More often than not, when we have pork chops at home, I prepare them, as my mother did: pan seared and simmered with sweet vinegar peppers and their juice. As they are a classic Italian-American dish, recipes for them abound both in books and on the internet. In fact, I’ve even written about them on this blog.
This weekend, however, I found a new way to prepare them in Lydia Bastianich’s Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy. Although more labor intensive than my mother’s version, this recipe yields wonderfully succulent chops, coated with a silky savory sauce that acquires a bright piquancy from brined peperoncini and capers.
Although I was preparing only two pork chops, I maintained the recipe’s proportions for all the other ingredients. Since the sauce takes considerable time to thicken, I also opted for chops that were thicker than the one inch called for in the recipe. Mine were about 1 ½-inch thick and weighed at least 12 ounces each.
Should you choose to make this dish, I highly recommend using heritage pork which makes for juicier chops.
Italicized parenthetical comments in the recipe are my own.
Pork Chops with Capers from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
6 bone-in pork loin chops, 1-inch thick, 6 to 8 ounces each (I opted for thicker pork chops, about 1 ½-inch thick.)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
½ cup all-purpose flour, for dredging, plus more as needed
1 large lemon, sliced in thin rounds
6 whole Tuscan-style pickled peperoncini, drained
3 tablespoons small capers, drained
¾ cup white wine (I used a Sardinian Vermentino that I had on hand.)
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
You will need a heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan, 14-inch diameter.
Trim the fat from the pork chops, if necessary, leaving only a thin layer, and salt them lightly on both sides, using 1/2 teaspoon salt in all.
Put the butter and olive oil in the skillet, and set it over medium-low heat. When the butter begins to bubble, scatter in the garlic; let it heat and gently sizzle. (You want to keep an eye on that garlic to ensure that it doesn’t burn.)
Meanwhile, spread the flour on a plate or tray, and dredge the chops on all sides. Shake off excess flour, and lay the chops in the skillet in one layer. (It may appear at first that there’s not enough room for all, but as the meat shrinks you will be able to nestle the chops in.)
Strew the lemon slices on top of the chops, and drop the peperoncini in between them. Cook the chops slowly, keeping them at a gentle sizzle, turning and moving them in the pan about every 5 minutes, as they take on color gradually and evenly. (To achieve maximum browning of the chops, let the lemon slices remain in the sauce after turning the chops the first time.)
After 20 minutes or so, when the pork is lightly browned and caramelized on both sides, scatter in the capers, shake the pan to drop them onto the bottom and turn up the heat to medium-high. When the capers are sizzling, push the chops aside, and pour the wine and lemon juice into the clear hot spot.
Bring to a boil, and shake the pan so the wine flows around all the chops. Sprinkle over pan the remaining salt, and adjust the heat to keep the pan juices bubbling, steadily reducing and thickening. Turn the chops occasionally, so both sides are moistened and evenly cooked.
After about 10 minutes of reducing the liquid, when the juices are syrupy and glaze the chops, remove the pan from the heat.
Sprinkle the chopped parsley all over, and give the chops a final turn in the pan. Serve right away, drizzling a bit of the remaining pan sauce over each chop. (Keep testing the chops for doneness during this stage. If they’re done, remove them to a plate, retuning them to the pan after the sauce has reached the desired texture.)
Wine Pairing: Vernaccia di San Gimignano