Making new friends is always a treat but difficult to do when you’re supposed to avoid social gatherings and remain six feet apart while masked. Luckily, I made two new friends last year when the food writer Ben Mims and his partner J made the same move that we made back in 2011 from New York to L.A.
Ben moved here to write for the L.A. Times (his recipes are top notch; I made his tamarind lamb shanks last night and they were dreamy); we met for dinner at a steakhouse on Hollywood and Vine and he told hilarious stories about growing up in Mississippi, then told even funnier stories on my podcast Lunch Therapy.
Ben and J had a small holiday gathering last December and it was there that I met another food writer that I’ve long admired, Nik Sharma, who had just moved here from San Francisco with his husband, Michael. Of course, I pressured him to come on my podcast too (I’m a podcast bully), more recently my Instagram live, where we made a plan to go with Ben to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market this past Sunday.
Such a formidable trio the market hasn’t seen in ages!
Ben acted as the market tour guide, pointing out the best place to get lettuce and berries and, for our purposes today, he pointed out a great place to procure pork, called Peads and Barnetts.
The pork chops that I got here, as you’ll see in a moment, were such beautiful specimens — marbled with fat, on the bone — even a first-time pork chop chef would have a hard time screwing them up.
I also spied Delicata squash at the market and I brought a few of those home with me too (paying for them first, of course!).
Finally, I bought a few apples (Ben recommended the Crispin) and suddenly a vision of a dinner started to appear; an autumnal dinner, one that would be very brown, but in a good way.
I started by making Ina Garten’s apple chutney. Making your own chutney may sound intimidating, but basically you throw a chopped onion into a pot with a few chopped apples (okay, you should core and peel them first), then some cider vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes.
Crank up the heat, wait for a boil, lower to a simmer, and 45 minutes later you have chutney (then you add raisins, unless you hate raisins, in which case… don’t add them).
Delicata squash may be my favorite squash to cook because you don’t have to cut off the skin (many a finger has been lost to a butternut squash). You just cut the squash down the middle, scoop out the seeds, then slice into little half moons. I tossed with olive oil, a little maple syrup, salt and pepper…
…and roasted at 425 until it was golden brown all over, flipping halfway through.
Now for those pork chops! Here’s what I do: I coarsely grind fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns in a spice grinder, bring the chops to room temp, season them with lots of salt and then the spices. Then I heat a cast iron skillet on high heat, add the tiniest splash of grapeseed oil just to coat the bottom of the pan (but not like a layer of oil, just a slick of oil), and when it starts to heat I put the chops in fat side down first.
As the fat renders, the pan gets hotter and hotter and even more fat coats the bottom of the pan. Then, when that side is pretty golden brown, I carefully lay the chops flat-side down into the skillet. Cook on one side until golden, then flip.
You can finish in a hot oven, but I like to finish in the skillet. I just keep flipping until a thermometer inserted into the center of the chop reads 135/140.
Let them rest, serve with the apple chutney and the squash, and wash down with some French apple cider if you’ve got it. (We didn’t have it, I don’t know what made me say that.)
It’s a dinner that sings “fall!” and “new friends!” even though I didn’t invite my new friends over to eat this. But when Covid’s over, you better believe, I’m going to make some new friends and feed this to them (sorry, Ben and Nik, I just used you for my podcast).
Spiced Pork Chops with Delicata Squash and Apple Chutney
For the apple chutney:
- 6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and half-inch diced
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges) for an extra thrill, put the orange zest in with everything
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 teaspoon whole dried mustard seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 cup raisins
For the delicata squash:
- 3 delicata squash
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper
For the pork chops:
- 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 3 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 2 bone-in, well-marbled pork chops, left at room temperature for an hour It’s really important to get two thick, fatty chops with the bone; otherwise, they’ll come out dry. Best to get from a butcher.
- Kosher salt
- Grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
Start by making your chutney: combine all of the ingredients, except the raisins, in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook for 50 minutes to an hour until most of the liquid is evaporated. Take off the heat and add the raisins.
To make the squash, heat the oven to 425. Slice the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and slice into 1/2 inch rings. Toss on a cookie sheet with the maple syrup, enough olive oil to coat everything, and lots of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the squash is deep golden brown on both sides.
To make the chops, grind the coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and peppercorns in a spice grinder just until coarsely ground (you don’t want a powder or it’ll burn). Season the chops all over with lots of salt and the spice mixture.
In a large cast iron skillet, heat a splash of the grapeseed oil until very hot. Lay the chops in on their side with the fat-side down. Render the fat until golden brown, then lay the chops flat in the skillet — they should sizzle — and cook, without moving, for 2 to 3 minutes until deep, dark brown. Flip over and cook on the other side. Start taking the chops’ temperature in the middle — you’re shooting for 135. Keep cooking, flipping every few minutes, until you reach that temperature.
Remove the chops to a plate and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with the squash and lots of the chutney.
Pork Chop Paprikash (Ben Mims, L.A. Times)
Coconut Chutney (Nik Sharma, A Brown Table)