Pork Chop Casserole

If you have some pork chops on hand, this is one of the easiest recipes to prepare. Back on the block, when we made this dish, it was called chuletas en caserola. And it was something we did when we got tired of the usual pan-fried or stewed pork chops we served with the traditional rice and beans. It was a change-of-pace dish that the whole family enjoyed.

The dish is simplicity itself: layered potatoes, broccoli (you can substitute green beans or asparagus),  and pork chops on  top. Then everything is baked till chops are tender, and that's it. The dish calls for the seasoning ingredients to be pounded in a mortar. That's traditional in Nuyorican cooking. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you can simple mix 1/2 teaspoon pepper, the 3 garlic cloves (minced), the oregano, salt and olive oil in a small pan or cruet, and then rub the seasoning on the pork chops. It'll give you the same affect, although the flavor will not be as pronounced.

Notice that in the dish, we sometimes sprinkle grated cheddar (or whatever cheese you have on hand) on top of the veggies. This is optional. In our clan some liked the cheese included and some did not. Your call. That said, this is a one-pot entreƩ that goes well with a light red wine such as a Bardolino, Valpolicella, Beaujolais, or Gamay.

     (Pork Chop Casserole)

4 loin pork chops
12 whole black peppercorns
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium potatoes, washed, scrubbed, and cubed (do not peel)
1 large head broccoli
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Rinse pork chops under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
3. Crush peppercorns, garlic, oregano and salt in a mortar. Blend in olive oil.
4. Rub each chop thoroughly with the seasoning. Set aside.
5. Place potatoes in bottom of a casserole dish (I prefer cast-iron).
6. Wash the broccoli in cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut off the broccoli florets and arrange on top of potatoes. You can reserve the stems for another use (such as broccoli soup). Pour chicken broth over vegetables. Place pork chops on top and bake for 45 minutes.
8. If using cheese, bake the chops for 40 minutes, sprinkle cheese on broccoli, and bake for another 5 minutes. Serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.