Archive for June, 2010

Meet My Friend, the Center-Cut Pork Chop

June 8, 2010

I’ve become a huge fan of the center-cut pork chop.

OK, obviously, this isn’t earth shattering information or even vaguely earth nudging but I’ve come to appreciate the sheer flexibility and utility of this otherwise not-terribly-exotic cut. It’s thick, it’s flavorful, it’s not terribly expensive and – best of all – it’s useful for a lot of different dishes. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I actually cooked one as is.

Black bean and pork tacos

The center cut pork chop is typically edged with a nice, thick layer of fat on one side and a generous chunk of bone (You can get them boneless, as well; I don’t). There’s plenty of meat wedged into the nooks of the bone in addition to the glorious round slab of lean meat that forms the bulk of the chop. It is, without doubt, a lovely piece of flesh and it would look pretty damned fabulous on just about any plate come dinner time but, inevitably, in my kitchen it gets used for other things.

Just tonight, for example, I made black bean tacos with pork cut, you probably guessed, from a center-cut pork chop. Except the chops I used were actually the leftover scraps from other chops I had trimmed for other dishes earlier on. Rather than tossing the bones and the fat, as well as the leftover chunks of actual meat, I froze them. Usually, you’ll find at least a couple bags of frozen pork chop scraps in my freezer waiting to be used for any number of dishes.

I pulled out what I wanted – a bone, a couple of generous strips of fat, and several chunks of meat – and then diced the fat into small cubes. I tossed those into a hot pan in which I was already sautéing a few diced shallots and let them brown. Then I tossed in the pieces of meat which I had cut into larger dice, and let them brown a bit as well. Once that was done, I put in the black beans I’d left soaking, along with fresh-ground cumin, oregano, and some cilantro, covered it all with water and set it to boil on the stove, reducing the whole mess to a steady simmer once it had actually hit the boiling point.

When the beans were nearly done, I added salt, pepper, and some lime zest and then served it up in corn tortillas with tomato salsa and cotija cheese. What the tacos lacked in authenticity, as if that were an issue in my kitchen, they more than made up for in flavor. With a cold Hefeweizen, they made for a great meal.

But I use that cut of pork for other things as well, particularly when I want to mince my own pork for Mapo tofu, for instance. I rarely want more than a quarter pound of meat for that particular dish and the center-cut meets my expectations quite nicely. When I’ve trimmed away the meat I want from the cut, the bone and fat scraps go into the freezer to be used for any other number of dishes. Need flavor for beans? Toss in the bones. Need fat for another dish? A roasted chicken or perhaps a meatloaf? There it is, waiting patiently for me in the freezer.

Who needs plain old pork chops?