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Giardiniera aioli and Cumin coriander pork chops

A cumin and coriander spice rub adds big flavor without heat to pan-seared pork chops; this lively, vinegary, fiery (or not) giardiniera aioli is great with pork, fish, chicken, or tofu.

By Blue Kitchen / February 19, 2013

Use giardiniera, an Italian condiment to make a spicy aioli sauce for your pork chops. The aioli could also work for fish, chicken, or tofu.

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We went to an underground dinner recently hosted by Tuesday Night Dinner. The TND crew creates pop-up dining events throughout the year, each in a different location and each with a different theme. This one was held at No Sandbox Studios, just west of Chicago’s Loop, and the theme was ”Off the Boat, Into the Kitchen,” an interpretation of immigrant fare reimagined by the TND chefs.

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Blue Kitchen

Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.

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The four courses were delicious and inventive, but the thing that caught my eye – or more accurately, my taste buds – was an accompaniment for one of the courses, a giardiniera aioli. Usually, aioli is a sauce made of fresh mayonnaise and garlic, but chef Jeremy Leven substituted spicy giardiniera for the garlic. The result was amazing. 

Giardiniera is an Italian condiment, a mix of pickled vegetables and peppers usually packed in vinegar and oil. It can be hot or mild. Jeremy chose hot, an excellent decision. The giardiniera aioli made its first appearance at the dinner with grilled hen of the woods mushrooms. The briny, tangy, spicy sauce played beautifully with the smoky earthiness of the mushrooms. Later, it reappeared as a probably impromptu topping for Indian tacos. Again, it worked well. (To read more about this lovely dinner, check out the post on Marion’s blog, 9591 Iris.)

At its most basic, aioli is made with garlic (or in this case, giardiniera), egg yolk, and oil. It is ridiculously easy to make. The most difficult (make that tedious) part is repeatedly scraping down the sides of the blender jar; it spatters spectacularly as you blend it. For me, the funnest old-school-cooking part is separating out the egg yolk. Yes, there are gadgets for doing this now, but cracking the shell in half and pouring the yolk back and forth between the halves, letting the whites separate off and fall away is wonderfully gratifying.

Jeremy made his aioli thick, almost chunky. It was closer to a spread or a dip than sauce, not unlike hummus. I opted for a thinner version, slightly more free flowing, but still not a drizzly sauce.

In looking for something to pair with the aioli, I quickly settled on pork chops. No reason other than I like pork chops. The Indian tacos made me think of cumin and coriander. You could go with simple salt and pepper, but this spice combo lets the chops bring something to the flavor party too.

Winter having finally gotten serious in Chicago, I pan seared them rather than firing up the snow-covered grill. These chops would be delicious grilled. And the aioli would be delicious on fish, grilled chicken breasts or sautéed tofu (especially seasoned with cumin and coriander, I think). For the chops, I used a technique I often use with lamb shoulder chops to tenderize them, coating them with a layer of kosher salt and letting them rest for 20 minutes, then rinsing the salt off.

Giardiniera aioli
Makes about 3/4 cup

5 tablespoons oil-packed giardiniera, drained (see Kitchen Notes)

1 large egg yolk

2-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

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