Posted by: seasin | August 18, 2009

Rosemary pork chops and spicy potato wedges

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I don’t normally eat pork. Before I moved to Bulgaria, I probably hadn’t touched pork (in any form, meat, bacon, sausages, nada!) for about…maybe 5 years?

I don’t particularly like the taste, I find most pork cuts awfully fat and I think pigs are really dirty creatures.

But people do change, and when I got to Sofia, more out of necessity than for any other reason (pork is the cheapest and the most widely available meat here-therefore also very fresh) I started eating it again.

Now, two things from my list of reasons-why-I-don’t-eat-pork haven’t changed. I still think it’s much too fat for my taste…and I simply can’t stomach the taste of it. So I started slowly, with bacon from which I was (and I still am!) trimming the fat and frying…in a non-stick pan with no grease added. I know, I know! Then sausages (although I still pick and prefer all-beef, beef-and-lamb or all-lamb sausages). And finally, because a. DB likes pork; and b. most times we’re going shopping, there’s simply no other meat available (except for chicken, but chicken…is boring!)-I started cooking pork and eating pork often-ish.

I do love a challenge, and I set myself one: to cook pork in a way that makes it taste less…fat, and less porky :).

This recipe is quite strongly flavoured-so only do it like this if you’re willing to go for something different. If you do like the taste of pork, and don’t have a palate for rosemary, cut the rosemary down or even replace it with a different herb-like thyme, for example. But if I were you, I’d give it a try as it is.

So..to make the rosemary marinade for the meat, you need the juice from one lemon, two sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked off and finely chopped, one spoon of olive oil, one teaspoon of honey, and either three cloves of garlic, finely chopped (or squeezed with the garlic press), or one heaped teaspoon of garlic powder. Yes, you can use dried rosemary-but in this case, you need a full heaped spoonfull. Trust me, I know this is strong stuff, but we’re just trying to hide the porky taste of the chops. 

Give the marinade a stir, then place in two large pork chops (about 300 g each), bone in. As DB did with the steaks the other day, give the steaks a goood rub with the marinade and toss them about a few times, to make sure they’re completely coated. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling the raw meat-I’m trying to show you how to eat pork, not how to win a swift trip to the ER. Cover the chops, and put them in the fridge while you make the wedges-but pop your head in to say hello every now and then, and turn them around in the liquid.

For the spicy home-made potato wedges:

First, turn your oven on to heat up at 180 degrees. In order to feed two rather hungry people, you’ll need 4 medium potatoes (mine were as big as my fist. DB seems to enjoy buying potatoes the size of my fist. Hmmm). Don’t bother peeling them just wash them up, cut each in half lenghtwise, then slice each half into 4-6 wedges (obviously, more wedges you cut, the smaller they’ll each be, and the less baking time they’ll need. Keep that in mind). Pat the wedges dry in a paper towel, then drop them in a big oven dish (I use a tin baking tray with rather high sides); over the potatoes, pour about three spoons of oil (your choice of it, really, but this time I used a mix of olive oil and sunflower oil-olive oil doesn’t get as hot as other oils, and you really need as hot as you get to manage lovely crisp wedges); sprinkle with: one heaped teaspoon of rosemary (yes, MORE rosemary-I’m serious about this stuff)-either fresh leaves, finely chopped, or dried-your call, really; one heaped teaspoon of chilli flakes (or about 5 of the small pepperoncini, crumbled between your fingers. Remember to wash your hands about three times with soap and water after doing this, the little italian buggers are strong, man, and as I said before, I’m trying to show you a recipe, not teach you about pain. Even if you do wash, please remember not to rub your eyes for about an hour or so-if you forget and you do, you’re a goner!); one heaped teaspoon of garlic powder; a goood grind of fresh black pepper; and a goood grind of salt. Once everything is in the tray, get down, dirty and personal with the wedges and give them a really good stir&rub with your hands, trying to get all surfaces well coated.

Pop them in the hot oven and WAIT. They’ll take about 45 minutes at 180 degrees-take a peak every now and then and give the tray a good shake, so that they don’t stick. Also, use your eyes and common sense. Mine took 45 minutes to get to that stage where I wanted them (they’ll need a further 15-20 minutes, but we’ll talk about that in a second!), but your oven is certainly different-so if you notice they start getting charred, you adjust the time accordingly.

Once the potatoes had 40-45 minutes, you need to handle the pork.

Heat up a non-stick pan as hot as it gets, then give each chop a superficial shake to get rid of some of the liquid (but reserve the marinade), and pop them in the pan. Leave them for about 4 minutes, flip them over, another 4 minutes, rinse and repeat 🙂 No, no, I’m joking 🙂 they just need about 8 minutes on each side-in two blocks of 4. Once both sides are browned, put them in an oven-proof dish, pour the marinade over them, pop them in the oven to join the potatoes, and kick the heat up at 200 degrees. This will allow the wedges to become crisp on the outside and nice an fluffy inside, and the pork…well, to cook!

Leave both dishes in there for about 10 minutes, then check the pork: the bone should have changed color (no pinkness or blood-like colors visible), the marinade and jucices coming out of the pork should be well simmering, and when you stab the meat with a fork, the juices should run clear. If it’s not quite done yet, give it 5-10 more minutes. OBVIOUSLY, if the potatoes are ready by then, take them out, covering them lightly in foil to keep them warm. Now, if you’re really afraid of the plague or whatever else you get from undercooked pork, you’ll definitely have to figure out your own timing for this meal. Normally pork, if it’s in thin-ish slices, should be done completely in 25 minutes at those kinds of temperatures. Personally, I like it moist and juicy and as most people would consider just slightly undercooked-exactly at the point when all pinkness has gone out of it. And because it will keep cooking for about a minute even after you turn off the oven, I think the amount of time I’ve given in this recipe is perfect. As a matter of fact, these chops I’m proudly showing you WERE definitely perfect.

I served them with some simple, halved cherry tomatoes, and a couple of spoonfuls of the meat juices generously splattered on top of the chops. They would go down a treat with some crusty bread to soak up the juices-but we don’t really eat bread. Anyhoo, they were absolutely wonderful. Well, BD made a bit of fun about me using up the whole remaining quantity of rosemary in the world, but hey, that WAS the purpose of the recipe, and after all, rosemary is good for you, isn’t it? ( as a matter of fact, it is-it’s extremely high in iron, calcium and vitamin B6, and there were studies linking a compound found in it with shielding the brain cells from free radicals, thereby lowering the risk of strokes and degenerative diseases; on the other hand, an overdose-which, I assure you, is much much more than what I’ve used in this recipe, can provoke weird adverse reactions. You’d have to pretty much graze a whole hill-side full of rosemary to get that though, so I’m sure you’re safe!)

Well, if you do try it, let me know how it all went! And consider yourself warned about the overdosing and side effects (in my case, the only serious side-effect was one very seriously pleased boyfriend. Manage your own risks, people!)

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