seared pork chops with broccoli rabe and ricotta orzo

It will soon become evident to all of you that I love my pork.  Let me prove it by diverting your attention from those succulent chops for just one second.

I don't mean to brag, but how awesome are those?  THEY RHYME AND EVERYTHING. Snagged them from a flea market in New York a couple of years ago, before bacon was the new black. Right now they are hanging on my bedroom wall because I don't want to impose my pork fanaticism on my poor roommates, but once I have my own place, these are going to be front and center in my kitchen.

Back to the matter at hand...

First off, I apologize for the inadequate visual narrative for this post. I actually meant this meal to be a night off from blogging because it was a quick use of some leftover and pantry ingredients I had lying around and frankly, I didn't think the meal would be exciting enough.  Halfway through the process, with the smell of pork fat wafting in the air, I changed my mind.  

Here is the main takeaway for today: before you sear off your pork chops, BRINE THEM.  I try to have the foresight to brine them overnight, but even if you totally blank and forget, brining chops for even an hour before cooking them will make them juicier and more flavorful.  There are some incredibly complex brine recipes out there (Keller - I'm looking at you with your chicken brine with 24 bay leaves).  If you have the time and inclination, by all means, go ahead.  But when it's just a weeknight, just throw together water, salt, sugar, and whatever herbs you have on hand. Other delicious flavoring agents include bits of orange peel, cinnamon, cloves...whatever gets you off.  

I seared them quickly in oil perfumed with fresh thyme sprigs. There's no better feeling than flipping over a piece of meat and seeing that gorgeous brown crust.  

I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that pork chops are very easily overcooked; almost every pork recipe you'll find will tell you to use a meat thermometer to ensure that it comes out perfectly. Sadly, I have a terrible track record with thermometers. Every one I've owned ends up melting into a lump of plastic, usually as a result of ignoring the little label that warns me not to subject it to a high temperatures environment like, let's say, a big vat of oil for frying chicken. For me, a 6 minute sear for each side plus a general gut feeling tells me when the pork is done.

I almost never trim off the fat that borders the side of a pork chop. Instead, I slash it a couple of times with a sharp knife and let it render. It will get golden and crispy, especially if you hold the chop up with a pair of tongs and let it sear on its side.

Sitting atop a bed of broccoli rabe and ricotta orzo (homemade ricotta from the other day!) I whipped up from trying to use up bags of half-used grains and pastas before the end of the school year. Sometimes the best things come from my cheapness.

The last finishing touch is a quick pan sauce made by deglazing the drippings in the pan with that trusty TJ's white wine and lemon juice. Not too bad for a meal that wasn't even supposed to make it to the cut.

seared pork chops
serves 2

2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons salt
1.5 tablespoons sugar
1 clove smashed garlic
4 sprigs thyme
7-10 peppercorns

Pan Sauce
1/2 cup white wine
half a lemon

2 bone-in pork chops

Mix together all the brine ingredients. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar and allow to cool completely, or throw in some ice to quicken the process. Submerge the chops and refrigerate overnight if possible.

Heat canola oil in a large skillet on high heat. Pat chops dry (be sure to really dry them or the oil might spit up at your pretty face) and score the fat by making slashes every inch along the chop. Reduce heat to medium-high and sear each side for about 5-6 minutes (if you have extra thyme sprigs, throw those in there too). If they stick to the pan once you start searing them, do not panic - they are forming a crust and will release when they are good and ready. After removing the chops from the pan, pour in the wine and scrape all the bits off the bottom. Give a squeeze of lemon juice, and season to taste. Quickly spoon over the chops.

orzo with broccoli rabe and ricotta
serves 4
1 cup dried orzo
1 shallot, finely diced
1/2 bunch of broccoli rabe, trimmed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup of ricotta cheese
sprinkling of parm

Cook orzo according to package directions. Heat olive oil in skillet on medium high. Sautee garlic and shallots until tender, then add broccoli rabe and wilt. Add chicken stock and continue to cook until completely softened and stock is mostly absorbed. Toss in the orzo and lemon zest,and fold in the ricotta cheese. Salt, pepper, and cheese it up. This side is delicious at room temperature too as a light lunch.