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Pork chops meet a dirty martini: A saucy dish best shaken, not stirred

March 28, 2023 at 10:00 p.m.
Pork chops meet a dirty martini. (Photo for The Washington Post by Scott Suchman.)

A dirty martini is a good choice when you're looking for a cocktail that's savory, briny, assertive. Those are the same attributes we seek in sauces to cut through the richness of certain cuts of meat, such as pork chops.

Sure, we could eat our chops with a dirty martini, straight up. But what if, instead, we played dirty and dribbled the flavors of a dirty martini into a pan sauce.

Once the meat has been seared and aromatics such as garlic and shallots have been sauteed, there are delicious browned bits, called fond, lacing the skillet. To make sure all those bits end up in the pan sauce, we often deglaze the skillet with liquid; it unsticks the flavorful fond, and as it cooks and reduces, it becomes richer and deeper in flavor. It's common to deglaze with wine or a fortified wine with marsala, sherry, port or vermouth (lightbulb!), or something stronger, such as whiskey or vodka. Once the alcohol cooks off and the liquid reduces, stock or water can be added, followed by a pat of butter, which turns the mixture into a silky, velvety sauce.

When gin and dry vermouth simmer in a skillet of pork fat, their booze dissipates and their floral qualities take charge. Add any kind of green olives - pimento-stuffed or not - and some of their brine for saltiness, as well as lemon peel and juice to bring out the botanicals of the booze.

We skipped stock or water, resulting in a smaller quantity of a more aggressively flavored sauce that's only mellowed by the butter at the end. Butter can be tricky to smoothly emulsify into a sauce; it helps to start with cold butter and shake the skillet back and forth as it melts - rather than stir the butter into the sauce.

Is the sauce stiff, dirty, filthy? Yes, sure, if the gimmick delights you, but it's also just a well-balanced, delicious pan sauce - as right and as wrong as the dirty martini itself.

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Dirty Martini Pork Chops

Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.


1 lemon

Two (1- to 1 ½-inch-thick) bone-in pork chops, patted very dry

Fine salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as grapeseed

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1/2 cup gin

1/4 cup dry vermouth

1/4 cup green olives, pitted and halved, plus 1 tablespoon brine (any kind works)

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed

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Using a vegetable peeler, remove wide strips of peel from the lemon. Halve the lemon and squeeze out 1 tablespoon of juice. Generously season the pork chops all over with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the pork chops and cook, flipping every 2 minutes, until browned on the outside and the internal temperature in the thickest part is around 130 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat. (Cooking the chops over moderate heat and flipping them often leads to more-evenly cooked meat that has less chance of drying out before a browned crust develops.) If your chops have a fat cap, using tongs, stand the chops up on their narrow sides, fat side down, and sear until crisp, about 1 minute. Transfer the meat to a plate and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.

Add the shallot and lemon peel, season lightly with salt, and cook until the shallot is softened and golden in spots, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the gin, vermouth and olives. Scrape up browned bits from the pan, then simmer until reduced by half, 2 to 4 minutes.

Turn off the heat, discard the lemon peels, and stir in the olive brine and the lemon juice. Add the butter and shake the skillet until the sauce is emulsified (shaking the skillet helps to bring the sauce together more seamlessly than stirring). Taste, and season with more salt and pepper, if desired - because olives vary in saltiness, you might not need any additional salt. The sauce will be fairly thin, to better soak into the sliced meat.

Slice the pork against the grain and serve with a pour of the pan sauce.

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Nutrition information

Per serving (1 pork chop and 1/4 cup sauce)

Calories: 617; Total Fat: 28 g; Saturated Fat: 11 g; Cholesterol: 153 mg; Sodium: 538 mg; Carbohydrates: 6 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 1 g; Protein: 40 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian's or nutritionist's advice.


photo Gin, vermouth and olives flavor the pan sauce. (Photo for The Washington Post by Scott Suchman.)

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