I have to admit, I’m not that big on the pig. Sure, I love bacon — who doesn’t? But when it comes to any other pork products like loins, roasts, or chops, I’m not a fan. What turns me off most is the texture. Too many times have I experienced a dry, chewy, stark white block of pork. And too many times have I tried to cut into a piece of pork only to find my knife pulling at the tough, stringy sinews of the meat. After numerous letdowns, I pretty much stick to beef, poultry, or fish. Rarely does the other white meat find its way onto my grocery list.

However, there is only one instance when I eat pork — when I’m home. My mother’s pork chops are the only pork product that I’ll let touch my plate. Her pork chops are tender, juicy, flavorful and a far cry from the usual over-cooked blocks of saw wood that I’ve sworn against eating. Like listening to my Dad’s favorite Elvis album, the taste of my mom’s pork chops is a strong reminder of home. They were a common dinner staple when I was growing up and I didn’t realize how much I had taken them for granted until I moved away from home. So when a recent bout of homesickness set in, I decided to make an exception to my pork rule. I felt compelled to try to recreate Mom’s famous pork chops myself. When I got to the butcher shop, I saw they had pork chops on sale. I ended up walking away with over three pounds of pig.

Her pork chops are a traditional Polish fried version. She dips them in an egg wash, then coats each chop in a mixture of bread crumbs, parsley flakes, and nutmeg. The nutmeg is a perfect touch that adds a depth of flavor to an otherwise simple breading. But her secrets don’t stop there. The key to keeping her pork chops tender and juicy is by steaming them. Yes, that’s right, steamed pork chops. By only quickly frying the pork chops to partially cook them, she finishes the process by steaming them using a double boiler, ensuring that they don’t dry out or become too tough. The result might not be the crispiest pork chop, but it’s certainly the most tender.

Cooking TM_OK_NEWGRM_FI_001

Bratwurst. Spätzle. Sauerkraut. Weisswurst. Schnitzel. These are the classic German foods we can all readily identify. But there’s more to the cuisine than the traditional hearty, meaty dishes that we’ve been conditioned to expect.

Consider the pilzstrudel — a strudel stuffed with wild mushrooms and smoked barley — which is entirely vegetarian-friendly and served with roasted carrots. Yes, you read that correctly: a completely meatless German dish devoid of any sauerkraut on the side. Or how about a fresh salad with forelle (smoked trout), asparagus, and radishes tossed in a horseradish dressing? While it might sound a bit farm-to-table, German cuisine is no stranger to seafood or salads.

Food Culture

New Year’s, North and South

How what we eat symbolizes our hopes for the months ahead


Typically, I plan party food according to two basic rules: one, make it delicious, and two, present it in a discrete form that can be picked up and brandished in the course of energetic conversation without spraying crumbs or dip everywhere. But for New Year’s Eve, which I usually spend with a close cadre of friends, I am willing to break the rules for lucky foods. New Year’s style so often seems to highlight glitter and glamor: sparkling beverages, spangle and shine on the clothes, twinkling lights—but the food is down-home, humble but filling and delicious. I simmer black-eyed peas to creaminess with a ham hock in a slow cooker. I leave the pork out of the collard greens in case of vegetarian guests, but I caramelize the onions with a smoky salt and deglaze with wine to make this humble green a little more dressy for the occasion. Soft, round  rolls and the various offerings of other guests finish off the meal. Napkins are required. When we eat, I recite a litany cobbled together from memory and the Internet: the green folds of collards represent paper money and prosperity; the pork is a nod to the forward progress of the pig, who can’t walk backward; the black-eyed peas are looking to the future. MORE