I don’t know what goes on in your house, but for me, weeknight cooking for my family of four is just about all I can handle. But sometimes, things expand. People wander by. Family comes to visit. People want something to eat, and they see you have a lot of pots and pans, so they expect you will provide.
In these cases, there are really only three options in my view:
1. Play hooky from work (when your employer calls to ask what you are up to, use phrases like “investigating” and “bad cell area”), spend the entire day whipping up tamales or some such, and when your guests ooh and ahh over your efforts, say casually, “Oh really? That was nothing. You should be here on Tuesdays. That’s when I really bring it.”
2. Race home from work, stopping at the store on the way home to pick up some basics, curse the person in front of you in line who feels the need to write a check. Come home, attempt to trim 15 minutes off of every recipe, spill apple cider vinegar everywhere. Cry a little. This is my usual plan.
3. Trick your guests with something super simple, made slightly less so with its garnish.
All you are really doing here is pan searing a pork chop (or if you prefer, grilling it, which would be terrific) and passing it off as something special. Which this buttermilk ranch really is, because this recipe involves two super fantastic fix-everything ingredients: buttermilk and anchovies.
You are mixing those bad boys up with some sour cream, lemon and a few extras like chives and dill, and then letting the mixture sit in the fridge for a while to get that nice cool smooth yummy feel that only homemade ranch can bring us. (I made a lemon meringue pie as it sat, which was a perfect ending to this sort-of-southern-style dish.)
The chops themselves take only a few minutes, so you grab them, drizzle the ranch on the side, and throw some veggies on the plate (I went with green beans sautéed in olive oil and some lemon zest) and there you go.
Delicious, said my guests. Was it hard? I didn’t even have to lie.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, is the Los Angeles Bureau Chief for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).Order now