As an adult, I’ve often struggled with the idea of eating meat; I love and respect animals, and it’s hard for me to reconcile those feelings with the fact that I’m supporting the killing of said creatures by buying and cooking parts of them. The problem is, I really enjoy the flavor and, as someone who loves to cook, especially love the versatility all the different cuts from different animals brings to my cooking. I’ve tried many plant- and tofu-based meals (and will continue to explore those avenues), but most of them haven’t wowed me, and none have been so good as to convert me to full-time vegetarianism. It’s quite the conundrum. For now, I try to buy the most ethical meat I can find and fit in meatless meals at least once a week—it’s a start, at least.
A few months back, my brother-in-law, Pat, brought up the idea of buying a whole pig from a local guy who raises heritage pigs. My conscience prefers the idea of using the meat from an entire animal, and the fact that the animal I’m eating had a good life before it was killed. So we went in on the pig with Pat and, a few weeks later, Jonji brought home a few large boxes of packaged cuts from Corralitos Meat Market, where we’d had the pig butchered. The contents of those boxes filled our second freezer to the brim and, despite months of chipping away at the packages, the freezer is still mostly full. Jonji’s processed all but one of the bags of fat into jars of snowy white lard (an amazing cooking fat), while I’ve made my way through the pork shoulders, some of the ground pork, many packs of bacon, one of the trotters, and several packs of pork chops.
I’ve always liked pork chops, but Jonji has never been a huge fan; I was determined to make a recipe that he would enjoy, as we need to get through quite a few of them. Pat suggested a chipotle-garlic spice mix they had used in the past, so I made my own (it’s literally just ground chipotle and ground garlic) and sprinkled that over the chops along with plenty of salt and pepper. I then seared the chops in a super hot pan and baked them until done. The result was a couple of super delicious, spicy chops, each with a flavorful line of fat that I couldn’t help but gobble up. Plus, it had taken me virtually no prep time and very little active cook time—something I’m all about these days, with a toddler running around underfoot. Jonji hasn’t been pining after pork chops, but he has happily eaten each full chop in one sitting, so I’ll call that a win.
Chipotle-Garlic Pork Chops with Green Yogurt Sauce
for the sauce:
250g (1 cup) Greek yogurt
¾ cup roughly chopped parsley leaves
3 large scallions, trimmed and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
juice of ½ a lemon
1 ¼ tsp kosher salt
for the chops:
1 tsp ground chipotle
1 ½ tsp powdered garlic
2 medium-large pork chops
2 tsp kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1 tbsp unsalted butter, for the pan
Make the green sauce: add all the sauce ingredients to a food processor and blend until very smooth, scraping down the sides once or twice, until only tiny fragments of parsley remain. Taste for seasoning, then scrape into a bowl or large jar and refrigerate until ready to eat.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Make the chops: in a small bowl, mix 1 tsp ground chipotle with 1 ½ tsp powdered garlic. Sprinkle this mixture evenly across both sides of each pork chop, then rub each chop with 1 tsp kosher salt (that’s ½ tsp on each side) and a decent amount of freshly cracked black pepper. Set aside. (This step can be completed up to a day in advance; honestly it’s ideally done at least 3 hours before cooking so the meat can be tenderized and flavor-ized by the rub.)
Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for a 3-5 minutes (you want it hot). Add 1 tbsp butter to the pan, allow it to melt, then tilt the pan in circles so that the butter coats the whole bottom of pan. Add the pork chops and sear for 4 minutes on one side (don’t move them during this time!), then flip and cook for 1 minute on the other side. Immediately transfer the whole pan to the oven. Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chops reaches 135°F.
Enjoy these chops hot with green sauce on the side for dipping in or pouring on.