Weeknight Dinner: blackened porkchops & a super beety farro
Spring is definitely here (at least in New York City). I made my first pair of cutoffs last week (when we had record temperatures in the low 90s) and ramps are at the Greenmarket and the kids are out playing baseball in full force and Mr. Softee’s jingle fills the air here in the Heights. So it’s time to set aside the substantial winter soups and hearty braises (although, let’s be real, I am quite sure I will be making this brisket well into the summer months, and you should too) and cook up something a little lighter.
I’ve had a bunch of golden beets in my refrigerator since Passover (I made a beet, fennel, and orange salad for my family’s seder) and it was time to use them before the greens went bad. Originally I had planned to roast the beets, slice em up, and give them a quick pan fry to crisp them up a little bit. Then I was going to sauté the beet greens (with plenty of garlic) and serve them with the crispy beets as a warm salad. But Friday ended up being kind of chilly and I decided I wanted something a little more substantial. At first I thought about running out to get some quinoa (the nuttiness would pair very nicely with beets and beet greens), but then I remembered the farro I had in the pantry. I boiled it and and tossed it with the beets (roasted and then cubed) and sautéed beet greens and then added a little goat cheese to the mixture for added body and creaminess.
I knew right away that the beety farro was going to be the real star of the show, but I wanted a protein to go with it as well. I’ve had a couple of porkchops in the freezer for quite some time and I pulled those out and defrosted them. I always make porkchops the same way: heat cast iron skillet until very hot, apply spice rub, cook (1″) porkchops 4 minutes on each side without moving, let rest, serve. They come out perfectly juicy every time and the spice rub makes them very flavorful. Of course, if you don’t like things spicy, you can just salt and pepper them, but please, make sure you don’t overcook them. There is nothing more dissatisfying than dry, tough porkchops.
If you time this meal right, you can have everything ready to go in about an hour. First, you want to put the beets in the oven. Then, prep everything else (chop the onions and garlic, clean the beet greens, cook the farro, and make the spice rub for the porkchops). When the beets are almost ready, cook the beet greens. Once the beets are out of the oven, cook the porkchops. Peel and cube the beets while the porkchops rest. Toss everything together and serve. It may be a little elaborate for a weeknight dinner, but it’s not such a stretch, and the farro makes fantastic leftovers for lunch the next day (or brunch, with a poached egg on top).
Recipe: Farro with Golden Beets & Beet Greens
1 bunch golden beets with greens* (you can certainly use red beets, but the golden ones are less messy and a bit sweeter which works nicely here). My bunch had 3 medium sized beets.
3/4 cup farro, rinsed
1 large onion, sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
balsamic vinegar, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Clean the beets thoroughly and remove the greens, setting aside (leave the peel on because it will slide right off once they are out of the oven). Wrap the beets in tinfoil and bake in the oven for about 1 hour, or until the beets are tender (easily pierced with a fork). Remove the peel (it should slide off easily using just your hands or you can use a pairing knife) and cut beets into half inch cubes.
Put a medium pot of salted water on the stove to boil for the farro. Figure you don’t need a pasta pot but a little 2 egg pot won’t work either. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, add the well-rinsed farro and cook for about 25 minutes, until it is tender but still toothsome. Drain and set aside.
When the beets have about 15 minutes left of cooking time, prepare your beet greens by cleaning them thoroughly (agitate in three changes of water and then dry). Remove large stems and rip them into manageable pieces (remember that they will wilt significantly when cooked, so they don’t need to be tiny).
Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet. Add the onion and cook for about 8 minutes, until it is nice and soft. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook for about a minute more, until everything is very fragrant. Then add the beet greens and wilt them (you can put a lid on it to help them along).
Once everything is cooked through, add the farro and the cubed beets and stir over low heat for a minute, just till everything blends together. Transfer to a serving dish and let cool for a couple of minutes.
Once the farro has cooled just a little, add the crumbled goat cheese. Then drizzle with a generous drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
Serve alongside the blackened porkchops.
* If you can’t find beets with the greens on, you can substitute any greens you liked. Spinach would work fine here (although it is not assertive like beet greens, which are a bit bitter) and so would chard. Don’t omit the greens entirely though — they add depth to this dish.
Recipe: Blackened Porkchops
4 inch thick boneless porkchops
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp oil (I used olive oil but you can certainly use something more neutral, as long as it has a high smoke point)
To prepare the porkchops, trim off any excess fat and pat them dry. Mix all the ingredients for the dry rub together and season the porkchops liberally on both side with the rub.
Put a thick, heavy bottomed skillet (may I suggest cast iron?) over medium high heat and heat the sucker up until it is burning. Then add the oil and let that heat up until it is super duper hot. It shouldn’t be smoking, but almost.
Add the porkchops to the pan and cook without touching them for four minutes. Turn them over and cook for four more minutes (again, don’t touch them!). Remove them from the pan and let them rest of a couple of minutes so all of the juices don’t spill out of the pork the second you cut into them.
Serve alongside farro.