At weekly markets across central Italy, ancient town squares fill with the aromas of spit-roasted pork slathered in rosemary, fennel pollen and garlic. The enchanting smell is porchetta, a delicious homage to whole-hog cooking that’s as revered as barbecue in the American South.
The laborious roast, clearly, is off the table for midweek dinner. Instead, we kept the signature flavors in mind for this recipe from our book “Tuesday Nights Mediterranean,” which features weeknight-friendly meals from the region. Rather than overnight cooking, these pork chops are ready in just over half an hour.
To further streamline the cooking, we narrowed the ingredients to those best suited for searing on the stovetop. A blend of rosemary, fennel seed, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper, blitzed in a spice grinder to a fine powder, seasons the meat with herbaceous flavor.
We finish the chops with a simple lemon-accented, butter-enriched pan sauce. To balance the richness of the pork, we top it with a bright, quick salad of parsley, scallions and sliced fennel bulb, simply dressed with more lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil and the remainder of the spice blend.
When shopping, opt for chops that are close in size so they cook at the same rate. And if your fennel bulb still has fronds attached, chop about ¼ cup and add them to the bowl with the fennel. They’re loaded with flavor.
Start to finish: 35 minutes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Four 8-ounce bone-in center cut pork chops, each about 1-inch thick, patted dry
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 2 pieces
3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
1 large fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
In a spice grinder, combine 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, the rosemary, fennel seeds and pepper flakes. Process to a fine powder, about 10 seconds. Measure 1/2 teaspoon into a medium bowl and set aside. Sprinkle the remainder onto both sides of the pork chops, then rub the seasonings into the meat.
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until barely smoking. Add the chops and cook until well browned on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the centers reach 135°F, another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a platter and tent with foil. With the pan still over medium-high, add ¼ cup water and scrape up any browned bits. Add the butter and whisk until incorporated, then stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Taste and season with salt and black pepper. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
To the bowl with the spice mix, whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Add the fennel, scallions and parsley, then toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chops and serve with the fennel salad.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at 177milkstreet.com/ap
Christopher Kimball, The Associated Press