Tuesday, March 09, 2010
WILD RICE, PORK CHOP, AND APPLE SKILLET
This was my first time cooking pork chops. I think it was also my first time eating pork chops since childhood, when I distinctly disliked them, along with steak, chicken breasts, and any other large uninterrupted slabs of meat, which always seemed so bland and chewy to me that I ended up trying to secretly spit them out when no one was looking, which I’m sure was lovely for my parents. Now I’m quite a fan of meat, but I’ll admit I prefer it in small bits mixed with other things, and still feel dismayed when presented with a plate dominated by a big piece of it. So I was nervous about this dish. But my mom had given me some wild rice—real, hand-harvested Minnesota wild rice, not the wimpy cultivated grocery-store stuff—which was another thing I had no experience in cooking (I’m not a big rice eater), and I figured the best place to look for a suitable recipes was the St. Paul Farmers’ Market Cookbook, where this recipe jumped out a me. It looked dead easy, and I hoped the onions and broth and pork would jazz up the rice while the apples jazzed up the pork.
For my inaugural pork chop voyage, I figured I’d better spring for the highest-quality meat or it wouldn’t be a fair test of whether I really like pork or not. The Whole Foods meat counter (how I love ordering my meat from a real person, picking the pieces out myself, getting exactly the quantity I need, and having it neatly wrapped up in paper, not shrink-wrapped onto a tray; I wish there was a good old-fashioned butcher shop in my area) yielded four handsome, fresh pink chops, thick but not overwhelmingly large, for an eyebrow-raising $20 (although that’s only $5 a chop if you think about it, and the rice was free and the broth homemade and the other ingredients super-cheap, so after the initial sticker shock I determined it had been well worth it). I used Fuji apples and my enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. I had to do some guesswork when following the directions, because the recipe was for an electric skillet and just gave temperatures rather than stovetop settings (it also didn't call for any salt or pepper), but the method was so simple (brown pork, throw in other ingredients, let cook) that this wasn’t a problem. Even though the food had to cook for an hour, it was completely hands-off time, so this is still a decent recipe for a weeknight because you can go do something else while you’re waiting (I made a salad and then played some Wii!). Everything went smoothly and it tasted really good; the sweetness of the apple and the onion balanced out the earthy rice and savory pork, and the fact that the pork was braised in liquid with the rice kept it from the dreaded dryness. I probably won’t make this recipe again on a regular basis, but only because it’s rare to get my hands on the real wild rice. As for pork chops in general, I don’t think I’m going to start eating them on a regular basis, but I would definitely make them again if I found a good-looking recipe. Like, say, one that involves braised fennel…oh, dear.
4 pork chops, about 1 inch thick
1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil
1 cup uncooked wild rice
1 large onion, sliced
2½ cups chicken broth
2 large red cooking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper to taste, then add the chops to the pan and brown on both sides.
2. Remove chops to a plate and add wild rice to skillet. Arrange chops over wild rice. Place the onion slices over the chops. Pour chicken broth over everything and bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook at a slow simmer for 1 hour.
3. Add apple slices and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes more, or until apples and wild rice are tender and chops are fully cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: High