Pork is remarkably affordable compared to beef those days. I like it. Tam is more skeptical, pointing out that it can be much too dry to suit her. So I normally cook it in a covered pan with some kind of sauce.
Typically, I'll marinate pork and cook it with apples and onions, then add whatever is on hand -- carrots, celery, turnips, potatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms.
Yesterday, I had a couple of nice bone-in pork chops, about an inch thick. I was clean out of apples, and when I went to make the marinade, realized I was out of balsamic vinegar, too. What to do?
Start with the marinade: the goal is something flavorful and a bit acidic, with a touch of sweetness. I dissolved a teaspoon of table sugar* in a tablespoon or more of white vinegar† and went looking. A quarter-cup or less of soy sauce, a hefty addition of Worcestershire, a couple of tablespoons of Iwashi fish sauce (garum, more or less), a dollop or two of Truff truffle-infused hot sauce...I was going to use a little lime juice but what I had was very old. There was some good oil and vinegar-based Italian salad dressing in the fridge, though, and I put in about as much as the soy. Ginger powder, clove powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder and parsley flakes -- when it was all together, I had nearly a cup of liquid. I poured it over the chops in a freezer bag and let it sit in the refrigerator for eight hours, turning occasionally.
A little more than two hours before dinnertime, Tam had been to the grocery. She picked up balsamic vinegar and mustard. I mixed a couple of teaspoons of sweet orange marmalade and Dijon mustard with a tablespoon or so of the balsamic: a little sweetness and hotness does pork a world of good. The pork chops went in a lightly-oiled frying pan‡ and the marinade from the bag went over them, then I added the mustard and marmalade mixture on top of them. I put the cover on, set the heat to medium until it was hot and turned it down to low for an hour.
An hour later, things were coming along nicely. I turned the chops over, tasted the sauce (if you don't taste what you are cooking, how can you know what it might need?), and added a very small can of sliced black olives and a small can of diced mild chilis. I let that simmer another fifteen minutes while I looked over the vegetables. I ended up stacking another burner grate to keep the pan simmering but not boiling, which you sometimes have to do on a gas range. (Electric ones will usually go lower).
I diced up three-quarters of a nice red onion and added it, followed by a carrot chopped small and a couple of stalks of celery, likewise cut up. (Also three whole caperberries, just for fun.) Then I cut a largeish potato into rough cubes 3/8" to 1/2" on a side and added them all around the meat, put the lid back on, and let it cook for an hour until the potatoes were soft and had taken up the sauce. The potatoes are a more certain guide than the clock.
The potato is also part of the trick to this. That's a pretty strong sauce, after all -- but the potatoes will mellow it, and end up better for having done so. Turnips and even apples will do this, too, but the potato is the champion.
The finished pork chops were moist, tender, dark and flavorful. The vegetable mix was really good. Best served with plenty of the sauce over both.
One pan and a measuring cup for mixing the marinade, one cutting board, a knife, a fork and a spoon (I did baste the up side of the pork a few times during the first hour). Add in the dishes for dining (a couple of shallow white-glass pie plates, knives, forks and tumblers) and that's very little mess for a nice supper.
* I use Sugar In The Raw, but about the only things I use sugar for are coffee and oatmeal. If I baked, I'd keep white sugar and brown sugar on the shelf and there is no reason why either one couldn't be substituted.
† White vinegar is something you should just have. My Mom would add cider vinegar to that list as well, and it would have been better here. The white's about as harsh as it gets (and is very handy for cleaning!), so use it with restraint when cooking. (There's a list of cooking staples that I know but have never written down, which I guess I absorbed by osmosis as I was growing up.)
‡ Having inherited a lot of Mom's wedding-gift and 50th Anniversary-gift RevereWare, getting out the less-used pans can be heart-tugging. The smaller of the two skillets had been dropped so long ago that I'm not sure I remember it. The handle chipped and some of the hardware that held it on was lost. Dad had replaced the original bolt and Chicago screw with a longer screw and hex bolt. Every time I use that pan, I am reminded that it has been that way longer than I have been cooking. I could replace it with correct hardware, but I'd rather have the memory and a solid bit of repair work done by my own Dad.
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