Smothering Chops

February 14 – February 20, 2022

Monday:         Leftover Short-Rib Chili with Vegetable Quesadillas

Tuesday:         Chicken Fried Rice

Wednesday:    Chicken-Bacon Smash Burgers with Roast Potatoes

Thursday:        Weeknight Puttanesca

Friday:             Baked Cod with Herb and Panko Crust

Saturday:         Turkish Chickpeas with Soda Bread

Sunday:           Smothered Pork Chops in Potlikker Gravy

I promise to keep this blog is apolitical, but the invasion of Ukraine, contrary to Clausewitz, is not ‘the continuation of politics by other means’ – it is an aggressive war of conquest, plain and simple. A lot of people, including many with Ukrainian heritage, gathered in Pittsburgh to protest (see below) – and in other cities across the country and around the world.

I am a fan of Russian novelists, poets and composers. But I don’t think much of Russian sports teams and, if the Russian President descended to his reward this afternoon I wouldn’t shed a tear. As it is, I’m shedding more than a few tears. Pittsburgh has had people of Ukrainian heritage* for some time, including a close friend and a number of recent immigrants whom we know. But I’d feel the same for any people that stood in Putin’s path.

*If you’ve not toured the Ukrainian and Orthodox churches in McKees Rocks, you’ve missed something unique.

The Art of Smothering

And now let’s take a hard turn away from the miseries of this world to one of its greatest pleasures – eating (and cooking).

You may recall that, in the last post, I promised something lighter than the last few recipes. But the weather has remained cold – we’ve had more snow – and, well, these chops with potlikker gravy were a revelation to us – deeply savory – hard to stop eating. For those worried about smothering anything – put your minds at ease. By the time a pig is reduced to chops, he’s well beyond smothering. Of course, you can still pray for his soul, although I’d suggest a more productive use of your time would be to learn how to cook this recipe. It involves, among other things, developing a flavoring called ‘potlikker.’ We used a different ‘likker’ for shrimp and grits, earlier in the week and have become ‘potlikker’ enthusiasts.

The ‘smothering’ refers to the method of braising used to cook this.  The Shrimp and Grits with Fennel Pot-Likker we had on Friday was also a hit – but the country-ham pot likker called for in this dish was a real keeper.

Smothered Pork Chops in Potlikker Gravy

(adapted from Carla Hall – bon appétit, March, 2022)

Make the potlikker before cooking the chops:

You can make the country ham potlikker up to five days before and refrigerate – here’s how:

Put a 1 ½ oz. piece of country ham (we used Canadian bacon for its smokiness), or a smoked ham hock (about 12 oz.) in a pot with 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped, ¾ teaspoon (we used a full teaspoon) of red pepper flakes, ½ teaspoon of Kosher Salt and 1 quart of water. Bring this to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. [If you use the ham-hock you’ll have to skim the foam from the surface.]

Pour this through a fine-mesh sieve into a heat-proof bowl and voilá, you have country ham potlikker.

Cook the Smothered Pork Chops:

Timing:      About 2 hours – plus 1 hour for Potlikker (see recipe above)

Ingredients: Serves 4

1 ½ cups Country Ham Potlikker (see recipe above)

Four 1” – 1 ½ ” thick bone-in pork chops

1 large onion, thinly sliced

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped (we used 4)

1 Tablespoon finely chopped marjoram (we substituted thyme)

1 Tablespoon finely chopped rosemary

1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped thyme, plus some extra leaves for serving

2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon light molasses – we used a tablespoon of brown sugar mixed with a teaspoon of water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup all-purpose flour


Whisk together potlikker, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, allspice, molasses and 1 cup of water in a bowl – set aside.

Slice onions, chop marjoram, rosemary and thyme and garlic.

Put flour on a plate.

Get out chops and pat dry, then season with salt and pepper.

Dredge the chops in the flour, shake off excess and put on a platter. (Reserve left-over flour)


Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Working in 2 batches, cook the chops until golden brown – 3 minutes per side – and transfer to a plate.

Now reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring, until onions are softened – 4 minutes.

Now reduce the heat to low. Sprinkle the reserved flour over the onions and cook, stirring often, until onions begin to brown – about 7 minutes.

Add the reserved potlikker mixture and whisk until it is incorporated and free of lumps.

Now bring to a boil, then add marjoram, rosemary and the chopped thyme.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, return pork chops to pan, along with any juices. Cover and simmer until the pork chops are tender, 70-80 minutes.

If the gravy looks too thick, thin with more potlikker or water. Taste and correct seasoning with more salt, if needed.

Transfer chops to a platter and top with thyme leaves and serve.


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