Dinner Tonight: Mario Batali's Pork Chops with Fennel Seed and White Wine


[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

I'm always surprised by how flavorful sautéing meat in a skillet and then deglazing the pan with wine can be. But as this fascinating recipe from Mario Batali proves, even minor adjusts can dramatically change the outcome.

Here the chops are dredged in flour, and then cooked over high with just a little salt and pepper. Once browned, some ground fennel is sprinkled on, wine and garlic are added in, and the whole skillet is transferred to very moderate oven, where the meat carefully finishes cooking. The fennel seed, along with the fresh fennel fronds that are added as a garnish, add a pleasing floral aroma to this otherwise meaty dish.

Why I Picked This Recipe: Most recipes for pork chops try to bathe them in some kind of sticky, sweet sauce, so I was interested to see what could be done with just a few ingredients. In particular, I wanted to see what ground fennel could do to such a big hunk of pork.

What Worked: Where should I begin? Searing the chops over high heat and then finishing them off in a moderate oven ensures that each chop has a great crust along with a juicy interior. Though only a little bit of ground fennel seed is sprinkled on top, it makes a big impression, lightening up the sauce while also making it aromatic.

What Didn't: No complaints on the actual pork chops.

Suggested Tweaks: The only suggestions I have are for sides to help bulk this out into a meal. Since this calls for using fresh fennel fronds, I also cooked the fennel bulbs and served them on the side. Here's a good tutorial for preparing them. I also served the chops with broccoli, though I imagine some potatoes would also be great.