Coffee can be a real ally in cooking. It can swing both savory and sweet, often in the same dish, as you’ll see if you try these quick pork chops with garlic and thyme as well as molasses, cinnamon, and vanilla. In the pot roast, caramelized onions harmonize with coffee’s bittersweet edge to produce a sauce that’s surprisingly complex. For dessert, pears baked in coffee highlight a flavor combo as terrific as it is uncommon.
Pork Chops With Coffee-Molasses Sauce
I discovered this terrific flavor combination in a recipe from Alton Brown, who used it to marinate pork chops bound for the grill.
6 bone-in pork loin, rib, or center chops, each about ¾ inch thick and about 6 ounces
Salt and pepper
1½ tablespoons neutral oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1½ teaspoons pressed or grated garlic (about 3 medium cloves)
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
2/3 cup strong brewed coffee
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
2½ tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)
¾ teaspoon cider vinegar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives, for sprinkling
Dry the chops with paper towels and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil until shimmering. Add half the chops and cook, undisturbed, until well browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes, then flip and continue browning, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the chops to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Add 2 teaspoons oil to the skillet and repeat to brown the remaining chops, then remove them from the skillet.
Adjust the heat under the empty skillet to medium and add the remaining oil. Add the onion, cinnamon stick, and ½ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 40 seconds. Add the coffee and chicken broth, adjust the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, scraping bottom of pan with a wooden spoon to dissolve the fond. Boil for 2 minutes, then add any pork juices accumulated on the plate and the molasses and continue to boil, stirring, until the liquid is reduced, about 4 minutes longer. Off heat, add the vinegar and vanilla and stir to incorporate. Add the butter and stir to melt. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.
Return the chops to the skillet and turn them several times to coat with the sauce. Transfer the chops to a warmed serving platter, pour the sauce over them, sprinkle with the chives, and serve at once.
Coffee-Braised Pot Roast
You’ll end up with lots of sauce. Try using some to dress egg noodles or orzo to serve alongside the meat.
4 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat
Salt and pepper
1½ tablespoons neutral oil
3 pounds onions (about 6 medium), halved and thickly sliced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons pressed or grated garlic (about 5 medium cloves)
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup strong brewed coffee
5 4-inch-long strips orange zest
¾ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Dry the beef with paper towels, tie it into a uniform shape with kitchen twine at 2-inch intervals, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the beef and cook, undisturbed, until deeply browned on the bottom, about 3½ minutes. Continue browning the beef on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes longer (adjust the heat if the fond threatens to burn). Transfer the beef to a large bowl and set aside.
Return the pot to medium-high heat, add the remaining oil, and allow it to heat for a moment. Add the onions, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot occasionally, until the onions begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Adjust the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally (and adjusting the heat as necessary to avoid burning), for 30 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, allspice, and flour, and continue to cook, stirring, until the onions are sticky and golden, about 10 minutes longer. Add the coffee and scrape the pot to dissolve the fond. Add the orange zest and stir it into the onions.
Meanwhile, with the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 300 degrees. Nestle the beef into the onions. Cover the pot with the lid and transfer to the oven. Cook until the beef is tender (a paring knife should slip easily into it) and it registers between 190 and 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 3 hours, turning the beef over halfway through cooking.
Remove the beef to a cutting board and tent with foil to keep warm. Strain the contents of the pot into a large bowl, reserving the liquid and onions separately and discarding the bay leaf and zest strips. Allow liquid to settle about 10 minutes, then skim the fat from the surface.
Puree the onions, cooking liquid, vinegar, and pepper to taste in a blender until the mixture is smooth, about 45 seconds (be sure to remove the center cap from the lid to let steam escape, but cover the opening with a kitchen towel). Pour the puree back into the Dutch oven, set it over medium heat, and bring to simmer. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Add most of the parsley and stir to combine.
While sauce heats, remove the twine from the beef and cut it against the grain into ½-inch-thick slices. Place the meat on a large, warmed serving platter, top with half the sauce, sprinkle with the remaining parsley, and serve at once, passing the remaining sauce separately if desired.
POT ROAST PATIENCE
Pears Baked in Coffee
For this recipe, inspired by one in Diana Henry’s Simple, use pears that are a day or two short of perfectly ripe. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or creme fraiche and/or my favorite: a bit of good chocolate.
4 Bartlett, Anjou, or Bosc pears (about 2 pounds), halved and cored
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup plain black coffee
¼ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
With the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the pears cut sides up in a baking dish, tuck the cinnamon stick into the dish, and pour in ¾ cup coffee. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over and around the pears and bake for 20 minutes. Baste the pears, and continue cooking and occasionally basting, until they are tender when poked with the tip of a paring knife and beginning to wrinkle a bit at the edges, 20 to 30 minutes longer. If the coffee reduces to about ‚ cup or less, add the remaining ¼ cup.
Remove the dish from the oven, add the vanilla, and tilt the pan to mix it into the liquid. Discard the cinnamon stick. Divide the pears among 4 serving bowls, top with the warm cooking liquid, and serve warm.
Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.’’ Send comments to email@example.com.