It seems that the custom of eating pork on New Year’s is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving.  The Pennsylvania Dutch add sauerkraut and mashed potatoes to the pork for luck – but – according to tradition – it’s supposed to be the first meal eaten in the new year for it to be lucky.

I’m not superstitious, nor am I Pennsylvania Dutch (although my father’s mother’s Irish grandfather was born somewhere in Pennsylvania in the 1830’s…  But I digress…)

I wasn’t raised with the idea of eating certain foods at New Year’s and really didn’t even hear of the tradition until I was in the Navy living with all those Southerners…  Black-eyed peas were de rigueur whilst I was in Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club, along with greens.  I don’t recall the first time I had Hoppin’ John – black-eyed peas and rice with ham hocks.  Probably in Boston in the early 1980’s with our landlady who had roots in the South and the Caribbean.  Maureen and her sister Evelyn were great cooks.

But that has nothing to do with tonight’s dinner…  I decided on pork because it was already in the house.  Actually, the whole menu was already in the house.  It’s cold outside and I wasn’t leaving for nothin’!

Last week when we met David, Martha, and Harriette for dinner, Martha gave us jars of cranberry chutney and a pear conserve that she had made and canned.  Outrageously good.  I thought the pear would go really well with the pork.

I chopped it up a bit finer and added a bit of chipotle sauce to cut the sweetness and add a bit of heat.  I did a quick sear on the pork chops and chilled them. When they were cold, I covered them with the sauce, wrapped them in puff pastry and placed into a 425° oven for about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, I made Pumpkin Polenta – one of my more favorite dishes.  I got the original concept out of Today’s Diet and Nutrition magazine.  (I was very bad – we were at Victor’s foot doctor’s office and while I was waiting, I was thumbing through the magazine.  I saw the recipe and cut it out.  I then went home and subscribed…)  I digress, again…

Pumpkin Polenta

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup polenta
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bring milk, cream, butter, salt, pepper, and pumpkin to a boil.  Slowly stir in polenta.  Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked – about 30 minutes. (I used a really coarse polenta that takes up to 45 minutes.  Finer-grained polenta will take less time.)

I had leftover chicken gravy from Tuesday night, so I took some of it and added  a couple of tablespoons of Sofrito sauce to tweak it towards a more latin sauce.  It worked really well!

And then spinach – greens for money, I think the saying goes.

In a couple of hours there are brownies for dessert.

Happy New Year, indeed!