It's almost impossible to find a recipe from Nigel Slater that isn't full of comforting, big flavors. That's just the way he seems to cook. I always turn to him for weeknight recipes, especially his book The Kitchen Diaries, which is made up of just that kind of meal: off-the-cuff, I-just-returned-from-the-market kind of stuff. When I bought some beautifully rosy pork chops on sale, I went to see what Slater would have me do with them.
The flavor in this recipe relies on a marinade of rosemary, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice to kick the pork up to the next notch. Just half an hour makes a noticeable difference in flavor, which is enough time for the bed of fennel to slowly braise and caramelize in butter-infused white vermouth. This is the kind of meal that tastes like restaurant-quality but hardly requires much effort to get there. I cooked the pork on a ridged cast iron grill pan, but these would also be wonderful under a broiler, as Slater suggests, seared until golden and beginning to char.
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed
- 2 small cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 6 black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- juice of half a lemon
- 2 thick-cut pork chops or pork steaks
- 2 medium bulbs fennel
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3/4 cup white vermouth
Combine the rosemary, garlic, peppercorns, and salt in a mortar and pestle (or use a small food processor). Pound them together into a paste, then pour in the olive oil slowly while continuing to pound. When you have a loose paste, scrape into a shallow bowl large enough to hold the pork and squeeze in the lemon juice. Stir well and add the pork, covering well with the marinade. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, or even better, an hour.
In the meantime, peel and slice the fennel thinly, then rinse well. In a saucepan or small pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add the fennel. Toss to coat well and allow to soften and begin to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add the vermouth with a pinch of salt, cover, and cook until the liquid is almost evaporated and the fennel is tender.
Heat a cast iron grill pan or broiler. Scape away most of the marinade from the pork. Cook the pork until desired doneness, about 5-6 minutes per side depending on thickness.