I realize that upon reading Dispatch from Italy you might be expecting something, let's say, more sophisticated than pork chops. Whenever I hear the word dispatch, I think of George Orwell in the 1920's being all down and outy, for some reason. But this is where I am for the next two weeks, decamped at my mother's house with Hugo for a vacation of sorts where other people cook me lunch and soothe the baby and let me take forty thousand photographs of this view which never grows old:
Here's some lavender to set the scene for you:
This morning I picked figs, all hot and soft in the summer sun. This afternoon we'll go to town to run some errands and eat gelato, as it is my goal to work my way through the flavors in the case of the gelateria before we leave. (Yesterday: peach and watermelon. Today: chocolate and pistachio.) And at lunch today, Maurizio, my mother's cousin, made pork chops so good that I must must must tell you about them. I've never seen pork chops cooked this way before and I've never eaten pork chops this good, so I have to share. Isn't this what blogs were invented for?
(Is this the right moment to say that I'm really not a meat person? I mean, I'm really not. Give me a bowl of boiled green beans with olive oil and vinegar over a steak any day. But put Maurizio in a kitchen with a stack of meat and a hot pan and and suddenly I'm tearing into pork chops like some prehistoric cavewoman.)
The first thing you need to do is gather your ingredients. Watch out, it's not a long list:
Good-quality pork chops, one per person (if I had to guess, around 1/2 an inch thick)
Coarse sea salt (do not use fine, no matter what)
A lemon and that is it.
Now take a heavy frying pan and put it over medium-high heat. (I'll bet a cast-iron pan would be best, but Maurizio used a nonstick one.) Coat one side of each pork chop evenly with one or two teaspoons of coarse salt. That's PER CHOP, people. They should look like this:
Lay the pork chops, unsalted side down, in the hot pan. There's no oil or anything to coat the pan. Let the chops fry until, Maurizio says, the salt on top starts to go clear, meaning they've absorbed the liquid from the meat (this takes a little less than ten minutes). Your kitchen will smell like browning pork fat, which is indescribably delicious. Flip the chops to the salted side. The browned side should look like this:
Now fry this side for just a few minutes, until the salt sticks to the pan. Remove the chops to the serving plates and, using a spoon, scrape off the coarse salt and discard. Flip the chop again, so that the nicely browned side is facing up. After all, your eyes are eating, too, as the Germans would say.
Serve everyone their pork chop and then, at the table, squeeze a good amount of lemon juice over each one and tuck in:
I find it difficult not to tear into the hot, salty chop with my bare hands, but I do my best to restrain myself and use a fork and knife because just because I can eat figs straight off of trees right now doesn't mean I've turned into a total animal, you know? The chop is all juicy and wonderful and the lemon juice cuts through the richness of the pork and wouldn't you know, I even eat the bit of fat edging the meat because it's so darn good.
(Ha! I just realized Hugo's pacifier is lying next to my plate there. Poor Hugo, no pork chops for him.)
Next up for Dispatch from Italy, if I can get my mother to cooperate: pickled eggplant. Yes? Yes! And an update on which gelato flavors I've worked through. I know you're all on the edge of your seats. Now go forth and fry chops!