Category Archives: Pork

The hallmarks of greatness.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

“Mom,” I texted, “would you please send me your recipe for sweet and sour pork chops?”

“Will try,” she replied. “Not sure what condition it’s in.”

Four hours later, three photos arrived, each a yellowed sheets of paper, splattered with more than 40 years of food, the hallmarks of a good recipe. The top of the first page reads, “McCall’s 1969.”

Mom's sweet and sour pork chopsThis is the recipe that defines sweet and sour pork for me. Far from small scraps of pork hidden in thick, doughy breading, choked in a gelatinous blend of corn syrup and Red Dye #40, Mom’s recipe is a simple but elegant balance of vinegar and brown sugar, tied together by sweet, acidic pineapple. Earthy soy and the underlying bitterness of green pepper ground the dish, whose flavors are mellowed and bound by rich pork.

A online scan of 15 sweet and sour pork chop recipes revealed few changes from McCall’s 1969 masterpiece. I dove in, eliminating bottled ketchup and canned stock. Mild, sweet, white balsamic vinegar and light Temari soy sauce let thick, porterhouse pork chops, fresh pineapple and vegetables shine through. Tapioca starch gently thickens the sauce.

It’s a good recipe. Really good. The kind you want to print out and start splattering with food. It should be nicely yellowed in 40 years or so.

Sweet And Sour Porterhouse Pork Chops

Serves 4

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 4 porterhouse or loin pork chops, about 1″ thick and bone-in
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup White Balsamic or Peach Vinegar*
  • 1/4 cup cup Tamari soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbs peanut oil
  • 1/2 large red onion cut in 1” chunks
  • 1 red pepper cut in 1” chunks
  • 1 green pepper cut in 1” chunks
  • 1/2 pineapple cut in 1” chunks
  • 1” ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 tbs tapioca or corn starch**

*Sapore’s Peach vinegar was delicious in this dish! White Balsamic would deliver similar mild acidity with light sweetness.

**What’s up with tapioca starch? If you can find, it is a very neutral tasting thickener, not dulling the flavors of the other ingredients. I use it exclusively for fruit and berry pies. Corn starch is a perfectly acceptable substitute.

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Directions:

  • Pat pork chops dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Whisk together brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and chicken stock. Reserve.
  • Heat peanut oil in a large sauté pan over med-high heat. Brown pork chops, about 3 minutes per side. Reserve pork chops.
  • Return pan to medium heat and add onions. Cook 2 minutes until softened. Add red and green peppers and cook 2 minutes longer.
  • Add pineapple and ginger. Cook an additional two minutes.
  • Return pork chops to pan, along with any liquid that has accumulated on the plate, nestling them in the vegetables. Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 50 minutes.
  • Remove pork chops and vegetables with a slotted spoon. Whisk together tapioca starch with 2 tbs warm water. Add to pan and cook, on med-high, stirring, until sauce thickens. Serve over pork chops, pineapple and vegetables.

I ate a taco.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Every recipe has a backstory. Here’s how pork chops cooked on a bed of mushrooms with cotija cheese came to be:

Like most great dishes, inspiration didn’t manifest, it accumulated, beginning, innocuously, with the purchase of two, thick-cut, bone-in pork chops. Something to have on-hand for dinner. But, rather than cook the pork chops, my husband Jason and I went out to dinner at DC’s newly-opened El Rey taqueria. The queso con hongos tacos, filled with rich, earthy mushrooms and crumbly cotija cheese were delicious. We ordered a second round.

The next day I thought, “I really should cook those pork chops before they go bad. I wonder how they’d taste with cotija and mushrooms?” Remembering a Silver Palate cookbook recipe for chicken cooked on a bed of mushrooms, I scanned it briefly for technique and roasting temperature.

The first attempt: since I planned to cover the roasting dish with foil, I browned the pork chops first in a pan. Then promptly ignored my own fabulous advice about cooking mushrooms in batches to avoid crowding the pan. The result? A baking dish filled with a soupy layer of wilted mushrooms topped with seared pork chops . We agreed the dish was worth repeating, but that most of the flavor ended up in the liquid in the bottom of the baking dish. We also thought the thick-cut chops got a little thin on flavor toward the center.

The second attempt: A quick and painless brine for the pork chops added all the flavor we needed. Cooking the mushrooms in batches until golden-brown on the edges minimized the broth in the baking dish. Increasing the scallion greens and cilantro from a garnish to a solid sprinkling provided a welcome fresh balance to the earthy mushrooms, sweet, mild pork and the light tang of the cheese.

It’s a winner. I wonder if it would make a good taco?

Baked Pork Chops And Mushrooms With Cotija

Serves 4

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup kosher or sea salt
  • 4 thick-cut, bone-in pork chops
  • 2 cups chicken stock, boiling
  • 1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3-5 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 scallions, white and green parts chopped separately
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 lbs crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbs dried epazote or oregano
  • 2 tbs chili powder, like guajillo
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled cotija cheese, or feta

Directions:

  • Dissolve salt in 8-10 cups cold water. Add pork chops to brine and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, up to 2 hours.
  • Pour boiling stock over mushrooms. Let sit for 20 minutes. When reconstituted, strain liquid through a paper-towel lined sieve, reserving the liquid. Rinse mushrooms clean and chop finely.
  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Drain and rinse pork chops. Pat dry and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Warm 1 tbs oil in a 12” skillet over med-high heat. Brown pork in two batches, about 3 minutes per side. Add an additional tablespoon of oil for second batch if needed. Reserve, tented with foil.
  • Add 2 tbs more oil to pan, reduce heat to medium. Add onion and scallion whites. Cook until softened. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.
  • Add mushrooms to pan in a single, thin layer, about half of them. Cook until mushrooms begin to brown on edges. Reserve mushrooms.
  • Return pan to heat, and add an additional tablespoon of oil. Add remaining mushrooms and cook until edges are golden brown. Return reserved mushrooms, along with chopped porcinis to pan. Add reserved porcini liquid and cook until reduced and thickly coating mushrooms.
  • Season mushroom mixture with epazote, chile powder, and 1/4 cup cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Place mushrooms in bottom of 9” square or 9 x 11″  baking dish. Top with pork chops and cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 375 until done, about 20 minutes.
  • Serve topped with scallion greens and remaining cilantro.

