PORK CHOP PIZZAIOLA AND FAMILY
Pork Chops done Pizzaiola style...a blending of the flavors that are just basic to the Italian-American or South-
ern Italian palate. Pork, Olive Oil, Oregano, Peperoncino, Pecorino, Garlic and Onion, a little Wine..basic building
blocks of the Italian kitchen, they are all together in this dish. Things like what's available in my kitchen, a holiday,
a celebration, the season, these are all things that play into what dish I will cook at any particular time. Today's
inspiration was a sad one, albeit somewhat of a celebration, my cousin Pat Bertoldo passed away a few days ago
very unexpectedly. He was married for 40 years to my cousin Lillian, daughter of one of my Dad's sisters. You
don't realize how close you are with your family members until something like this happens, although, I will be
grateful to Lillian and Pat for supporting me during my stint at Whole Foods doing cooking demos. I had lots of
supporters for that and I am grateful to all of them. So when we found out the unfortunate news I immediately
saw him in front of me at my demos, tasting, enjoying, laughing.
Today's funeral mass and services for my cousin brought me back to my Paternal Grandparents, never knew my
Grandfather, he passed 7 days before I was born, but my Grandmother, truly a family matriarch is definitely someone
who is in the back of all of her Grandchildren's minds. I was 15 when she passed in 1974. Today's mass was celebrated by
my first cousin, Bobby (Rev. Blaise Baran) so these masses he celebrates are peppered with stories of when we all were
younger kids, growing up, family events which Grandma was always the center of. In her really bad broken English
(amazing since she came here at around 5 years old but sounded like she was in America for only 3 years!~) she made
all of us feel like the most special grandchild (there are 27 or so of us) and I don't think one of us has a bad memory
of her. As Bobby was giving his sermon today you could feel all the departed Aunts and Uncles around us and
Grandma holding court. By the way, did I tell you my Grandma liked to cook and eat? No shocker there right? Seeing
all the first, second, third cousins that came by to pay their respects to my cousin and her boys and their families
over the last two days told me one thing... there is no substitute for family, and Grandma, you did a good job.
Now this dish has nothing to do with my Grandmother or that side of my family per se, in fact the only Pizzaiola
I regularly had growing up my Mom made, it was a steak Pizzaiola, which I hated. I've taken the basic Pizzaiola
idea and researched some "from-Italy" versions (yes, this is a dish that is made on both sides of the Atlantic, it
is both Italian from Italy, and it's very Italian-American). I've switched up the Beef for Pork Chops, in Italy,
they use beef, chops, brasciole...so Pork Chops were in the refrigerator. For four people use medium cut bone in
chops, about 1 1/2 inches thick, rub them down with a mix of 1 crumbled tsp. of dried oregano, 1 1/2 tsp. of
kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. of ground black pepper. Make sure the chops come to room temperature before you cook
them, just keep them covered and make sure they are not in an area that's too warm.
Meanwhile, heat up a frying pan
that will hold four chop without them overlapping, with 2 tbs. of olive oil. When a drop of water will sizzle in
the pan, lay in the chop gently so you do not splatter hot oil on yourself. Let them fry for about 5 minutes per
side. This will create a nice caramelized surface on the chops...hello..that is not just for looking good..it will
help the interior stay moister and add tons of extra flavor.
Remove them to a platter and cover with foil. Slice one medium onion, open one 28oz. can of Imported Italian
Plum Tomatoes, preferably San Marzanos, crush them with your hands and keep them in a bown with their
juices. Add the onions to the pan and move them around with a wooden spoon or spatula to start to pull the
brown bits up from the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of Peperoncino over the onions,
then 1/2 tsp. of crumbled Dried Oregano over the whole thing. Let the onions get soft, will take about 8-10
minutes , keep the flame on medium. If they start to brown, lower the heat. Add 1 minced clove of garlic.
then, when the onions are soft, add 1/8 cup of wine, a robust red, like a Chianti...let this bubble up, make sure you
scrape up all the bits from the bottom..and let this cook for about 5 minutes.
Now add the tomatoes
and when it comes to a boil, reduce the heat and add back the pork chops, let this simmer for 30 minutes.
Mid-way through the cooking,
turn the chops over, you want this sauce to soak its flavor thru the chops...Then turn off the heat, sprinkle with
about 3 tbs. of Pecorino and let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving. A green vegetable, simply sauteed or
steamed is a wonderful accompaniment as is some pasta you can dress with pecorino and the sauce.
So as this night comes to a close, and the kitchen needs to be cleaned up, I thank the forces above
for giving me my wonderful wife, my wonderful 2 daughters, and a loving family to have been
raised in and continue to be a part of. Those are the things that mean the most.
Culinary note: ALLA PIZZAIOLA is a term that is translated as "in the style of the Pizza Maker"..so
any number of recipes using meat seared and then braised in a sauce of tomatoes, oregano, onion, garlic,
wine, or not, maybe basil, olive oil, with a finish of a grated cheese can be called Pizzaiola.