BRAISED PORK CHOPS WITH COLLARD GREENS (“smothered” pork chops, for four)
four 1 inch thick rib or loin pork chops, brined for 2 hours in a solution of ¼ cup kosher salt dissolved into 1 quart (4 cups) cold water
3 ounces bacon (about 3 slices), cut into ¼ inch pieces
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-¾ cups canned low-sodium chicken broth
ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, halved pole to pole and sliced thin (about 1-¾ cups)
2 tablespoons water
4 medium garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press or minced (about 4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
4 cups thinly sliced collard greens (double this if you like collards – they cook way down)
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves
1. Fry bacon in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and fat is rendered, 5 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving fat in saucepan (you should have 2 tablespoons bacon fat; if not, supplement with vegetable oil). Reduce heat to medium low and gradually whisk flour into fat until smooth. Cook, whisking frequently, until mixture is light brown, about the color of peanut butter, about 4 minutes. Whisk in chicken broth in a slow, steady stream; increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally; cover and set aside off heat.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12 inch skillet over high heat until smoking. Meanwhile, dry pork chops with paper towels and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon pepper. Brown chops in a single layer until deep golden brown on first side, about 3 minutes. Flip chops and cook until browned on second side, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer chops to large plate and set aside.
3. Reduce heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon oil, onions, ¼ teaspoon salt and water to the now empty skillet. Using wooden spoon, scrape up browned bits on pan bottom; cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and browned around edges, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds longer. Add collard greens and red pepper flakes and stir to mix. Return chops to skillet, covering chops with greens and onions. Pour in warm sauce and any juices collected from pork; add bay leaves. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until pork is tender and a paring knife inserted into chops meets very little resistance, about 45 minutes.
4. Transfer chops to warmed serving platter and tent with foil. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer sauce rapidly, stirring frequently, until thickened to gravy-like consistency, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaves, stir in parsley and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Cover chops with sauce, sprinkle with reserved bacon and serve immediately.