Spiced Pork Chops

In Bolivia, the fare is robust and highly spiced to keep people warm and energized at altitudes above 12,000 feet. After a hard day’s work in the thin air, this dish does the trick. The split peas offer a soothing, homey touch. As a garnish, I like sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives and lemon wedges.

Recommended wine: A young Crozes-Hermitage red or a Syrah from California’s central coast.

Toasting and Grinding Spices, Nuts, and Seeds 

Toasting and Grinding Spices, Nuts, and Seeds When Columbus went looking for Asia and bumped into the Americas, he was on a voyage financed by Spain with the understanding that he would find a better route to the spice markets of India—an illustration of how central spices have always been to cuisine. But spices, like other comestibles, are subject to loss of flavor if not properly prepared. Toasting whole spices, and, usually, grinding them, is the way to get maximum flavor from them. This is extremely easy to do: Gently warm the seeds or other whole spices in a dry skillet over medium heat. Once they become aromatic, they are toasted. When they have cooled a bit, grind them in a spice mill (or a clean coffee grinder) or with a mortar and pestle. Toasting and grinding awakens the oils and aromatics within them. With spices like pepper and cumin, for example, which are staples of my cooking, you can prepare a batch of the toasted ground spice and keep it around for up to 2 weeks.

The same principles apply to toasting nuts: the heat maximizes their flavor. Grinding makes them the proper consistency for cooking in soups and stews.


Cooking Methodsauteeing


Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, high fiber, lactose-free, peanut free, tree nut free


Taste and Texturegarlicky, savory, smoky, spiced


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ large Spanish onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin seeds (see Notes)
  • 4 cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1 bay leaf, broken in half
  • 12 ounces split peas, rinsed
  • 1½ tablespoons toasted and ground cumin seeds (see Notes)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon toasted ground coriander seeds
  • 1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 6 loin pork chops, 1 to 1½ inches thick
  • 3 tablespoons Roasted Garlic Oil or pure olive oil


  1. For the split peas

  2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

  3. Turn the heat up to medium-high, add the onion, celery, and carrot, and cook until they start to turn golden. Add the cayenne and cumin, stir, and add the chicken stock, ham hock, bay leaf, and peas.

  4. Bring to a simmer, turn down the heat, and simmer gently until the peas are tender, about 45 minutes.

  5. Remove the ham hock and bay leaf and coarsely mash the peas. Set aside; the mixture will thicken as it cools. While it does, prepare the pork chops.

  6. For the pork chops

  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  8. Combine the cumin, cardamom, coriander, cayenne, salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Sprinkle over the pork chops, rubbing it into both sides.

  9. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and sear the chops on both sides. As they brown, transfer them to a baking sheet.

  10. Put the chops in the oven and bake to desired doneness, 140 degrees for medium, 150 degrees for well-done.

  11. Meanwhile, gently reheat the peas. Serve, using the split peas as a sauce.


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