My goal with this recipe was to try out the much-championed cold pan method for cooking pork chops, which involves starting with cold chops and a cold pan and cooking them slowly and gently. The advantage of the method is said to be incredibly juicy meat that's never dry, like pork chops so often are. For today's supermarket pork, which is conspicuously lacking in fat, it's supposed to make a difference.
The drawback to this method is that you really lose out on the caramelization of high heat. To combat this, I chose a Mark Bittman recipe from his New York Times article about 101 ways to cook dinner. It tosses in some chopped sage and drizzles the chops with good balsamic vinegar—a boost of complex sweetness that mimics caramelization. I also rubbed the chops with just a pinch of sugar before cooking to help promote browning. As advertised, these were incredibly juicy, and the woodsy sage added a wonderful dimension.
- 2 not-too-thick pork chops
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as canola
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 6-8 sage leaves, roughly chopped
- Balsamic vinegar to taste
- Salt and pepper
If at all possible, salt the chops a few hours before cooking, though it's not necessary. Make sure the chops are very dry, then rub with the sugar and salt (to your liking) on both sides. Add the oil to a cold pan and lay the pork chops down, pressing firmly. Turn on the heat to medium and cook, undisturbed, for 5 to 6 minutes.
Flip the chops and cover, cooking on the other side for an additional 2 to 3 minutes until the pork is cooked through.
Uncover, remove the chops, and add the sage leaves. Increase the heat to high and scrape up any pan drippings as the sage gets slightly crisp.
Drizzle the pork chops with the pan sauce and balsamic vinegar, to taste. Crack fresh black pepper and serve immediately.