People my age or older who have been cooking for a long time probably remember Jeff Smith, the Methodist minister known as “The Frugal Gourmet” in PBS television series and related cookbooks. He was perhaps the last of the “old-style” (non-celebrity) TV cooks to have his own series on PBS, back when PBS was the only venue for such shows, and when he was accused of improprieties with children, he quickly vanished from the airwaves. According to the Wikipedia article, no criminal charges were ever brought, and he and his accusers eventually reached an out-of-court settlement, but it ended his television career. Smith died in 2004, but later TV cooks have acknowledged his influence, which helped to keep the genre alive during the 1980s when Julia Child was not making television. I’m no chef, TV or otherwise, but I certainly remember watching The Frugal Gourmet avidly, and my mother owned (still owns) a number of the spin-off cookbooks.
One of the recipes in The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors was labeled “Serbian Pork Seasoning”. I have no idea if it’s actually Serbian in origin, or how authentic it is, but it has long been a family favorite, and I and my parents still use it as our standard rub for pork chops.
I don’t have the cookbook (my mother still has it), but I recall the formula as being something like this: four parts fennel seed, two parts black peppercorns, two parts salt, one part sugar. Stick this in your spice grinder and let it rip until everything is ground to a fine green-grey powder, shown above rubbed onto two pork loin chops. I’ve tried numerous variations in the cooking method for the pork, with brine and without, and I think I like my most recent attempt the best (which is not to say it can’t be improved).
- Bone-in pork loin chops, 10 oz. each
- Pork seasoning (1 tbl per chop)
- 1/2 tbl vegetable oil
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Place oil in a 9-inch or larger cast-iron skillet.
- Using a sharp knife, make two slits in the fat side of each chop, evenly spaced, just deep enough to cut through the membrane between the fat and the lean.
- Rub seasoning onto chops, 1/2 tbl per side, and allow the chops to sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
- Heat skillet until the oil just starts to smoke, about 400°F.
- Put chops into skillet and sear one side for 3 minutes.
- Flip the chops onto the uncooked side and move the skillet to the oven. Let roast until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the chop reaches 145°F, about 10 minutes. (My first attempt was for 12 minutes, and the chops were slightly overcooked.)
- Immediately remove the chops from the skillet and allow them to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Because the proportions are inexact, I can’t provide nutrition information. (In my diary, I simply recorded the 10-oz. pork chop, since I’m not tracking sodium.) This procedure should actually work with pretty much any pork rub you please, so long as it does not contain too much sugar. Don’t use thin-cut pork chops; they are a crime against the noble hog.