Discover more from Scraps
Reconsidering Pork Chops
Plus chicken-skin breadcrumbs
A few issues ago, I wrote about short ribs — an inexpensive but weirdly luxurious and very on-trend cut of meat that is just as good seared, steak-like, as it is braised in a broth of tomatoes and spices for a long afternoon. Well consider this week’s Scraps on the opposite axis; pork chops always had something of an archaic glamour to me. We had them growing up, but I remember the meat being quite taut and the colour unappealing. That big bone jutting around the edge always put me off, too. Even the name, chop, suggests something cleaved quite brutally.
Anyway I’ve come round to them after making these coffee-rubbed chops from a recent issue of Feast. They’re an Ottolenghi invention, and the rub also includes brown sugar, paprika, and fennel seeds. It’s served with a white bean mash and a kiwi salsa. We made it pretty verbatim and it was so, so good.
Before I tell you what we did with the leftovers, a couple of things, should you make this yourself.
The coffee. If you’re cooking with coffee, you need to grind it finer than you’re used to when you’re brewing it. Most of the reason recipes suggest instant coffee is because the granules are fine, and if you have cafetiere-coarse coffee you’ll bite into a bit while eating and it will just taste horrible. So, I’d move your grinder to the finest setting, which is usually the mocha/Turkish coffee setting. You want it to be as fine as talc. Also, don’t overthink what coffee you’re using. As it happened, the kind I used had toffee and stone-fruit notes and that seemed appropriate, but you hardly take a bite and think oh wow, the toffee notes! etc.
The mash. We used cannellini beans, but butter beans would work, too. I don’t cook with sour cream a lot and I did find the lactic tang a little cloying - don’t skimp on the salt, and use a nice extra virgin olive oil to get some grassy notes in there (some fresh dill or parsley would be really nice, too).
The salsa. So unusual, really, but excellent. I am tempted to try kiwi in the next salsa night. I found the ginger really intense for a salsa, but it works.
The price. I was really, pleasantly surprised to find that two hefty chops from my butcher cost £7. I thought that was incredible value, really, but the guy on the counter told me nobody really asks for chops now. Bavette steak is having her hot girl summer, though, people can’t get enough of the stuff.
Anyway, the leftovers!
1.‘Pork Chop’ stir fry
We did two chops and once they cooked, I cut the bone off and sliced each chop into strips. Because of that, we actually didn’t eat a whole chop each — they were pretty chunky. So, with the leftover pork, I used a small knife and diced it into cubes. I knew I wanted to use the leftovers in a stir fry the next day. Part of me wondered about the seasoning and if it would clash at all in a different kind of dish. But I’ve always liked quite simple stir fries and I tried building this one around what was already in the pork — pepper, a mild heat, lots of garlic. What’s not to like?
There wasn’t enough to make pork the main star, so I picked up some oyster mushrooms from the grocers near my flat. These shrooms have a fuzzy, sponge-like texture and they’re so good in stir fries because they soak up flavour, and they also crisp up and take on the texture of meat (when Rob came over to take a peek, he thought they were strips of chicken thigh). One trick to cooking these mushrooms, in my experience, is tearing them by hand, not slicing. It gives each piece a craggy surface area that helps it get nice and crispy.
The rest of the stir fry was simple. I started by cooking the leftover cooked pork — this is to render the gorgeous fat from the meat, which the rest of the ingredients will fry in. Once the pork takes on colour, they’re scooped out, and sliced aromatics (ginger and spring onion, plus smashed garlic cloves) in. Once they turn golden and the smell has filled the kitchen, scoop them out, too, and tip in the mushrooms. The best thing you can do with the mushrooms is leave them; the longer they have contact with the hot pan, the better they will brown. If you keep shoving them around, they’ll just look pathetic. Who can blame them?
Then, everything else goes back in. I add a bit of toasted sesame oil and a bit of soy, to colour it more than anything. And once the noodles are cooked, a splash of cooking water and a pat of butter go into the pan and everything is tossed together. My favourite part of stir fries though is the myriad toppings — fried onions, chilli oil, fresh herbs, a thick wedge of lime.
2. Chicken skin breadcrumbs
One of the most popular things on Scraps was the chicken-butter pasta I made in March, and this is a close relative of that. The short story is that we had a night in last week and — exhausted, hot, sticky, a little burnt out — we decided to do a quick pasta made with garlic, chilli, anchovy and so on. We had two chicken thighs in the fridge — not enough for a full blown meal, but important to use up — so we roasted them in the oven with a plan to shred the meat and toss that in, too.
And while I really liked the idea of the crispy shards of chicken skin in the pasta, I had a last-minute idea to blitz them up with some breadcrumbs. I always keep a bag full of torn bread in the freezer for croutons or a late-summer panzanella. The chunks of sourdough were doused in oil and shoved in the oven until they defrosted and began to colour, before I took them out and added them to a food processor with the chicken skin and a trickle of chicken fat. Once blitzed, they had the aroma of roast chicken crisps. I finished them off in a hot pan, dry toasting them with a little bit of oil and butter so they frazzled a little. This also helps render the fat out of the chicken skin, which infuses the breadcrumbs with a ton of flavour.
We are most definitely a pro-breadcrumb household, and the leftovers were scattered in wraps, salads, and sandwiches for the rest of the week. I encourage you to try it.
Scraps will be back in a fortnight — I’m trying a slower rollout while I adjust to being self-employed. Leaving you with a nice shot of the spice rub from the chops, which would be excellent rubbed into chicken thighs or even on a tray of sweet potato wedges. Make extra!