A pork chop is like a blank canvas. Seasoned with a sprinkle of salt and a twist of pepper, it’s the perfect foil for creating a meal of the moment, or as zee French say, “a la minute”. That’s an expression that has fallen out of style, but I wonder why. What is more contemporary than making a quick sauce from ingredients you have on hand, in the same pan you cooked the pork chop? Quick, economical, inclined to be seasonal; I say it’s time we resurrect ‘a la minute’ cooking.
Getting back to that pork chop: pork is a chameleon meat. From prosciutto to bacon, from roast pork to pig foot, there is no part of the pig that isn’t revered by someone. Pork has the capacity to change its texture and flavor with very subtle enhancements.
Take salumi for example; they are all made pretty much the same way: grind the meat to varying textures, add a few seasonings, hang to dry. But change the humidity, or add a little bit of fennel, or wine, and the flavor changes radically.
I think that’s why I love pork so much; how can you tire of something that is so versatile, you could eat it for a year and never make it the same way twice? A ‘mixed grill’ on a menu in Umbria means mixed cuts of pork, with the very daring chef adding a piece of .... chicken!
Last night’s a la minute inspiration was:
Seared Pork with Artichokes and Aioli Pureed Potatoes.
2 pork chops, with the bone in and a bit of fat
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
5-6 artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
1 good shot of grappa
1 T butter
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper the pork chops. Heat a saute pan until it’s good and hot. Do not add any oil to the pan, just drop the chops in and let them saute until they form a little crust, then turn the chops and cook until done. A 1/2” chop will take about 5-7 minutes.
Remove the chops from the pan and keep warm.
Turn the heat down and add the artichoke hearts, garlic, mustard and stir, allowing the garlic to soften but not burn. Add the grappa and cook until it disappears. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter, swirling until it melts. Squeeze a good squirt of lemon juice into the pan. Taste and adjust if you need more salt or pepper.
Spoon the artichoke sauce over the meat and enjoy!
For the aioli potatoes, I had some leftover smoked paprika & garlic aioli. I made the pureed potatoes like I normally do: boiled and then pushed through a ricer with a tiny bit of milk. When I served the potatoes, I made a hole in the middle and filled it with the aioli. You know, like when you were a kid and you made a mashed potato swimming pool and filled it with gravy? Same idea, only the pool wasn’t so deep, as a little aioli goes a long way!