This month we’re featuring Corked & Forked by Keith Wallace, founder of The Wine School of Philadelphia, released in August 2011. As Wallace is known (previously to this book, at least) more for his drink knowledge than his cooking, one of the unique aspects of this book is that every recipe has a suggested drink pairing. Many are wine, but beers, cocktails and even coffees are also included.

The book is also organized in a unique way – firstly, by season (the book’s subhead is “Four Seasons of Eats & Drinks”), and then by themes, such as “Autumn Dinner Party”, “Rainy Day Nosh”, etc. Each theme has a grouping of dishes that could go together in some sort of meal progression, or, of course, be cherry-picked as the reader pleases. Corked and Forked’s visual design is marvelous; it’s very colorful, with great rustic, vintage-looking photography (and lots of it).

The recipes range from very simple to quite complex. For today, I chose one of the simpler dishes – pork chops with sage and white beans – mostly because it seemed like an interesting, yet not-too-elaborate way to turn a relatively banal set of ingredients into something much more exciting. Also, because I live for Tuscan cuisine and this is a prototypical example of it.

For a wine pairing, Wallace suggests – perhaps unsurprisingly – a Tuscan Sangiovese. Though he mentions Chianti as a perfectly fine choice, his more specific recommendation is Morellino di Scansano, another Sangiovese-based blend from southern Tuscany that has “a bit more heft” than Chianti and offers a better value. Unfortunately, our friends at PLCB aren’t offering any Morellinos at the stores I frequent (though there are a few statewide and a paltry one bottle available online), so I had to make another selection.

Though Chiantis are certainly enjoyable and easy enough to come by, I chose instead to serve a Vino Nobile de Montepulciano – another Sangiovese-based wine that’s lesser known stateside, but happens to be my favorite Tuscan wine. Considered one of the “big three” Tuscan DOCGs (with Chianti and Brunello, both of which receive far more exposure), Vino Nobile is perhaps more balanced than the other two – with less acidity than Chianti and softer tannins than the powerful Brunello. Still, it showcases the classic Sangiovese characteristics – aromas of saddle leather and tea leaves, and flavors of ripe cherry fruit balanced with a pleasant earthiness.

As Morellino (Wallace’s choice) also tones down the acid and pumps up the fruit flavor versus Chianti, Vino Nobile seemed a reasonable substitution… that is, until I started to eat the meal. Then it seemed like a great substitution! What a wonderful pairing it really is – especially with the sage. The wine’s acidity and tannins – though moderate – stood up to the food and cancelled each other out, bringing out the earthy aromas and deep cherry fruit in the glass. I especially liked how the sage paired with the wine – when I combined the two, it almost doubled the length of the finish.

As for the dish itself, boneless pork chops and white beans are relatively inert ingredients, but the simple touches of fried sage and garlic, freshly ground salt and pepper, good olive oil, and a touch of lemon bring out richness and, more importantly, bold flavor in this dish. Simple to prepare, yet complex on the plate. This is Italian cooking.

A great dish – I look forward to trying more of what Corked & Forked has to offer!

Pork Chops with Sage and White Beans

  • 6  boneless pork chops (about 6 ounces each)
  • 2  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1  tablespoon fine salt
  • 1  tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4  garlic cloves, sliced
  • 6  fresh sage leaves
  • 2  tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2  cups canned large white beans (preferably Cannellini), drained and rinsed
  • 1  tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus sprigs for garnish
  1. Coat each pork chop with 1/4 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set aside. Place a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add remaining olive oil, garlic and sage to the pan and cook 1 minute, until garlic starts to brown and sage crisps. Carefully remove sage and garlic from the oil and reserve. (MLD Note: the key here is to watch the garlic carefully — if it burns, it’ll infect the entire dish with bitterness.)
  2. Add pork chops to the hot pan and cook undisturbed 4 minutes or until meat turns deep golden brown. Flip chops and cook about 2 minute more, until an instant-read thermometer reads 145F. Remove pork chops from pan and reduce heat to low.
  3. Return fried garlic and sage to pan and add lemon juice. Scrape bottom of pan with a wooden spoon to release any crispy bits and then add beans. Toss together and cook until beans are thoroughly warmed.
  4. Place one pork chop and a single scoop of beans on each plate. Garnish with parsley.

Incidentally, Wallace himself cooked this recipe recently on the 10! Show – watch the video

Corked and Forked :Four Seasons of Eats and Drinks
By Keith Wallace
Published by Running Press, 2011
Buy on Amazon

(Note: a review copy of this book was provided to MLD)