Friday, September 23, 2011

Pork Chops to Make a Bad Day Better

Okay. I have had a crummy week - no two ways about it. Lots of whining (or is that wining...?) that could be done but instead when things are glum I tend to cook. Everything looks better with a good meal in you, I think. So this week when I was at a rotten place I made a nice dinner for myself and The Other Half. I'm not sure if others would consider this comfort food but for me this recipe is warm and comforting and made a bad day just a little better.

This recipe comes from "The Naked Chef" by Jamie Oliver - one of my foodie crushes. I served it with creamed spinach (Green Giant, not homemade this time) and long grain rice. Because of the bold flavors in the herbs there are a variety of wines that would pair nicely with this. We chose a lovely Riesling that was a crisp, clean companion to the meal. Enjoy!

Couple of notes:

Buy nice thick single chops, or in the absence of that see if you can get double-rib chops - the butcher at your local grocery store should be able to cut them for you. If you get chops that are super large (more than an inch thick) you will want to pan sear them per the recipe and then finish them off in the oven at 375 degrees until the juices run clear and the core temperature is at least 145 degrees for 15 seconds with a meat thermometer (about 15-30 minutes depending on thickness, check frequently so they don't dry out). So important to check the temperature to make sure they are cooked all the way through!

Use fresh herbs - I know this is often my battle cry but in this instance it will make the difference between a chop that you eat and say "What was Nancy thinking?" and a chop that you eat and say "Is it okay if I pick the bone up and eat every last little morsel like I am at a Renaissance fair?"

If you don't own a mortal and pestle you can McGyver one using a wooden or heavy plastic bowl and a round fist sized rock wrapped in plastic wrap - you can find a good rock at almost any garden supply store. The other option would be to use a food processor - just don't work it too much - you won't get as nice a paste.

Pork Chops with Thyme, Lemon and Pesto

1 handful of thyme picked from stem
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove of garlic
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
(4) thick loin chops or two-rib regular chops
pesto (recipe below)

Using a mortar and pestle pound the thyme with 1 teaspoon of salt until it becomes a paste, then add the garlic and 1 teaspoon of black pepper and pound again. Stir in the lemon juice and zest and the olive oil. The paste should be the consistency of toothpaste.

Smear the mixture over the chops and leave out to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile heat a caste iron pan or stove top griddle on medium high heat. Place the chops in pan (they make a bit of smoke so get your fan on!). Cook on each side 4-5 minutes, letting each side get nicely charred and golden. Don`t let them burn - if it looks as if they are getting too much colour turn the heat down. They should take about 8 minutes to cook at a medium high heat. After 8 minutes total take the pan off the heat and check the chops temperature, inserting the meat thermometer from the side. When the temperature registers 145 degrees the chops are done.

Rest the chops for a few minutes while making the pesto, then spoon a dollop of pesto over them.


1/4 cup garlic, chopped (3-4 good size pieces)
3 healthy handfuls of fresh basil leaves
1 handful of pine nuts
1/4  cup Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and ground black pepper
lemon juice

Put your garlic into a food processor. Combine into a pulp with shredded basil leaves. Add the pine nuts into the mixture and pulse again. Turn out into a bowl and add half of the cheese. While gently stirring, add in olive oil until sauce starts to bind and becomes semi-wet in consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add remaining cheese. Add more oil as needed and then finish with a squeeze of lemon juice to keep the color bright and help bring out the flavor of the basil over the garlic.