One of my favorite things growing up was my mother’s oven-roasted pork chops, which marinated all day in soy sauce and garlic before cooking. Even though my mother’s style in the kitchen generally defies anything you find in cookbooks, it turns out that she did not invent the pork marinade. An authority no less than Julia Child suggests one as a good measure to take with most cuts of pork, I’ve recently learned. So I set out to adapt one of Julia’s recipes for a pair of chops:

Dry Salt Marinade for Pork: ½ dried bay laurel leaf / 1 clove garlic / 1 tsp fresh thyme or ¼ tsp dry / ½ tsp salt / ¼ tsp pepper

Grind up the bay leaf and mash in garlic. Mix in thyme, salt, and pepper. Rub mixture on chops, place in covered container, and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

I happened to have time for the chops to marinate all day, and just before cooking I scraped off some of the salt and herbs as Julia recommends. The chops were thin and browned quickly in a hot skillet, and I set them aside while assembling a rice pilaf with caramelized onions. When the rice was done, I placed the chops on top and heated everything through in a hot oven. The verdict: every bite of chop came with a nice salty hit of herbs, a fair flavoring that matched the delicate taste of the pork. And while we’ve grown quite fond of our local pork, I thought the pilaf was the star of the meal.

Pork Chops with Rice Pilaf and Caramelized Onions

2 pork chops, marinated as above / ½ large onion, sliced / 1 tbl butter / 1 cup rice / 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves / 1½ cups water or stock / salt & pepper to taste

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Brown pork chops on medium-high in a heavy skillet, about 3 minutes per side, then set aside. Turn heat down to low and place onions in pan. Cover and cook for ten minutes, stirring once or twice. When moisture from the onions is gone, increase heat to medium-high and add butter. Add rice and thyme leaves and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until the rice grains look shiny. Turn up to high, add stock, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low, and cook until rice is just tender, about 15 minutes for white rice. Place chops on top of rice and heat in oven for a few minutes, until pork is cooked through, taking care not to overcook. Feeds 2.

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