Recently I made a fine pork chop. I ruled them out lately in favor of my current run on slow cooked tenderloin, to which I will admit, I have become quite addicted. I have made my share of dried-out pork chops for sure, but even when they are treated to a little spa time in a fancy brine and cooked just right, the pork chop just isn’t my favorite cut of meat, truth be told. I am sometimes intrigued when I see it listed on a menu with a luring description but with so many other things to try, when it comes time to pull the trigger, I end up with several types of fish, another small plate or two, and I rarely pass on the duck. If I am dining with my father, it is a pretty good bet that the pork chop will end up on his list, thick cut, double big or whichever way it is presented. This after eating a very large bowl of mussels, himself of course (I mustn’t even think of reaching into the bowl to fish one out for myself as I might be inclined to do). He takes his mussels seriously, but as far back as I can remember, my father loves pork!
Every time I make pork, I think of Dad. I am not really sure why this is, because more importantly, he loves chicken fried steak and banana cream pie! Once we stopped in for a sweet snack to replenish during an afternoon of shopping. Dad ordered banana cream pie as I knew he would. When the waitress informed him that they were out, he bit his lower lip and let out a groan of disappointment as if he had been anticipating it all day. He then lifted his head, looked up at the waitress and without skipping a beat said, “Okay, I’ll take the chicken fried steak instead”.
PORK CHOPS, BRAISED CABBAGE and CARROTS – serves 2, but can be easily doubled.
This meal is a good one to do during the week when time and energy are limited because it goes together easily. It is also equally suited for company because in addition to the aforementioned, it has the added bonus of being elegantly delicious too!
For the pork:
2 thick cut pork chops – rinsed and wiped dry
3 TB soy sauce (low sodium is ok)
2 TB fresh orange juice
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
(Above measurements are approximate – erring on the side of more or less won’t hurt. I don’t measure it out, rather I pour from the bottle, judging with my eyeballs and instinct)
1 sprig fresh tarragon
Olive oil for sautéing
Optional – 5 to 7 baby fingerling potatoes per person, par-boiled (put in saucepan covered with water and salt – bring just to a boil and drain)
For the cabbage:
Olive oil for sautéing
1 medium-sized cipollini onion – peeled and sliced, slices cut in half
2 cups (approx) sliced red cabbage, core removed
1 or 2 large carrots – shaved using a peeler (you will have about 1 cup of carrot ribbons)
1 TB (approx) apple cider vinegar
1 tsp (approx) sugar
1/2 tsp (approx) salt
2 TB chopped tarragon
In a shallow bowl, COMBINE the soy sauce, juice and 1 tsp of the vinegar. ADD the chops and turn coating both sides. COVER BOWL and let sit at room temp while you prepare the cabbage.
GATHER the rest of the ingredients listed above.
TURN THE OVEN to 400 degrees, TOSS the potatoes in a wee bit of oil and ROAST for 5-7 minutes. They will be finished in the pan with the cabbage.
HEAT a sauté pan and ADD olive oil, just enough to coat the pan, 1 TB or so. When it is hot enough to move freely when tilting the pan, ADD the onion, cabbage and carrots. STIR a few minutes to soften the vegetables then ADD the vinegar, sprinkle with sugar,salt and tarragon, STIR to combine.
TURN DOWN THE HEAT to the lowest setting and COVER the pan. Let this cook on its own while you relax and have a glass of wine. It will want to cook for 20-30 minutes or until softened and flavors combine. Every now and again you will likely hear it sizzle or spit; no worries, give it a peak and a stir. You can put the potatoes in the pan off to one side after the cabbage shrinks down a bit. Truth be told, I used Trader Joe’s tiny fingerlings, requiring only microwave. They were left from the night before so I simply skipped the step above in PREP and put them in the pan to warm and further flavor. This is not really cheating, simply being efficient.
I usually don’t begin cooking the pork until the cabbage is mostly or fully done but feel free to be more on task and skip the glass of wine or drink it in the kitchen while you continue on to cook the pork. I like to take my time, plus I have a warming drawer where the finished cabbage will reside, along with my plates until I am ready to finish making dinner.
TO COOK THE PORK, REMOVE from marinade and wipe dry. HEAT another sauté pan until quite hot. Then repeat the process with the oil. ADD the chops to the pan and enjoy the sound they make as they hit the surface. I love that part; the sound of a good sizzle makes me know that I got the heat right and reminds me to turn on the fan.
DON’T TOUCH the meat or the pan for 5 minutes while a nice crust of brown forms (unless of course your pan was too hot and it begins to burn in which case you will want to turn down the heat and turn over the meat sooner than that).
When the five minutes have passed or the proper crust has formed allowing the pork to remove itself freely without prying, TURN IT OVER and TRANSFER the pan to the oven.
Now this is where it will depend on how thick your chops are or any number of other variables that occur when dealing with a natural product. For me, the chops will usually need to stay in their sauna for about 10 minutes. If you are not familiar with timing the cooking of pork chops, I advise you to stay close and gauge the cooking time by checking in now and again with a meat thermometer. The ideal internal temperature is just under 150 degrees; it will continue to cook as it rests in the pan while you plate the rest of the dinner.
When internal temperature reaches somewhere in the vicinity of 150 degrees, REMOVE THE PAN from the oven and LET IT REST in the pan (but not for too long; you don’t want it to overcook) just long enough to plate the cabbage and potatoes.
Your plates are hopefully warm, if like me, it is a necessity for you to have heated plates. Using tongs, divide the cabbage amongst the plates and scatter in the potatoes, however many you might want or think looks right. Slightly to the side (askew), place one chop on each plate. POUR pan juices over and enjoy!