Another Way for Pork Chops

Ragout with pork

Another Way for Pork Chops

Ragout with pork

Ragout with pork. Photo by Yvonne Lee Harijanto.

In our area, pork gets really inexpensive in the fall. We buy nice pork shoulder steaks for $0.99 a pound. Last year we bought just over 100 pounds.

Well, that’s a lot of pork so we try to get inventive on how to use it and to find another way for pork chops. One way to use it is as a ragout or a hearty stew.

Start by deboning the pork. Cut into chunks about one inch square. I like to marinate the pork to add flavor. Because the pork cooks quickly and at a high temperature, adding things for flavor in the cooking pan doesn’t work that well. Either the pan winds up with too much liquid or the flavorings burn before the pork is done cooking. So marinate.

If you want to get really creative, use the bones from the pork you just cut up and simmer to make a nice stock. Of course, you have to have the stock ready before starting the ragout. You can debone the pork and make the stock while the pork is marinating.

For a marinade for stew, I like to use salt, garlic, onion powder (or minced fresh onion), vinegar and lots of spices like oregano, thyme, herbs de provance, etc. Using flavored vinegars works well for this, too. The longer the marinade, the more flavorful and more tender the pork.

I prefer to cook all the other stew parts before adding the pork. For instance,

About 12 ounces of fresh or canned tomato
One medium diced onion
1/2 large bell pepper diced

In a large, hot skillet, add about 2 tablespoons of oil or fat (olive or coconut oil, the fatty end of a ham, a chunk of fat from the pork you just cut up — like that.). When the fat is rendered or the oil is hot, add the bell pepper. Keep the pan hot until the skin of the pepper is blackened. Then add the onion and turn the heat down to a medium simmer. Add the tomatoes. That will cool the pan down.

At this point, we need to add about 2 cups of a nice, rich broth or stock. Let all this simmer for about half an hour or 45 minutes. We want the sauce to thicken just a bit.

If you have noticed, we haven’t added any additional spices, salt or pepper yet. That’s because we are going to add the meat and the marinade. But we have to cook the pork first.

To do that, in another hot skillet, add a little oil or fat again. Pour off the marinade from the meat but save it. It’s going into the ragout. Drop the cubed, marinated pork into the second hot pan. Cook until there is a nice brown on the meat. Use a little (as little as possible) stock, water or white wine to deglaze the pan and to get all that nice brown stuff ready to go into the first skillet that has been simmering for a bit now.

Add the pork into the first skillet with the tomatoes, onions and peppers. Now add the marinade in as well.. Let everything simmer for 5 or ten minutes and then taste for salt, pepper and spice levels.  Adjust as necessary.

Now is a good time to add a little flaked cayenne pepper if that suits you.

I like to make this early in the day and then let it sit for a few hours on the stove. Rewarm it for dinner and serve with pita bread, toasted garlic bread, tortillas or even some nice hot baking powder biscuits.

This a great family meal for a cold day.

This dish is super flexible. You can add potatoes, carrots, peas, green beans, lentils … whatever you and your family like. Or even whatever is leftover in the refrigerator.

Another alternative is to serve it over rice or noodles. Any way you serve it, it is delicious, hearty and healthy food for you and your family. Enjoy!

 

Pork Chops in Orange Juice Marinade

We did something fun for dinner tonight. Pork chops in an orange juice marinade.

After marinading the chops in about 1/2 cups of fresh orange juice, about a tablespoon of minced garlic, salt, pepper and onion powder for about four hours, the chops got fried on a high fire for about ten minutes. (You already know my motto — Fry ’em hot and fast!)

Sunchokes

Sunchokes. Try them. You will LOVE them.

Then we deglazed the pan with the remaining marinade and dropped in a roux. After melting about half a stick of butter and tossing in about two tablespoons of flour, we mixed the remaining marinade and thinned it with some half and half until it was the right thickness.

The entire menu was mashed potatoes and sunchokes with garlic topped with an orange glaze roux, frozen green beans from last year’s garden and the orange glazed chops.

Turned out pretty good.

Orange Glazed Carrots

Orange Glazed Carrots

Orange Glazed Carrots

For a really nice sidedish to pork chops, try orange glazed carrots.

First, you may have already noticed, that at this site you probably will not get “a half of a cup of this and a quarter cup of that” kind of recipes. My family has always cooked with whatever is on hand so “recipes” vary a lot with what is in the pantry, in the garden or on the vine.

To apply this to glazed carrots, first peel carrots and cut into serving sizes, whatever you want that to be. It can be carrot rounds or chunks of carrot or whatever. Put them in a large-ish skillet with about a half a cup of water. (Okay. You got me there. Had to give an estimate, at least.)

