolical jigsaw puzzle that my friend Wenirs sent me for my birthday while that got going.)
After the squash was tender when pierced with a sharp knife, I set it aside to cool a bit and sliced a great big onion thinly, sautéing it in a wide pan. Pushed the onion aside when it was clear and laid the chops into the oniony pan to brown.
While the browning was going on (and, incidentally, the onions got brown, too, but slowly, at the edges of the pan), I coaxed the seeds and strings out of the squash with a wooden spoon and scooped out the rest into a small pot with a knob of butter, the zest and juice of a small tangerine and a small thumb of microplaned fresh ginger. While that gently heated and mingled on the back burner, I prepped the broccoli and quickly steamed it.
The standout was the roasted-and-doctored kabocha squash - ginger and tangerine did wonders for it, and a little butter never hurts. The chops were good, too, richly brown on the outside, lightly pink and juicy on the inside, and deeply satisfying on their slippery bed of caramelized onions.
When I brought the platter to the table, My Beloved said, "Ladies first," as he was trained to do as a young man; I selected my portion from the platter and passed him the serving utensils, handles first. Those little acts of politeness reframed the whole meal and reminded us that we are genteel people, the kind of people who remember to say please and thank you. The kind of people who realize how incredibly lucky we are to have this beautiful dinner, this dry and warm house and each other.
Attitude is everything.