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Recipe: Pork and plums are ready to mingle

  • NEW YORK TIMES
                                Plums are drizzled with rice vinegar, top, and thick pork chops are fried until dark brown to make a platterful of pork and plums.

    NEW YORK TIMES

    Plums are drizzled with rice vinegar, top, and thick pork chops are fried until dark brown to make a platterful of pork and plums.

I am a person who loves to compartmentalize. I like to keep TVs out of bars, buildings away from beaches and sweet flavors away from savory food. I’m not opposed to a pinch of brown sugar in a rub or a drizzle of honey in dressing for balance, but I generally avoid ingredients like sweet fruit mingling with ingredients like savory meat. (Yes, that means I am anti-raisins in my chicken salad and do not care for salsa made from mangoes.)

I am also a reasonable person, and a reasonable person allows for exceptions to rules (especially their own). Pork is that exception here: It has always managed to defy my insistence that fruit and meat be separate. The sweet, usually acidulated fruit complements rather than competes with the mild flavor of the meat, while cutting through its rich fattiness. Think stewed oranges in a long braise, sauteed apples with loin and, maybe the best example, spit-roasted pineapple with tacos al pastor.

To create a weeknight dish, this recipe does not go the braised route or down the al pastor path, but instead uses quick-cooking chops — which if you’re doing it right (good-quality pork, bone-in chops, cut at least 1-1/2 inches thick) can be just as fatty and rewarding as those other cuts.

For me to fully enjoy fruit and meat together, I steer hard into the savoriness.

This means that, no matter what fruit I’m using, I’m going to add lots of alliums, like chopped shallot or, as I did here, thinly sliced red onions. They’re tossed with a bit of vinegar and the aforementioned fruit (firm, preferably slightly underripe plums), which, after a trip to the skillet to deglaze all those porky bits, end up with a slightly softened but decidedly unmushy texture.

The result is a sort of DIY sweet-and-sour sauce but with no added sugar, more sour than sweet. It mixes with the tawny brown juices from the resting pork, making a sort of impromptu dressing for topping the sliced chops. This tangy, sour, oniony dressing reminded me of a lot of the food I had in Vietnam this year, so I added mint in homage, although cilantro or parsley would also be great.

While I’d still classify myself as a compartmentalizer (which is really just another way to compartmentalize, no?), it is here, in the world of pork and fruit, that I can admit some rules are made to be broken and ingredients born to mingle.

PORK CHOPS WITH SALTED PLUMS

By Alison Roman

  • 2 bone-in pork chops (1-1/4- to 1-1/2-inch thick, about 1-1/2 pounds total)
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, for garnish
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • >> Salted plums:
  • 1 pound medium plums, pitted and sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar or fresh lime juice, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste

>> To salt plums: Combine plums and onion in a medium bowl along with vinegar and fish sauce, if using. Season with salt and pepper and try a plum; they should be relatively tangy and salty. Add more vinegar or salt, if needed; set aside.

Season pork with salt and pepper; set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add pork chops and cook, without moving, until well browned on first side, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip chops and cook until well browned on the other side, another 3 to 5 minutes.

Transfer pork chops to a cutting board to rest. Add salted plums to skillet and remove from heat. Give everything a toss, just to deglaze the skillet and scrape up any of those browned bits, slightly wilting the onion and letting some of those plum juices run free.

Slice pork chops to desired thickness and transfer to a serving platter. Scatter with plum mixture, top with mint and give everything a drizzle of olive oil. Serves 4.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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