14 June 2012
Pork chops were on the menu a lot when I was growing up. My mother had countless delicious ways of cooking them. And to this day I can't cook a pork chop without remembering The Pork Chop Incident.
You see, my mother was a world-class cook but kind of a hazard. She didn't always plan in advance. I don't know whether she had known that morning that she was going to cook the pork chops and simply forgot to take them out of the freezer or if she was just being spontaneous. At any rate, she was going to cook those pork chops, frozen or not.
At this point, I must digress and tell you her theory about knives. Cooks of her caliber usually have a great deal of respect for their knives. They want the best knives they can afford, and they keep them sharpened. Not her. She worried about safety and followed religiously the misguided notion that a dull knife is a safer knife.
She had just given me, her enthusiastic nine-year-old sous chef, the standard safety speech when the darkened carbon steel blade jabbed into her palm and out the back of her hand as she attempted to pry apart the frozen chops. My mother was a very excitable sort when a situation wasn't all that serious. But when the chips were down, she was a cool one.
I was amazed at her composure as she tugged the knife out, wrapped her hand in a dish towel, grabbed her purse, and headed out to drive herself (stick-shift, no less) to the doctor. She barely beat my father home and was calmly manning the stove when he came in asking what was for dinner (which, incidentally, was right on time).
Skillet Pork Chops and Gravy
2 8-ounce 3/4-inch-thick bone-in loin pork chops (pastured pork)
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
Note: To make enough for 4 in the same size pan, use 4 5- or 6-ounce boneless chops and the same amounts of everything else.
1 Pat pork chops dry and dust them lightly with 1 tablespoon of the flour. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet (I use an All-Clad 5112 Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan). Shake off excess flour and place chops in the hot pan. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Brown well, as much as 10 minutes. (I repeat: Brown well; it makes all the difference!) Turn chops, sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Brown well. Remove from pan to plate.
2 Pour off most of fat in pan. Add Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar to pan, stirring to scrape up brown bits. Add flour-water mixture to skillet, simmering and stirring until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon each salt, pepper and marjoram. Return chops to pan, along with any liquid that collected on the plate. Simmer over very low heat, covered loosely, for about 30 minutes. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning.