Monday, 19 June 2017

Fattier Pork Is Better Pork

Pork chops with tamarind and ginger. Searing to meat in a skillet, followed by a short stay in the oven allows the edges to caramelize and the center to cook a more slowly. Credit Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
As the availability of good, fat-marbled pork has risen, so has my adoration of that stalwart favorite, the bone-in pork chop.
Things used to be different.
For years, pigs were put on a diet, then served up lean and mean, without much internal fat to lubricate and flavor their brawny flesh. (Remember “the other white meat” ad campaign”?) The result was often chewy, bland and dry. Not nearly as good as bacon and therefore, in my mind, not worth eating.
You can still certainly find lean pork chops, and if you like them, feel free to use them in this recipe. But the more succulent, dark pink meat of thick-cut chops, most likely raised on small farms, is probably in the supermarket refrigerator case right alongside the skinnier chops. Look for a creamy layer of fat surrounding the meat and bone — this is a sign of something good.
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Turmeric, along with tamarind, cumin, chile, garlic, ginger and fish sauce, touches on sour, pungent and salty notes that go together with the pork chops beautifully. Credit Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
For the cook, the fat serves several purposes: It insulates the meat, keeping it juicier for longer, giving you a larger margin of error when it comes to cooking. Even if you overshoot your target temperature, the fat protects the flesh, keeping it moist.
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Fat also adds flavor, meaning you don’t need to do too much to your chops beyond adding a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper to make them taste fantastic.
This said, marinating the chops can make them even better. Here, I smear them with a paste of turmeric, tamarind, cumin, chile, garlic, ginger and a touch of fish sauce. It’s not a flavor combination that’s authentic to any one place, but the sour, pungent and salty notes all go together beautifully.