Spice-Rubbed Chops and Scarlet Runner Stew

Sorry I haven’t posted many recipes in the past week. My husband was out of town and I made mostly simple comfort foods while he was away: Pork schnitzel with spaetzle and sauerkraut, fresh fettuccine with ragu bolognese, saffron risotto with Brussels sprouts, and sloppy joes on fresh sourdough bread. I saved a more interesting dish for the night Jeremy came home—spice-rubbed pork chops with scarlet runner bean stew and potato-kohlrabi mash—but as it turned out, his flight connections were so brief that he didn’t get to eat all day and was hungry enough to scarf down some fast food on the ride home from the airport.

I partly ordered scarlet runner beans because I have heard so much about the plants’ gorgeous red ornamental flowers, and had thoughts of saving some to plant in the spring. I hadn’t realized how enormous the beans were when I placed my order! The photo above shows one after soaking, easily larger than one of the joints in my fingers. (I wanted to get a photo of Nolan holding that huge bean in his tiny hand, but he wasn’t interested in participating…) The beans were so huge that I probably should have cooked them a bit longer—most of them were cooked through, but a few were still on the gritty side when dinner was ready.

Despite the uneven texture of the beans, this meal was delicious. I brined the pork chops in a salt-sugar solution for an hour or two in the refrigerator before drying and crusting them with some of my fresh spices from SpicesInc. The stewy sauce was made with community garden tomatoes, mostly romas that I peeled, and the mash was a combination of red potatoes and leftover braised kohlrabi (which I had served myself with a pork schnitzel a few nights before). Because I was trying to stretch the meal to be ready for Jeremy’s indeterminate arrival, the lean pork loin chops ended up somewhat overcooked, an eventuality I was prepared to accept. If you use bone-in chops and stick to the recommended times, or even go with chunks of pork shoulder for an all-out stew and braise them until they nearly melt, you should end up with a more satisfactory texture. I plan to give the latter a spin sometime this winter, or even use lamb chops or chunks, which Jeremy would just love! As it was, he happily ate up the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Spice-Rubbed Pork with Scarlet Runner Stew

6 C water
3 T kosher salt
3 T sugar
4 large pork loin chops, preferably bone-in and at least 1″ thick

1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 T oil, for frying
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cloves, or a pinch of ground cloves
2 C chopped tomatoes, canned or fresh
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 C dried scarlet runner beans, soaked overnight and then cooked with a bay leaf until just tender, OR canned beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed

In a large container or sturdy Ziploc bag, combine the water, salt and sugar; stir until dissolved, then add the pork chops. Place in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours; if using a bag, place it inside a bowl or container in case of leakage. After no more than 2 hours, remove chops from brine and pat dry. In a small bowl, mix together the chili powder, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, paprika, sea salt and pepper; rub the spice mixture into both sides of the chops.

Heat the oil in a large heavy saute pan or cast-iron casserole pot over a medium heat and add the chops, two at a time. Sear on both sides until a crust forms on both sides and the oil is fragrant, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add onion and garlic to the same pan and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, sugar, clove and cinnamon stick. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the beans or chickpeas. Nestle the meat down into the sauce, and pour in any juices they released. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook for a further 30 minutes until the meat is cooked through but still very tender. Serve over rice, couscous, or mashed potatoes.

Source: Adapted from The $120 Food Challenge.

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