said it before and I’ll say it again: The greed of the American
pork industry has messed with the modern-day pig to the point
that almost all available pork is now so lean it has lost
the ability to be tender.
hard to trace the switch to lean pork in the United States.
It was the result of an aggressive (and effective) 1990s ad
campaign for pork as “the other white meat,” together with
an industrywide decision to engage in commodity pork factories
that produced a high-volume, low-fat product. The end result
is pallid meat-counter pork, usually pumped full of brine,
that ends up dry and tasteless when cooked. “Heirloom” pork
is very expensive and nearly impossible to track down.
said, there are a handful of distributors of free-range pork.
Once in a while we find a couple of well-marbled pork chops
that I cook more or less following the recipe for “Julia Child’s
Sautéed Pork Chops” (from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home),
but most pork is far too dry to cook traditionally.
ago, Cook’s Magazine’s Bridget Lancaster addressed
the problem: “Dry, tough pork chops are the reality,” she
says. “My dream was juicy, tender pork chops in 20 minutes.”
her basic method I’m advocating here. The good news is it
works; the bad news is you need a meat thermometer, preferably
one that reads instantly. This recipe gets a boost from chef
Dan McHugh of the F Street Cafe in Eureka, Calif., who added
apples and Dijon mustard.
you need bone-in chops—boneless cook up too dry. Also, thicker
is better—5/8 to 1 inch.
Pork Chops with Pippin Apple and Mustard
bone-in supermarket pork chops
apple, peeled, cored, halved, and cut in 1/8 inch slices
favorite dry spices
Dijon mustard (in a pinch, Gray Poupon will do here)
or more sauterne (Martini & Rossi is a good brand)
1/3 cup heavy cream
of fresh thyme or other herb (beware the dominance of fresh
a sauté pan large enough to hold all four chops comfortably
with Crisco and put on the stove, but do not preheat. Rinse
the meat, then dry it thoroughly and put it on a large plate
or platter. Cut eighth-inch vertical slits in the surrounding
fat about every two inches (to keep the chops from buckling
the top of each slice and sprinkle with sugar, then spices
(I use dry dill, curry powder, granulated garlic and onion,
coriander, and finally salt and pepper). Press seasonings
into the meat so the butter creates a paste. Now turn each
chop and do the same thing. Some butter/spice will stick to
the plate. Not a problem.
the chops in the cold sauté pan, pressing the meat so the
metal is touching as much surface as possible. It’s best to
turn the bone sides toward the center. Now turn the burner
on medium. (After about 2 minutes, you should hear a gentle
sizzle; if not, slightly increase heat.) Cook uncovered until
lightly browned, usually 4-6 minutes.
the chops, cover the pan, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook
another 4 minutes, then test near the bone with the meat thermometer
(it may take several more minutes to reach temperature, so
check frequently). When it reads 140, remove the chops and
place side-by-side in a warmed, shallow ovenware casserole,
and cover. Do not discard pan juices.
pan to medium-high heat, and add diced shallots and 1-2 tablespoons
butter. After a minute, add the apple slices, toss to coat
with juices, then add the sauterne, mustard, and herbs. Lower
the heat to let the apple cook slightly. (If using cream,
add it now and stir everything around.) The sauce should reduce
to a slightly syrupy consistency.
the pan mixture over the chops and cover. Serve immediately
or set aside, if desired, to be warmed in the microwave. Chef
Dan garnished his chops with roasted half Brussels sprouts,
a bittersweet flavor to counter the tangy-rich pork.
can be changed to fit your menu. Less sweet: capers, pimientos,
and rice vinegar; or sweeter: white raisins (or dates, dried
cranberries, candied ginger or orange peel) and sherry or
spirits. The key to this method is to begin with a cold pan.
no easier way to make commodity pork chops edible.
but not really all that desirable. And not just in terms of
taste. The food conglomerates contribute enormously to deforestation
and global warming. Even if they got the message that consumers
want them to employ humane and organic practices, it would
mean dramatically less profit for them. Animal welfare and
human health? Nothing personal, but it’s really about the
commodity factory-farmed meats for Americans of small-to-moderate
means are the only cheap, easily available, easily cooked,
flavorful proteins—for the time being.
savor my marvelous pork chop, I realize that we are fortunate
to be among the last generations of Homo sapiens who are full-time
carnivores. Those that follow will face a rapidly diminishing
food supply for a rapidly growing world population. That may
not mean total absence of meat as a staple of our diets—it’s
too culturally ingrained. Sooner or later, there will be a
crunch, but I predict that food science will evolve to meet
cook and eat a really good pork chop. Tomorrow you could be
hit by a tofu delivery truck.
Byrd is a food columnist for the North Coast Journal in Humboldt
County, Calif. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Serving 11-11 Tue-Sat, 1-8 Sun. AE, D, MC, V.
Vietnamese Restaurant, 307 Central Ave., Albany,
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11-2:30 Tue-Sat, dinner 2:30-9 Tue-Thu, 2:30-10
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