The Big Chop
By Babs Rodriguez
Photo by Aaron Dougherty
We love a good bunny cake, but our feelings for the Easter ham are far less sentimental. The farm roots of the celebration’s centerpiece are pragmatic — it was a great way to use up meats cured over the winter months. The old country tradition gained traction in ’50s America, when The Honey Baked Ham Co. began marketing the fully cooked ham as a heat-and-serve stress reliever for harried hosts. Fancier moms than ours studded theirs with cloves.
We still love a good ham — jalapeno jelly is our go-to glaze — but we’re not into weeks of leftovers. Instead, we’ve adopted an equally easy-to-prepare dish that makes a far more dramatic presentation for our Easter table: pork chops. Not the dry and flavorless chops of our childhood, but cuts from heritage breeds such as Duroc or Cheshire. With more marbled fat, these chops are visually appealing and juicy good, with a deep, rich flavor.
According to Joe Riscky, who works as a consultant for Fort Worth boutique butcher and lunch spot The Meat Board, “Duroc is tasty, but it’s sort of like the Angus of beef; every domestic pig now has a little Duroc in it. Cheshire pork, from the Chester White pig, is a more distinctive breed. The meat has a cleaner finish and more marbling — with a nuttier, sweeter taste in the fat.” Forget “the other white meat” slogan, too; heritage breeds produce a rosier flesh.
For presentation panache, we favor dinosaurian long-bone chops cut from the middle of the loin, down through the rib, with the rib bone exposed or “frenched.” The result is the elegant tomahawk chop. (Central Market carries the heritage Berkshire breed pork bone-in rib chops, and a butcher will be happy to french them for you.)
To prepare, brush lightly with olive oil, season and grill, broil, bake or sous vide the chops, but don’t cook beyond an internal temperature of 145 degrees and rest them under tented foil for 5 to 10 minutes. Slightly pink in the middle is desirable. Your reward for introducing a new tradition to your holiday table? Lots of applause — and a big slice of bunny cake.