Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sunday Gravy Over Pan Seared Pork Chops

Sunday gravy over pan seared pork chops
Ok, let's talk pork!!  We have been lead to believe that pork chops are dry, tasteless and "the other white meat." Well If you are buying run of the mill, factory raised pork then yes you are getting tasteless pieces of grayish meat that might as well be chicken if you have your eyes closed. I want to change this perception!  Farm raised pork, if they are allowed to roam and eat what they would if they were in the wild, have a rich, nutty and porky taste. Not all farms are created equal so do your research and make sure you buy from a trusted source, don't be afraid to ask questions when spending money on meat. The labels on products can be very confusing too, so do ask; what it means and where it came from and how it was treated during the raising process, if you are buying from a grocery store.  In my house we buy very little meat, but the meat we do buy, we know exactly where it comes from and we know exactly how it was raised. I always buy meat close to home and from a farmer I can talk to, I love seeing the animals roam outside and seeing the pride on a the person's face who cares for them.  So why spend the money on this farm pork?  Well we have established the most important distinction: taste, the rich, nutty flavor that comes from their foraged diet and the fact that most farms breed heritage pigs which are bred for the taste and quality of the meat. Factory farms, on the other hand, breed one kind of pig (that quintessential pink pig) that is bred for the amount of fat and bulk they can gain with no regard for taste, no thank you! Natural farm raised pork also contains more vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids and is lower in fat and cholesterol than its factory counterpart. Lastly factory farms must pump their animals full of antibiotics and other things to keep them healthy and your family then ingests this meat full of unknown substances...gross!  Farm raised pork doesn't need to do this because the conditions are better and the pigs rarely face sickness or disease.  Here is an awesome website I use all the time if anyone would like more information on this subject: http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm.  I could go on and on about this all day, but I would rather get cooking, so I will climb off my soap box and give you what you came here for: delicious pork with no regrets!!

Pasture raised pigs, from West Wind Acres, 20 minutes from my house in West Charlton NY, click on the link to check out their website and farm!

 Now that we have sorted out the pork issue, lets talk Sunday gravy! This gravy is not the kind that's brown and you put over your mashed potatoes during Thanksgiving this is the Italian version.  Its a red sauce that simmers all day with all kinds of meat products in it.  My version has trimmed the meat down to just using soup bones which makes the sauce healthier without sacrificing taste. At my house anything that simmers all day with bones in it, is sure to be a crowd pleaser, and even the toddler screams for it!  Bones, you say? Well they contain all the marrow and bits of fat and meat that will flavor your sauce and because the meat that clings to the bones is tougher, it can withstand the long cooking time that a tomato sauce needs without getting rubbery or dried out.  The bones are also a huge bang for your buck...if I am splurging on expensive pork chops I can't very well buy 10 other equally expensive ingredients. Besides, from my experience the most humble ingredients end up being the most impressive if treated with respect. So the next time you are at your farmer's market or perhaps even your grocery store ask what soup bones they have available.  My co-op has a whole section of the days bones at incredibly cheap prices I can get a whole 5lb bag for like 4$. I don't worry about what kind they are, beef, lamb, pork, as long as they aren't poultry bones they are perfectly fine. This does not mean, however, that I overlook where the bones come from, its equally important to me that I buy bones from farm, pasture raised animals. That being said, this 4$ bag of bones is going to change your life, I promise!!

Lets now talk about tomatoes for your sauce.  I am a bit of a hippie, I like to use things as close to nature as possible and I don't like buying a lot of packaging, for a whole list of reasons we won't get into here; so I always use fresh tomatoes when I make sauce.  I do, on occasion, break down and use canned tomatoes, but this happens rarely and if you are a canned user, I have nothing against you. There are perfectly good brands of canned tomatoes that I happen to love; Muir Glen and San Marzano are the two that I buy and highly recommend if you are going the canned route.  If you do use canned tomatoes for this recipe you will need 2, 28 oz cans.  I don't mess around when I make sauce, its easy to freeze or use for lots of other recipes so I always make a big pot.  Why go through all the trouble for just a small amount?
These are vine ripened organic tomatoes from my parent's garden, i just can't resist fresh tomatoes!

This sauce takes 3 to 4 hours to cook so you will need to plan ahead. You can always make the sauce the day before and then heat the day of, when you cook the chops.

This recipe is for 2 but can easily be doubled for 4 or more.  If you double, there will be plenty of sauce for more people you will just need to double the pork chop portion of the recipe.



2 bone-in pork chops from a trusted source (I used chops that were about 1/2 inch thick so cooking times will vary based on the size of your chops)

salt and pepper to taste

2 tsp olive oil


2 lbs of soup bones (anything but poultry will work fine)

5 lbs of fresh tomatoes

1/3 cup of good quality olive oil

6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup of good quality beef stock

1 cup of either red or white wine, just needs to be dry and delicious

Few springs of thyme, rosemary and parsley, tied in a bundle with kitchen twine

1 bunch of basil chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Sugar to taste


Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cut an x in the bottom of each tomato and add to the boiling water in batches for a few minutes, or until the skin starts to peel away from the flesh.  Remove the tomatoes and repeat until for the whole 5 lbs.  Run under cold water to cool and then peel away the skin from the flesh and either squeeze with your hands or mash with a potato masher in a large bowl.  I like to remove the very hard, whitish stem thing in the middle, I find that it doesn't breakdown. Set these aside.

Salt and pepper all the meaty bits on your soup bones. Heat a large, non-reactive sauce pan (I like to use my big dutch oven) pour in a few tablespoons of olive oil and brown the soup bones over medium high heat.  Do this in batches to ensure they brown and aren't overcrowded in the pan.  Remove the bones from the pan and set aside.  In the same pan add the olive oil, garlic and onions and let cook for about 5 to 7 minutes until they are translucent, do not allow them to brown, if you need to, turn the heat down. Once the onions are soft deglaze the pan with the wine and let reduce for about 3 minutes. Add in the beef stock, tomatoes, soup bones and the bundle of herbs (not the basil). Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer covered for about 3 to 4 hours.  If your sauce reduces too much before your meat is falling off the bone then add in a little water to the pan.  You know the sauce is done when the meat falls of the bones and is easy to shred with two forks. Remove the bones and shred all meat and add back to the sauce.  Remove the herb bundle, add in the basil, salt and pepper to taste.  Add in a few Tbsp of sugar, more or less for however sweet you like your sauce, I tend to like sweeter sauce so I do about 2 Tbsp.  Leave the sauce simmering on low heat.

Heat a grill pan or cast iron pan to screaming hot, yes this is an actual temperature ha! Salt and pepper your chops and add olive oil to your pan.  Sear your chops on both sides for about 3 minutes each side, until they have a golden brown crust.  Add the chops to the sauce to cook for about 4 more minutes and remove to rest.  Let the chops rest for 10 minutes. They should be pink in the middle, and if you are using farm raised chops there is absolutely no danger of anything and pink ensures juiciness!

Serve the chops over pasta, couscous or mashed potatoes or with a crusty bread and smother this in the awesomeness that is Sunday gravy and bon apetit my friends!  

“If I had to narrow my choice of meats down to one for the rest of my life, I am quite certain that meat would be pork.” 
― James Beard

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