When I’m cooking for myself, I don’t normally make side dishes. It requires enough coordination just to get the entrée on the table. I might make a salad or some pasta after the fact, but I don’t plan a multi-course meal. It’s too much hassle.
Tonight was the exception, however. The entrée was “Lemongrass Pork Chops” from Marnie Henricksson’s wonderful Everyday Asian, but all you really need to do with it is mix up the marinade and soak the pork chops in it for several hours. That left an open arena for a side dish and, since two thin pork chops were going to require reinforcements, I settled on “Golden Mashed Potatoes” from From Bangkok to Bali in Thirty Minutes by Theresa Volpe Laursen and Byron Laursen. I reckoned without the fact that I’ve never mashed a potato in my life, however.
Cut to the chase: the pork chops were divine. I substituted palm sugar for the brown sugar called for in the recipe. I’ve had this block of palm sugar sitting in my fridge for about a month and the thing is so hefty that I’ve avoided using it. But I got up my courage and found that it grates like a dream, so easy, such lovely shavings. I’ll probably go to the other extreme and start grating it into my morning tea. The other marinade ingredients are fish sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, black pepper, garlic and sliced lemongrass. I baked the chops rather than grilling them (no grill pan and the condo association frowns on hibachis on wood decks) but it didn’t matter, they tasted wonderful.
The potatoes were another story. It’s a simple recipe, basically just regular mashed potatoes with turmeric and cayenne added. But, as I said, I’ve never mashed a potato before. My technique definitely needs work. I realize now (after Googling for advice) that the potatoes weren’t tender enough when I took the masher to them, so that led to hard labor, frustration and giving up when the potatoes were still pretty lumpy. They didn’t taste too bad, but they could’ve been a lot better. Potatoes 1, me 0.
Tonight’s music to cook by: Hulling by Hulling (1995). Pleasant Swedish folk music, a mix of instrumentals and songs, with the nyckelharpa taking a leading role.