A scoop of well-spiced, warm rice is comfort food to me. I’ll eat it by the heaping forkful, especially when I’m seeking solace in a plate or bowl. I know I’m not alone.
Rice is part of so many comfort foods, from sweet Southern puddings and nourishing Asian congees to seafood-filled Spanish paellas and slow-cooked Italian risottos.
The grain serves as a neutral starting point for building out a dish that not only suits your taste buds, but also helps you cut food waste by using ingredients you have on hand. (How many times have I made fried rice with a few near-wilting scallions, a bit of leftover chicken and that last nub of ginger? Many times.)
That’s why I love this recipe for Skillet Pork Chops with Spicy Pecan Rice. The rice gets a peppery kick from serrano peppers, cayenne and ginger. You can tone that down by cutting the amounts, but keep at least a bit of the ginger for flavor. Carrots give it color and nutrients and pecans a rich nuttiness and crunch.
I found a recipe online that was similar to this and then continued to tinker with it until I got it the way I liked it. Feel free to do the same. Sub out the carrots for corn, peas, green beans or other vegetables you like or have on hand. Same with the nuts. If you’d rather walnuts or almonds, use those. No fresh peppers? Add crushed red pepper for heat.
To speed up the cooking process and give the rice a flavor boost, the grain is parboiled in a microwave with a couple of whole cloves of garlic and a bay leaf. Then I mash those garlic cloves and stir them into the rice.
Then I quickly sear thin-cut chops in a large skillet. I remove the chops and add the parboiled rice to that skillet with the seasoning, carrots and nuts. The chops are placed on top of the rice, a bit of broth is added, and the whole thing cooks covered for another 10 minutes.
The preparation gives those notoriously lean chops a shot at being moister, too.
If you want a bit of luxuriousness and aren’t concerned with the extra fat or calories, make a compound butter with parsley. Put a dollop of that on top of each chop while it is good and hot.
Skillet Pork Chops and Spicy Pecan Rice
Adapted from Cook’s Country.
5 tablespoons salted butter, softened, divided
4 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, or water, divided
1 cup long-grain white rice
3 cloves garlic, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf
4 thin-cut boneless pork chops, trimmed, about 3 ounces each
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as canola oil
3/4 cup sliced scallion (4 to 5)
2 serrano peppers, seeded and minced, or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup diced carrots (about 2 medium carrots)
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
In a small bowl, combine 4 tablespoons of the softened butter and the parsley and mix gently to incorporate.
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup broth, the rice, garlic and bay leaf. Cover and microwave on high until liquid is absorbed, about 8 minutes. Remove the bowl from the microwave and use a fork to mash the garlic against the sides of the bowl, then mix into rice.
While the rice is cooking, pat the pork dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch skillet over high heat, add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the chops to the pan, searing until well browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the pork to a plate and tent loosely with foil or wax paper to keep them warm.
Reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and, once melted, add the scallion, serrano peppers, ginger and cayenne (if using) and cook until fragrant, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, about 2 minutes.
Add the par-cooked rice and stir to combine with scallion mixture. Add the carrots, pecans and the remaining 1 1/4 cups broth. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
Place the seared chops on top of the rice and pour any accumulated juices on the platter into the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the rice is tender, about 10 minutes.
To serve, place a scoop of rice on a plate, top with a chop and a tablespoon of the parsley butter over the meat.
Note: You can sub in dried herbs for fresh, but remember that dried herbs have a stronger flavor, so, in general, use about 1/3 of the amount of dried in place of fresh.
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