How to cook a pork chop: love, smoke & other musings

Sometimes I like to cook, and sometimes I like to wax poetic about cooking. If you’ve followed me for long enough, you’ll know that I’m a bit of a whirlwind in the kitchen. More often than not, things get a little wacky in my small studio kitchen. I revel in the mistakes, the absurdity and magic of a recipe. A few months back, Nathan and I made pork chops, and what should have been a simple dinner turned into a ridiculous evening. I wanted to capture this memory, savor its silliness and juicy tenderness (pun intended people).
It’s a little different from my usually scheduled content, but please enjoy and let me know what you think. Image produced by the magical Jodi Bentivegna (it was too smoky to get a proper photo. You’ll see.). Follow her work over at Good Witch Design.

When we first encountered the meat, we thought it was one long pork chop. 2.3 pounds. I didn’t understand what business such a honker of a hog had doing on an organic farm (so said the packaging) or why we were so eager to throw such a terrifyingly large Cajun-spiced offering at the fire gods. 

Let the chops sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.

Upon opening the package, the gargantuan chop slid out in two perfectly proportioned cuts. It was just two normal chops after all, and their marinade smelled divine.

Set the oven to 400 with the pan in there. Cold flesh takes well to screaming heat — when you’re a pork chop, at least. 

Nathan picked up the eager chop and slapped it into the pan. The hiss and spatter of that signature, crusty, flavor-packed maillard was already working its magic.

Swirl the pan with two tablespoons of a high smoke point oil, like vegetable or canola. It will start smoking, but you must be brave.

Smoke was filling our apartment, the raucous sizzle of the pork sending thick ribbons wrapping around the exposed ducts. And just like that, a shrill alarm filled the high ceilings, piercing my ears. Stoned, tired, and a little paranoid that this might force the entire building to vacate the premises, I grabbed the closest item resembling a fan and began waving it wildly. It was a lap desk. The screeches subsided, and I looked to the stove, where Nathan was cooing at the sizzling pork chop, as if trying to will its flesh to stop burning so hotly.

While your boyfriend beckons your chops to relax, open a window and continue waving your lap desk at the sky, just in case.

The smoke dissipated in time for me to see the big reveal: the flipside crusted and brown. A small pool of juice (or grease) appeared at the well of the chop. We marveled at it with reverence for three whole minutes.

After flipping and ogling the chop for three whole minutes let the pork chop cook for yet another three, then place in the oven for 6-7 minutes, or until the inside temperature reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure your rice is heated just so – dinner’s almost ready!

As the minutes on the timer whittled down, I checked on the black beans, simmering in stock, bell pepper, onions, garlic. Some salsa and habanero hot sauce for acidity and heat. Two whole dried arbol chiles and one ancho for good measure.

It is recommended that you enjoy the leathery, pliable texture of the arbol, take it two inches away from your nose and inhale deeply. Please resist the urge to rub it on your face.

The thick and spicy beans burned my tongue slightly as I licked them off the hot spoon. Forgiving them of their minor offense, I piled them on my plate.

You should know the chop has reached the right temperature, and it is resting in the pan for up to four minutes. It’s been a long journey and it needs rest.

My rice, slightly clumpy from a too-long sojourn in the sauce pot, fell in sporadic clumps next to my mountain of beans. And then there was the pork. I ran the pad of my pointer finger along the smoky sheen of the chop and licked my finger. Ah. I could taste the sugar, the apple cider vinegar. The smoky paprika and chili powder. The heat and scream of the skillet. It was all there, and I hadn’t even gone inside yet!

Once your meat has rested, trim the fat and cut off the bone.  

Nathan used to be a vegetarian and you would never guess by the way he chews the juicy bits off of fat and the best parts off of the bones. Love comes in many different forms.

Once plated, top with your salsa, a mix of thinly sliced apples and red onion, honey and apple cider vinegar. One chop renders two five-ounce portions. The thrifty will make gravy from its aftermath.

Looking for an actual pork chop recipe? Here’s one I like.


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