I have been a mouth breather for the past week. My ears feel like they have been stuffed with large wads of cotton covered in porcupine quills. My eyes are red and dry. My lips, they’re chapped.
My nose resembles a giant, melting glacier, reflecting the setting orange-red sun.
I have a summer cold and it blows — despite my most earnest efforts to defeat it with lashings of sriracha sauce, pints of kombucha, hot toddies and garlic, it has roared into my life during the most inauspicious of times. I’ve been freelancing up a storm, my good friend Jess was visiting from California and my good friend Mandy was in town for a too-rare visit from Boston. Sadly, I had to pop DayQuil and retreat to bed, far from all of the fun.
Stephen and I spent much of the weekend staring mutely at each other across piles of crumpled tissues, half-heartedly arguing over the remote and wondering where, how and why everything went so terribly awry.
But I did find time to whip up an old, homey favorite: pork chops! My dad reminded me of the dish a few days ago. We were both on the phone catching up and gossiping while we made dinner and exchanged recipes, as we often do.
He told me he was making chops and when I said I hadn’t had pork chops in at least five years, he became as alarmed as he would if I informed him that I was trying out for “American Idol” or becoming a vegan.
I sensed immediately that he thought I was slowly inching in the veg direction when he began to pepper me with wild questions to which he clearly knew the answer:
“Do you still eat bacon?”
“What about hamburgers?”
“Why do buy all of your meat at farmer’s markets and Whole Foods? Do they even sell pork chops at farmer’s markets?”
“Does Stephen know about this? What does he say?”
“Will you promise me that you will never become a Communist or vote for Ralph Nader?”
Clearly, not eating pork chops is a symptom of some sort of dark and sinister quagmire that is imperiling my very moral fiber; a quagmire from which he must swiftly rescue me.
Sounding like a robotic yet peppy telemarketer, he mirthlessly informed me that pork was “the other white meat.” He went onto say that “it’s what’s for dinner” (despite the beef board’s frequent statements to the contrary).
I started rolling my eyes when I heard him shouting to my mother about it, over the sizzle of grease in his pan and his dog Sadie’s hungry yowls in the background.
It did make me wonder though: why didn’t I eat pork chops? They’re fairly healthful, definitely tasty and even the most organic / sustainable / local ones I could find at Whole Foods were only $6.99 a pound. (Each bone-in chop is about a half-pound).
Somehow, in my rush through the meat aisle or stands, chops got left in the dust. I always reached for various cuts of lamb, beef or chicken. When I eat pork, I tend to gravitate toward the belly. I was ready to give chops another try, using my dad’s tried and true recipe, with some extras thrown in for good measure. Click on for the recipes!
Dad’s Pork Chops
Makes 4 servings
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 4 bone-in pork chops
- 4 TBSP vegetable oil, divided
- 3 TBSP walnut oil
- 1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup cherries
- 1/4 cup red wine
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Whisk together sugar and cider in large, shallow bowl until dissolved. Marinate chops in mixture for 20 minutes.
- Heat 2 TBSP vegetable oil in skillet. When hot, add two of the chops and fry until caramelized on both sides, about 3 minutes each. Set aside and wipe out pan. Add oil and fry the other two chops, set aside. Deglaze pan over high heat with wine. Reduce liquid by half.
- Meanwhile, heat walnut oil in small saute pan over low-medium heat and toast the pecans, being careful not to burn them.
- Add the pecans with oil back into large saute pan with chops and cherries. Cook over medium heat until pork chops are cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.
Nutritional breakdown for Dad’s Pork Chops: About 600 calories and 24 grams of good fat. Brimming with protein, thiamin, Vitamin B6, niacin.
Cost breakdown for Dad’s Pork Chops: About $5.00 per serving.
Verdict / In the Future: In this case, Dad’s intervention was necessary. Stephen and I can’t figure out why we abandoned the chop to history, and we’re looking forward to bringing it back into our regular rotation. Dried cherries and pecans are a classic pork chop partner, but dried apricots would be lovely too, as would most fresh fruits.
Pork Belly Pilaf
Makes 4 servings
- 1/2 TBSP vegetable oil
- 2 oz. pork belly, diced (regular bacon is lovely too)
- 1/4 yellow onion, diced roughly
- 1 cup brown rice, rinsed in cold water and drained
- 1 healthy splash red wine of some sort
- 2 cups chicken stock
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 2 TBSP unsalted butter
- Heat oil in medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add diced belly. Cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Add onion, salt and pepper to taste, cook until translucent. If you care about aesthetics, remove the bacon. Cooking it with the pilaf will make it look pink and distressingly fleshy. But if you don’t care about looks, keep it in — it will imbue the entire dish with porcine perfection.
- Add the rice, cook until toasted and coated in fat, about 1 minute. Deglaze with a big splash of wine. When the liquid evaporates, add the stock, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 30-40 minutes.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, throw in the thyme, stir in the butter and serve.
Nutritional breakdown for Pork Belly Pilaf: About 350 calories and 13 grams of naughty fats. Distressingly high in cholesterol.
Cost breakdown for Pork Belly Pilaf: About $0.75 a serving.
Verdict / In the Future: Stephen and I were feeding our colds this weekend, so I needed the extra indulgence of pork belly. If we were in a more healthful frame of mind, however, a plain pilaf sans belly would have been almost as tasty and much healthier. Fresh thyme would be better — but I can’t bring myself to buy a big bush of herbs if I’m just planning on using a pinch.