Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
I love it when you can get multiple uses out of one ingredient—extra bang for the buck! This recipe for sweet, juicy, spiced pork chops extends the use of two different ingredients: beets for a nutrient-packed side and bacon for added depth of flavor.
Beets, it may surprise you to learn, are members of the same species as leafy chard, so the greens can be prepared in much the same way. Their light bitterness provides a counterpoint to the sweeter root. (I used a mix of golden and red beets here.) Look for beets with leaves still attached that are in good condition, but if you can only find beets with the leaves removed or the greens look less than appetizing, simply substitute chard. Greens such as kale and spinach will also work as well, but for some, you may not need to trim the stems and fleshy ribs from the leafy part and cook them first.
Bacon gives the dish a decadent touch. Crisp up strips in a pan to make bacon bits, and you’ll have the fat left over to cook the greens in. (If you're aiming to make your meal on the healthier side, swap in another cooking oil or omit the bacon completely.) Goat cheese and toasted pecan pieces provide final embellishments for this autumnal dish.
A lightly spiced, fruit-forward red wine seemed ideal for this recipe. I decided to try a California Pinot Noir, a classic match for pork, and a more robust Monastrell (Mourvèdre) from Spain’s Alicante region. The Monastrell was rich and ripe, with dark plum and blackberry notes, but the tannins, while smooth, were a bit heavy for light pork meat.
The Pinot Noir was also ripe and lightly spiced, but it showcased red berry and cherry fruit. Lighter in body than the Monastrell, the wine’s weight and subtler tannins were ultimately a better fit for the pork chops.
Pair with a medium-bodied red such as Rickshaw Pinot Noir California 2014 (87 points, $15). Additional Wine Spectator suggestions from recently rated releases: The Crusher Pinot Noir California 2016 (87, $15), Edna Valley Pinot Noir Central Coast 2016 (87, $17) and Murphy-Goode Pinot Noir California 2016 (87, $15).
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 to 55 minutes
Total time: 60 to 75 minutes
Approximate food costs: $22
1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Separate the beets, stems and leaves. (Check that the stems and leaves are free of grit and rinse again, if needed.) Peel the beets and cut them into small wedges. Slice the stems into small pieces and the leaves into shreds, keeping them separate.
2. Place beets in a roasting pan. Lightly drizzle beets with cooking oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Loosely cover pan with foil. Place the beets in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes, turning once midway through, for beets that are fork-tender, and up to 45 minutes for beets that are more candied and browned.
3. Once the beets have been in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, add bacon to a cold pan and cook over medium heat until browned and crisp, flipping once. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Once cool enough to handle, crumble bacon into pieces and set aside. Reserve a couple tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan. (If there is additional bacon fat left over, save it for another use.)
4. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper to taste and 1/4 teaspoon allspice. Add chops to the pan and cook over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes per side, until golden-brown. Work in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan. Transfer pork chops to a platter and set aside.
5. Deglaze the pan with apple cider vinegar, scraping up any brown bits. (If there are blackened bits in the pan, wipe out before adding the vinegar.) Add the shallots and the beet stems to the pan, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the stems start to soften. Add the leaves and sauté until the leaves are wilted and tender. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Remove pan from heat.
6. Serve the chops with greens and beet wedges. Garnish with the bacon crumble, pecan pieces and goat cheese. Serves 4.