Pork chops love the round sweetness of fruit (think about all the pork chops with apples or pears that you’ve had in your life), making the aji amarillo pepper, known for its compelling fruitiness, a perfect match. Here, the pepper contributes in two forms: first, whole dried peppers are rehydrated to add richness and sweet, berry-like acidity to a pepita-based chimichurri sauce. Then ground aji amarillo is used in place of plain black pepper to season the chops before they hit the pan.
- 2 dried aji amarillo chili peppers
- 1 cup boiling water
- ¼ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1 cup each flat leaf parsley, mint, and cilantro
- 3 garlic cloves
- ½ lemon, cut into quarters and seeds removed
- 2 bone-in pork chops, 1½ inches thick
- 2 teaspoons ground aji amarillo pepper
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
Preheat the oven to 450°. Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook them.
Place the chilies in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let steep for 10 minutes, until the chilies have softened.
In a skillet over medium heat, toast the pepitas until they begin to sizzle and pop and darken slightly in color, about 4 minutes.
Place the pepitas, herbs, garlic, lemon pieces (with the rind and all), rehydrated chiles and ¼ cup of the chili liquid in a blender. With the motor running, add ¾ cup canola oil in a drizzle and blend until the mixture has formed a smooth puree. Pour into a bowl and season to taste with salt.
Season the pork chops liberally on both sides with salt and the ground aji amarillo. Place a cast-iron skillet over high heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the pork chops and cook without moving for 2 minutes, or until a nice golden sear has formed. Flip the chops and sear another 2 minutes on the other side. Reduce the heat to medium. Flip the chops again and cook for about 3 minutes more. Flip the chops once more and transfer to the oven. Let cook between 5 and 8 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer registers 135°. Transfer the chops to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes (they will continue to cook as they rest).
Douse each chop with a bit of the chimichurri, plus more alongside for those who’d like extra. This dish would be great alongside rice or roasted potatoes. Extra chimichurri will keep for three to four days in the refrigerator (though it will begin to discolor slightly after 1 day).
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