Pork Chops With Vinegar And Peppers
1 cup sugar
4 bone-in pork rib chops, approximately 1" thick
Ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 large red/yellow peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch-wide strips
2 anchovy fillets, minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary, about 5 inches long
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup white wine vinegar, plus optional 2 tbsp to finish sauce
2 tbsp cold unsalted butter
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Dissolve sugar and 1/2 cup table salt in 2 quarts water in a large container; add pork chops and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove chops from brine; thoroughly pat dry with paper towels, season with 3/4 tsp pepper, and set aside.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed ovensafe 12-inch nonreactive skillet over medium-high heat until oil begins to smoke; swirl skillet to coat with oil. Place chops in skillet; cook until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes, using spoon or spatula to press down on center of chops to aid in browning. Using tongs, flip chops and brown lightly on second side, about 1 minute. Transfer chops to a large plate; set aside.
3. Set skillet back over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add peppers, anchovies, and rosemary; cook stirring frequently, until peppers just begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add water and 1/2 cup white wine vinegar and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits with wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until liquid is reduced to about 1/3 cup, 6 to 8 minutes. Off heat, discard rosemary.
4. Return pork chops, browned side up, to skillet; nestle chops in peppers but do not cover chops with peppers. Add any accumulated juices to skillet; set skillet in oven and cook until center of chops registers 135 to 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 8 to 12 minutes (start checking temperature at 6 minutes). Using potholders, carefully remove skillet from oven (handle will be VERY HOT) and cover skillet with lid or foil; let stand until the center of chops registers 145 to 150 degrees, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Transfer chops to platter or individual plates. Swirl butter into sauce and peppers in skillet; stir in optional 2 tbsp vinegar, if using, and parsley. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, then pour or spoon sauce and peppers over chops. Serve immediately.
Nonreactive (anodized aluminum or stainless steel) cookware is important here, because you're using a large amount of vinegar. It can react badly with copper or cast iron, so avoid that. Ordinarily, I would not ever recommend pressing down on a piece of meat to promote browning; however, there is a method to this particular madness. Since the chops have been brined, they're extra juicy and the added pressure won't expel too much moisture and make the chops dry. Plus, chops have a tendency to curl at the edges in a hot pan, making the center very pale. There's no need to get a good sear on both sides of the chops, since one side will be sitting in sauce during the braise and will lose its crust anyhow. Definitely make sure to pull the chops from the oven once they hit 135 to 140 degrees; they will experience some carry over cooking and you don't want them to dry out. And I promise - you'll never taste the anchovy
Pairs Well With
This is another Italian-inspired dish; traditionally, the chops are braised completely in a sauce of red vinegar peppers. This version, from Cook's Illustrated, reworks it for the American kitchen. Since pork in this country is so lean, you'll need to brine the chops or ask your butcher for "enhanced" pork, which is basically pork injected with a brine-like solution. A side of rice is all you need for a great weeknight meal.