This recipe came to me on a whim: I had pork chops in the freezer, mushrooms in the fridge and chickpeas in the pantry, so why not put these three together? It seemed easy enough, but also unimaginative – to me, anyway. And then, I realized there was one thing that was missing: the sophisticated notes of aromatic Middle Eastern flavor coming from harissa. This spice blend was going to be the “glue” to my ingredients, the vibrant burst of color to my dish, and the scent to my entire foodie life 🙂
According to NPR, harissa ingredients vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, as well as by country and ethnicity, but the basic recipe calls for hot peppers, garlic, salt, and lots of olive oil. Coriander, caraway seeds, cumin and dried mint may also be added to further enhance the flavor and aroma. I have been a big fan of harissa for about two years now, and I have many stories to tell you about its magical properties: whenever I needed color and/or heat for my dishes, harissa would always boldly come to the rescue. I’ve used it in pork and meat-free stews, in meatballs (really! lol), over roast potatoes, and as a rub for grilled chicken, amongst others.
So far I have only used the dry spice mix version of harissa (not the paste). A quality mix is super necessary, so make sure you steer clear of the cheapish harissa seasonings available at the grocery store – as I have found out, you truly get what you pay for! My favorite harissa blend is sold by A Spice Affair, which features Aleppo pepper, smoked paprika, caraway, cumin, coriander, fennel, garlic, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, sea salt, black pepper, mint and ginger (you can check it out here).
As you will see, in this recipe I used harissa liberally and (almost!) indiscriminately, but you can lessen the quantity to tone down the heat.
For this recipe I used bone-in pork chops, but you can use boneless chops if that’s what you have available. I wanted the harissa to give the pork an “edge” of flavor and color, so I rubbed it into the meat and placed the meat in a bowl to fully absorb the harissa for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, I softened the sliced mushrooms in butter under medium heat.
I added flour to thicken the liquid from the mushrooms, and stirred for a couple of minutes…
… then poured the drained chickpeas into the pan.
I stirred the chickpeas and mushrooms until combined for about one minute, then added the harissa and salt and pepper to taste. Don’t be afraid to add harissa to both the veggies and the meat: that extra layer of flavorful heat is so worth it!
I stirred a couple more minutes, then took the pan away from the heat and set aside. Since the chickpeas are cooked already and the mushrooms cook rather fast, this part of the dish will be quick and straightforward, which works wonders if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands to begin with.
I took the pork chops with harissa out of the bowl, seasoned them with salt and pepper on both sides, and fried them one by one in hot vegetable oil, in a preheated pan. The chops took about 3 minutes to cook on each side, turning once during cooking.
I placed the cooked pork chops in a bowl to rest for a few minutes.
While the meat was resting, it was time to complete the last step of this dish. I cut two medium onions into rings and placed them in the pan where I cooked the meat.
I browned the onions over medium heat for a couple of minutes, adding more vegetable oil if necessary. The traces of harissa left in the pan imprinted beautiful hues of amber and gold upon the onions. It was such a pretty sight!
Putting this dish together will only take a pinch (pardon the pun, lol). Add chopped parsley to the mushroom&chickpea combo just before serving, and sprinkle some more on top for an additional layer of herb-imbued freshness. And here it is: harissa pork, in all its glory!
This recipe is excellent if you’re in a hurry but still want to feed your family homemade and flavorful food, and not resort to ready meals full of preservatives and empty calories. For convenience’s sake, you can actually rub the harissa onto the pork chops and let them in the fridge overnight – the more flavor, the merrier! Whether made in advance or in the afternoon after a busy day at work, this recipe could not be easier, and the results could not be brighter. The secret ingredient: the one and only harissa 🙂