Last week, a friend sent me a recipe for Calabrian pork chops. Upon reading I thought that it was a great example of Italian-American cooking and prepared it a few days later. It was simple and straightforward, required minimal prep, and yielded some of the most delicious pork chops I’ve ever made.
When I called my friend to report on the dish, he started to laugh and said “If you had known the source, you’d never have made it.” Later that day, he arrived at our apartment with a copy of the cookbook from which he had copied the recipe: Fabulicious!: Teresa’s Italian Family Cookbook. The author, Teresa Giudice, plays a leading role in Bravo’s Real Housewives of New Jersey and is known for flipping tables in restaurants, lavish spending, and yes, going to Federal prison for declaring fraudulent bankruptcy.
I doubt that I would have ever purchased this book even though I admit that the the Bravo reality show is one of my guilty pleasures. Having paged through the book, however, I think its a good collection of authentic Italian-American recipes, some of which may find their way into future posts on this blog.
When I prepared this dish, I opted to used jarred vinegar hot and sweet cherry peppers that I had in my cupboard and that author suggested as an alternative to fresh cherry peppers in her recipe. I also chose to deglaze the pan, after browning the pork, which I think enhanced the flavor.
I guess this experience confirms the adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
Calabrian Pork Chops with Peppers and Potatoes (Adapted from Fabulicious by Teresa Giudice)
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-ounce) boneless pork loin chops, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup white wine for deglazing
1-1/4 pounds medium red potatoes, cut lengthwise into sixths
6 hot or sweet fresh cherry peppers, tops removed, seeded and quartered
(In a note to her recipe, Giudice writes “If you can’t find fresh cherry peppers, you can use pickled cherry peppers. . . .These won’t need cooking, so just add them to the potatoes with the browned pork.)
In a medium glass or ceramic mixing bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons of oil with the vinegar, basil, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Let stand for 15 minutes. Mix in the pork and let stand another 15 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Remove the pork from the marinade, letting the excess marinade drip back into the bowl.
In batches, add the pork to the skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until the pork is browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer the browned pork to a plate. Leave any remaining fat in the skillet.
(At this point in the cooking, I chose to deglaze the pan with a 1/4 cup of white winning, scraping up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan.)
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. Add the potatoes and fresh peppers and stir well.
Cook, stirring often, until the potatoes begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the water evaporates and the potatoes are almost tender and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
Return the pork to the skillet; cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
Wine Pairing: Primitivo