Bitter flavors have yet to the have their place in North American culinary culture. While some areas of the world have a natural appreciation for bitter flavors in their food, people who live in North America are much more likely to enjoy salty or sweet flavors. Jennifer McLagan helps bring bitter flavors to North America in Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes (Ten Speed Press, 2014). This recipe for pork chops with coffee and black currant sauce is from Chapter 2, “Liquid Bitter.”
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Coffee’s bitterness is a perfect foil for a pork chop with a good layer of fat. The taste of black currant is complex, intense, and musky, with hints of chocolate, which ties the rich pork and bitter coffee together. It is important to use good-quality black currant preserves with whole fruit as its first ingredient, rather than a sweet black currant jelly. Depending on your preserves, you might want to add more or less to the sauce, but err on the side of caution: you want to maintain the bitterness of the coffee.
• 4 rib pork chops, about 1-1⁄2 inches / 4 cm thick
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons lard
• 1 shallot, finely chopped
• 1 large branch fresh thyme
• 1 cup / 250 ml brewed coffee
• 1 cup / 250 ml chicken stock, preferably homemade
• 1 heaping tablespoon black currant preserves
1. Twenty minutes before cooking, remove the pork chops from the refrigerator. Pat dry and season with salt and pepper. In a frying pan large enough to hold the chops, heat the lard over medium-high heat. When the fat is hot, add the chops and brown for 2 minutes on each side.
2. Transfer the chops to a plate, lower the heat, and add the shallot and thyme to the pan. Stir, and cook until the shallot begins to color. Pour in the coffee and chicken stock and bring to a boil, deglazing the pan by scraping up the browned bits from the bottom. Boil to reduce the sauce by about half.
3. Return the chops to the pan and lower the heat so the liquid is simmering. Cook the chops for 5 minutes, basting with the sauce from time to time. Turn the chops and cook for another 5 minutes, or until cooked.
4. Place the chops on a platter and keep warm loosely covered with aluminum foil. Remove the thyme from the pan and add the black currant preserves. Stir and cook the sauce until syrupy and reduced to about 1⁄3 cup / 75 ml. Return the chops to the pan with any juices, and turn to coat with the sauce. Check the seasoning of the sauce—remember it should be pleasantly bitter—and serve the chops, spooning over the sauce.
Try this sauce with venison or wild boar chops, and replace the thyme with rosemary.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes, by Jennifer McLagan, and published by Ten Speed Press, 2014. Buy this book from our store: Bitter.