- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Whenever I discover a recipe that can be made in advance, I tag it for entertaining. Nothing is more reassuring when you have company than knowing that a dish — especially a main course — can be assembled ahead and that it requires no last-minute attention.

Braised pork chops with rosemary, tomatoes and mushrooms definitely falls in this category. It actually improves in taste when made a day or two ahead and needs only a quick reheating at serving time.

It also happens to burst with robust flavors. Bone-in chops are rubbed with a fragrant melange of crushed rosemary, salt and coarse pepper, and then browned. Next, the pork is simmered until fork-tender in a mixture of stock, diced tomatoes and red wine. Sauteed brown mushrooms and garlic are stirred into the skillet as a finishing touch.

This simple entree, perfect to serve friends on a crisp, cold autumn night, could be offered with mashed potatoes and green beans, or with pasta and a salad. Add a loaf of warm, crusty bread and end with an apple pie, either homemade or purchased, and you’ve got a stress-free menu guaranteed to please your guests.

Braised pork chops with rosemary, tomatoes and mushrooms

Makes 4 servings.

4 bone-in pork chops (7 to 8 ounces each) trimmed of excess fat

1 1/2 tablespoons crushed, dried rosemary

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground if possible

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed, divided

14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

3 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/2 pound brown mushrooms, such as baby bella mushrooms, cleaned

2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish, optional

Pat pork chops dry with paper towels. Combine rosemary, salt and pepper in a small bowl, then use all of this mixture to rub on each side of each chop.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, heavy skillet (with a lid) set over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add enough chops to fit comfortably in a single layer. Saute until browned well, about 5 minutes per side, and remove from pan. Repeat with remaining chops, adding more oil if needed.

Return all chops to pan, and add tomatoes and their juices, stock and wine. Bring liquids to a gentle simmer, reduce heat, then cover. Cook 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice mushrooms through stems into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet set over medium heat. When hot, add mushrooms and saute, stirring, until browned well, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove lid from skillet, and cook chops uncovered until tender when pierced with a knife, 30 to 40 minutes or longer. Add mushrooms to pan and cook until liquids in pan have reduced and thickened slightly, 8 to 10 minutes more. Watch carefully. Season with salt, if needed. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring occasionally, over medium heat.)

Serve each chop topped with mushrooms and tomatoes and with a little sauce. Garnish with a rosemary sprig, if desired.

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