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The best of the recipes, techniques, and methods practiced by our large extended Italian-American family - with emphasis on the legacy handed down to us by the original immigrants.

This is a cookbook-in-process project. If you try any of these recipes please let us know how they turn out, whether or not you had any difficulties, and any clarifying improvements you might recommend to make them foolproof. We will of course acknowledge genuine "test-kitchen" assistance.


Family Secrets #48

Pork Chops and Vinegar Peppers

By Ray Zara, La Lama Mountain Ovens


I recently found myself in the rather un-enviable situation of having to prepare a dinner for one. It was just one of those days that I craved something different, very Italian, not too complicated, and fast. Since I have an inherent dislike for fast foods and frozen dinners, my need for speed was creating a real problem.

The solution to my dilemma came when I recalled having dinner a very long time ago, in a little hole in the wall restaurant in the Iron Bound section of Newark, New Jersey. Iron Bound is not an ethnically diverse neighborhood, it is predominantly Italian and Portuguese. This was one of my favorite places because it was close to my office, the food and service were outstanding, and the prices were right.

Occasionally I would be invited to have dinner with an interesting acquaintance of mine who traced his roots back to Naples. For reasons I never really understood at the time, the great food and service just got better when my friend accompanied me to dinner. The owner would whisk us to a private table in a little alcove and he would wait on the table personally. There was never a menu, my friend and the owner had a brief conversation in Italian and food and wine would magically appear. Try as I might, I was never able to pay a check in his presence, and as a matter of fact, I never saw a check presented.

Sec048a.gif (37342 bytes)One dish that was served during one of these rather interesting dinners was pork chops and vinegar peppers, and the owner was kind enough to share the recipe with me, which I immediately added to my growing list of favorites. I have never seen this dish on any menu in any restaurant. It is simply cucina rustica at its best.

The dinner was always presented very simply: three nice pork chops with sautéed vinegar peppers, a large tossed salad dressed with a mild vinaigrette, a good bottle of dry red wine, and a basket of great Italian bread. It just doesn't get any simpler, or any better for that matter. If you are a major carnivore three chops will suit you, but for the more delicate two will do quite nicely. You can increase this recipe to feed two or more people simply by adding more sauté pans to the stove. 

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Pork Chops and Vinegar Peppers

Total ingredients to serve one:

Sec048b.gif (22916 bytes)
  • 2 or 3 center cut, bone in, pork chops cut 3/4 inch thick

  • 3 tbls. olive oil

  • 4 hot cherry peppers, pickled and sliced

  • 1/2 cup pickling brine from cherry peppers

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • salt and pepper to taste

Step One: Prepare the pork chops and cherry peppers

Remove stems and seeds from cherry peppers. Slice the peppers into 1/4" strips. Lightly salt and pepper the pork chops on both sides.

Step Two: Cook the pork chops

Sec048c.gif (17914 bytes)Place a heavy bottom skillet over medium high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is very hot but not yet smoking add the pork chops. Sprinkle 1/2 of the minced garlic on the chops and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the sliced cherry peppers and cook for another minute. When chops are golden brown on the bottom turn them over. Add the rest of the minced garlic and continue cooking for another minute, then add the brine. Turn heat up to high and finish the chops to your taste, no more than two minutes to keep them tender.  Remove the chops to a warm plate and reduce the pan sauce by half. Spoon the cooked peppers over the chops, and pour the pan sauce over all.

You may use any kind of vinegar pepper in any heat range for this recipe. My personal favorite happens to be hot cherry peppers because they are a nice fleshy pepper that stands up well in the sauté pan, and the cooking process somewhat tempers the heat range. Vinegar peppers are available in all heat ranges from hot, medium, mild to sweet. You could substitute hot banana peppers or even jalapenos. They do not have the substance of a cherry pepper and will break down more.  For those of you who would use a sweet vinegar pepper, maybe you should consider the following idea – marry an Italian.

Altitude Adjustment: None.


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Commercial and Quantity Reproduction Requires Written Permission
La Lama Mountain Ovens, 2055 Lama Mtn., HC81 Box 26, Questa, NM 87556, Tel: 575-586-2286

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