Pork Chops Shepherd Style
Maiale all'Uso dei Pastori

serves: 6 servings

Juicy pork chops, smothered with slowly cooked onions and topped with melted cheese, are certain to make mouths water. You can prepare these in advance-browning the chops and cooking the onions-then complete the skillet cooking and baking as your guests are seated. Thick chops from the pork loin are my favorite, and the ones used in the recipe. Leaner rib chops will work as well but should be cooked a few minutes less.

6 bone-in pork loin chops, about 1-inch thick, 6 to 8 ounces each
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
3 plump garlic cloves, sliced
6 ounce provolone, chunk, preferably imported from Italy
1 cup white wine
⅓ cup pecorino, grated

recommended equipment
A heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet;


Trim excess fat from the pork chops, leaving only a thin layer on the edges. Season both sides of the chops with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Spread the flour on a plate, and dredge the chops, lightly coating both sides with flour.

Meanwhile, pour the olive oil in the skillet, and set it over medium heat. Shake excess flour from the chops, and lay them all in the skillet in one layer (depending on the size of your pan, you may have to snuggle them in). Gently brown the pork on the first side, about 4 minutes; turn the chops over, and brown the second side, another 4 minutes. Remove the chops to a plate and keep warm.

Scatter the onions and garlic in the skillet, stir them around the pan, season with the remaining salt, and cover. Cook the onions slowly, stirring occasionally, and scraping the pan bottom to mix the crusty browned bits with the onion juices.

Meanwhile, if you'll be finishing the dish right away, set a rack in the middle of the oven and heat it to 400 degrees. Slice the provola in 6 or more thick slices about the size of the pork chops.

After the onions have cooked for 15 minutes or so, and are quite tender and colored with the pan scrapings, uncover, and push them all to one side of the skillet. Lay the pork chops back in, one at a time, spooning a layer of soft onions on the top of each chop. When they're all in the pan, lay the provola slices over the onions.

Raise the heat, and when the meat is sizzling again, pour the wine into the skillet (in the spaces between the chops, not over them). Swirl the pan so the wine flows all through it, and bring to a boil. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of pecorino on each chop, then carefully move the skillet from the stove to the oven.

Bake the chops for 10 minutes or so, until the cheese toppings are bubbly and crusty. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven, and let chops rest in it for a few minutes. To serve, lift out each chop with a spatula, keeping the cheese topping intact, set it on a dinner plate, and spoon some of the skillet juices and onions around it.