This meal is amazingly delicious and seems like it belongs in a restaurant, but is surprisingly simple to make at home!
Never would I ever think that I would say these words, but here I go…
I think collard greens are becoming one of my most favorite vegetables.
I mean, I LOVE collards.
Coming from a kid who never ate more than canned green beans and carrots (choked down), this statement is kind of a shocker.
Collards are just as healthy, if not more, as kale and other greens. They are an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients— one serving provides a significant amount of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese.
(Tip: they are often less expensive when purchased in season too).
This means that you should have no shame in pairing these mega-nutritious greens with other amazing Southern foods like fried catfish or pork chops with gravy.
It just works.
I read an excellent article this week touting the benefits of practicing a “healthy-ish” eating lifestyle. This is how we have been trying to eat for years, because it just makes such good sense. When I read their definition of healthy-ish, I wanted to stand up and cheer. (Basically because it means I don’t have to feel bad for fresh donuts once a month, or nights where we eat pork chops smothered in gravy).
Healthy-ish eating: “delicious, comforting home cooking that just happens to be kinda good for you.”
This is the kind of cooking and eating I emphasize here on the blog, too. Learn to cook more at home, with real ingredients, eating and enjoying foods you love. An approach to this kind of healthy eating is one that can last the long haul, and is one that meshes well with prioritizing family meals and hospitality.
“Instead we think about what we eat, and when and why we eat it. We indulge when the situation arises … and we try to eat smart other times.”
If you are trying to rethink your diet as you start the new year, consider this approach. Balance and moderation. More meals at home. New and many vegetables.
We had these pan fried pork chops with onion bacon gravy for dinner again last week. I had been trying to use up whatever foods taking up space in our freezer and pantry before going grocery shopping for the new year, and I found a bag of thin sliced pork chops. (The chops were cut from a pork loin I purchased a couple months ago to use for several meals).
For all their flavor and tastiness, the pork chops are actually rather simple to prepare. Basic ingredients and easy cooking instructions.
Cooking the pork chops in cast iron is helpful, though not strictly necessary. We have both a high-end enameled cast iron pan, and a much less expensive cast iron pan. I have made these pork chops in both, and I can say that the pork chops turned out just as great in the less expensive option. If you are looking for great pans, we LOVE these cast iron pans from Lodge. (You can find them at Target too!)
In addition to pork chops, I made mashed potatoes and collard greens. I used my Instant Pot for each, which meant that cooking the side dishes was mostly hands-off, giving me the freedom to focus on the pork chops.
I have an extra inner pot for my Instant Pot, which comes in handy at times like these when I want to make multiple dishes for one meal. You could, of course, also make the potatoes on the stovetop, or substitute an oven-roasted vegetable, like roasted carrot fries.
One thing that I have learned when it comes to kids and vegetables is never to make assumptions about what they will or will not eat. None of my kids like mashed potatoes until after their third birthday, and my oldest son’s favorite vegetables have been surprising– he loved asparagus as a toddler, switched to carrots, and now claims sautéed Swiss chard as his current favorite.
When I served my kids collards last week, (not the first time they have seen them), my middle son informed us that they were his favorite. This surprised me, but even more surprising was when my most reluctant vegetable eater (my three-year-old daughter) tried her collards with minimal persuading.
I share this to encourage you to give your kids more opportunities to try new vegetables this year. You just never know. Encouraging them to help with the grocery shopping, and then to help you prepare the vegetables for cooking, often sparks more interest and enjoyment of foods too.
Pan Fried Pork Chops with Onion Bacon Gravy
- 4 thin cut pork chops
- 2 bacon slices
- 1/2 C buttermilk (or clabbered milk*)
- 1/2 C flour
- 1/2 C cornmeal
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ea. garlic powder, onion powder, fresh ground pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 C milk
- Soak the pork chops in the buttermilk for about 10-15 minutes, while you prepare the other ingredients and cook the bacon.
- Cook the bacon slices in a cast iron skillet until crispy. Transfer the slices to a paper towel to cool. Pour out all but a tablespoon of the grease from the skillet.
- Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, and spices in a shallow dish. Stir together with a whisk or fork. Taking the pork chops out of the buttermilk, dredge both sides in the dry batter.
- Add 2 Tbsp oil to the hot skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until oil is hot and shimmery. When the oil is hot, add the pork chops to the pan. Cook on both sides for 4-5 minutes each, until the outsides are browned and crispy. Drizzle in additional oil as needed.
- Transfer the pork chops to a clean plate and cover loosely with foil. In the now-empty skillet, add 1 tablespoon butter and the diced onion. Reduce heat to medium and cook onion for about 3 minutes, until the onion begins to soften and darken. Stir 1 Tbsp flour into the onions. Pour the milk into the pan, stirring with a small whisk until the onions, flour, and milk are well combined. Cook for 2-3 minutes until thickened. (Add additional milk, 1 Tbsp at a time, as needed to get desired consistency.
- Stir in the chopped bacon, and nestle the pan-fried pork chops in the gravy. Serve immediately.
*To make clabbered milk, combine 1/2 C milk and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Let stand five minutes.
Instant Pot Collard Greens
- 1 bunch collards (about 4-5 large leaves)
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 C chicken broth
- 1 C water
- kosher salt
- lemon slices for serving (optional)
- Prepare the collards: Rinse and dry the collard greens. Slice down the stem on either side to separate the stem from each of the leaves. Set the stems to the side. Stack the leaves and roll into a tight log. Slice the log into strips, and then cut perpendicular to the slices to chop the collard greens into 1 inch pieces.
- Heat oil in Instant Pot turned on sauté. (Alternately, you can substitute bacon grease to sauté the onions). Add the diced onions and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic cloves, and cook for 30 more seconds. Add the chopped collards, broth, water, and 1 tsp kosher salt to the onions and garlic. Stir to combine.
- Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Quick release the pressure when the timer goes off. Return the Instant Pot to sauté for 2-3 more minutes to let the liquid reduce slightly.
- Serve with lemon slices, vinegar, or hot sauce.
What vegetables are your kids’ favorites?
How would you describe your eating lifestyle?