I'm a bit of a dilettante. I can code a little, but not like Mark Curphey. I can shoot a bit, but not like JayG. I can cook a bit, but not like Brigid. They get superior results from talent and effort.
Me? I cheat. But that works a surprising amount of the time. Like today, for example. #1 Son had some friends over, and wanted to invite them to dinner. So I had four teenagers to feed (yikes - and I thought gas was expensive). So big, fast, and tasty was the order of the day.
Time to cheat, then. I had an industrial sized pack of pork chops that was sacrificed for the higher cause. Now to the cheating part - how to make this almost-as-good-as-you'd-get-in-a-restaurant?
1. Add flavor. James Beard has a great recipe for Piquant Porkchops in his American Cookery cookbook. It has a sauce containing onion, vinegar, and Tabasco. It's a fine base to start with, and flavors that jump out at you take you half way to the finish line.
2. Take the time to brown the meat. A lot of folks skip this, or only do it half way, and it may be the single most important step to get that wow-this-is-as-good-as-a-restaurant result. What you're doing here is essentially caramelizing the outside of the meat, via the Maillard Reaction, and don't skip this step. Yes, it will take you an extra ten minutes to do it properly. Do you want to bask in the admiration of your public, or don't you?
3. Reduce the sauce. What you're doing is removing water while leaving flavor. More flavor in less volume is, well, more flavor. I never grill a steak any more, because if you pan sear it, you can make a pan sauce: a little red wine to de-glaze the yummy scraping, reduce, salt and pepper, a dab of butter - bingo. Besides, this gives you something to put on the mashed potatoes.
4. Garnish. I love a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Yeah, it's Martha Stewart-y - so what? Maybe it's psychological, but it sets everyone's expectations differently than if you just sling some hash to 'em. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.
As you can see, this is no big deal. But it let me feed a house of hungry teenagers food that they wolfed down, on the table in 30 minutes.