I have fallen in love with Cooks Illustrated magazine, and a recent (undated, oddly enough) issue, they tackled the job of finding a way to cook pork chops so they are juicy, flavorful, and easy to chew. I’ve never had luck with them before, but this recipe turned out to be a fabulous technique! I searched for rib chops, but Shoprite didn’t have any, so I settled for some 3/4″ thick center cut chops. I followed Cooks Illustrated’s technique about 90%, with my one deviance being to marinate the pork for a few hours before cooking (a delicious marinade of fennel seeds, orange juice, kalamata olive oil, a dab of honey, coriander, salt, and pepper) in an effort to further “soften” the meat, as well as omitting the dash of sugar on each side of the chops to promote browning, instead adding the honey in my marinade for sugar. The actual cooking was surprisingly easy. I started by putting the chops in a cold pan over medium heat (preheated burner since I have an unresponsive electric stove!) for 4-9 minutes (until lightly browned – my burner took 5 minutes), then flipped them over with the heat now reduced to low for 3-6 minutes until 140F (again, since my stove-top cools slowly this step took a mere 4 minutes). I let them rest, tented with foil, for 5 minutes. I didn’t have to, but I followed the recipe’s direction to reduce the juices left in the pan and on the plate from the chops’ rest – there was very little juice, which is a good thing – on high heat, and finished the chops by flipping both sides in the reduction. The result was nothing short of a miracle for me, who is of course notorious for overcooking meat. Finally, a dish that didn’t wear out my jaws! Delicious! I think they were as tender as a pork chop can be. I think the marinade and poking them with a fork really helped.
For a side dish, I roasted thick fennel and red onion slices with a vinaigrette of crushed fennel seeds, lemon juice, olive oil, s&p, and dash white wine (in my awesome Jamie Oliver flavor shaker). While a tad too oily because I tossed the veggies in a bit of olive oil and s&p before roasting, the flavor was deep, yet light and smooth with just a hint of bite. Overall, this was a very tasty dinner. I will definitely do the technique again, but I’ll switch up the flavorings; Cooks Illustrated suggested mustard-sage and brandy-prune sauces. Both sound great, but I think my first “do-again” will be some sort of apple concoction with my pork – if nothing else, for the sake of tradition! Well, it’d be a first for me, and somehow I think it will turn out splendidly….