I’m working on dealing with my fear of butchers. Not that I’m worried about actual butchers being scary, I don’t have nightmares about old mustachioed men chasing me with a butcher’s knife held aloft (until now – thanks), but I find that butcher’s shops are a little intimidating. I basically never went in there – whatever slop they were selling at Safeway was going to have to be fine with me. But then I married a man who isn’t okay with slop, and then I got pregnant and developed a really weird craving for meat. Especially from the butcher’s. Like, the butcher shop smelt so good to me when I was pregnant. Like … blood. It’s quite gross, actually, but what I’m trying to say is I have a complicated relationship with the butcher.
It’s no less intimidating to go the butcher’s here, only there are boucheries everywhere. My new village (yes, we finally have a house in Switzerland!) has a boucherie and charcuterie, meaning both the big cuts of meat and the sausage-y stuff. It is something I’m going to have to become fluent in.
Z requested pork chops the other night. Not just pork chops, though; pork chops that were enjoyable to eat. I know you’ve all had a bad chop in your life. Tough, and chewy. I believe it was pork chops that had me coining the phrase “it’s growing in my mouth” when I was little. I’d chew the life out of that meat and it just wouldn’t be edible. I don’t know. Pork chops are easy to do poorly is what I’m saying.
So the first place to go when you want to get a quality chop is the butchers. So we went to our local butchers (at our temporary apartment in Champel right now, we move tomorrow). Just down the road from us, Boucherie de Champel is small and unassuming and kind of cold, so I tried not to be intimidated. The butcher was in fact old, and mustachioed, and wielding a butcher knife, but I would not be swayed. I had even practiced what I needed to say in French before going in so I wouldn’t be a complete idiot (pork chop is cotelette de porc, and I have to practice to get my “vous” right as opposed to my “tus”). But I went in and asked for two big pork chops and he totally understood me, which was a triumph on his own. Up went the knife and down through the bone, and I ended up with these beauties:
Bone in, as that helps with the dry chewy issue chops have. Sorry if you’re not into meat. I am, as I sort of mentioned before, and these look mouthwatering. I tried to text this photo to Z to let him know he was in for an awesome evening. Sort of like sexting, only with food. Sadly, or maybe not, it failed to send. Probably overwhelmed by awesomeness (or, my fairly-new iPhone is already starting to completely melt down).
Anyway, to bring out the best in a chop like this, not only do you keep the bone in, but you need to brine it. I read everything there is to know about brining* and it’s the bomb when it comes to making meat tender. To start, boil one cup of water and stir in roughly 3 tablespoons of salt (I’m still without measuring instruments, so everything is a gamble for me). Once the salt is dissolved, add two more cups of cold water to bring it to room temperature. Place the chops into a shallow dish and cover them completely in the briny water. Cover the dish and put in the fridge for about two hours.
* Total lie. I read one article, maybe one and half about brining. But it sounded like a good idea.
Heat the oven to 200C. Now at this point, once you’re ready to cook, the thing that would be incredible would be a cast-iron skillet that could go in the oven. Of course, I don’t have anything like that, but if you did, you’d be ahead of the game.
Take the chops out of the saltwater and pat them dry. Then rub both sides with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. It’s that easy. I got my (non-oven-friendly) skillet heated up over medium-high heat, then slapped these babies on. I’d been warned that things could get kind of smoky, but luckily that didn’t happen here. Let one side cook for about three minutes, until they start to get a little browned. Then flip over, let the other side start to brown. If your skillet can go in the oven, slip the whole thing in there. If not, carefully transfer the chops from the skillet to an oven pan and slide into the oven.
Cooking time at this point will be really quick. Nowadays, pork needs to register at 140F to be considered done. It used to be much higher, due to concerns about trichinosis, which isn’t really a thing anymore. Now, pork is allowed to be pink on the inside. That’s what makes a big difference in terms of the stuff that’s so tough you’ll be chewing forever before you deem the meat ready for the dog, and the meat that falls off the bone onto your fork with a contented sigh.
So, cook time between 6-10 minutes. I unfortunately also don’t have a meat thermometer, so I had to take the meat out and cut it to see what was going on inside. You know, it was probably even a little more overdone than it could have been, but it was still one of the most tender pork chops I’ve ever had. Delicious. I will definitely be repeating this preparation for pork chops again. Once I work up the nerve to go to the butcher’s again.