A couple of months ago when I was on deadline for my next cookbook I spoke of The Pork Chop Theory by my friend and mentor Nathalie Dupree.

The Pork Chop Theory is based on the premise that if you put one pork chop in the pan and turn the heat on high, the pork chop will burn. If you put two pork chops in the pan, however, and turn the heat on high they will feed off the fat of one another. It’s the ultimate in giving, sharing, and developing mutually beneficial partnerships and relationships. It’s not about competition, it’s about sharing the fat, sharing the love.

You might think talking about The Pork Chop Theory on Meatless Monday makes no sense, but it does. My friend, Kim O’Donnel has written a deliciously wonderful book, The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook:Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores will Devour. And, I want to share some love with you.

I am a meat eater, being partial to the Southern “lardcore”attitude. Now, I love vegetables, but, I’ve joked a day without pork is a day without sunshine. Foam? Ovoid suspensions? Naw, If I am trying a new restaurant, my test for the chef is Roast Chicken.

Mama has always preferred her beef very rare, what would be considered “blue”; we always tease her and say the meat is still mooing. Once when I was a toddler she had me in the baby tender feeding me steak. I had a bite in each hand, waving them about, and the bloody juices were running down my arms. According to Mama, Meme walked into the kitchen and shrieked, “You’re trying to kill my grandbaby!” She wasn’t, and I still love my meat very rare.

So, what’s a bone-gnawing carnivore like me doing with a book like this?

Enjoying the heck out of it. Forget it being a “great gift” for your flaky cousin, the vegetarian.

It’s for meat lovers.

Happy Holidays!
Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

PS. Both recipes would be excellent, flavorful additions to your holiday party. The Romesco sauce is astonishingly good and so different than the same-old, same-old sour cream dip. Give them both a try.

KALE CHIPS

1 bunch (4 to 5 cups) Lacinato kale (also sold as Dinosaur kale)
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
With a sharp knife, remove the stem and middle rib of each kale leaf so that all you have left are leaves. Wash the leaves, then dry thoroughly, preferably in a salad spinner. With a knife, cut the leaves into small pieces (ideally 3 inches long, 2 inches wide).

Transfer the leaves to a medium-size mixing bowl and add the olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes (if using). With your hand, coat leaves with the seasonings; the leaves will glisten a bit.
Place the kale in a single layer on a baking sheet, giving the leaves plenty of room to roast. Cook for 8 minutes, maybe a few seconds more. Remove from the oven and enjoy.

Makes enough chips for 4 sandwiches or a bowl of TV snacks.
Best eaten within 24 hours, stored in a paper bag.

ROMESCO SAUCE

This almond, garlic, and roasted pepper-scented puree hails from Catalan, in the northeastern part of Spain, along the Mediterranean coast. You can spread it on grilled bread, use it as a dip for roasted veg, or eat it right from the spoon. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the peppers listed below; if red bell peppers are all you get, this elixir, er sauce, will still make you swoon. A note on peppers: Ancho chiles are dried poblanos, which will yield a sweeter, almost raisin-y result; fresh roasted poblanos will deliver more smoke.

1 (1-pound) loaf country-style bread
1/4 cup olive oil
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded (See page 194 for roasting tips.)
3 dried ancho chile peppers, soaked for 1 hour, drained, seeded, and roughly chopped, or 2 fresh poblano chile peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded (either is optional but really nice)
1 small piece fresh serrano or jalapeño pepper (1/2 to 1 inch long), seeded and minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup almonds and/or hazelnuts, roasted
2 to 3 plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded (I use canned whole plum tomatoes, drained)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional; particularly useful in absence of poblano or ancho chile peppers)

HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:
In a skillet, fry one 1-inch slice of the bread (crusts removed) in 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool. Place all the peppers in the bowl of a food processor, along with the garlic, nuts, and the fried bread slice. Use the “pulse” button to insure that mixture does not overpuree; you want some texture.

Add the tomatoes, then the remaining oil and vinegar. The mixture will emulsify quickly. Add the salt and cayenne, and smoked paprika, if appropriate. If the mixture is too thick, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. The mixture should be thick but also have a slightly liquidy quality. Taste for salt, heat, and acid and season accordingly.

Slice one to two pieces of the remaining bread per serving and grill or toast to serve with romesco. Gets better on the second and third day; keeps for about five days.

Makes about 2 cups

From the book The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook by Kim O’Donnel. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2010. www.dacapopresscookbooks.com

Photo credits: Myra Kohn

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