“Could I do this with pork?”
I’m ensconced on the couch, engaged in my traditional Sunday morning routine. Coffee cup within easy reach; New York Times spread before me; pens at the ready for the magazine’s Sunday crossword.
I’m reading Sam Sifton’s essay on chicken confit. And the thought comes to me:
“Could I do this with pork?”
We’re in a food rut. The chicken-pasta-pork chop rotation has become a little rote here at Dinner By Susan, and mealtime is boring. I’m looking for new dishes to make and new techniques to try. And the thought of slow-braising butterflied pork chops in herb-laden olive oil has hooked my imagination.
“You want to do what?” my husband asks. “Is that going to work?”
I have no idea. We may end up eating pizza.
But I’m game for anything new. So around 3 p.m. and following Sifton’s general outlines for confitting — or slow-cooking meat in fat — I combine herbs, spices, pork chops and a whole lot of olive oil in a nonstick enamel skillet. I heat the oil to a gurgle on the stove, then move my pan into an ultra-low oven, where it hangs out in sauna-like conditions for an hour or so.
I need the time to field questions.
“What’s for dinner?” my 15-year-old asks. “Is that even going to work?”
“I have no idea,” I say. “This is why the pizza shop is on speed-dial.”
After 60 minutes, I remove the pork chops, pick them out of their oil and let them cool. Just before we eat, I strain the cooking oil, glaze a pan with it and crisp the chops for a very few minutes.
Dinner is served with some trepidation. Have I burst the pork-again bubble? Or will we have to order pizza?
“Oh my gosh,” the husband says. “These are amazing.”
He’s right. The pork is crackling on the outside; tender within. It’s redolent of the sage, coriander, mustard seed and garlic it cooked with; it has nary a trace of grease. Served alongside sauteed kale and Brussels sprouts, it’s meaty, fresh … and new.
“Please make this again,” the men in my life say.
“Don’t worry, “I answer.
It’s now part of our dinner rotation.
Olive Oil-Braised Pork Chops
I made these with boneless butterflied chops, but they’d be delightful with the bone-in variety.
- 2 center-cut, boneless, butterflied pork chops, about an inch thick
- 4 fresh sage leaves
- 4 small garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
- 1 1/4 cups olive oil
- Juice of half a lemon
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
Place the pork in a nonstick enamel skillet or a cast-iron skillet. Season liberally with salt and pepper, then scatter the sage, garlic, coriander and mustard seed on top:
Pour the olive oil into the pan.
Place the pan over a medium flame and heat until the olive oil begins bubbling. Move the pan to the oven.
Bake for 40 minutes. Turn the pork chops over and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until a knife tip inserts easily into the meat.
Remove the pan from the oven. Remove the pork to a plate. Refrigerate until just before dinner.
Strain the oil into a container and set aside.
Ten or so minutes before you want to serve dinner, place a saute pan over high heat. Glaze the pan with the strained olive oil. Add the pork and crisp it 3 minutes on one side, then 2 minutes on the other:
Sprinkle the juice of half a lemon over the crisped chops.