Sunday, May 17, 2015

Berkshire Pork Chops with Kohlrabi Apple Slaw

Thick-cut pork chops may not be the first thing to come to mind when one thinks "quick dinner," but they're a personal favorite of mine after discovering a trick in an old issue of Cooks Illustrated magazine.
Delicious Berkshire Pork Chops from North Woods Ranch
A tough pork chop is a shame, but thankfully its easy to avoid with a simple technique.  What is the trick?  Start cooking the pork chop in a cold pan.  I didn't believe it when I read the CI article, but it's worked for me for years.  The musculature in a pork chop is so dense that it can actually squeeze out its own juices when shocked by a smoking hot pan.  By starting pork chops in a cold, greased skillet and turning the heat to medium, the meat gently acclimates to the warmer temperatures and doesn't squeeze out all the delicious juices.
But what about a seared brown crust?  Don't worry, just keep flipping the pork chops every 4-5 minutes until cooked to your preference. The bronze crust will develop over time, as the exterior of the chop slowly browns and caramelizes.
After the First Flip: Browning Beginning to Develop
For 3/4" inch pork chops from North Woods Ranch, I find it takes 20-25 minutes to get to my preferred state of medium-doness.  In that time, I can quickly fix up a side dish of something light and fresh.
I love raw vegetable slaws because they're so quick and versatile.  A nice side dish can be nothing more than carrot shredded on a box grater and tossed with lemon juice and yogurt.  For Berkshire pork chops this beautiful, I wanted to dress things up a bit and went with a combination of kohlrabi, Granny Smith apple, and carrot.  To start, I whisked together a dressing of apple cider vinegar, honey, celery seed, and black pepper in a large bowl.  Then I started in on the vegetables.
Sadly underused, kohlrabi is a member of the turnip family, and it looks like a little alien head that was planted in the ground.  It's delicious served raw like jicama, or it can be boiled or roasted like turnips.  Either way it's fresh and crunchy with a very mild flavor in comparison to turnips.

For this vegetable slaw I peeled the kohlrabi and cut it into matchstick shapes. Then I used the peeler to cut long ribbons of the carrot.  To give the slaw a sweet and tart note, I also cut a large, unpeeled Granny Smith apple into matchsticks.  All the slaw ingredients got mixed together, then tossed in the bowl to be coated in the dressing.
Kohlrabi Apple Slaw
At this point, the pork chops were a beautiful mahogany brown on the surface and cooked through to my liking.  I removed them from the skillet and deglazed the pan with a bit of apple cider vinegar to play off the flavoring in the slaw.  Scraping up all the browned fond on the bottom of pan, I had a simple pan sauce perfect for pouring over the chops. All in all, It was a delicious dinner put together in about 30 minutes.
North Woods Chops with Kohlrabi Slaw
Recipe at a Glance:
This recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, or googolplexed out to serve more
- 2 Berkshire pork chops
- 1 tbsp lard or oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

- 2-3 medium (lemon-sized) kohlrabi
- 1 tart apple
- 1 medium carrot
-1/4 tsp celery seed
- 1 tsp raw honey
- 2  tbsp apple cider vinegar

Take the pork chops out of the fridge to help get the chill of the refrigerator off.  Thirty minutes is ideal, if you have the time.  Salt and pepper the pork chops on both sides, then grease a cold skillet with oil and lard.  Place the pork chops in the skillet and turn the heat on to Medium.  Let the pork chops slowly cook for 15-20 minutes in the pan, turning occasionally.  Keep an eye on the pork chops and prepare the slaw.

Peel the kohlrabi and wash the carrot and apple.  Slice the kohlrabi and apple into matchsticks.  Using a vegetable peeler, peel long curls of carrot and mix in with the kohlrabi.  In a bowl, add the apple cider vinegar, honey, celery seed, and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk to blend, then add vegetables and toss to coat with dressing.

When pork chops are at preferred level of doneness, remove from pan and put on a plate.  Add the two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to the hot skillet and scrape up the browned bits and drippings.  If the vinegar reduces too quickly and the pan is going dry, add a tablespoon of water.  Pour the vinegar and drippings pan sauce over the pork chops.  Finish by adding a pile of kohlrabi apple slaw to each plate.