Cookiing Orange Glazed Carrots

Cookiing Orange Glazed Carrots

Cook the carrots on medium heat until the carrots are medium soft when a fork is stuck into them. They should be just not quite done. Then pour out any excess water. Use the water in soup or stock or just drink it. It’s pretty good!

To the skillet and carrots, add the juice of about two small oranges or two splashes of orange juice. Adding more juice will take a little more time to cook off the water so you might want the carrots not quite as done in the first step of cooking the carrots.

When the pan starts to get sticky from the sugar from the juice, add either a sprinkle of brown sugar, white sugar or a dollop of honey, whichever you prefer. When the sugar or honey is melted, it’s done.

Serve with a sprig of mint, or a sprinkling of chopped mint leaves. Cilantro works very well, too.

This recipe offers enough variation that you could serve it many times over and have it be a little different every time.

Other variations: Instead or orange, use peach, plum, apple or apple juice, sweetened lemon or lime, pineapple, mango (mmmm!!), guava…. You get the idea. Pretty much any fruit.

Good herbs are fresh basil with apple, lemon grass or chives with mango or guava.

Carrots are usually a good choice since kids like them because they are sweet. Keep the sugar to a minimum, though, and depend on the fruit to do the major part of sweetening. The sprinkling of some green herb gives the serving kind of a Mardi Gras confetti feel and is visually appealing.

You can even substitute sweet potato for the carrot.

No matter which veggie you use, you have a quick, simple, healthy and delicious side dish for your perfectly cooked pork chops.

Tasty Pork Chop Recipes

Pork Chops

Pork Chops (Courtesy MarthaStewart.com)

It is often thought that pork chops are often difficult to cook without making the meat dry and tasteless. There are tons of recipes for cooking pork chops. However, cooking them correctly is more a matter of technique than it is of having the perfect “recipe”. The same technique can be applied to pork steak with equally good results. Fry pork very quickly over a hot fire and they will cook perfectly in only a few minutes. Fried pork chop recipes will almost always depend on the sear for the basics of the recipe.

My technique of cooking pork of any kind includes the magic of a good, hot sear. This can be accomplished by using the correct cookware and a good hot flame.

Barbeques also deliver a good hot fire. Grilled pork chop recipes often use a castiron griddle gets nice and hot, provides great grill marks and keeps the juices from going into the barbeque fire which sometimes causes a flame up. The flame up will scorch the meat creating a burned or charred taste. We want the meat to get a good brown on it but we do not want it charred. That causes even more drying of the meat.

There are a few recipes for cooking chops in a slow cooker to keep them moist. It’s my opinion that slow cooking pork should be reserved for pork roasts, hams or other larger cuts. Pork chops are too delicate and too tasty when they are fried to destroy them in a slow cooker.

Chops need to be a little on the thicker side for the best result. Thin chops cook far too quickly to keep the moisture in the meat. If chops are less than about 5/8 inch thick, breading chops will help to add bulk to the chop and will keep the juices in.

An added benefit of pan frying is that you can use the browning left in the pan for a delicious gravy. Pork makes the best gravy because it browns far better than beef, chicken or turkey does.

For a real treat, fry the chops then add partially cooked sliced onions and apples to the brownings left in the pan that the pork was fried in. The apples add sweetness to the pork while the onions add a savory element.

A good pork chop marinade can be created with red wine vinegar, crushed garlic, salt, pepper and a little Worcestershire sauce. Put the pork into a resealable plastic bag and let the meat marinate for anywhere from a few hours to overnight. If you like, add a tablespoon of brown sugar to the marinade. Fry as described above with a good, hot sear.

Using any acid such as vinegar, lemon or lime juice or garlic will also tenderize the meat as it marinates. Another tasty marinade can be made with grated fresh ginger, a tablespoon of soy sauce and a tablespoon of dark brown sugar. Garlic and ginger work fairly well together so garlic can be added if you like that flavor. The longer the meat marinates, the stronger the flavor will be after cooking.

Rather than cooking pork chops in a sauce, cook them separately then add the sauce at the time it is served. The chop will be more moist and have a better taste than it would have had it been cooked in a sauce. Cooking the two elements independently keeps the flavors from jumbling together. You will taste the meat and the sauce as two complementary flavors.

If you are considering baked pork chop recipes, keep the chops thicker. Even consider doing a good sear on a thick chop prior to baking. It will definitely help to seal all those beautiful, flavorful juices into the meat. You can reverse the process, too. Bake the chops until almost done and then put them into a good, hot pan to put the sear on them before serving.

