- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2007

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 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 — and 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, go to www.snakeriverfarms.com or www.lobels.com.

It’s up to you as the cook to pay careful attention to cooking time and temperature to make sure you have a moist juicy chop.

While many suggest cooking pork to an interior temperature of 160 degrees, I have found that is a simply too high. The pork should be slightly pink and at 145 degrees for both optimum flavor and texture. Trichinosis, a parasite found in pork, dies at 137 degrees, so cooking past that temperature should assure that your dish will be safe as well as delicious.

The pork chops in today’s recipe are grilled and then finished in the oven, guaranteeing even cooking. So easy, yet so tasty, these chops use bottled sweet cherry peppers to give the dish its punched-up flavor. They are wonderful in salads, pasta and on an antipasto platter.

These little bright red and green cherry gems, sweet, slightly tart and mildly spicy, are 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.

Help is on the way: If you can’t find cherry peppers, you can chop up a few chili peppers (jalapeno for a hotter flavor or Anaheim for a milder flavor) along with a couple of chopped sweet bell peppers and saute them instead of the marinated cherry peppers. Use ½ cup more chicken stock instead of the cherry pepper liquid.

The chops will continue to cook another 5 degrees after you take them off the heat so don’t overcook them.

This is best prepared just before serving.

Use a heavy pan that can withstand high heat in the oven.

Pork chops with sweet cherry peppers

4 pork chops with bone on, about 1½ inches thick, each about ½2 pound

Salt and black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium red onion, cut into eighths

1 16-ounce jar sweet cherry peppers, drained and the juice reserved

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 sprig of thyme

1 cup chicken stock

½ cup reserved cherry pepper juice

Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a heavy ovenproof 12-inch skillet or casserole, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the pork chops and saute on each side for about 3 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove to a side dish.

Add the onion and the drained cherry peppers and saute until the onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and thyme and saute another minute.

Add the chicken stock and reserved pepper juice and bring to a boil on high heat. Return the pork chops to the pan along with any juices.

Place in the oven and roast for about 15 minutes or until the pork chops are slightly pink and almost cooked through. Place the pork chops on a platter and lightly cover.

Place the pan back on the stove on high and reduce the liquid for about 3 to 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Spoon the sauce around the pork chops and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple.” To contact her, go to www.seriouslysimple.com.


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