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.
Adapted from Mario Batali
- Yield:serves 4
- Active time: 20 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 4 thick-cut bone-in pork rib chops, about 1-inch thick (about 2 pounds total)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
- 1 cup white wine
- 3 medium garlic cloves, crushed
- 8 fennel fronds, for garnish
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 300°F. Meanwhile, dry the pork chops with paper towels, and then season both sides with salt and pepper. Pour flour onto shallow plate or pie pan. Dredge pork chops on both sides and shake off any excess.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat until barely smoking. Add chops and cook until well browned, about one minute. Flip, and brown on second side, another minute. Remove from heat and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of the ground fennel seed on top of the chops. Flip the chops with a pair of tongs, and sprinkle the remaining fennel seed on top. Add the wine and the garlic, and then transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook until the pork chops register 140°F on an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part, 10 to 15 minutes.
When done, transfer the chops to a plate and set aside. Place the skillet over medium and cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Add half of the fennel fronds, and cook until wilted, about one minute. Turn off the heat and discard the garlic. Divide the pork chops between four plates, and spoon some of the wine sauce on top of each. Garnish with some of the remaining fennel fronds. Serve with roasted fennel bulbs, broccoli, or potatoes.