By Diane Rossen Worthington, Tribune Content Agency
When I’m stumped for a last minute main course dish, I often fall back on pork chops. They are perfect for quick meals since they don’t take long to prepare.
Pork chops come from the loin portion of the pig and are available either boned or with the bone attached. I like the center cut rib chop with the bone attached because the bone adds more moisture to the meat when you cook it; it also looks pretty.
Pork may be the other white meat, but sometimes it can be tasteless and dry. It has been bred to be very lean, which may be good for our waistlines but challenging for our taste buds.
If you can find kurobuta pork chops, they are worth the extra price tag. Kurobuta (Japanese black hog) pork, bred from Berkshire stock, is prized for its dark meat and rich flavor. American kurobuta pork is lean, yet still has small, fine streaks of marbling that produce a sweet, tender and juicy result. You can usually find this variety at fine supermarkets or meat markets. For more information on kurobuta pork, visit www.snakeriverfarms.com or www.lobels.com.
Be mindful as the chops cook, paying careful attention to cooking time and temperature to make sure that you have a moist juicy chop. While many suggest cooking pork to an interior temperature of 160 F, I have found that is a simply too high. The pork should be slightly pink and at 145 F for both optimum flavor and texture. Trichinella spiralis, a parasite found in pork that causes Trichinosis, dies at 137 F, so cooking past that temperature should assure you that your dish will be safe as well as delicious. Use a meat thermometer for accuracy.
This dish is first grilled and then finished in the oven – pan roasted – to guarantee even cooking. Be sure to use a heavy pan that can withstand high heat in the oven.
So easy and tasty, these pork chops use bottled sweet cherry peppers to give the dish its punched up flavor. The peppers are bright red and green cherry gems that are sweet, slightly tart and mildly spicy, grown in California and then bottled in liquid. Look for the Mezzetta brand at your market or at the Italian deli. Serve these chops with simple buttered noodles, spaetzle or mashed potatoes. A zinfandel or an Italian barbera would make a nice wine accompaniment to this rustic dish.
Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.