Pork chops have been somewhat cast aside as an old fashioned ingredient. The nose to tail movement spearheaded by the likes of Fergus Henderson did great things to parts that would usually have headed straight to the abattoir refuse bin. Tails are now the new scratchings don't you know, and every half-confident cook can relate to lovingly shaving a pig's jowl with a newly bought Bic. But the humble pork chop is Plain Jane in comparison, lacking the pure macho gore factor, the sort of thing served at those outwardly loved yet ill frequented London institutions. But out of the blue I really fancied one. Not one of those flaccid vac packed supermarket jobbies, a proper one from a proper butcher. The sort of chop that has you questioning whether your appetite has betrayed your true eating ability.
To make Jane less plain, anchovies are often the answer. Loads of them, mashed up with a whole head of garlic and a whole lot of fat. A delicate thing this is not. Italians use this sauce to good effect with simple raw or lightly cooked vegetables, but it also melts joyously into slices of lean pork.
Keeping things seasonal I opted for an old friend; the alert form of a red and white radicchio. Blackened slightly in the chop pan, the slight bitterness offsets the fatty others on the plate. Parsley is so often the bridesmaid, lost in a sauce or a retro garnish, and here fills a more substantial role.
2 large pork chops
For the bagna cauda:
1/2 bottle of dry white wine
5 sprigs of thyme
75ml olive oil
For the lentils:
1 mug of firm green lentils
1 garlic clove
1 small shallot
1 bay leaf
For the radicchio:
1 small head of radicchio, cut into quarter wedges
1 tsp capers
1 bunch of parsley
Start by cooking the lentils. Pour the lentils into a saucepan and cover with water by 1cm. Halve the shallot and crush the garlic clove and add to the pan along with the bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes, adding a splash more water if necessary. Drain the cooked lentils, and dress with a glug of olive oil and a generous pinch of seasoning.
For the bagna cauda, pour the wine into a saucepan and add the garlic and picked thyme leaves. Bring to a simmer and reduce gently until only a few tablespoons of liquid remain. Add the anchovies at this point and mash together well. Whisk in the butter, until everything is emulsified together. Remove from the heat and pour in the olive oil, whisking continuously. Taste and season if necessary, then set aside in a warm place.
Bring a large, heavy saucepan to a high heat. Slash through the fat of each chop every centimetre or so. Rub all over with olive oil and season well. When the pan is hot, hold the chops fat-side down for a minute, until it starts to blister and crisp. Turn the chops and continue to fry for 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness and how you like it cooked. Transfer to a plate and allow to rest for 6-8 minutes, then cut into thick slices.
Add the wedges of radicchio to the still hot chop pan. Cook for a couple of minutes on all sides, until beginning to char. Transfer to a board and separate the leaves. Season with salt and pepper, and squeeze over a little lemon juice.
Trim and discard any tough stalks from the parsley. Dress with some of the remaining lemon juice.
To plate up, scatter some of the lentils onto each plate. Arrange slices of the pork on top, along with some of the dressed parsley and the cooked radicchio. Finish with a generous amount of the bagna cauda and a few capers.