I made a new dish for dinner today: Italian-style pork chops with peppers and vinegar. The idea was originally inspired by an article I recently read in an old copy of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, but me being me, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, and I had to do it my way. I always find that Cook’s Illustrated recipes, like Alton Brown’s, are wayyyy too fiddly for me. I haven’t got the patience to sit around moving skilletfuls of pork chops in and out of the oven (three times for one dish!) Nor have I got what my favorite chef Nigella would call “the wherewithal in my larder” to make Italian dishes on a daily basis. So I improvised a little. The main improvement being: instead of brining my meat, I committed a little culinary faux pas and marinated it in what is probably the farthest thing from Italian seasoning — soy sauce. Hey, I was getting hungry, and I didn’t want to wait 40 minutes for the meat to brine. And anyway, in my books, everything tastes better with soy sauce.
And it turned out good. Really savory, and tender. I’m telling you, everything tastes better with soy sauce. Almost any hearty meat dish, that is. I put soy sauce in lentil stew, in French onion soup, in beef barley stew, in baked chicken, in my sausage-and-apples dish (a twist on sausage and peppers). I marinate steaks and fish and chicken and lamb in soy sauce, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. (Yes, sugar — my parents taught me that you should always balance out the salt in soy with a tiny pinch of sugar). You don’t have to add much — it adds just that little kick of savory that helps the meat come out more earthy and flavorful. And actually – provided you don’t drown your dish in it – the end result almost never tastes like soy sauce. It just tastes — better. I’ve read in some culinary magazines that there’s a Japanese name for that taste (umami) — and that apparently it’s now chic to add umami tastes to fancy dishes, though not necessarily soy sauce per se. Me, I’m just an ABC (American-born Chinese) girl who can’t imagine life without the stuff. I grew up with it as part of my daily basic palate (along with rice, ginger, garlic, scallions). So, with few exceptions (for example, I will not go as far as my brother, who used to dip apple slices in soy sauce – egh), I have no reservations about putting soy sauce in dishes where it is not supposed to appear.
Hence, my utterly heretical take on Italian pork chops. Maybe I shouldn’t call them that anymore. How about just pork chops? ABC-style. With vinegar and peppers. And onions. And soy sauce.
Sorry I have no photos of the food. I took my camera home a few weeks ago to use on a beach outing and decided to leave it there for a spell because as much as I love my beautiful DSLR, I didn’t want to carry it back (seriously: it’s heavy).
But here’s my recipe:
Italian Food: the ABC Version
Pork Chops with Vinegar and Peppers (and Soy Sauce!)
4 bone-in sirloin pork chops
1 large red onion
1 large green bell pepper
2 fat cloves of garlic
soy sauce (a few tablespoons)
white wine (about 1/2 a cup)
white rice vinegar (a few good glugs’ worth)
dried herbs (I used parsley and “italian seasoning” out of a bottle, since I didn’t have any rosemary, which is what the original recipe called for — but next time I think I’ll try it with the rosemary; I love rosemary)
a good pinch of sugar (1/2 tsp?)
salt and pepper
pat of unsalted butter (1-2 Tbsp)
grapeseed oil (or other oil with a high smoke point)
- Marinate the meat by drizzling it with soy sauce, salt, and pepper on both sides. Let it sit on a plate in the fridge while you prepare your vegetables.
- Peel the onion, split it vertically down the middle, and and slice each half into thin arcs. Remove the stem, ribs and seeds from the pepper, and slice it into skinny batons. Crush the garlic with the flat of your knife, remove the peel, and chop into rough slivers.
- Heat a large skillet or other large pot/pan, and put in enough oil to lightly coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, put in the meat in a single layer and fry a few minutes on each side until everything is a nice brown color. Remove the meat and put aside. Leave the juices in the pan and heat on for the next step.
- Slide the onions and garlic into the pan, and add salt, pepper, the pinch of sugar, and your herbs. Cook the onions until they soften. Then add in the peppers and stir everything around for a bit until the peppers seem partly cooked.
- Add wine and vinegar to the pan. Put the pork chops back in, nestling them on top of the vegetables, and stick the lid back on. Let it steam for 5-10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and the meat. If the sauce is really liquid-y, let some of the liquid evaporate off. At the last minute, add the pat of butter and swirl it in until it’s all melted. Taste and adjust the seasonings according to your preferences (aside from adding salt and pepper if necessary, you can also add more vinegar at this step). Serve each pork chop with some onions and peppers, and a generous helping of the liquid sauce spooned over the top. I also fried a bit of potato in some oil and a little of the reserved sauce in the skillet, and used that to sop up some of the vinegary goodness.