Ask me what the best restaurant is in my hometown and I’ll tell you, “I have no clue.” OK, I may suggest a few places, but if you were to then ask me what’s the best thing on their menu, I’ll say those four words again. It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten out at a restaurant where I live, and the reason why is because I prefer to cook my own food. I take pleasure in making my own food. Whether it’s pre-made like chicken cordon bleu bought from Safeway or a homemade salmon burger, I can fix up a good meal to make my tummy happy. And my wallet, too. (How much is the average tab at an eatery these days? Excluding tip to the server?) So whenever I hear these ads for these restaurants saying “don’t cook for dinner–come to our place!” or “it’s so hard to cook dinner, so I ordered (insert name of restaurant chain here)”, I find it all lame and even annoying. It’s as if some restaurants are discouraging us to cook for ourselves. I’m not saying it’s wrong to eat out altogether (I am guilty over enjoying a classic Squeeze Burger with cheese at the Squeeze Inn on occasions), but if they got something I can make, why bother going out? Hell, I can make my own grilled salmon over brown rice and steamed veggies dish, thank you very much. So take that, Red Lobster.
And then there are those that not only don’t know how to cook, but don’t want to learn. That’s even worse. (It’s a sad day in the world when one would rather text their ass off rather than learn how to cook.) Particularly with young guys with significant others who let their women do the cooking. I can NEVER be with a man who won’t bother to learn how to cook. (If he doesn’t know how, he better be willing to learn with me.) The funny thing is that it was my dad who taught me how to cook. He taught me the basics when I was a pre-teen, like cooking eggs. As I got older, he taught me more advanced dishes, like fried rice and beef stew. I will say that I’m still perfecting the art of making beef stew just like my old man, but it’s only because I now enjoy making other meals.
Along with my dad, I credit the Food Network (from 10 years ago, by the way) for opening me up to appreciate the joys of cooking. Back then, the Food Network was still about informative food shows, not selling out and their cooks aiming to be celebrity names. From Emeril, I learned (among other things) the right spices to use for certain foods. From Rachael Ray, I actually learned how to make a feast in under 30 minutes. (And the phrase “EVOO.”) And from Paula Deen (geez, what has become of her now?), I was taught the joys of pure butter. Now I watch the cooking shows on PBS, mainly “America’s Test Kitchen” and “Cook’s Country.” And from those shows, I learned how to make some killer chow. Patty melts. Potatoes casserole. And mean pork chops with a golden brown crust and juicy, meaty flavor inside, all done over the stove. In fact, I got the recipe for it, right here.
*Stove-Top Pork Chops* (prep time: 35 mins. approx.; cook time: 10 mins. max.)
–four small-to-large thick cuts of boneless pork chops (it’s important that the cuts are thick–1 to 1 1/2 inch thick is ideal)
–salt and pepper
–aluminum foil (optional)
1) First, grab a sharp knife and make a few slits through the fat band of the chops. This will prevent the “cupping” of the chops later on when you cook them.
2) Brine your chops. Take a large bowl/container and fill it almost all the way up with cold water. Add 1/4 cup of salt (1/2 cup of salt if working with really large and thick chops) and mix it in with the water. Then, place your chops in the bowl and let it sit in the brine for no more than 30 minutes. (Refrigeration is optional; recommended if your home is a furnace inside.)
3) Take your chops out of the brine. Pat the chops dry. Take a small bowl and mix in equal parts anchovy paste and honey, along with a 1/2 tablespoon of pepper. (Equal parts mean if you use one tablespoon of anchovy paste, use the same amount for the honey. Adjust in measurements based on the size–not thickness–of your chops. For me, I like using 1/3 cup of the two ingredients when working with small-to-medium sized chops, because I’ll have enough paste for both sides for cooking, and I like that it brings out the meaty flavor of an otherwise-bland dish like pork.) NO SALT HERE! The chops got their salt from the brine, silly.
4) Heat up a large, non-stick frying pan (10-to-12-inch diameter is ideal) to medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of cooking oil; cooking spray is also fine, but spray before you turn that stove on! As you wait for the pan to show wisps of smoke, take the anchovy-and-honey paste and lightly baste it on one side of the chops. When the pan shows wisps of smoke, take chops and place it paste-side down. When all chops are on the pan, lightly baste the other side of the chops with the paste.
5) Cook chops for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until sides turn golden brown. Make sure upon finishing cooking the chops that they register an internal temperature of 140 degrees fahrenheit. If significantly lower than 140 degrees (more than five degrees cooler), and it’s past the 10-minute cooking time, let chops rest off the pan. The temperature will continue to rise even after leaving the pan.
6) Take chops off pan and let it cool for at least five minutes. The resting period is important with meats because it allows the juices of the meat to redistribute within, ensuring a juicy chop. Your chops should look like this:
7) Serve up! When you cut into it, the chop should be white to faintly pink in meat.
There you have it. I will note that the one episode of “ATK” where I learned how to make pork chops their way originally showed how to cook it over the grill. Since I don’t have a grill, I took the recipe and cooked the chops over the stove, and it turned out just fine.