by Sandra Lewis    Tue, Jan 23, 2007, 08:58 PM
With the exception of a quick trip to San Diego last week, my suitcase has been gathering dust since the week before Thanksgiving. I love to travel, but I love to cook more. And no travel means lots of time in the kitchen - cooking, experimenting, tasting, and loving it.

Over the past few weeks I’ve cooked for friends and family, and sometimes just myself.

One day while feeling ambitious and very hungry at lunch time, I made myself chicken fajitas while listening to a conference call from my home-office kitchen. By the time it was my turn to talk, I had finished cooking and eating, and was halfway through cleaning up. Next to the blender, the mute button is the best invention ever.

The pace of business travel is sure to pick up soon and I do have some travel-for-fun planned. I’m taking Hannah to Paris over spring break – Paris, France, that is, not the Paris, Texas which was my mother’s first thought when I told her where I was going. So my time in the kitchen will once again be limited.

But in the meantime, I have a brobdingnagian (yep, real word) amount of recipes to share. Even so, I’m always thinking about what’s next.

So many recipes, so little time.

I began my cooking spree on a Sunday evening with "Pretzel-Coated Pork Chops with an Orange-Mustard Sauce" for a scheduled dinner date with both of my daughters. They’ve become accustomed to my taking pictures of the food although I’m sure most mother’s don’t. Hannah poked her head in the frame at the last minute.

Pretzel-Crusted Pork Chops With an Orange-Mustard Sauce

1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar

2 oranges
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 cups crushed pretzel sticks (about 5 ounces)
8 1-inch-thick-center-cut pork rib chops

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, divided

Simmer balsamic vinegar in small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 2/3 cup, about 10 minutes. Transfer to small pitcher.

Using vegetable peeler, remove peel from oranges (orange part only) in long strips. Slice the peel lengthwise into very thin strips. Place the peel in heavy small saucepan and add enough cold water to cover peel by in inch. Bring to boil; strain. Repeat two more times. Return peel to same saucepan. Add 3/4 cup water and sugar. Boil until almost all liquid is absorbed stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Mix cream, mustard, and 2 tablespoons candied orange peel in heavy small saucepan. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce is reduced to 1 2/3 cups, about 12 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place flour in shallow bowl. Whisk eggs to blend in another shallow bowl. Spread crushed pretzels on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Working with 1 pork chop at a time, press 1 side of chop into flour, dip floured side only into eggs, then press into pretzels, coating 1 side only. Transfer to baking sheet, coated side up. Repeat with remaining pork chops, flour, eggs, and pretzels.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in each of 2 large ovenproof skillets over medium-high heat. Add 4 pork chops to each skillet, coated side down, and cook until brown, about 2 minutes. Turn chops over and transfer both skillets to oven. Roast until pork is cooked through and thermometer inserted horizontally into chop registers 140 degrees, about 10 minutes. Let chops stand 5 minutes.

Rewarm sauce. Spoon 2 tablespoons sauce onto each plate and place chop atop sauce. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and garnish with remaining candied orange peel.

Sandra’s Cooking Notes:
-My girls loved this, which was somewhat of a surprise since I thought the mixture of flavors was a little left of center (orange, mustard, balsamic vinegar). But given that this was one of the few homecooked meals they’d had during the semester it makes a little more sense. I served it with homemade macaroni and cheese, comfort food for us, which I knew would be a winner even if the pork chops were a bust.
-This is an elegant entree, perfect for company.
-The recipe can be found in Bon Appetit, September 2006.
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