Fresh herbs and garlic give these pan-roasted chops a satisfying depth. Recipe below.
Italian chefs and home cooks are rightly renowned for their way with tomatoes. Others may well use the tomato—the French even dubbed it the pomme d’amour, or love apple, for its supposed aphrodisiacal powers—but the Italians own it.
Unfortunately, as a result, we sometimes forget that there’s a whole world of Italian cooking beyond insalate caprese and bolognese sauce. At least I do. So I was happy to stumble upon Tastes of Italia magazine recently. A number of recipes caught my eye in this issue. I’m sure my takes on more than a few of them will turn up here sooner or later. I’ll start with this one that had me thinking outside the tomato.
This recipe for juicy, quickly prepared chops calls on three other stalwarts of the Italian kitchen—garlic, sage and rosemary. I’ve already pronounced rosemary my favorite of the herb world, and as far as I’m concerned, just about any savory dish can be improved with the addition of garlic. Sage falls more into the category of good intentions for me, though. I always feel I should explore its pungent flavor more, but never quite get around to it. So when I saw this recipe that married it with garlic, rosemary and pork, I had to try it.
The chops are pan roasted, cooked in a covered skillet with the herbs, garlic and some olive oil. Covering the pan holds in moisture, keeping the chops from becoming too dry or tough. This is especially important with today’s pork production methods that create leaner meat; the reduction in fat may be good for our waistlines, but it also makes the meat more prone to drying out. Sometimes when I’m searing chops, I’ll add a little vermouth to the pan when I turn them and cover it to finish the cooking. This also introduces some moisture to the meat, along with a very subtle flavor note, thanks to vermouth’s fairly neutral taste. I may try that the next time I fix these chops as well.
Rosemary Sage Chops
Serves 2 to 4 [see Kitchen Notes]
4 tablespoons olive oil [or less—see Kitchen Notes]
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 to 4 bone-in pork chops, about 8 ounces each [see Kitchen Notes]
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat a large skillet over a medium flame. Add olive oil. When it starts to shimmer, stir in sage, rosemary and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In the meantime, pat chops dry with a paper towel and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Increase heat on skillet to medium-high and add chops to pan, directly on top of herb/garlic mixture. Cover pan and cook chops undisturbed for 5 minutes. Turn chops, cover pan, reduce heat to medium and cook until just cooked through, about 5 minutes for chops 3/4-inch thick. Adjust time according to thickness of chops. Also given today’s pork production methods, you don’t have to cook it to death. A little pink on the inside is okay, at least with pork purchased in most stores in the United States. Transfer to plates and serve.
That much oil? Really? Four tablespoons of olive oil sounded like a lot when I first read the recipe. I’m used to one or two at most. But then I recalled reading an article in the New Yorker, “The Taming of the Chef.” In it, bad boy chef Gordon Ramsay screams at a cook [I know you're all just as stunned as I am] for not using enough oil in his pan when he’s cooking a pigeon breast. “More oil in your pan! You’re not cooking it. You’re scorching it. Did you hear me? You’re ruining the dish.” What you need here is enough oil to generously cover the bottom of the pan. Otherwise, you will indeed scorch stuff. For the large, flat-bottomed pan I was using, 4 tablespoons did the trick. Besides, when you’re done, much of the oil remains in the pan.
How many chops? This recipe can serve 2 to 4 people, just by adjusting the number of chops. You don’t have to double anything else, as long as the pan you’re using will accommodate the chops in a single layer. Make sure the chops lie directly on the herbs and garlic—this will impart more flavor to them as they cook. Bits of sage and rosemary will also adhere to the chops, giving nice little extra flavor hits. Pick off any slices of garlic that cling to the chops—that would be overkill.
The original recipe called for a 1-1/2 pound pork loin sliced into 1-inch medallions. I’m sure that would be wonderful—chops were what I had on hand.
Also this week in Blue Kitchen, 12/5/2007
Eat, drink and use rosemary. Turns out fish isn’t the only brain food out there—more health benefits cited for alcohol and my favorite herb.