They've Got Chops

Make Canal House's recipe for pan-fried pork chops with marinated peppers right this minute

Canal House isn't a restaurant. And it's not somewhere you can visit, though we'd like to.

It exists in the real world–but we prefer to think of it as a state of mind. A welcoming place where everything is cozy and attractive, there's always a pot of something good on the stove and the recipes always work.

Canal House is the name Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton gave to the kitchen studio where they cook, test recipes, write, edit and assemble Canal House Cooking, their much-loved serialized cookbook/magazine published seasonally at the civilized rate of three issues per year.

Pronto! | Hamilton (left) and Hirsheimer (right)

The latest edition is called Pronto! It celebrates a style of Italian-inspired cooking that is fast and easy without being race-against-the-clock rushed.

We caught up with the duo by phone as they were returning from the market. "The sound you hear is the olive oil clanking around in the back of the car as we go around a corner," Hirsheimer says.

We wanted to talk about a particular recipe that caught our attention: pork chops as thin as shoe leather, simply pan-fried and topped with bright, smoky marinated roasted red peppers (see the recipe).

"We love using really thin chops," Hamilton says. "Italians either cook long and slow or they do things like this very quickly. There's an economy and an everyday quality to it."

Hirscheimer: "This seems like such a simple dish but, if you think of the layers, you're getting such sweetness and richness from the peppers, you get your salt from the capers and a great mouthfeel against the chewy chop. One of the things we're always thinking of–and it seems like the most obvious thing of all–is how to get flavor into food."

Both are quick to add that this kind of cooking is Italian-inspired.

"We're not being slavish," Hamilton says. "You're reminded of Italian but you are cooking in these here United States of 'Merica."

Simple, flavor-focused tastes, expertly yet casually explained by two thoughtful cooks driving around with olive oil rattling in the trunk. In other words, just the kind of thing that puts us in a happy Canal House mindset.