February 01, 2010

Chops, beans & fries

We eat a fair amount of pork chops around here. They're affordable, easy to fix, and reasonably low in fat. I'm posting one of my favorite meals today, and hooray for that. This is supposed to be a food blog, after all.

Dinner: Pork chops with gravy, green beans, and grandpa's home fries

I start with the green beans. Admittedly, proper Southern green beans involve a whole day on the stove and a ham hock, but this is the abbreviated version.

Fresh veggies make me so happy.

In this photo, from left to right:
  • 1 lb. green beans, washed and snapped
  • 1/4 cup or so of sweet yellow onion, cut in strips
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 green onions with the bulbs removed
Across the top there you can see a couple of potatoes and a tomato. We'll come back to those.

Uh-oh, gotta back up!

I fried about a half a pound of bacon earlier today. That grease plays a vital role in this dinner. If you want to try it without frying up the bacon, just get into your drippings can. Wait. You don't have a drippings can? That rush of wind you just felt was the South's collective gasp.

Just kidding. You can use your favorite vegetable oil, shortening, or store-bought lard for all the fat that follows.

Okay, so I took about a tablespoon of bacon grease and put it into a medium saucepan. Turned the heat on medium and let it get good and hot. I also put medium heat under a shallow skillet with the rest of the grease, and started heating up the cast iron on medium-high heat. That's three burners going -- getting intense now!

Remember those potatoes? While the pans are heating up, start slicing them into thin rounds. A fancy mandoline makes it super-easy. But I'm a cheapskate so I use my trusty chef's knife.

See if the grease is hot enough with a shake of black pepper. If it sizzles, it's ready. Toss the onion and garlic into the saucepan to sweat. Once the onion starts getting caramelized, add the green beans.

Toss gently to coat the beans.

Add about a half a cup of water and a handful of chopped green onions. Cover, and reduce the heat to low. You can pretty much forget the beans after this, except for occasional stirring.

At this point, I add about a tablespoon of sesame oil to the cast iron. I just love the flavor sesame adds to the pork chops and the forthcoming gravy, but just about any oil will do the trick.

Now we return to the taters. Carefully add them to the skillet in a single layer and sprinkle with seasoned salt. Also, turn on the oven to its lowest setting, and get a casserole dish ready.

Give the skillet a gentle shake to coat the taters' tops.

Put any remaining slices in a bowl of water to keep them from getting black. While they're cooking, turn the slices after a few minutes so both sides get brown around the edges. If they start curling up like potato chips, reduce the heat a little.

As the potatoes start getting done, take them out of the skillet, put them in the casserole, and put the casserole in the oven. This way they'll stay crispy and hot until you're ready to serve.

Add more slices as space becomes available. A word of caution, though: if they've been soaking in water, be sure to blot them dry with a paper towel or lint-free cloth. Adding water to hot grease is an awesome way to start a kitchen fire. We prefer to avoid that...

So yeah, the main course, eh? After all this the pork chops are like falling off a log. Tilt the cast iron around a bit to spread the oil evenly. Lightly salt and pepper the raw chops, then gently place them in the skillet. Make sure they're not touching each other or the skillet's sides.

Pork chops turn kind of white as they get done. Look for that white color to get about halfway up the sides. At that point they should be nice and brown on the bottom, and ready to turn.

This picture was supposed to show you the nice brown color. Damn.

Give the chops a few minutes to get brown on the other side, then sprinkle the pan and the chops with, oh, maybe 2 tablespoons of flour. Sorry. I'm a dash-of-this pinch-of-that kind of cook. Then add about a quarter cup of water. Go easy on the water -- it's way better to add more if your gravy gets too thick. Trying to add more flour to a too-thin gravy? Lump city.

By this time, I have to focus on not drooling right in the pan.

Stir frequently to keep the gravy from sticking and/or forming lumps. I like to add a little soy sauce here, instead of extra salt. It creates a nice brown color and fabulous savory flavor.

Phew! By the time the gravy is good and thick, the chops will be cooked all the way through. Both potatoes should be fried, and the green beans tender-but-firm.

Oh yeah! I forgot that tomato! During some down time I diced about a quarter of it, strictly for this lovely salad:

You know, to counteract all that bacon grease...

And here's the finished meal. Know how I judged its success? Doug didn't speak a word during dinner. Which, we totally ate at the table! Uncharacteristically grown up for us.

Proper chefs would totally hate on my messy plating.

I hope you can see why I like this meal so much. If anybody out there tries it, I'd love to hear about your results!


  1. I'm going to have to try this. Theo loves southern cooking, and I have this California things working against me. Don't pass out, but I have never actually fried anything in my life!
    This pork chop meal sounds like something I can handle, and Theo will like! Give me a week to get the groceries though...

  2. Also, pretty excited that I have a couple bags of green beans from the garden in the freezer and I'll get to use them!

  3. I need to send you my Italian pork chop recipe. It's amazing and easy to do. These look delish.

  4. Jamie: Please let us know how it goes for you. Homegrown green beans? Mmm, I'm jealous!

    Andi: Yeah girl please do send the recipe. I'm always looking for additions to the rotation. :)

  5. This is one of my favorite dinners! Jamie, you're right, you should be able to handle this (it looks more difficult than it is, took Misty about 40 minutes form chopping to plating). Andi, PLEASE send that recipe, I LOVE Italian!


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