The beautiful Chiesa Madre in Vizzini, Sicily, Peter’s grandmother’s hometown.
The Italian Recipe Exchange
Recipe: Pork Chops with Broccoli, Garlic, and Black Olives
Here’s a note I got from Peter Bocchieri, a blog reader, who wanted to share one of his Sicilian grandmother’s signature dishes: pork chops sautéed with broccoli, garlic, and those rich, oil-cured, wrinkled black olives that I’m crazy about. This is something he loved as a child and now cooks for his own family:
I just came across your blog and have enjoyed going through it. About a year ago I started my own blog to publish my family recipes. The majority of my recipes are simple family foods that I grew up eating. Almost a year and a half later I have compiled over 130 posts and stories about growing up Italian in Brooklyn.
I would like to share a very simple recipe my grandmother made all the time. I have never seen it anywhere else. The flavors and combination of ingredients are truly delicious. Simple but delicious. I guess the easiest way is to give you the link. I would love your feedback.
I checked out Peter’s blog post and really liked the looks of the recipe. I often make a dish of sautéed broccoli with pancetta and black olives, so I knew this Southern Italian combination of flavors would work well. I was eager to test it out but wanted to find out a little more about the background of the recipe, if he knew it. So he wrote back:
My Grandmother Lili Verga came from the town of Vizzini in the province of Catania. I can’t say if this was her original recipe or if she was taught it by her mother, Concetta Bruina. I know she made an Mpanada with sautéed garlic, broccoli, and olives, without the pork chops. It’s very possible she made this recipe in Italy with the purple cauliflower that was grown in that region and adopted it with broccoli when she came to America.
Unfortunately, she is no longer with us for me to get any more information on the dish. I know she made it often, and whenever she did I would run upstairs to her apartment and have a second dinner. I’m just glad I was observant and picked up her recipe. It’s one of the reasons I started the blog. I wanted to share my heirloom recipes with my family and children. Whatever audience I have picked up along the way is an unexpected plus. I really enjoy the comments I get from my readers and find the stories touch Italians as well as non-Italians.
I made the pork chops pretty much according to Peter’s directions, but I couldn’t help doing a little personal tweaking (what cook can?). All I really did was add a splash of white wine and a pinch of hot red pepper; otherwise the cooking method and ingredients are the same. This is an old-fashioned dish, so you don’t want crunchy broccoli. In fact it should even be a little soft. It’s all about flavor melding, not restaurant presentation. A restaurant, if it even made such a homey dish, would no doubt quick-blanch the broccoli and then “shock” it in ice water to stop its cooking and set its brilliant green color. Here you’ll want to cook it long enough to get very tender, so you achieve a rich, garlicky, olivey sauce, so good for soaking up with crusty Italian bread. This dish is a perfect example of what Southern Italy, culinarily speaking, does best, bringing together a few good ingredients to create a sum greater than the parts. You can check out Peter’s original recipe and blog post by clicking here. He includes step by step photos, which is a nice touch.
Peter, thanks so much for sharing this Sicilian dish with my readers.
Pork Chops with Broccoli, Garlic, and Black Olives
(Serves 2 as a main course)
2 bone-in center-cut pork chops, about 1 inch thick
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound broccoli, cut into florets but leaving some of the tender stem intact (if you’d like to use a lot of the stem, like my grandmother always did, you should peel the tough parts)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
A tiny splash of dry white wine
A handful of oil-cured black olives (Moroccan olives are perfect for this)
A big pinch of dried red pepper flakes (I used Aleppo)
Choose a skillet large enough to hold the pork chops and the broccoli. Dry the pork well, and season it on both sides with salt and black pepper.
Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the pork chops, and brown them well on both sides (this should take only about 2 minutes per side). Take the chops from the pan, and place them on a plate.
Turn the heat down a touch, and add ¼ cup of water to the skillet. Add the broccoli, seasoning it with salt and black pepper. Cover the skillet, and let the broccoli steam/boil until it’s tender when poked with a knife, about 6 minutes. Uncover the skillet, and let any remaining water evaporate.
Push the broccoli to the side of the skillet, and add about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the sliced garlic. Sauté until the garlic just starts to give off a good aroma but doesn’t color, about a minute. Now mix the broccoli into the garlic, and sauté for about a minute to blend the flavors.
Return the pork chops back to the skillet, along with any juices they’ve given off. Add the olives, and mix everything well. Add a tiny splash of white wine, cover the skillet, and simmer over low heat until the pork is just cooked through, about 4 minutes. Try not to let them go longer than that or they’ll get tough.
Sprinkle with the red chili flakes, and add a bit more salt if needed. You can serve this piping hot from the skillet, but the flavors are even better if you eat it warm.
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