I am a person who loves to compartmentalize. I like to keep TVs out of bars, buildings away from beaches and sweet flavors away from savory food. I’m not opposed to a pinch of brown sugar in a rub or a drizzle of honey in dressing for balance, but I generally avoid ingredients like sweet fruit mingling with ingredients like savory meat. (Yes, that means I am anti-raisins in my chicken salad, and do not care for salsa made from mangoes.)
I am also a reasonable person, and a reasonable person allows for exceptions to rules (especially their own). Pork is that exception here: It has always managed to defy my insistence that fruit and meat be separate. The sweet, usually acidulated fruit complements rather than competes with the mild flavor of the meat, while cutting through its rich fattiness. Think stewed oranges in a long braise, sautéed apples with loin and, maybe the best example, spit-roasted pineapple with tacos al pastor.
Since this is a weeknight cooking column, this week’s recipe is not going the braised route or down the al pastor path, but instead uses quick-cooking chops — which if you’re doing it right (good-quality pork, bone-in chops, cut at least 1 1/2 inches thick) can be just as fatty and rewarding as those other cuts.
For me to fully enjoy fruit and meat together, I steer hard into the savoriness. This means that, no matter what fruit I’m using, I’m going to add lots of alliums, like chopped shallot or, as I did here, thinly sliced red onions. They’re tossed with a bit of vinegar and the aforementioned fruit (firm, preferably slightly underripe plums), which, after a trip to the skillet to deglaze all those porky bits, end up with a slightly softened but decidedly unmushy texture.
The result is a sort of D.I.Y. sweet-and-sour sauce but with no added sugar, more sour than sweet. It mixes with the tawny brown juices from the resting pork, making a sort of impromptu dressing for topping the sliced chops. This tangy, sour, oniony dressing reminded me of a lot of the food I had in Vietnam this year, so I added mint in homage, although cilantro or parsley would also be great.
While I’d still classify myself as a compartmentalizer (which is really just another way to compartmentalize, no?), it is here, in the world of pork and fruit, that I can admit some rules are made to be broken, and ingredients born to mingle.