The Butterballs were highly recommended.
Not turkeys. Potatoes. Yellow, waxy and crisp with a delightful buttery-nutty flavored flesh from Olsen Farms. We saw them one Sunday at Ballard Farmers Market, but passed them up in favor of the classic red-skinned (Craig’s favorite). After one of his colleague’s recommended them, we filled a paper sack full at the following week’s market, after digging through their igloo cooler to find two matching pastured sirloin pork chops.
The first pastured pork chop I ever made I overcooked. A lot. It was mid-July in Atlanta and hot. The sticky, humid hot of a bright Southern summer. Craig and I were visiting Grant Park Farmers Market for the first time, weaving through the thick throngs of people, filling up our bags with the bounty of summer. I made a peach pie that weekend with margarita jelly from One Screw Loose, and a thick ketchup from three pounds of the juiciest, heaviest heirloom tomatoes.
The woman from Riverview Farms who sold us the chops that weekend told us we should cook them medium-rare at most. We picked up a tomatillo salsa at the market and slung together a quick marinade, tenderly flipping the chops every so often to make sure they were equally exposed and coated in the sauce. Then, I overcooked the chops on an electric grill, of all things.
After all that love and fuss, they were still damned delicious.
Animals, like fruits and vegetables, are seasonal. This wasn’t a fact I had truly considered with the ubiquity and availability of all those cuts and packages in the grocery store. It wasn’t until I met a farmer at the market, inquiring after his chickens and ducks, when he informed me it would be a few more weeks still until the birds were fully raised and ready.
In a 1989 interview for Interview Magazine, Julia Child said,
“Animals that we eat are raised for food in the most economical way possible, and the serious food producers do it in the most humane way possible. I think anyone who is a carnivore needs to understand that meat does not originally come in these neat little packages.”
Being a carnivore can be ugly business, I know. The first time I walked from an abbatoir into the meat locker, it knocked the breath right out of me (and it wasn’t the cold of the refrigerator). There is no one “right way” to eat or live, and my style is neither required nor dogma.
My Midwestern upbringing instilled in me the near-requirement of consuming meat nearly every day. In adulthood, I have tried to scale back how frequently we eat meat, and have tried to be more conscientious of how and from whom we purchase our meats. I consider myself a “conscientious omnivore,” if that doesn’t sound too conceited. When asked about her eating habits (and ability to keep her petite frame), celeb chef Giada De Laurentiis has said she eats a little bit of everything, and not too much of any one thing. All things in moderation. That is my dogma.
This is a hearty, wintery meal that’s really over the top. In-between seasons, I vacillate between the last of the thick, stick-to-your-ribs satiating meals that are meant for colder weather and lighter fare better suited for sunshine-filled spring days. Our meals at home lately have been a mix between lighter dishes and more wholesome, comforting fare. This is certainly the latter, a dish to be enjoyed just once in a while when you need a little bit of fanfare in your life.
- German Butterball potatoes
- Brussels sprouts
- Pastured pork chops
Pan-Roasted Pork Chops with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes and a Bacon-Sage Browned Butter Drizzle
For the bacon and sage browned butter
2 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
1/2 stick organic butter (4 tablespoons/2 ounces)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
For the roasted veggies
1 pint Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved or quartered
1 pound Butterball potatoes, cleaned and diced
Salt and pepper
For the pork chops
2-4 good-sized bone-in pork chops (6-8 ounces each)
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon lard
First make the browned butter. Add the diced bacon to a saucepan, place over medium heat, and cook until fat is rendered and the bacon pieces are browned and crunchy. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon, reserving the fat. The amount of fat remaining in the pan will depend on the slices of bacon. You should have about one teaspoon remaining. If you have any more than that, pour it out (you can get rid of the excess or save it in a mason jar for later use).
Add the half-stick of butter to the pan. Lower the heat. As soon as the butter is melted, start whisking. You’ll see the butter foam first. Continue whisking until you start to see speckles of brown. Remove the pan from the heat to avoid burning the butter and continue to whisk. If you don’t see enough browned bits, you can return the pan to the heat. If the butter is golden-brown, you’re done. Stir in the cooked bacon and chopped sage and set aside. The browned bits will sink to the bottom as the butter sits, so be sure to stir again before serving.
Pat the pork chops dry and season both sides with salt and pepper. Allow to sit, seasoned, for about half-an-hour while you prep everything else.
Prep your vegetables for roasting. Turn the oven on to 375 degrees. Scrubs the potatoes and pat dry, then dice. Prep the Brussels sprouts by cutting off the stem and removing the outer leaves. Cut the sprouts into halves if they are small, or quarters if they’re larger, so they’re about the same size as the potatoes.
Toss the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and the teaspoon of paprika. Set in the preheated oven and roast for 10 minutes.
Once the veggies are in the oven, place a skillet over medium-high heat and melt the lard. Add the chops to the hot pan and cook for 5 minutes. Flip the chops, cooking for 3 minutes. At this point, the timer on the vegetables should be up. Stir the vegetables to prevent burning, and place the skillet with the chops in the oven. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until the chops are done to your liking. Test doneness using an instant-read meat thermometer. 145 degrees is medium (pink center) and 160+ is well-done. Test the vegetables at this time, too. They should be fork tender.
Let the chops rest, tented in foil, for 5 minutes. While they are resting, finish the vegetables in the oven (if they weren’t quite tender), and gently stir and reheat the browned butter. The chops and vegetables are also delicious served with a dollop of hearty stone-ground mustard.
There are enough vegetables prepared in this recipe to serve four people. (We had leftovers that I enjoyed for lunch the next day.) Most of my recipes are made for two because that’s how many I am serving in my household. Adapting this recipe for a family of four is quite easy: just prepare two extra pork chops. You can also substitute boneless pork chops for the bone-in. (We chose bone-in because these are often less expensive cuts at the farmers market.) If you cannot find “German Butterball” potatoes, substitute with another potato like red-skinned, new, or Yukon Gold.