Because sometimes you just have to respect the classics. Even after working for some of the best of best in the culinary universe, a chef has to acknowledge their own sentimental favorites. Sometimes these are guilty secrets (canned green beans, spaghettios, etc.) and actually more enjoyable for the memories they conjure rather than their actual deliciousness. But some of these old favorites are just downright tasty. And there’s no room for snobbery when there’s an old-school party going on in your mouth.
Behold– Oven Fry pork chops.
Back before panko was a thing, there was Oven Fry. A brilliant alternative to the dry powdery “Italian-style” stuff in the canister– these delicious little shards would stay crispy and crunchy all the way from the baking sheet to the plate to my mouth.
And to accompany this savory wonder? Brussel sprouts. Steamed and tossed with brown butter and fig jam. Oh, sprout of Brussel, how I love thee.
Remind you of anything? (For those of you who were not a part of the fashion-forward elite of the eighties, small hint below.)
None of these long, over-grown “hot air balloon" monstrosities for me. Brussel sprouts should be cute, perfectly round, tightly-bundled miniatures of the humble green cabbage.
Historically reviled by children (though all my young nieces and nephews adore them), brussel sprouts are easy to prepare and lovely to look at on the plate. My favorite preparation of all time (so far) is with bacon and figs. But there are so, so many others. Maple-glazed; tossed with brown butter; sauteed with olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic and parmesan; pan-browned, sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and splashed with balsamic; simply roasted until they’re brown and crispy and transcendent…
And to complete this plate of old-school chops and sprouts? My new obsession– roasted butternut squash, drizzled with pomegranate molasses. Scatter some fresh chopped mint on top, and you have something really special, trust me. Sweet, soft, savory, sour, and bright, all at once.
There’s something especially rewarding about re-contexualizing an old-school favorite, pairing it with some of your new culinary loves and discoveries. Everyone mingles, everyone has a good time. And you reap the delicious benefit of these new culinary friendships.