Spotting two perfectly plump pork chops on a recent trip to the market inspired this week’s post. Each weighed a little more than a pound and measured at least 1½-inch thick; the ideal size for an Italian-American recipe I’ve been wanting to make for some time: Pork Chops with Vinegar Peppers from Patsy’s Cookbook by Sal Scognamillo.
Similar to a dish I wrote about here almost 9 years ago that was based on my mother’s recipe, this one also has a family tie. My father was the attorney for Patsy Scognamillo and urged him to buy the building on New York’s West 56th Street, where Patsy’s continues to be one of the city’s landmark restaurants. It was one of the few restaurants that met my father’s stringent standards for the Neapolitan (or at least Italian-American) food with which he grew up. Who knows; these pork chops could have been a favorite.
Unlike my mother’s version of the dish, which used sweet bell peppers and relatively thin chops, this one opts for hot cherry peppers and much thicker chops. And while my mother cooked hers on the stove top, Patsy’s uses the oven. One point on which my mother and Sal might have agreed was the target internal temperature: 185°F. By today’s standards, however, that temperature would be considered extreme since most cooks aim for a temperature closer to 145°F or 150°F. It may not come as surprise that I modified the temperature in my adaptation of the recipe to conform with modern tastes.
Yet this adjustment required a change in the cooking method as well. The original recipe called for roasting the chops in a preheated 475°F oven for 8 to 9 minutes on one side and for 7 to 8 minutes on the other. My chops, possibly owing to their size or to my choosing to brine them prior to cooking took close to 36 minutes in the oven and still were a little shy of my desired temperature. They also looked unappealingly beige. At this point, I thought the only way to give the chops some color and to reach temperature was to sear them on the stove top for about 2 minutes a side. (I’m sure my mother, if alive, would have said, or at least thought, “You should have used the stove.”) It worked. The chops were just shy of 145°F and their final cooking in the sauce brought them to my goal of 150°F. Additionally, since the chops were in the sauté pan, I left there to complete their cooking with the sauce.
As I mentioned above, I brined my chops in water, salt, and sugar for an hour to compensate for the leanness of today’s non-heritage pork. My only other modification to the recipe, out of necessity, was substituting fresh thyme for basil. Finally, because we both like a lot of sauce, I used the recipe’s measurements even though I was only preparing two chops.
In the end, the chops were moist and tender, and a perfect medium, which we prefer over medium rare. The cherry peppers retained some of their texture and perfectly complemented the flavors of the roast. Their heat came more on the back palate than on first taste and together with the garlic, wine, broth, and balsamic, made for a delicious satiny sauce with lingering flavors. I served the chops accompanied by garlic-and-rosemary roasted potatoes.
Pork Chops with Vinegared Hot Cherry Peppers (adapted from Patsy’s Cookbook, by Sal J. Scognamillo)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for coating pan
4 center-cut rib pork chops, each 1½ inches thick (about 2 pounds)
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
8 hot vinegar cherry peppers (about 1½ cups), seeded and thinly sliced
¼ cup chicken broth
¼ cup dry white whine
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 large basil leaves (Not having basil, I substituted fresh thyme.)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Make a brine with 6 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and 3 tablespoons of salt.
2. Weigh the chops down with a plate to keep them submerged and brine for 1 hour.
3. Thoroughly dry the chops with paper towels.
1. Preheat the oven to 475°.
2. Lightly oil a nonstick roasting pan with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Place the chops in the pan and roast in the preheated oven for 8 to 9 minutes. Turn and roast for 7 to 8 minutes on the second side. (Note: These times may need to be adjusted for the size of your chops. As mentioned above, my 1-pound chops required a total of 36 minutes in the oven, followed by 4 minutes of searing in a sauté pan over medium-high heat to give them some color.)
3. Meanwhile, heat the ¼ cup olive oil in a medium saucepan over low flame. Add the garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the peppers, broth, wine, vinegar, basil, and parsley to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Note: Since I did not have fresh basil, I substituted fresh thyme. I also prepared the full amount of sauce even though I was only cooking two chops.)
4. Drain and discard the oil from the roasting pan. Pour the sauce over and around the chops and continue roasting for 6 minutes, or until chops are cooked through. (They should reach an internal temperature of 185°F.). (Note: As mentioned above, since I had transferred my chops to a sauté pan, I finished cooking the chops with the sauce on top of the stove, turning once or twice, for 8 minutes to reach a temperature of around 150°F. I also believe that the recipe’s temperature of 185°F is high for today’s tastes and should probably be between 145°F to 155°F.)
5. Transfer the chops to a warmed serving platter or individual dinner plates and spoon sauce over shops.
Wine Pairing: Barbera, Pinot Grigio
4 thoughts on “Pork Chops with Vinegared Hot Cherry Peppers”
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That sounds and looks incredible, Roland! And great story about Patsy’s. Tricia checked that restaurant out and, after drooling, discovered it was allegedly Sinatra’s favorite. That gives it almost as much cred as your recommendation. Great having you back writing!
Thanks, guys. It really was one of the restaurants favored by Italian Americans in the 50s and 60s–before the US discovered northern Italian cuisine and little by little they fell out of vogue. I still have fond memories of the place.