14 June 2012

Pork Chops - The Pork Chop Incident


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

(Serves 2)

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.

26 comments:

Eileen said...

Poor mother, that must have been so painful!. I would have fainted at the sight of the blood! Have to admit I think it's something I have done in the past and got away with! The chops would defrost and separate themselves given enough time :-)

Jean said...

Well, that was ONE lesson I learned early in life - don't think I've every pried apart frozen meat, I always let it thaw!

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

Forget the chops – pork chops, that is – your mom made her chops with that suave segue to ER and back. Great story told with the verve only you can muster (should I say mustard on a cooking blog). Like your chef-ering, your prose is nuanced and just undertold enough to keep the appetite keen and responsive. I’ll have a second helping of stories please…

Jean said...

Thank you, Sully, I am honored to have such a compliment from a Pulitzer prize nominee! I'll have to tell more stories about my mother.

Charles said...

Eeeesh, sounds like the sort of thing I would do - I've stabbed myself in the thumb and thought I'd damaged a nerve while trying to cut a zip-tie once :p

Reminds me of a story my wife told me about her grandmother. She cute a huge flap of skin away from her palm using a cheese slicer (like this one) - as she lived out in the middle of the Swedish countryside, and it was winter, she had to go out, and go to the nearest town, alone, on a kicksled!

I tell you, women then... they were hardcore!

Jean said...

Sheesh! That IS hardcore! I have a couple stories of my own I'll have to share some day.

Yenta Mary said...

OMG, your mom is a real pro! Stab, suture, serve dinner! I may never cook pork chops now without thinking of this story ....

Jean said...

Thanks, Mary! I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I've got a million "Mama Stories"!

Cindy said...

Hi Jean,
What a story! Oh my goodness! It must have been so painful! Your mother was quite the lady in the kitchen and it sounds like she was a great cook. Your recipe sounds delicious, I LOVE a good pork chop.
Hugs, Cindy

Jean said...

Thanks, Cindy. Life was never dull with my mother!

Mrs. Tuna said...

I do okay with pork loin, but man it seems like I always over cook them.

Jean said...

Yeah, that's what I like about doing them this way - the gravy saves the day!

Richard Sheppard said...

Wow Jean, those pork chops look sinfully delicious! And that gravy looks irresistible.
Ouch! I can't believe you mom was so calm! I would have been in a panic. Glad it all worked out ok.

Anonymous said...

I loved the story about your mom! Reminds me of something my mom would have done too! lol The pork looks great... love them smothered in gravy!!
Jenn
http://jennsfoodjourney.blogspot.com

Jean said...

Thanks, Jenn! Gravies and sauces just "make" a piece of meat, don't they?

Jean said...

Thanks, Richard! I've often thought if it had been me, I'd probably still be walking around with the knife in my hand!

Sippity Sup said...

Ouch! Now I hurt all over. GREG

Jean said...

I know what you mean, Greg! WE call ourselves cooks, and we can't even finish getting a meal on the table just cause of a knife stuck through our hand!

CJ - Food Stories said...

OMG - What a food story :-)

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, CJ. That's my Mama for you! I've got a bunch more where that came from!

betsyb said...

What a story! I have much to be thankful for that this is NOT what happened to my hand. Just reading this makes me cringe! Thanks for sharing. Happy New Year to you!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thank you, Betsy. Hope your hand is better soon. And I hope you have a wonderful 2013!

Cranberry Morning said...

Good grief, Jean. What a story!! Actually, I let chicken or beef or pork partially thaw until it's at the point that it's bendable and easy to slice, but still firm enough not to be squishy. I will definitely remember that story. And I believe that a very sharp knife is more dangerous. You and my husband agree on the other side. I'm with your mom.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Well, I'm happy to have you agree with my mom - she was a very smart woman - even if she *was* wrong about this! ;)

ZipZip said...

Dear Jean,
Made these pork chops this evening, the second time since you posted the recipe. The boys and husband enjoyed it very much: we had it with rice and roasted red peppers, wilted cucumbers in vinegar and sugar, and cantaloupe. A good family meal.

Thanks again for a keeper, and very best,

Natalie

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Natalie, thanks so much! And I love the way you rounded out the meal -- sounds perfectly delightful!

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