Boar Taint, Part II

Pork chops in the making.

Pork chops in the making.

A while back I posted about the issue of boar taint. We got our meat back from the butcher last week and have had chance to try some of the meat from the old boar (relatively – he was about four years old). I’m pleased to tell you that there was no evidence of boar taint in the meat. In fact the flavor is excellent, and very different from supermarket pork — richer and more “porky” is the only way I can describe it. However, it is a bit tough, which is not too surprising, given Bacon’s age. It’s no big deal for the roasts, as I can use the “low-and-slow” method to cook them, or put them in the crockpot. And it’s not a problem for the ground pork, obviously (boy, does it make good fresh sausage!). But the pork chops are decidedly chewy. It’s easy to overcook pork, which also tends to make it tough, so I thought I would share the solution to chewy pork chops.

Smothered Pork Chops (modified from the Cooks’ Illustrated recipe)
3 ounces bacon (about 3 slices), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour or rice flour
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or, if you have the butcher save pork neck bones as I do, you can use actual pork broth, made just the way you do chicken or beef stock)
Lard or coconut oil
4 bone-in, rib-end pork chops, 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
Ground black pepper
2 medium yellow onions, halved pole-to-pole and sliced thin (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons water
2 medium cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press or minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves, or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

Fry bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate, leaving fat in saucepan (you should have 2 tablespoons bacon fat; if not, supplement with lard or coconut oil). Reduce heat to medium-low and gradually whisk flour into fat until smooth. Cook, whisking frequently, until mixture is light brown, about 5 minutes. Whisk in broth in slow, steady stream; increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, stirring occasionally; cover and set aside off heat. Heat lard or coconut oil in cast iron skillet over high heat until smoking, about 3 minutes. Dry pork chops with paper towels and brown chops in single layer until deep golden on first side, about 3 minutes. Flip chops and cook until browned on second side, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer chops to large plate and set aside. Reduce heat to medium. Add one tablespoon lard or coconut oil, onions, 1/4 teaspoon salt and water to now-empty skillet. Using wooden spoon, scrape browned bits on pan bottom and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and browned around the edges, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds longer. Return chops to skillet in single layer, covering chops with onions. Pour in warm sauce and any juices collected from pork. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until pork is tender and paring knife inserted into chops meets very little resistance, about 30 minutes. Transfer chops to warmed serving platter and tent with foil. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer sauce rapidly, stirring frequently, until thickened to gravy-like consistency, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Cover chops with sauce, sprinkle with reserved bacon, and serve immediately.

You can make a variation of this with apples (tart apples like Granny Smiths taste best) and apple cider instead of onions and broth, or you can mix apples and onions with broth and cider in varying proportions. This gravy really goes well with mashed potatoes, rice or noodles.


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