The end of the year is a warm and welcome thought. No matter how the year passed, there is always hope in what lies ahead, especially as we gather at the table. Wherever you are, whatever your cultural practices, chances are you will meet with family or friends around a welcoming table as the year draws to an end. The choice of the foods we cook is as wide as the world we know, hardly limited to the traditional any longer. But like the most intrepid traveller, we always long to return home, even if only for a brief while to rest amidst the comfort of the familiar, before we set out again. It’s not so different when it comes to celebratory food, I feel. With all the excitement of the novel and new, we are frequently drawn to the ease and recognition of old flavours, textures and aromas laden with associations that no exotic dish can ever match. A single, familiar dish may anchor the entire, laden table.
While wondering about what would go on my festive table for the year, the image that popped up was of home-style pork chops, which emerged from a country kitchen, from the days when pigs were home-reared and carefully fed, yielding particularly delicious meat. Pork chops work perfectly as a festive dish. Gently cooking the freshly ground spices brings an eddy of flavours floating to the surface, melding readily into the fat and meat.
A thickish layer of reduced herbs and spices paints itself over the pork and settles on the bottom of the pan. There might be deliciously crispy bits of fat and crust, depending on the doneness of the meat you prefer. Pork chops taste wonderful with rice, the reduced gravy just enough to mash into the soft, white grains; or you may choose to eat them with the freshest white bread you can put on the table. A glass of red wine pairs beautifully with the rich, deep flavours of the chops.
Here, they are served up in the cast-iron pan in which they are cooked, which looks quite at home on the dining table, and reflects back to more informal ways of serving and a different kind of kitchen in which this recipe had its origins. The turbulent world beyond the edges of the festive table is held at bay, at least while we share a meal with those we love—as it no doubt was on many occasions for the generations before us.
All Food Styling: Kaveri Ponnapa
Photo Credits: A.G.P Sathyaprakash