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WINE | GREAT MARRIAGES

A Perfect Complement to Pork Chops--or Pizza

September 12, 1996|RUSS PARSONS | TIMES DEPUTY FOOD EDITOR

Paula Wolfert, the dean of Mediterranean cooking in the United States, claims that she and her husband, crime novelist William Bayer, are not wine connoisseurs.

"I'm a slurper and I can't afford to drink a great bottle of wine every night," she says. "I spend $8 to $10 a bottle and Bill and I drink a bottle every two nights."

Still, she manages just fine, we think. Her current favorite is the 1994 Domaine Gauby from the Co^tes de Roussillon ($9.95), imported by Kermit Lynch.

"They tell me it's got firmer tannins, whatever the heck that means," she says. "But to me it tastes like a richer and spicier Co^tes-du-Rho^ne."

She particularly likes its versatility. It's the wine she likes to serve when she cooks this peppery pork chop with pears recipe for dinner parties, yet the wine goes downscale too.

"When we were living in Connecticut and one of my dishes didn't work out, we'd order a New Town pizza and this wine was great with that," Wolfert says. "Now that we live in San Francisco, we haven't found a pizza as good as that, so when one of my recipes doesn't work, we get takeout Chinese and it goes just as well with that."

MARINATED PORK CHOPS WITH PEPPERED PEARS

This recipe is from "Paula Wolfert's World of Food" (Harper & Row, 1988), which will be reissued in paperback this summer by Viking Press under the title "Mostly Mediterranean." Notice that the dish must be started two to three days in advance of serving. Last-minute cooking, however, is minimal. Beurre manie is a thickener made by kneading 1 tablespoon butter with 2 teaspoons flour until smooth. Roll the paste into tiny balls and keep them cold until you're ready to use them.

PORK CHOPS

4 pork chops (2 pounds), each about 1 inch thick

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup finely diced carrots

1/2 cup finely diced onion

1 tablespoon finely diced celery root or rib

1/3 cup finely diced shallots

1 large clove garlic, slivered

1 teaspoon crushed white peppercorns

15 juniper berries

3 cups full-bodied red wine, such as Co^tes-du-Rho^ne

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

2 tablespoons nut liqueur or brandy

2 teaspoons clarified butter (see note)

1 tablespoon beurre manie, rolled into small balls

Bone pork chops, reserving bones for sauce. Trim and discard excess fat. Season pork with pepper to taste. Combine pork, bones, carrots, onions celery root, shallots, garlic, white peppercorns, juniper berries, wine, 1 tablespoon olive oil, coarse salt and liqueur in deep glass, earthenware or stainless-steel bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 or 2 days.

Remove chops and drain about 10 minutes. Reserve remainder of marinade. Wrap chops in plastic wrap and refrigerate until 30 minutes before cooking. Drain vegetables from marinade and reserve vegetables and marinade separately.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 2-quart nonreactive heavy skillet and brown bones on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add drained vegetables and brown, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes. Tilt skillet and spoon off excess fat. Add marinade and slowly bring back to boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Add water and bring liquid back to boil. Set skillet half over burner and adjust heat so side over heat boils slowly and fat and other impurities in liquid ride on cooler side. When liquid is clear, partially cover skillet and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. Strain liquid, discarding bones and vegetables, then cool, cover and chill. Remove surface fat and, if necessary, reduce liquid to make 1/2 cup.

About 30 minutes before serving, pat pork chops dry. Heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil and butter in well-seasoned 10-inch heavy skillet until hot. Add chops and cook over medium-high heat until golden brown on one side, about 8 minutes. Turn and cook until golden brown on second side, about 8 minutes. Transfer chops to rack in warm place, cover tightly and finish cooking in retained heat.

Reheat sauce in small, heavy saucepan, then whisk in beurre manie until thick. Adjust seasoning. Divide pork among 2 or 4 warmed serving plates and spoon sauce over. Pass Peppered Pears separately.

PEPPERED PEARS

1 1/2 pounds firm pears, preferably Bartlett

3 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons liquid honey

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon coarsely crushed white peppercorns

While simmering sauce, peel and core pears. Cut into 3/4-inch cubes. Combine pears, wine vinegar, honey, salt and peppercorns in small, heavy, nonreactive saucepan. Cook, covered, over low heat 30 minutes, adding drop of water to prevent scorching, if necessary. With slotted spoon, transfer cubed pears to serving dish. Reduce juices by boiling to 3 tablespoons and pour over pears.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.

Each of 4 servings contains about:

537 calories; 471 mg sodium; 63 mg cholesterol; 22 grams fat; 39 grams carbohydrates; 18 grams protein; 2.40 grams fiber.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

UNCORKED

What distinguished wine lovers are drinking now:

Pietro Ratti, Barolo producer

1994 Hartford Court: Zinfandel "Hartford Vineyard," Russian River Valley (Sonoma) ($24.99).

"It's interesting for me as a winemaker to taste Zinfandels made in a very good style from the 1994 vintage. What impressed me about this wine was the amount of fruit the winemaker got into the wine, so much that at a certain point it almost tastes sweet. It is a huge opulent wine, explosive with fruit.

"When I tasted it, I was shocked, because in Piedmont, we cannot get so much fruit in a wine. We don't have the sun. Hartford Court's winemaker understands this vineyard's soil, knows the grape, knows the sun. And then just plays with these elements."

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