I grew up in a house where pork chops showed up for dinner with some regularity (not to mention the occasional slow-cooked-all-day pork roast with vegetables). I like them and don't have them very often these days. Tamara's not a fan, correctly pointing out that pork chops in general are often dry, grainy and short on flavor.
My Mom's were not; she had a sure hand in the kitchen and with no more than salt, pepper and a 1949 RevereWare copper-bottomed skillet,* turned out delicious, moist pork chops. (There's probably a clue in that she rarely bought the boneless ones and made sure to leave all the fat on.)
Lacking that level of skill, I cheated. I have a nice, deep non-stick pan that straddles the line between frying pan† and saucepan. That mandates boneless pork chops -- but the lid is clear high-temperature glass, so I can see what's going on while keeping them covered.
A covered pan alone is not enough. So, what's good with pork? Shishito peppers pair well, and maybe a quick soy sauce marinade, but that's not enough. I had a Pink Lady apple, too -- I like apples but I don't always eat them before they go soft. Apples are a natural pairing with pork. But the dish needed something else to pull it together.
Last week, during my once-a-week grocery shopping trip,‡ I had picked up an interesting-looking spice mixture at the butcher counter. It was labelled "togarashi" but it turns out that it's really shichi-mi tōgarashi or nana-iro tōgarashi, two ways to call it "seven-ingredient chili powder" and apparently it's about as common in japan as plain old spice-mix chili powder is here. The kind the store sells has ground red dried chilies, Japanese pepper, roasted orange peel, poppyseed, a bit of ground dried seaweed (nori) and black and white sesame seeds. I'd already tried it on eggs (after tasting it by itself) and it's good stuff.
I sprinkled a teaspoon or two on the chops, gave it a little while to get absorbed, added maybe a whole tablespoon of soy sauce over them, and let the pork chops sit in it. I only gave it five minutes -- longer would be better, but I was hungry.
Spent the marinating time washing and slicing the apple into wedges about 1/8" thick and then cut those into small wedges. I peeled most of slices but that's a matter of taste; the peel I left on cooked right up and it does add a note to the flavor. (I had planned to add a few shavings of pickled ginger, but forgot. On the list for next time!)
Just a tiny dollop of bacon fat in the pan, and I added the chops when it was melted, then splashed a little more soy sauce on them.
While the chops were browning, I washed a generous handful of shishito peppers, slicing two of them into small sections but leaving the remainder whole. They are small, thin-skinned peppers with a lot of flavor and are usually cooked whole; you eat everything but the stem.
Flipped the chops and added about half the apples; when I was happy that the down side was browned, I turned them over, added the sliced peppers and the rest of the apples, and put the cover on.
From there on, I cooked them for ten minutes a side and kept adding whole shishito peppers (I should have taken the cooked ones out, as the flavor gets cooked right out of them -- and into whatever you're cooking with them.) I used a meat thermometer to determine doneness. It was something over 25 minutes, the apple was cooked down very soft, and the smell was....wonderful!
The finished chops looked good and were moist and flavorful. Even Tam liked them (or at least found them acceptable). The cooked-down apple, soy sauce, spice mix and sliced peppers made a wonderful kind of gravy and the whole peppers were a nice accompaniment. (We also had steamed broccoli with Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese.)
Things to try next time? Definitely the ginger. Definitely another apple or possible a pear, one of the harder varieties like a Bosc. The togarashi is mild enough that I could add some more of it, too.
* Good luck finding a new one -- I think they're all aluminum-bottomed now, when you find them. All stainless steel except for the heat-conducting bottoms and black handles. I have several pieces of Mom's 1949 set, supplemented with more of the same that Dad bought for her fifty years later. While you can tell the old ones from the new, it's not by the cooking surface: the handle material is duller and the markings are just about worn off the bottoms of the older pans. A quick check shows used sets and individual pieces commanding remarkable prices. There's a reason for that.
† Is it a Midwesternism? A Hoosierism? "Frying pan" and "skillet" are exactly the same thing to me. They are not necessarily synonyms to everyone, everywhere.
‡ That's a big change, as has been my doing any kind of weekly menu-planning. Living in the city with a nearby almost-gourmet supermarket, I have long been in the habit of deciding what to make for dinner based on what looked good at the market during an almost daily stop on my way home. I won't be doing that for awhile; Indianapolis has still got the highest per-capita infection rate in the state and I'm in no hurry to join.
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