Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Bierstube Pork Chops
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Years ago there was a hideaway about a block from the steel mills in South Chicago. I'm speaking now of a time before we knew of women's liberation or political correctness, so I hope no one will be offended when I recount the place was called Fat Helens. Ironically, Helen was a tall, thin woman of Eastern European extraction. She ran the place with an iron fist, an even stronger will and a bouncer kept at the door to prevent any on her hit list from getting to the bar. You'd probably call it a tavern, but Helen also served food - some of the best in the city. Portions were huge. This was the local watering hole for millworkers and their families. They were a tightly knit community and folks were married and mourned in the huge room behind the restaurant. On weekends the place became a social club. Beer was served in huge steins and boiler makers seemed, always, to be the drink of the day. Regulars put their drinks on a running tab, important in those days before we even dreamed of credit cards. I saw my first real fight here, but, more importantly, I had my first taste of Eastern European cooking at the communal tables behind the bar. Now, I suspect you're curious as to how I ended up in a beer hall behind the steel mills. My mother sure was until we took her to dinner one night. Bob and I were first taken to Helens by a friend who was a language instructor at the university. It was so different from anything in my experience that I was fascinated by the place. It would be fair to say our first visit was borne of curiosity. All others, however, were triggered by the food. We also had the good fortune to attend an Oktoberfest at Helens. It remains the standard by which we judge such celebrations. Bierstube pork is an original recipe based on flavors and memories from long ago. The chops are easy to do, but they are brined prior to cooking so you'll need 6 to 8 hours of lead time. I serve these with caraway noodles and Ina Garten's Sauteed Cabbage. If you like hearty well-flavored food I think you'll like these pork chops.
Bierstube Pork Chops...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite
1 (12-oz.) bottle non-alcoholic amber ale (see Cooks Note Below)
1-1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
4 bone-in pork chops, 1-1/4-inch thick
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian parsley
1) To make brine: Combine beer, water, salt, brown sugar, vinegar, caraway seeds and pepper in a large bowl. Stir until sugar dissolves. Pour brine into a 1-gallon plastic bag with a zip lock. Add chops and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours.
2) Remove chops from brine, reserving brine. Pour brine into a 2-quart saucepan and boil 5 minutes to reduce by half. Set aside. Pat chops dry. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, shake off excess. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add bacon and cook until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper toweling. Add chops and sear over medium-high heat, turning once, until both sides are brown, about 3 minutes perside. Transfer to a plate.
3) Add onions to skillet chops cooked in. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup reserved brine and simmer, scraping bottom of pan, until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup. Add 1/2 cup water and capers. Return chops and bacon to pan, setting them among onions. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cover pan and cook, at a simmer, for about 6 minutes. Turn chops, cook, covered for another 4 to 5 minutes, or until chops are firm to touch and barely pink inside (meat thermometer should read 145 to 155 degrees F.).
5) Transfer chops to a serving plate. Tent with foil. Add sour cream to pan liquid and simmer (do not boil) until sauce coats a spoon, about 2 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve chops topped with sauce and sprinkled with parsley. Yield: 4 servings.
Cook' Note: Any beer can be used, but non-alcoholic beers impart flavor without bitterness. I use O'Doul's amber ale.