James Whelan Butchers: Chopaholic

I find that when you mention pork chops there isn’t the instant appeal that other meat often elicits.  The problem is that the chop has generally been maligned for being too dry, dull and altogether boring.  I can understand this because I too, as a child, witnessed the abuses visited on the chop.  What started out as a relatively nice looking cut of raw meat ended up horribly pale and leathery and tasted the same.   For years there was a fear of raw pork and so everything had to be cooked to a crisp.   I feel very sorry for the pork chop because today it really has a lot of untapped potential.  The chop makes a lovely alternative to the chicken fillet.  It also has great autumnal value as it works well with the glut of apples and other fruits in season.

Things are very different in the pork world today.  The quality if Irish pork is really outstanding.  Producers are now breeding with taste and flavour as a priority and not just leanness as was the case in times past.  Because provenance and knowing where our pork comes from is very important to me I can tell you that pork we se;; is safe to eat medium or even medium rare if that’s how you like it.

There is really no way around it, you must buy well raised pork.  It’s best if it is natural pork that has been raised on a local farm.  You should also look for a nice layer of fat.  I know the tendency is for lean meat but there’s flavour in the fat and, as I said earlier, if it is a good quality chop you can even allow for a little bit of pink in the middle.

pork chops with sage and appleAt James Whelan Butchers we love pork loin chops and find there are plenty of great ways to cook them.  We do a very popular stuffed pork chop.  Using our own great stuffing that’s full of flavour, the moist mixture lends a helping hand to the overall texture of the meat once cooked and it also makes for a filling meal.  You can of course stuff the chops yourself by making a stuffing sandwich with two chops and baking.  Call by the shop some time to see the range of ready prepared pork chops on offer.

Even at home there are a myriad of things you can do with the chop.  Last week I found myself braising pork chops in a simple home made sherry gravy.  It couldn’t have been easier.  In a heavy cast iron pot with a little oil I seared the meat and then removed them to the side.  In the same pot I cooked some chopped onions and added a little crushed garlic, rosemary and thyme.  Then I put the chops back in on top of the onions and poured in a very generous amount of sherry, just about covering the chops.  I added some chicken stock and brought the whole thing to the boil and then put it in hot oven for about 20 minutes.  After about 10 minutes I added some blanched green beans.  Once the chops were cooked I removed them and kept them warm while I thickened the gravy a little and then served the lot over some lovely buttery mash.  I can’t tell you the amounts of anything that I used but it’s not an exact science at all.  It’s rustic and you could add many things to this dish that would just add to it.

You can keep it simple and just bake pork chops.  Take them out of the fridge and season well with salt and pepper.  I would let them sit out of the fridge for about half an hour, just to make sure that they come up to room temperature.  This will also help the chops absorb the seasoning.  Then on a piping hot pan sear them on both sides (about four minutes a side) and the finish them off in the oven for about 10 minutes.  (You can always give them a little prod with a meat thermometer if you’re not too sure).  Once cooked, take them out of the oven, pop a knob of butter onto each one and let them rest for at least five minutes before serving.

The problem with pork is that when it hits the heat it starts to tighten and it is the tightening of the fibres that squeezes out any of the juices within.  So if you cook the chop to well done all the way through on a hot relatively dry pan what do you expect?  Because of this chops Pork Chops with Mushrooms and Garlicreally lend themselves to slow cooked dishes or even slow cookers.  It may take a little organising early in the morning but you will be glad when you come home to those lovely aromas on a cold dark evening.  When slow cooking I would sear on a hot pan before putting in the pot and then add all the liquids and veg, turn on the slow cooker and at 8am in the morning you can be pretty sure there will be a great dinner ready to go come the evening.  I found a really good slow cook recipe on a US website and with a little tweaking I adapted it to suit me. The recipe called for a tin of mushroom soup whereas I used some homemade mushroom soup that I had left over from the weekend.  I simply seasoned my chops and seared them for one minute on each side and placed them in the slow cooker.  I poured in the mushroom soup (and thought that you could use chicken or tomato soup just as easily).  I added some chopped potatoes and herbs and let the whole thing cook for 8 hours in my slow cooker.  The chops were moist and melt in the mouth tender and the rich, pale mushroom gravy was a great compliment.

When you think of chops you have to use your imagination.  They really are tremendously versatile. Do something different with a chop this week and see if you to can’t unleash your inner chopaholic.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of  James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Handweavers Rathcoole and Kilmacanogue, Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt, Rathmines and Swords in Dublin. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Comment