I was 32 years-old before I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a lover. I had dated before then, but through accidents of timing I was always single when Valentine’s Day rolled around.
However, while I would join friends in joking about “Romantic Crap Day,” it never felt empty to me. Growing up there were always cards for the classroom and lettered candy hearts. A few days before the 14th I would walk to the corner store and select the most beautifully adorned box of chocolates I could find to give to my Mom.
My family celebrated Valentine’s Day with cards and small gifts exchanged at the dinner table. In my teenage years, my Mom and I would tackle desserts from the cover of Bon Appétit magazine — an impossibly complex strawberry tart topped with a caramel web, or the berry-topped cake with a lid of melted chocolate that taught me the difference between melting chocolate and morsels, and the correct pronunciation of Grand Marnier.
So, while it took me 32 years to celebrate a romantic Valentine’s day with a lover — the man who is now my husband of nearly 7 years — I never felt like I celebrated it alone. There were friends and family, and, in a pinch, I could always dine at a table for one with a man I had grown to love and respect.
Whoever your with this year, may you celebrate richly and with joy. Remember, somebody loves you — possibly despite years of bad chocolates in overly adorned, heart-shaped boxes.
Pineapple Chinese Barbecue Glazed Pork Chops
This sweet, complex sauce crisply glazes thick, juicy pork chops finished under the broiler. They are wonderful served with this snow pea, mung bean sprout and cilantro slaw.
- 3 tbs hoisin sauce
- 2 tbs Tamari soy sauce
- 2 tbs rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup pineapple juice
- 2 gloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbs minced ginger
- 1/4 tsp Chinese 5 Spice powder
- White pepper
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 4 thick cut, boneless pork loin chops
- 1 tbs vegetable oil
- 1 tbs sesame seeds
- In a small bowl, whisk together hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, pineapple juice, garlic, ginger and 1/4 tsp of Chinese 5 Spice powder. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
- Place sugar in a 2 quart sauce pan over medium heat. The sugar will melt and simmer. It will turn golden, then medium brown.* Immediately add the sauce from the bowl to the pan. Add the liquid carefully, it may splatter a bit when it hits the hot sugar.
- Return the pan to medium heat and whisk. The sugar will harden when you add the sauce, but will melt and blend with the sauce while you whisk. Cook the sauce down until it is thickened to a syrup, but not a thick sauce. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Season pork chops on both sides with salt and white pepper.
- Warm vegetable oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork chops, turning once after 3-4 minutes. If they don’t easily release, give them a minute or two longer. About 3-4 minutes after turning, reduce heat to medium and cook through to about 140 degrees.
- Brush pork chops with sauce. If the sauce has thickened too much while cooling, thin it out with a tablespoon or two of pineapple juice. Place pork chops in the oven about 6″ from the broiler. When sauce cooks to a glaze, remove from oven and brush again with more sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and return to oven until the seeds are toasted and the sauce is again cooked to a glaze.
- Let rest for 5-7 minutes before serving with remaining sauce.
*Sugar quickly goes from caramel to burnt. Watch it carefully. If the sugar burns, start over.