You’ve got time.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

What would you do with more time?

Do you have a stack of unread issues of the New Yorker, or trail maps to the 48 peaks over 4000 feet in the White Mountains? Though a cold blessing, many people working in DC and around the country, currently have some time to answer this question.

My answer is simple. I would cook. I would braise and bake, make stocks stews and sauces, I would preserve and tackle all those time consuming cooking feats that currently escape my hectic schedule. Recently, I decided to just go for it.

Enamored by the thought of  using the local harvest of Asian pears in a marinade, I decided to braise a bone-in pork loin roast. The sweet, earthy pears paired perfectly with salty, delicate Tamari soy. I ground in some of the bold, floral Szechuan peppercorns I had been playing with recently, along with bright, fresh ginger and sweet maple sugar. My first attempt, 12 hours in the marinade and 10 in the oven, produced tender pork lacking flavor, It tasted much better after a night in the fridge.

Already a two day recipe, I figured I had already crossed a line and headed right back in to the kitchen. On Monday, I patted the bone-in pork loin roast with a blend of salt, peppercorns and maple sugar for an overnight dry marinade. Tuesday morning, I added the liquid ingredients to infuse throughout through the day and night. Wednesday morning, I seared the pork and braised it in a 200 degree oven for 10 hours, then cooled it to room temperature so it could sit in the fridge overnight, taking on even more flavor.

Thursday, after returning home from work, I skimmed the fat from the surface of the marinade. Shredded the meat, tossing it in the thickened sauce and served it with an Asian pear slaw and bao bing, the thin Chinese pancakes served with mù xī pork.

The result? Four days of cooking, requiring less than two hours of work is worth every minute. The flavors are complex, sweet and grounded, everything you want from cool fall days that aren’t yet winter.
If your unwillingly at home from work, my thoughts are with you. May you find joy in the kitchen. Now is the time.

Asian Pear Slaw and Pulled Pork Pancakes

Ingredients:


For pork:IMG_3493-1

  • 4 tbs crushed Szechuan peppercorns or 2 tbs each crushed black and white peppercorns*
  • 1/4 cup maple or brown sugar
  • 2 tbs salt
  • 1 4-5# bone-in pork shoulder
  • 3 Asian Pears
  • 3/4 cups Tamari soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup Rice wine vinegar*
  • 4 tbs sesame oil*
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 tbs diced, fresh ginger
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil

For slaw:


  • 3 Asian pears
  • 2 tbs Tamari soy
  • 1 tbs rice wine vinegar*
  • 1 tsp sesame oil*
  • 
1/2 tsp maple or brown sugar
  • 1″ fresh ginger, grated

For pancakes:


  • 2 cups flour
  • 
1 cup boiling water
  • 
2 tbs sesame oil

*You know what makes this taste even better? The Lemongrass-infused rice wine vinegar and Wasabi Sesame oil from Sapore. I’m totally obsessed. The Wasabi Sesame oil is well worth an online order. Give them a call and they would be more than happy to ship you a bottle of Szechuan peppercorns too!

Serves 8

Directions:
Shredded pork:IMG_3514-1

  • Dry rub: Mix together Szechuan peppercorns, maple sugar and salt. Rub mixture into surface of pork roast and place in the fridge overnight.
  • Make the marinade: Puree Asian pears in a food processor. Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and ginger and purée. Add pork shoulder to marinade, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • Braise the roast: Pre-heat oven to 200. Remove pork from marinade, pat dry, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Warm oil in a dutch over medium-high heat. Sear pork on all sides.
  • Add marinade and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and place in oven and cook for 10-12 hours. Check every four hours to make sure you aren’t losing steam from your dutch oven. Add hot tap water to replace the liquid level as needed.
  • Rest the roast: Remove pork from oven, let cool and place in fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
  • Shred the pork and finish the sauce: Skim fat from surface and reheat pork on the stove. Remove pork and shred.
  • Strain the cooking liquid, reduce to a thick sauce and toss with pork.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Asian pear slaw:

  • Grate the Asian Pears the medium sized holes of a box grater.
  • Whisk together soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, honey and ginger.
  • Toss Asian pear with dressing and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. The pear will wilt over time, so dress it no more than 20 minutes before serving.

Mandarin Pancakes:

  • Add 3/4 cups boiling water to flour and stir together in one direction with a chop stick or spoon. Add additional water as needed for a slightly tacky dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes until smooth. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes to an hour.
  • Roll the dough into a 1/2″ thick “snake” and cut into 2″ pieces.
  • Roll two pieces of dough into separate 3″ circles. Brush the top of each with sesame oil, and place the oiled sides together.
  • Roll the pancakes out into 6-8″ circles.
  • Warm a skillet over low heat. Add pancakes to pan and cook until brown spots appear, about 2 minutes. Turn and finish cooking, about 1 minute longer. Remove from pan and separate pancakes. Sometimes it take a little work to get them started. Keep warm by covering with a towel.
  • Repeat with remaining dough.
  • Serve pancakes with shredded pork and Asian pear slaw.