The joys of eating seasonally

By Jill Clair Gentry / Food editor
Posted 8/3/13

We had some friends over last week, and it was decided that everyone involved would enjoy eating pork chops.

Being a semi-almost-kinda-sometimes-flexible vegetarian, I hadn't cooked pork chops in a while. I wanted to do them right, and I wanted …

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The joys of eating seasonally


We had some friends over last week, and it was decided that everyone involved would enjoy eating pork chops.

Being a semi-almost-kinda-sometimes-flexible vegetarian, I hadn't cooked pork chops in a while. I wanted to do them right, and I wanted to make them memorable. In my experience, the meat usually isn't the memorable part — it's the sauce.

I've learned over the past few months that pork pairs well with fruit. Pork and apples. Pork and cranberries. Delicious. But I didn't have apples or cranberries — we are members of the Windmill Market Produce Club, and we try to stick with the fruits and veggies that come in the box. They're grown locally, so we end up eating only what is in season. February was very carrot and cabbage-y, let me tell you.

Anyway, I got my box for the week and saw the figs. Pork and fig sauce, perhaps? I hadn't eaten figs in a long time, so I plopped one into my mouth. I knew — this was it.

So I did what I always do when I want to cook something: I opened my computer and Googled “pork chops fig sauce” (I like to cook, but I'm a cheater and never make up my own recipes).

Turns out, I wasn't the only one who had thought of pairing pork and figs. So it was decided: center-cut, thick pork chops with fig sauce. We also had okra and new potatoes in the box, so those were our sides.

The night came, and I frantically started cooking — preparing a meal for your husband is one thing, but serving several others is a completely different animal. I always get ridiculously nervous to cook for other people, even if these people are wonderful friends.

The okra was mediocre — not quite crispy enough, in my opinion. My husband decided to pour beer in my potatoes as they were cooking in a skillet, which was OK, but gave them kind of a soggy texture. So the sides were acceptable, but not the best.

But the pork chops were tender — seared on both sides and finished in the oven — and the fig sauce stole the show. Never, never underestimate the power of a good sauce.

The fresh, ripe figs blended perfectly with the balsamic vinegar, honey, butter and chicken stock. It was deep, sweet and full. Everyone raved; I beamed.

I had lunch with the same friends on Sunday, and we talked about the fig sauce again. Pork chops and fig sauce will forever be on my list of “people are coming over” meals during late summer, when the tender fruit is grown all over our county and is available at every roadside stand and market. I'm even thinking of planting a fig tree in our yard.

This got me thinking: what if we never joined the produce club? I would certainly not have gone out of my way to purchase figs. I wouldn't have thought to use figs with our pork chops. And there would be no sauce to rave about — honestly, the meal would have been a dud without the figs.

You know, if you think about it, eating seasonally saved my dinner party. And I think it has inspired me to eat more pork chops, too.

Pork chops with balsamic-fig sauce

Adapted from Fine Cooking 

Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4 


For the pork:

  • 4 boneless center-cut pork chops, 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick (2 to 2-1/2 lb. total)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, canola oil, or peanut oil

For the balsamic-fig Sauce:

  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh figs
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or a couple of pinches of dried thyme)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the pork:

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Pat the pork chops with paper towels. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper.

Heat a 12-inch heavy-based ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until a droplet of water vaporizes in 1 or 2 seconds, about 1 minute (If the water skitters around the pan and doesn’t evaporate, the pan is too hot; take it off the heat for about 30 seconds to cool).

Coat bottom of pan with a thin layer of oil, and then evenly space the pork chops in the pan. Cook without touching for 2 minutes. Using tongs, lift a corner of the pork, check that it’s both well browned and easily releases from the pan and flip (if it sticks or isn’t well browned, cook for 1 to 2 more min. before flipping). Cook second side for 1 minute and then transfer skillet to the oven.

Roast until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees and is just firm to the touch, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from oven, transfer pork to a large plate, tent with foil, and let it rest while you prepare the sauce in the same skillet.

For the balsamic-fig sauce:

Pour off any excess fat from the skillet. Return skillet to high heat and add chicken broth and balsamic vinegar. Cook, scraping skillet with a wooden spoon to incorporate any browned bits, until broth is reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes. Stir in figs, honey and thyme and cook until sauce is reduced by another 1 to 2 tablespoons, about 1 minute. Add butter and stir into sauce until it’s completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle sauce over pork chops and serve immediately.