Of course boneless pork chop recipes can be applied to regular chops and vice versa.

Chops are really easy to cook and there are lots of easy pork chop recipes available online. Keep things simple, use that good sear and just enjoy delicious pork chops every time you cook them.

How To Cook the Perfect Pork Chop

How To Cook the Perfect Pork Chop

Cooked Pork Chops

Cooked Pork Chops (Photo Wikipedia.org)

Start with the best chop you can find. It should be cut at least 3/4 inch thick and completely defrosted if it had been frozen. Do not wash it, soak it or marinate it. We want to keep all the natural juices in the chop and do not want it to dry out while cooking.

Get your best fry skillet and heat it with a little oil until you can see the oil moving in the pan. Except for your preference regarding the amount of oil that you prefer to eat,  you can use a little or a lot of oil. Good oils to use are olive or sunflower oil.

When the pan is ready, carefully drop the chop or chops  into the pan. It will take several minutes for the first side to brown adequately. Don’t be concerned if the chop sticks. If it doesn’t come unstuck when it is time to flip it over, you can deglaze. (See below for deglazing techniques.) Now is the time to season the chop as you prefer with salt, pepper, sage, garlic, onion powder — whatever you like.

To see if the chop is ready to turn, lift a corner to see how brown it is. If you are not sure if it is brown enough, it isn’t. Leave it another minute or two and check again.

Flip the chop and brown the second side. If the chop is less than an inch thick it is probably very close to being fully cooked and has been in the pan for about ten minutes. To test for doneness, pierce the center with a fork. If clear liquid oozes out, it is done. To be certain about the doneness, slice the center and check for pinkness. If it is just a little pinker than you like, it is ready to take out of the pan. Let the chop rest for ten minutes before serving. It will have finished cooking in that ten minutes and be perfect when you serve it.

If you have a chop that is nice and thick, you can use the following deglazing technique to pump up the flavor using only water. When the chop is nicely browned or just before it is ready to come out of the pan, put about 1/4 cup of water in the pan. It will immediately boil and sizzle because of the hot oil and water together. This is a good thing but stay back from the stove as you add the water so you don’t get splattered with hot oil. The water will cook down very quickly leaving a gooey browning in the pan. Move the meat around to get as much of that browning onto the chop. Flip it over and coat the other side. All the flavor that has cooked out of the chop are now back on it and well seasoned, too.

Deglazing

Deglazing is a wonderfully simply way to add a ton of flavor to your meal.

Deglazing is simply adding a liquid to a hot pan. The liquid can be plain water or champagne, any kind of wine, bourbon, fruit juice, broth — any liquid. Whatever you add to the pan will, with the exception of plain water, add flavor to whatever is in the pan cooking. Any alcohol will burn away.  Liquids like fruit juices will add quite a lot of sugar which will also add to the browning.

If, when deglazing, too much liquid is added, simply extend the cooking time to let the excess liquid boil away. You can remove the meat from the pan until the liquid is gone. That will prevent overcooking the pork.

Talking Pork

Pork Chop

Pork Chop

While talking pork, let’s talk about the meat itself.

There are three types of meat on a pig: The whitest and leanest is the loin. When the sliced should is usually called pork steak and the meat is the darkest of the three. The third is in between the light and dark and has a medium texture as well.

A chop is a slice of the loin – that’s the big muscle along each side of the backbone – and a piece of the rib bone. Without the rib bone, a chop become a slice of loin. The pork loin meat has strong lateral fiber and is very, very lean.

Pork does not becomed marbled with fat like pork does. The fat on a pig is pretty much restricted to just below the skin with some distribution between large muscles.. A cow, on the other hand, fattens up with fat all through the muscle tissue. The fat in meat keeps it moist. This lack of fat in the chop is what makes the chop tend toward dryness when cooked. Keeping the pork chop moist is our first concern.

One of the processes in cooking that will make pork dry is overcooking. In the past, pork was cooked (and usually cooked too much) to prevent infection by Trichinella spiralis which is a round worm. Mammals including humans can be infected if they eat infected meat that has not been cooked enough to kill the worm larvae. Today, commercially raised pork is no longer infected with Trichinella spiralis. In fact, Wikipedia says

Between 2002 and 2007, 11 cases were reported to CDC each year on average in the United States; these were mostly the result of eating undercooked game, bear meat, or home-reared pigs.

That means that pork can be cooked properly without fear of infection.

Pork should be cooked to just be a little pink in the center of the chop. Take the chop out of the pan when then center is a little more pink that you would like it, let it rest for 10 minutes and it will be perfect.