Chefs find a lot to appreciate in chops. The cut is open to a full range of preparations and flavor profiles and yet is simple to execute. And chops can be menu stars, selling well amid competition from showier meat and seafood choices.
This article first appeared in the 1 February 2006 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. To find out more about R&I, visit its website www.foodservice411.com.
In the kitchen, on-the-bone meats deliver deeper flavor and tend to be juicier. Another selling point: Most operations can find a way to make chops fit the menu, whether seasoned center-cut pork chops served with mashed potatoes and countrystyle baked beans at Atlanta-based chain Bugaboo Creek Steak House, or grilled oregano-and-cumin-dusted veal chops with cherry mole and Southwestern pumpkin bread pudding at upscale Mosaic in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Cook chops on wood-burning grills to impart smoky tones. Experiment with hickory, mesquite and cherry, matching them to the meat. Pork, veal, lamb and game all can be approached a little differently.
Thick-cut chops easily stand on their own merits but chefs often cut pockets and tuck in a savory filling. Bread-based stuffing is most common but cured meats and cheese are welcome.
Save time in high-volume operations by searing chops before service, holding in the walk-in and roasting or broiling to order. Cook-hold can also be called on.
1. Moroccan magic
Ethnic-themed rubs and marinades are ‘ invaluable for chops, introducing complex flavors with ease. For pork, Executive Chef Brent Loving turns to North Africa for house-made harissa.
2. High on the hog
Meat producers have heard operators' calls for more tender and richly marbled pork. One response is Kurobuta pork, from Berkshire hogs, which yields full-flavored juicy cuts.
3. Side story
Playing off the meat's Moroccan flavors, Loving extends the theme to accompaniments. At The Lighthouse Restaurant, he revs up Israeli couscous with habanero chiles, orange zest and achiote paste.