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August 15, 2014 4:16 pm
When Heston Blumenthal opened his restaurant Dinner in the Mandarin Oriental, one of the most praised dishes, alongside the miraculous tipsy cake and the “meat fruit”, was the pork chop. It did not sound particularly interesting and everybody I asked could not really explain why it was so good except to say that it was perfectly cooked.
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Half can be kept back and stored in the fridge for a week
Knowing the boffin of Bray a little bit – I have been in his laboratory and been force-fed sweets in edible wrappers flavoured with Parma violets (weird) and black pudding (weirder) – I suspect the perfect cuisson of the pork chop has a lot to do with vacuum pack bags, water baths and impeccable temperature control.
There is a problem here. Granted, you can teach an idiot to vacuum pack a pork chop and to put the thing in a water bath for three hours and 42 minutes at 59C and you will get a perfectly cooked piece of meat. With a little legerdemain at the last minute, putting it in a frying pan for 30 seconds or blasting it with a blowtorch, you will get a pretty good simulacrum of a conventionally cooked piece of meat. When you put this sort of thing in the hands of someone like Heston, of course, you will get something a great deal better than that.
Unfortunately the person who performs this task is no longer a cook. He or she is an operative, trained in the knowledge of how to put something in a bag and when to take it out again. It would appear that the next generation of “chefs” – and don’t imagine Heston is the only one deploying these methods: they are all at it – will resemble characters from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and they won’t know the difference between a pork chop, chopped liver or chop suey.
One of my objections to this sort of cookery is that it is so removed not just from the source but also from any kind of home cooking. I was intrigued to read Jonathan Margolis’s review of a home vacuum pack and water bath kit in How to Spend It a couple of weeks ago. Being a techie, he loved it, of course, but even he was remarkably cautious in recommending it, asserting it was not for the dabbler but only the most dedicated practitioner. That should put them off, I thought.
The pork chops must be thick cut and, needless to say, of excellent quality. If cut thinner, they will need a much shorter cooking time. This makes quite a lot of peperonata and half can be kept back and stored in the fridge for a week.
|A few sprigs of||thyme|
|2||pork chops, at least 2cm thick|
The acidity in the peppers and fat in the pork really suggest a white wine with some heft, either a Rhône or a punchy southern Italian such as Fiano di Avellino. If red wine must be taken, a robust Nero d’Avola from Sicily would fit the bill.
Photographs: Andy Sewell
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