Won't you consider the pork chop?
Actually, I suspect that most of you who read this blog probably give the pork chop ample consideration. Its just me. I don't. So I guess I'm really just talking to myself here. Up until now I have failed to show much consideration for this particular cut of pig. That's changing.
When it comes to pig parts it has always been the pork tenderloin that has had my eternal gratitude. Lets face it, a pork tenderloin (with any marinade at all) in a 500 degrees oven for 20 minutes (exactly!) and you have a perfectly prepared dinner entre every time. Pork ribs earned my finger-licking respect many years ago when I discovered that slow cooking at very low temperatures would deliver fall-of-the-bone deliciousness every time with very little possibility of cooking time errors. Respect.
Ham is the food of celebrations and offers up its bounty in many forms of leftover all week long. Who doesn't love "ham week"? And bacon, well, who won't admit to worshiping bacon? (Observant Jews and Muslims excepted, of course.)
But the pork chop? Meh. Not so much. Pork chops until now only succeed in arousing my feeling of indifference.
This culinary ennui may be the result of not having many quirky stories relating to relate pork chops. Unlike most of my personal favorites herein, the pork chop doesn't remind me of my childhood in any significant way. This is because pork chops weren't a part of our family meal rotation, moreover, I can't recall even a single instance of my mother making them for us.
My grandmother didn't have any celebrated pork chop recipes either although I do recall one uncelebrated attempt. One morning during an overnight visit to grandmother's she served up the greasiest chops I've ever seen - for breakfast! The meal also featured fried eggs, biscuits, and country gravy - a heart stopping way to start the day if there ever was one. Her breakfast choice that day never made any sense to us and when questioned about it later she explained away the pork chops by calling them "fancy bacon".
We were unconvinced and so chalked it up to some form of aggressive messaging from grandma to our mother, who had prepared a list of culinary do's and don'ts to follow while we were being watched for the weekend.
Grandmother never made them again. So, just as we would never answer the riddles of the odd tasting ketchup and green mustard, Grandmother's unexplained pork chop episode would never be fully explained with any satisfying detail. Just like your average episode of "Lost".
Restaurant pork chops could never seduce me either. I found them mostly to be tough and dry by the time they get to my table. Perhaps this is due in part from the cook's irrational fear (despite the facts) of poisoning me with trichinosis. In his mind he isn't serving me tough as nails, dried out pork meat, he is saving me life!
If the chop is fortunate enough to survive its brining, broiling, frying, grilling, or which ever chosen method of preparation it then slathered in some sort of sweet, sugary fruit sauce made with jam-- as if an early dessert is sufficient consolation prize for suffering through overcooked pork.
Why again would I want to make these at home?
I went against type and gave chops a try when I happened on them a week at Trader Joe's. They were offered for sale already frenched in the meat case. Their tiny little bones sticking out made them look naked, vulnerable and in need of some love. I felt as if I had found a lonely kitten abandoned in a cardboard box on the street with a note on it that read 'free to good home."
"Ooooh! Aren't they cute! I can't leave those here. I have to bring them home!"I didn't really know what I was going to do with them but I knew I had to do something. Something that did not include any jam to be sure. Sage fit the bill and the only fruity something something was from the apple juice which boiled out and balanced the vinegar. Hardly knew it was there!
The method here is the thing. Toss the chops into a hot pan in a hot oven and let them do their thing. Caramelizing on the hot pan in a hot oven seems genius to me as it lets the chops get browned and cooked through on all sides, shortening the cooking time to prevent drying.
Do adjust the cooking time for the thickness of the chops and take them out before they are fully done. They will sit awhile and no, you won't get trichinosis. I will make these again now that I am fully considering the pork chop.
Roasted Cider Sage Pork Chops
Roasted Cider Sage Pork Chops
adapted from Shook & Dotolo's Two Dudes One Pan.
- 1/4 cup grape seed oil
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 1.5" pork chops on the bone
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 shallots finely chopped
- 2 Tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup apple juice
- 4 teaspoons cider vinegar (I used pomegranate vinegar to great effect.)
Rub half the oil over the chops and season with all of the salt. Allow to sit until your oven is fully heated to 450 degrees. When it is, remove pan, add the other half the oil and then place the chops in the pan and return to the oven. Roast chops until you get crispy brown, caramelized edges, about 12 minutes. Cooking time will vary, however, on the thickness of the chops. Do not over cook! Flip the chops half way through the cooking time. You can use a knife inserted into the middle to check for doneness or an instant read thermometer. 2" chops took me 15 minutes but your mileage may vary. Just don't overcook as these will sit a bit while you finish the sauce. Spoon some juices over the chops before taking out of the oven to keep moist. Remove chops from hot pan to a plate and tent with foil while you complete the sauce.
Add butter to hot roasting pan and when it has finished melting add the shallots. Return pan to oven for 1 minute to get the shallots cooking and the pan hot again. Remove pan from oven and add sage, cider, and vinegar. Put pan on stove top burner set to medium and cook down just a bit before spooning over chops.