Chop House—Including a New Way to “Butcher” Tofu
If it looks like a chop and eats like a chop—even if it's not meat—let's just agree to treat it like a chop
With April on the horizon, the season for smothering chops recedes in the rearview mirror. Since my love for this cut is a year-round thing, now is the time to pivot to the lighter ingredients and techniques that will tide us over until summertime grilling weather kicks in.
Here's the part where I'm supposed to define what qualifies as a chop, or at least describe the difference between a chop and a steak. I won't take that bait. Instead, here's a bundle of recipes to help you cook bone-in or boneless meat—or tofu, fish, or vegetables—in ways that duplicate the best of chop house-style eating.
What you're in for:
The master recipe for searing and quickly braising pork chops (with how-to photos)
A new way to "butcher" tofu or vegetables so they cook and eat more like their meaty counterparts
Super quick skillet chops in a surprisingly good Riesling sauce
Lamb (or fish) chops done in the broiler
Some links to more recipes from The Recipe Index
Skillet Pork Chops with Apples
Makes: 4 servings
Time: about 30 minutes
A master recipe fine for any apples languishing in the fridge. Or maybe you declare “over it” and use the same method to transition away from winter for good. Some ideas: Go all spring onions or leeks; early rhubarb or berries if you're lucky enough; or instead of fruit, use a large can of whole or diced tomatoes with their juice; asparagus bites, any kind of peas, or tender spring greens. Whichever direction you choose, serve simply with mashed potatoes or buttered rice or egg noodles.
Four 1-inch-thick pork chops, preferably bone-in (6 to 8 ounces each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine or light-bodied beer or water
3 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 large onion or 3 large shallots, halved and sliced
1/2 cup chicken stock or water, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon butter, plus more as needed
1. Blot the chops dry with a towel. Put a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When it’s hot, add the chops, turn the heat to high, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When they brown and release from the pan easily, turn the chops, season again, and cook this side the same way. The whole process should take about 2 minutes per side or 3 to 5 minutes total.
2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the wine—be careful here; the wine may splatter a bit when it hits the hot oil—and cook, turning the chops once or twice, until the wine is almost evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the chops to a plate and return the pan to medium heat.
3. Add the apples and onion or shallots to the hot pan and stir until they start to stick, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the stock, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chops to the pan, along with any juices accumulated on the plate. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat so it bubbles steadily, then cover.
4. Cook, stirring occasionally and turning the chops once or twice, until the chops are tender, 5 to 10 minutes; add another 1/2 cup stock or water if the apples start to stick. When the chops are done, they will be firm to the touch, their juices will run just slightly pink, and when you cut into them the color will be rosy at first glance but turn pale within seconds. By this time the apples and onions should also be soft. Stir in the lemon juice and butter, taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve the chops with the sauce on top.
— Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics
Five-Spice Tofu Chops with Chile Crisp Barbecue Sauce
Makes: 2 servings
Time: About an hour, largely unattended
To give tofu a range of textures after cooking, instead of cutting the blocks into rectangular slabs try a diagonal cut so that each half has thick and thin parts. After seasoning and roasting—the preferred fuss-free and foolproof method for creating a crust akin to searing—you end up with crunchy, chewy, and custardy bites all from the same “chop.” You can even use this angled butchering approach for changing up vegetable steaks cut from cauliflower, eggplant, cabbage, or celery root. Then vary the seasoning rub and sauce to keep things interesting and always serve with a different side and you'll be making this recipe frequently.
1 block firm tofu (12 to 16 ounces)
1 teaspoon five-spice blend
2 tablespoons good-quality vegetable oil, like grapeseed or sunflower
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
Chile crisp to taste
1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a medium skillet or rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the tofu block on its side and cut it in half top to bottom at an angle; you can go corner to corner for even wedges or slightly off-center for more of a trapezoid shape. Pat dry with towels but don't risk breaking the chops by squeezing too hard.
2. Transfer the tofu chops to the prepared pan and sprinkle generously with salt then rub all over with the five-spice. Drizzle with the oil and brush or smear that everywhere, too. Roast, carefully turning a couple times, until the tofu forms a crust and browns in places, about 1 hour. The longer you go the drier it will get. The exact time also depends a lot on how dry your tofu was before roasting.
3. While the tofu roasts, put the barbecue sauce in a small bowl and stir in as much chile crisp and its oil as you like. (You've got time to get some sides together, too. I like sharp greens like the baby mustard leaves shown in the photo.) Serve the tofu hot from the oven, at room temperature, or chilled, with the sauce on the side for dipping.
— Recipe developed by Kerri Conan