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Rockin' Good Pork Chops

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Chops au poivre with spaetzle, from Dawn Welch of The Rock Cafe.
Chops au poivre with spaetzle, from Dawn Welch of The Rock Cafe.

If you haven’t been out to Stroud to visit Dawn Welch‘s Rock Cafe, you’re really missing out.  It’s far more than a historic Route 66 tourist stop, it’s the heart and soul of Stroud. Whether you eat or not, you leave The Rock energized, thanks to the effervescent and boundlessly energetic owner. While restoring her landmark eatery following a devastating fire in 2008, Dawn also wrote a book called “Dollars to Donuts.” Her goal is to extend the community she’s started at the Rock and let it grow on here.

The book includes simple recipes, using easy-to-find ingredients. Throughout the book, Dawn shares the budget-conscious wisdom she’s developed as a small restaurant owner. From planning meals using a menu calendar to how to purchase and store food with efficiency. It’s a valuable book to have that shares background on one of the state’s eating treasures.

If you haven’t been to The Rock, it’s only about a half hour away. In honor of one The Rock’s specialities, I tried out Dawn’s recipe for pork chops and spaetzle for the family. The result was a big hit with the kiddos. My ultra-picky daughter, Kate, actually asked if we could have “those noodle things” again because “I loved that!” If only you knew how much heartache this 10-year-old has imposed on me with her brutal and direct assessment of my culinary skills, “Yuck!”… “I’m not really hungry anymore”…”What are we having for dinner tomorrow?”

I did make a little pan gravy, using the juices from the chops. I made a simple light roux, 3 tablespoons hot oil plus 1 tablespoon of flour. I added about a half cup of water then all the juices. Thickened up within 5 minutes.

Here’s the playlist I listened to while I made it:

  1. Magic Carpet Ride, Steppenwolf
  2. Atomic, Blondie
  3. Tainted Love (Where did our love go mix), Soft Cell
  4. Carrie Ann, The Hollies
  5. Reelin’ in the Years, Steely Dan
  6. Eaten by the Monster of Love, Sparks
  7. The Break, Soul Asylum
  8. Erase it Again, Sparta
  9. Born in the USA, Bruce Springsteen
  10. The Joker, Steve Miller Band
  11. The Boxer, Simon and Garfunkel
  12. It’s Tricky, Run DMC
  13. September Gurls, Big Star

 Here’s an excerpt from the book followed by the recipe…

Chops au Poivre and Herbed Spaetzle

In Germany, spaetzle is as popular as French fries, eaten with just about anything. When started cooking spaetzle at the Cafe, people went so crazy for it that I had to start making extra batches to freeze because diners were stopping in and buying the uncooked spaetzle right off me so they could cook it up themselves at home for dinner! If only they knew how easy they are to make, based on simple pantry ingredients and some fresh herbs. They really class up a simple dish of pork chops, though!

Ingredients

CHOPS

  • 4 bone-in pork chops (6 ounces each, 1/2 thick)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil

 SPAETZLE

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup low-fat or whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice (optional)
  • teaspoon salt
  • All-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped tender herbs (such as basil, chives, or tarragon)

Directions 

  1. To prevent the pork chops from curling as they cook, make 2 or 3 small, vertical cuts into the fat and silver skin surrounding the meat on each chop.
  2. Season the chops with the salt.
  3. Place the pepper on a plate and shake the plate a little to evenly disperse it in a single layer Dip one side of each chop in the pepper, then place the chop on a plate.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  5. Place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center.
  6. Whisk the eggs, milk, lemon juice (if using), and salt together in a small bowl and pour into the well.
  7. Combine using a wooden spoon to create a dough.
  8. Generously flour a sheet pan. Break off pieces of dough (about 116-cup knobs), roll into a ¼-thick rope, flatten slightly, and cut into ¼-long pieces.
  9. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  10. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  11. Boil the spaetzle until cooked all the way through, 10 to 15 minutes, and then drain in a colander and rinse under cold water.
  12. Line a sheet pan with paper towels and place the spaetzle on it to drain for a few minutes before cooking or freezing (if freezing the spaetzle, leave it on the sheet pan and freeze for 1 hour, then transfer to a few quart-size resealable freezer bags for up to 3 months).
  13. While the spaetzle boils, start the chops. Heat a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat for 1 minute.
  14. Add the oil and then the pork chops, pepper-side down.
  15. Cover and cook the chops until the pepper is browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
  16. Reduce the heat to medium, turn the chops over, and continue cooking until the chops are cooked through, an additional 3 to 4 minutes.
  17. Transfer to a platter to rest.
  18. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skil’et over medium-high heat.
  19. Add enough spaetzle to fill the pan in a single layer (you will need to brown them in batches) and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 4 minutes.
  20. Repeat with another tablespoon of butter and the remaining spaetzle.
  21. Transfer the spaetzle to a serving bowl and toss with the remaining butter and herbs and add a pinch of salt if needed.
  22. Serve with the chops.

Source: ”DOLLARS TO DONUTS: Comfort Food and Kitchen Wisdom from Route 66’s Landmark Rock Cafe” by Dawn Welch (Rodale Press, November 24, 2009, $19.99/paperback).

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Related Photos
 Chops au poivre with spaetzle, from Dawn Welch of The Rock Cafe.

Chops au poivre with spaetzle, from Dawn Welch of The Rock Cafe.

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